On November 18th, 2015 at the prestigious B & H Photo & Video store in Manhattan, Mark Edward Lewis and Andres Acosta will be presenting “Sound Production In Sight.” This event is FREE, but seats are limited so register immediately.
Sound in media is the most overlooked and most important aspect of any production. Film schools teach little on the subject, and few masters reveal their secrets of how to create big-budget-Hollywood production immersion.
Now, for the first time at the renown B & H Event Space in New York City, master audio instructor and filmmaker Mark Edward Lewis, recently the main presenter for the “Sound Advice Tour,” brings his knowledge of production and post production audio techniques to you. If will be in the New York Area on November 18th, or know someone who could benefit from this limited engagement, you’ll experience:
•2 hours on Production Recording
•1 hour on Sound Effects
•1 hour on Foley/ADR
•1 hour on Mixing
•1 hour on dialogue cleanup
• and so much more!
This is a must-attend for any editor, producer, director or still photographer who wishes to get involved in the highly competitive market of multi-media. Mark will teach attendees the intricacies of Hollywood level recording techniques with affordable equipment from Røde Microphones, and Zoom recording devices and how to create massive production value using inexpensive Adobe software products in post production. Hands on and active participation always describes his courses, and this all day event will give attendees tricks, tips, skills and knowledge that most independent audio professionals don’t know.
Don’t let your production or video fall prey to mediocrity, attend the “Sound Production In Sight” workshop and gain the mandatory insight you need to create $50 million production value without increasing your budget.
One lucky participant will even win a pair of Mackie CRBT5 bookshelf monitors!
And another attendee will receive a year of Adobe Creative Cloud!
Register for the Free event here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/find/eventDetails.jsp/id/2181
It takes more than just tons of money to have an audience like a film, and Hollywood knows this. Although big budget films certainly have more visual effects and higher clout talent attached to them, many of the unavoidable realities of why Hollywood movies are liked more than independent ones are found in the 5 simple revelations put forth below…and they can be done with little to extra money spent.
Hollywood has done the research. They know how the brain works. Your neurology can process up to 7,000 impulses a second and focus on any 3 or 4 of them. This means that the brain is predominantly tuning things out far more than it is tuning things in. As filmmakers, our paramount responsibility, even more than telling a story, is that we suspend the disbelief of the audience. So if we’re able to supply audiences with the feeling that our content is providing the impulses the brain should tune out (instead of the real world), audiences have no choice but to believe their reality is a part of your film. Once this happens, the subconscious generally “goes to sleep,” because it no longer has to deal with deciding what is real or not. Once there, it is easy to create subconscious suggestion and have an audience believe, like, jump into fight/flight or any number of other manipulations that a skilled filmmaker can concoct. Creating killer immersion is the filmmaker’s critically important task, and many neglect to realize its importance. Without creating excellent immersion, audiences will be in disbelief, and a disbelieving audience will never be able to accept your content as entertaining. Your number one most facile and prominent tool for creating this immersion is the proper use of sound effects. If you or your team lack the knowledge to utilize sound effects to this degree, you’ll never get your audience to connect with your story fully.
For whatever reason, the human brain likes loud audio better than soft. It doesn’t just think it sounds better, it actually LIKES the audio better. On the Sound Advice Tour we do an exercise where 19 times out of 20, an audience likes the louder program material better; even when it’s only louder by a small amount; even when it’s the same program material we compare against. Scientists have also discovered there’s a gland in the human ear mechanism which actually triggers dopamine in the brain when louder volumes are heard. So, shouldn’t we be committed to delivering internet mixes of our productions which are louder than our competitors? Until they regulate loudness, and it may be coming any minute, our mixes need to be so loud, that people feel like they like them better. They won’t know why they do, but they just will. This is a secret that Hollywood uses on us all in commercials on television and, indeed, on the web. Learn to use the tools which are required to make your mixes louder than your competition without distorting, and you’ll have an unfair competitive edge over everyone else.
Hollywood understands that human hearing is super sensitive to the consonants in the human voice. If you don’t take that into account, your audio mixes will seem awfully tinny, and you’ll not be able to get the loudness or fullness which big budget movies appear to have. Big budget mixes literally carve out those frequencies which human hearing is sensitive to. Doing so allows for better headroom and allows sounds to be heard in a way which draws audiences into the program material. This extra headroom also allows allow other sounds to live in a place in the mix they otherwise might not be able to – giving more power, body, or dynamics to a mix. Having the ability to create more headroom, have fuller sounding mixes and lessen frequencies which our hearing are naturally sensitive to causes the audience’s built in system of “like better because it’s louder” to kick in. And, of course, it all just sounds bigger and, well, more Hollywood.
