Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound * Uncovers The Hidden World Of Cinematic Sound

Directed by veteran Hollywood sound editor Midge Costin, the critically acclaimed, award-winning Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound goes behind the scenes to reveal the hidden power of sound in cinema; to introduce us to the unsung heroes who create it; to experience their behind-the-scenes creative genius; and to hear insights from the entertainment industry’s most legendary directors with whom they collaborate.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema . . . and our lives. Through film clips, interviews and archival footage–an enlightening and nostalgic look at many of Hollywood’s biggest box office hits–the film captures the history, impact and unique creative process of this overlooked art form and the artists behind it. Filled with insights from legendary directors–including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, David Lynch, Ang Lee, Sofia Coppola and Ryan Coogler, among others–who share revealing stories about the award-winning work their sound collaborators help to create.

In Making Waves, we witness the wild creativity of some of the industry’s most-respected key sound designers–including Oscar winners Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now), Ben Burtt (Star Wars), Gary Rydstrom (Saving Private Ryan) and Lora Hirschberg (Inception); and Oscar-nominees Cece Hall (Top Gun), Anna Behlmer (Braveheart) and Bobbi Banks (Selma)–who, in pursuing their art and desire to push the medium, are the very people who will go down in the history of cinema as developing sound into the immersive storytelling force it is today. Audiences will discover many unsung collaborators for the key creative artists they are, in a domain that has for too long been characterized as “technical.”

Producer/director Midge Costin holds the Kay Rose Chair in the Art of Sound Editing, endowed by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts. Launching her career at a time when very few women were cutting FX in Hollywood, Costin’s credits as a sound editor include such Oscar-nominated films as Crimson Tide and Armageddon.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound 
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Anna Behlmer at mix console
Anna Behlmer at mix console

The greatest crime in the world of cinema is against the world of sound. Despite sound making up half of every film from the last century, it receives one measly percent of attention from the audience and film industry. This documentary uncovers the hidden world of cinematic sound in its history, its art and its complexity – showing a side of film one has never been seen before. 

Burtt Richard Anderson recording voice of Chewbacca
Ben Burtt, Richard Anderson recording voice of Chewbacca

Although being a documentary with a core purpose of education, its masterful editing and layout makes it an entertaining experience for those who have a passion for film and those who have seen very few films in their lives. Instead of simply looking at the technical aspects of sound editing and sound design, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound makes a relatable documentary by looking at the people who simply wish to discuss their deep passion for the art of sound. This allows the film to incorporate drama, action, intensity and even comedy while still teaching the audience about sound in cinema. 

Ben Burrt recording lightsaber
Ben Burrt recording lightsaber

Starting with the roar of 1933s King Kong to the drumming of Black Panther (2018), this documentary explores in depth the big revolutions of sound design in film throughout history. Some particularly fascinating references include the wholly organic sound design of every creature, explosion and spaceship in Star Wars (1977) and the quiet artful water-splashing in Roma (2018). Not only that, but the documentary also discusses the many branches of cinematic sound. From dialogue editing to SFX and even ambiance (sounds of the environment), each department of the soundscape of cinema gets covered in this documentary. 

My favorite part of the film lies towards the end and features Ben Burtt, a sound designer who has worked on several Star Wars films, Indiana Jones films, Wall-E, and much more, garnering him two Academy Awards. Yet, despite his many achievements, his discussion about his life makes his interview so unforgettable. Burtt discusses how after winning an Oscar for his first project, Star Wars: A New Hope, he felt massive pressure to maintain that success in future projects. Not only that, he discusses his challenges in separating from work and returning home every day for dinner. This segment gives an intimate hidden look at the intimate challenge many artists in the film world face: disconnecting from their craft. The scene truly humanizes these sound designers and editors as people too, with lives that exist distinctly outside filmmaking. 

Ai Ling Lee at console
Ai Ling Lee at console

Midge Costin, the director and producer of this documentary has taught at the world-famous USC School of Cinematic Arts for many years and it shows – one can enter with no knowledge of sound in cinema and come out nearly an expert. Watching a film after this documentary feels distinctly different because the secret subtlety of the many brilliant aspects of sound design now become clear. After watching this documentary, one can begin to understand the impressive complexity that sound artists go to in developing a world in a film, on the subconscious level. Not only that, the documentary presents ideas in a very visual way. Even technical concepts such as the difference between mono, stereo, four-point and modern Dolby 5.1 surround sound can easily be understood by hearing it in auditory examples, but also in visually showing how the different systems operate. Truly, this documentary takes the massive subject of cinematic sound and breaks it down into simple subjects that nearly anyone can understand. 

Walter Murch mixing Apocalypse
Walter Murch mixing Apocalypse

This documentary tailors ideally to adults, young and old, although older kids will also enjoy this thoroughly. For that reason, I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18, as well as adults. I give Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound a solid 5 out of 5 stars for making an entertaining, profound and enlightening experience that truly engulfs one into the extensive soundscape of cinema. Premiering in theaters in Los Angeles and New York City Oct. 25, the film will then roll out in cities across the country.

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