When watching a movie, it’s incredibly easy to get swept up by an interesting story, a grand performance or a fictional world that’s populated with strange creatures. Movies like “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” provide an intense sense of wonder that can make audiences want to return to their universe for years and years.
There is an almost indescribable amount of work that goes into making a motion picture, no matter its scope or budget. Every job in moviemaking, whether it be in front of or behind the camera, is vital to ensuring the quality of a film. However, one aspect of filmmaking that is often overlooked is one that isn’t even seen at all — sound.
Upon first thought, one could be forgiven for thinking a film’s sound production is a simple task, but, upon closer inspection, it is apparent that it takes an immense amount of hard work to make a film’s sound bleed into the background while still standing out when it needs to.
“Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” is a documentary film directed by Midge Costin. This documentary showcases how much work actually goes into producing the multiple layers of a film’s audio. The film explores the evolution of sound in film throughout the years, going from sheet music that was played alongside silent films, to creating all of the fantastic sound effects that now populate giant blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame.”
This film is one of the most informative, detailed and genuinely enjoyable documentaries about the art of moviemaking that I’ve seen. The whole narrative of the film follows a timeline, showcasing what advances in technology came when and in what context. It portrays Foley artists recreating sounds like the crunch of snow under a boot. “Making Waves” tackles every aspect of cinema’s sound with an intense attention to detail, all the while avoiding confusing jargon and keeping everything simple enough for general movie-going audiences to understand.
As the film continues, it jumps between every imaginable aspect of cinematic sound.
“Making Waves” showcases how often dialogue is re-recorded in a studio during post-production through a process called automated dialogue replacement. It explains how the advent of stereophonic sound opened an enormous door for sound designers. There are interviews with composers, such as Hans Zimmer, on how they provide the musical score for a film and it shows the techniques they utilize to match their music with the film. And, bringing it all together, the film showcases the sound editors and mixers who are in charge of bringing all of these different aspects together.
What makes “Making Waves” so delightful to watch is how it tackles all of these different aspects of moviemaking’s sound by analyzing specific films that audiences are familiar with. The film highlights how an individual like Ben Burtt came up with the incredibly original sounds of blasters, lightsabers and a Wookie’s roar in “Star Wars.” It also explores the sound effects used in iconic films such as “The Godfather,” “Toy Story,” “Apocalypse Now” and more, often providing interviews with the directors and sound crew of each film
“Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” is a phenomenally entertaining documentary that explores an often underappreciated side of going to the movies. The film is thorough in its explanations and research, while also providing plenty of examples and fun facts to suck its audience in.
As Oscar season approaches, there will undoubtedly be the usual conversations about not seeing the purpose of awards for sound editing and sound design. “Making Waves” showcases why the focus of these categories aren’t just interesting, but incredibly vital to the art of moviemaking as a whole.