From Ron Howard's MasterClass

Sound Design

Sound design works on a subliminal level. Sometimes taking sound away can be as powerful as adding it.

Topics include: Sound Design Works on a Subliminal Level • Design Sound That Suits Your Story • Put the Finish on the Movie

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Sound design works on a subliminal level. Sometimes taking sound away can be as powerful as adding it.

Topics include: Sound Design Works on a Subliminal Level • Design Sound That Suits Your Story • Put the Finish on the Movie

Ron Howard

Teaches Directing

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Preview

Sound design is another tool. It's another form of expression. And because we react to sounds on a kind of primal level, it works a little bit the way music works. A lot of composers would tell you that music works because it's actually emulating sounds of nature but in a harmonic way. And a way that might be more beautiful or more melodic. But the sounds-- whether it's percussion or wind instruments or synthesizers-- are creating sounds that we relate to on this kind of primal level. Of course we feel that way about all kinds of sounds, and whether it's a music cue or whether it's a moment of sound design, repeating sounds can tell you something. Tell you to anticipate something. Because that's what we do with sounds all the time. If you're in a house and you hear a strange sound, what was it? If you're out on a street and hear a sound that's unexpected, you wonder if there's a problem. If you walk into a nature reserve and suddenly the sound is open and the wind is moving, it's very soothing. So the great sound designers are always going back to those sort of primal reactions. Great sound design often begins in the editing room because the editors will start to put together a scene, and they'll recognize that what's missing here is an element of shock. And the edit is in the right place, but maybe the moment's not as effective as it should be. And they'll often put in a sound that will help prove that the edit point is correct. And the moment is startling if you have a sound. That sound is a temp, but then your sound designers will take those demands, those ideas, that sort of template and creatively work their magic. And great sound designers and sound editors are sort of like record producers. They know how to use technology. They know how to record sounds. I've done a number of boxing scenes, and they will record punching cantaloupes, sides of raw meat. Or strange things. Like a foam wall that kind of makes a sound. There are all kinds of subliminal ideas. That's what's so interesting about sound design is so much of it works on a subliminal level. And there are lots of times where there's a completely unnatural sound introduced into a scene, but it has a huge impact. The Silence of the Lambs is famous because it sort of invented this idea that every time that Jodie Foster would go down into Hannibal Lector's layer, into the cell, they would just start this kind of cranking, the low grade rumbling kind of sound. It was subliminal. You really could barely discern it. But it just made you uncomfortable, and it just created a sort of a background. Sometimes animal sounds can be used under what? A truck driving by. Or who knows what. It's wide open. And it's an area for real invention. And of course, you can always come back to the literal, because we live with literal sound all the time. We all have a ...

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Ron Howard made his first film in 15 days with $300,000. Today, his movies have grossed over $1.8 billion. In his first-ever online directing class, the Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind decodes his craft like never before. In lessons and on-set workshops, you’ll learn how to evaluate ideas, work with actors, block scenes, and bring your vision to the screen whether it’s a laptop or an IMAX theater.

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Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Got everything I was looking for from this class. A non-movie business guy, I've long been fascinated by the level of understanding of human behavior both within one's self and in others that goes into movie making. This class exhibits it to the nines. I've noticed every move, every shot and the rationale. Very fascinating! Thanks!

im a total beginner but with this class i now feel the confidence to get out and start looking for stories and direct them :D

As a writer, these lessons have given me more insight into what I should expect from a director when he is working on my scenes. Enjoyed it. Thanks.

I have learned so many new things about directing movies and the process of making a movie, from finding a story to the shooting and editing of the movie. This was such a fun experience that I hope will help me in my future, and has definitely given me a new set of skills, knowledge and motivation. Thank you.

Comments

Mia S.

"Again, it's always about the choices. Here are the tools, the possibilities, what do they mean to - what? To the story. What do they mean to the reaction to that story? How do they influence it? And the answer to that question is always going to be the answer to, 'What do we do next, as filmmakers?' You want to make the choices that are most effective on behalf of your story - reach the audience in the ways that you want to reach them. We had a silent movie that won an Academy Award here a few years ago for Best Picture and deserved it. So, all of these choices, the wall of sound, a single sound; a full surround, a single speaker in front; they're all valid. Black and white, color, 3D, they're all valid. The question is: What works best for your story? That again always comes back to the director: What should it be? How shall we tell this story? And that's why I thrill at the collaboration - of being able to turn around to people who are specialists, love what they do, and say, 'What do you suggest?' Dialogue - you record it on the day with the actors, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's the end of the story of the dialogue, in terms of the process of making the movie or the TV show. You have a chance to go back and work on that - you can lower the pitch of the actor, you can heighten the pitch. You can slow it down a little bit, you can speed it up, you can rerecord it and therefore make it louder or softer or change the performance. You can go back to the actor and show them a scene and say, 'We need to soften this,' 'this needs to be stronger,' or 'I don't feel the intensity, let's try it again and see what we can do verbally.' And so all these things in post-production, the editing, the music certainly - the sound design, the mixing, the sound effects, the dialogue editing, the dialogue mixing - all of these things come together in ways that they put the finish on the movie; it's like a house that's well-built but it needs to be sanded, varnished and painted, and post-production is all about putting the finish on the project in the way that it's going to be presented at its absolute optimum."