One of the craziest things I see is indie filmmakers using not just the wrong music in their films, but they use as the barometer of good music for a scene whether they like the music or not. Now, music you like might be the right choice, but the chances of getting your audience to have the desired reaction to your project should never be determined why whether or not it’s “your kind” of music. It all must come from your demographic research. Why? Well, just like story telling must use different tools to reach different audiences, we must use the appropriate music which best connects with our audience if we are ever to move our audience into the three or four things their brains can focus on. For example, if we’re producing a documentary on the story of three African American women in South Central Los Angeles, would we be wise to use giant orchestral underscore? Perhaps not, since our demographic probably won’t resonate with that genre as much as something else. It behooves us to do our research and discover what that music might be. What music causes your audience to want to purchase? What has them want to believe your story? What has them resonate with their past? These are all questions which a filmmaker needs to have answered in order to have a chance at competing in the creative media scene where big studios have these answers backed by millions of dollars in research. Don’t just put music in your project because you like it. Be able to defend your decisions with researched and proven genres of music which resonate with your audience.
In Western Civilization it’s rare to have a conversation where people are actually listening to what their counterpart is saying. Instead, we’re mainly trying to figure out what we’re going to say next. Then, while you’re speaking, the other person is doing the same. Instead of having a dialogue with someone, it is much more reasonable to expect that you’re having two monologues. Moreover, it is rare when people speak about what they really want. They will speak around what they want in the hopes they’ll find some advantage or some way of protecting themselves from vulnerability while trying to get what they want. People rarely speak about what they’re really thinking or feeling. As a result, “real life” dialogue is more of a deception than truth…and it’s certainly never, never exposition. Hollywood writers, on the whole, have mastered the art of “showing not telling” – and when the tell, they’re dialogue is rarely the truth of the characters or situations. Just like in real life, dialogue should be audience deception. It should never reveal what the character is really feeling, or what they really want. Even when they’re telling someone what they want, it shouldn’t be what they really want, because, honestly, most people don’t really know anyway. Writing dialogue in this way has audience members connect with characters in a way which feels so much more natural and easy. Avoid forwarding story, plot or reveal character qualities from dialogue. It will wake people up in the audience, and we never want audience members to be awake. We want them asleep subconsciously, and although audio is the best way to keep audience members asleep (and subsequently able to be manipulated easily to focus on what we want them to), bad or “unreal” dialogue is a very easy way to wake them up. Hollywood moviemakers are masters at keeping audiences asleep, and you’ll want your dialogue to be that deceptive sleeping potion which has your viewers dosing through the realization that they’re watching the same kind of “quality” and “feeling” in your project as a $50 million movie.
Hollywood has spent the last 100 years perfecting the art of psychologically and biologically forcing its audiences to like its movies better than anyone else’s. There are many aspects around this which an independent filmmaker can discover from various gurus, but there may not be a more concentrated number of such pieces of wisdom than what is found in the Sound Advice Tour.
There are less than 15 shows left. Dedicate yourself to getting to one of the last workshops of this groundbreaking and revealing course, and change your filmmaking career forever.
So you’ve got a film that you want to make and you’re a little unclear on how audio works in a film? Below are ten common mistakes that independent (and big Hollywood) filmmakers make on a regular basis. If it feels like the tone of these are a little strong, please forgive me. I have filmmakers come to my door with one or more of these issues month in and month out…sometimes as repeat customers who did not heed my advice a second time. So, please take the time to ponder carefully the warnings contained herein, and perhaps you’ll contact me for a social visit instead of an emergency post production related one.
#1: You Have No M & E Track.
You spent all this time and money making your great film. You get a distribution deal. Congratulations! You now have 30 days to deliver your deliverables and an M & E track: music and sound effects only. You figure you just need need to mute the dialogue tracks, and you submit it. Then you get a call from Quality Control saying that your M & E doesn’t cut the mustard. You have no idea why. You don’t have the $10,000+ to get one made. You lose the distribution deal. Don’t worry. It happens every day. If you had started post production in preproduction as shown in the Sound Advice Tour, you could have saved yourself this heartache. Prepare to have it built while you’re making your other post audio elements, and you’ll be WAY ahead of the game, and your distribution deal – at least from an audio perspective – will be safe.
#2: You Put Music YOU Like in Your Film.
First, do you know the demographic of the people going to watch your film? If you don’t your film is doomed, because you have no idea the “listening” of the people who are going to spend money on it. Second of all, if you don’t know what kind of music those folks resonate with, you’ll never be able to lead them emotionally to the place you want them to go. Just because you like the music your putting in your film doesn’t mean it’s good music to put in there. 9 times out of 10, the music you like ISN’T the music which should be leading these people emotionally. Do your research. Know how to use music as it should be used. Command the focus of your audience, and leave your favorite music in your playlist, not in your movie.
#3: You Don’t Understand Sound Effects.
Each of the three main audio elements of a film have their own powerful affect on an audience. Sound Effects, especially ambiences, foley, and all the elements which are “subtle” have a very specific and wildly important role in multi-media. Most independent filmmakers have no idea that well done SFX are the powerful basis for manipulating and maneuvering audiences to like their products, characters, stories and suspend disbelief. Without this knowledge and the simple steps to mastering it, everyone will consistently enjoy other people’s films better than yours.
#4: You Don’t Understand Human Hearing.
