In 1996, I worked on the film “Shine”, directed by Scott Hicks and starring Geoffrey Rush. My role was to design and edit the sound effects, with the support of Martin Bayley, assistant sound editor. Other team members were involved in the location sound, foley, dialogue editing/recording and mixing.
As a team, we were fortunate to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Sound.
The following reflections chronicle the process of designing the sound effects on the film Shine.
The Sound Brief
You know a film is great when it stirs the spirit before the sound post-production has begun.
The first time I saw the film Shine was with director Scott Hicks for a sound brief. We were huddled in a small room in front of a television monitor – one of those boxy boat anchors, now rarely seen on the nature strip as hard rubbish. The footage we were about to watch was without music, added sound effects or finessed dialogue – it was just the raw sync sound.
Together with Roger Savage (re-recording mixer) and Livia Ruzic (dialogue editor), we sat, pens in hand, notepads ready, for the screening to begin.
The movie started with the character David Helfgott rushing over to a cafe window on a rainy evening (the opening credits were not yet complete). At this point, I wasn’t clear about what was going on. The scene was quite bland. There was nothing special about the cafe, its decor or ambience, and I prepared myself for what was possibly going to be a tedious screening.
A moment later, David is sitting in a car on that same rainy night and the scene cross-fades to a crowd clapping in slow motion. The stylised moment got my attention, my mind bubbling with how the transition may work from a sound-design perspective. I was hooked . . .
Sound as Storyteller – right from the start
Researchers, including neuroscientist Heth Horowitz, have verified my empirical observations, explaining that sound is processed in the unconscious areas of the brain, creating powerful and fast emotional responses.
Of course, it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. If you hear the loud cracking and booming of a falling tree, don’t think, run!
As the saying goes, if the audience consciously notices the sound in a film, there’s something wrong.