Mia S.

"There are all kinds of subliminal ideas - that's what's so interesting about sound design, is so much of it works on a subliminal level and there are lots of times where there's a completely unnatural sound introduced into a scene, but it has a huge impact. 'The Silence of the Lambs' is famous because it sort of invented this idea that every time Jodie Foster would go down into Hannibal Lecter's lair, into the cell, they would just start this kind of cranking, low-grade rumbling kind of sound. It was subliminal, you really could barely discern it; but it just made you uncomfortable, and it just created sort of a background. Sometimes animal sounds can be used under - what? A truck driving by, or who knows what. It's wide open, and it's an area for real invention. And of course you can always come back to the literal, because we live with literal sound all the time - we all have a good solid sense of what's normal. The magic comes in what's not normal and yet does not distract us from immersing yourself in a scene. When I say 'us,' of course, I mean the audience. So much of what the editorial order of shots depend upon are the right music cue, the right sound effects, or the removal of those things at key moments to make the scenes really work. And of course, the director has to be aware of this, too, and ultimately have the final opinion. But it's not just where the sound is, but it's the level that the sound is played at - it's the way sound can travel in a theater, from speaker to speaker to speaker, and what that means to an audience. It can be thrilling if you feel like you're sort of seeing something fly past you and you can also hear it move around. It can be frightening if it's behind you."

Mia S.

"Sound design is another tool. It's another form of expression. And because we react to sounds on a kind of primal level, it works a little bit the way music works. A lot of composers would tell you that music works because it's actually emulating sounds of nature but in a harmonic way, and a way that might be more beautiful or melodic, but the sounds - whether it's percussion or wind instruments or synthesizers - are creating sounds that we relate to on this kind of primal level. Of course, we feel that way about all kinds of sounds, and whether it's a music cue or whether it's a moment of sound design, repeating sounds can tell you something - tell you to anticipate something, because that's what we do with sounds all the time. If you're in a house, and you hear a strange sound - what was it? If you're out on a street and hear a sound that's unexpected, you wonder if there's a problem. If you walk into a nature reserve and suddenly the sound is open and the wind is moving, it's very soothing. So the great sound designers are always going back to those sort of primal reactions. Great sound design often begins in the editing room, because the editors will start to put together a scene, and they'll recognize that what's missing here is an element of shock. And the edit's in the right place, but maybe the moment's not as effective as it should be. They'll often put in a sound that will help prove that the edit point is correct. And the moment is startling, if you have a sound. That sound is a temp, but then your sound designers will take those demands, ideas, that sort of template and creatively work their magic. Great sound designers and sound editors are sort of like record producers; they know how to use technology, how to record sounds. I've done a number of boxing scenes, and they will record punching cantaloupes, sides of raw meat, strange things, like a foam wall that kind of makes a sound."

A fellow student

I agree that sound design can really make a scene. As a music supervisor, I've been in many mix sessions with some of the best, and I'm always fascinated as to how much sound design and mix can affect a scene in terms of effective storytelling. Glad it got its own chapter, as its one of the most underrated crafts and aspects of making a film.

R.G. R.

Music and/or sound can make or break a film or TV show. Nice way to put the finishing touches on a great Master class.

Robert A.

Yeah the sound and musical score is a huge part of the films!!!. To me its another character of the movie, it not only needs to, but it does also have an impact on the film. Thank you again Ron!!!. Onward!!!.

Mercile M.

Relating to sounds! Great sound design tell the story creatively. So wonderful making sounds to have an impact on the story to create, knowing what sound at the right moment! This process has to have a good sound creator sense of what should be in each scene. Working dialog creativeness in each scene! Wonderful!

Anthony Lee M.

a great little dive into the finishing processes, it's a dipping of your toe into the possibilities, but a great little feel of the waters! i personally love that finishing process! but, have learnt it's just that a finishing process, the ingredients are still the main things that separates the greats! and those come into the process waaaaaaaaaaay before i even cut one shot next to another.

Benjamin

I think it's very important to know what to do with every bit of sound in your movie. Make the sounds louder in one scene and then quieter in the next. Sometimes you can just take away the sound effects and dialogue altogether at a particular moment and just let the music and visuals convey the emotions. You have to think about what to do with the sounds in the movie to make every moment sound intriguing or, in some cases, let the audience be intrigued by the lack of sound.

ALICIA S.

Sound Design... I didn't think of it. However, I use to enjoy buying Soundtracks, which aren't such a big thing these days. And that's part of sound design, but not the whole thing. It's a good tool for adding emotional impact or suspense to a scene/film. We pick up primal layered responses from the background sounds. The mind is fascinating. Another excellent lesson.