The human psyche is ALWAYS lying to you about what you hear. It actually has you believe that your sensitivity to Low, Mid and High frequencies is the same throughout the hearing spectrum. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, whether you believe in evolution or creationism, in 2015, the mind is most sensitive to the consonants of the spoken voice. As a result, most filmmakers mix their movies without taking this into account, and it’s why when watch 95% of independent movies in a festival, they all sound tinny and lack power or body. The frequencies which the mind is sensitive to make even the best “mathematically correct” mixes feel like they were mixed to rip off the hair on your head. Hollywood mixes take this into account, and it’s one of the reasons why people like listening to big-budget movies: those mixers know how to manage “loudness contour” and manipulate mixes so that listeners psychologically “like” their mixes better than yours. To the extent that a filmmaker doesn’t understand this (or their re-recording mixer), is the extent to which their audience will have extreme difficulty immersing themselves in the content of the film.
#5: Your Movie is Too Soft.
Everything is moving to Internet delivery, and until the government puts into place loudness rules (which may be very soon), soft mixes will always seem less “likeable” than loud ones. It’s how the brain works, and there are many studies and research that proves that louder is better to the mind (not necessarily to the ear). Dr. Barry Blesser, Ph.D, an academic and lecturer on the subject has written one paper about an actual organ in the ear which, when hit with loud low frequencies, sends out a pleasure response. You can read the document here [http://www.blesser.net/downloads/eContact%20Loud%20Music.pdf]. Of course, for theatrical, DVD and broadcast, the law and the rules apply, but on the internet the sky is the limit, and since the average attention span of a user of the internet is roughly 2 seconds, studies have shown that even a 1 decibel difference will have a majority of people like the louder program material than the softer – even if it’s the same program material. Want to compete in the Internet market? You’d better know how to make your mixes louder than your competition
#6: You Use Faders to Mix Your Film.
It’s natural. Most people who have never studied the affects or nature of audio in multimedia believe that making sounds louder or softer – or panning them around the stereo or surround field – is the way to make a mix work. Just make the dialogue louder than the music, and the sound effects not drown the music, and you’ve got a good mix. Nothing can be further than the truth. In fact, moving faders is one of the most unimportant aspects of mixing all of your precious audio elements into the immersive and dramatic whole which you’ve dreamed of. If you have no knowledge of compression, equalization or the concept behind the 3-D positioning of audio in a mix, you’re lack of knowledge will force you to have to make terrible compromises which will have your audience lose energy and flow in your film at brutally critical places.
#7: You Let Your Editor Mix Your Film.
Now, I love editors. They’re usually incredibly generous people who really understand how to tell a story. The trouble is, they usually have little to no idea how to put the audio elements of a film together in a professional and moving fashion. Worse, they invariably have no idea how to use the standard tools of the audio trade nor do they have the right mixing tools to implement them. With the exception of Sony Vegas, there is NO Non-Linear Editor on the market which will afford you the ability to do a professional mix. Any editor who attempts to convince you of this, to the extent they try, is the extent to which they have no idea how to mix your elements professionally. Sadly, it is incredibly difficult to get audio out of an NLE these days, and I understand why editors want to keep audio in their timelines. Not to mention that directors are recutting their “locked” picture up until the day before delivery. Therefore, “conforming” separate audio timelines to updated “video” timelines is horrifically painful. Nevertheless, without the appropriate tools applied to your audio, it’s impossible to get the Hollywood impact your picture deserves. Your editor either doesn’t have them, or doesn’t know how to use them. If they do, they’re an incredibly rare find indeed. Pay them more.
#8: You Have No Idea How to Speak to a Composer.
Many directors fashion themselves as masters of all things in the filmmaking process. Successful directors know that having department heads who are masters of all things from within their discipline is a superior way of making a film. And nowhere is having such a department head more important than in the role of composer. Cease from thinking of your composer as having anything to do with music. She doesn’t. Instead, think of her as the “architect of the emotional path your audience follows.” If you can grab on to this, then you can also realize that your communication with them will immediately change from one of a musical vocabulary to one of emotion. And if you know the most important question to ask yourself about each beat in your film, you’ll be able to easily navigate the sometimes etherial waters of the musical content of your film – not to mention communication with your composer if you have little experience in music. How do you get the best musical score into your film? It has much more to do with you, the filmmaker, understanding where you want the emotional current of your film to be from moment to moment than it does knowing what kind of music should go where. Leave that up to the composer. If you can speak in the common language that exists between director and composer, then you’ll have a successful collaboration with her. If you don’t, you’ll suffer the standard, substandard lack of communication or partnership that is present on most independent films. Yuck.
#9: You Believe Dialogue is For Moving People Emotionally.
So many talented directors these days are also writing their own scripts which I think is wonderful. The ability to have a single creative vision from start to finish, I believe, really enhances the ability of a film to avoid “media by committee” which is ruining so many wonderful projects these days. The trouble is, many of these directors also fall in love with their dialogue…which is the death of every project. Dialogue’s main purpose is to convey story. That’s what it does best. Not character development. Not Immersion. Not emotion. Only story and plot. When we try to have the dialogue “amped up” to try to motive audiences to be emotionally changed, things turn into melodrama really fast. It’s the same in audio. Dialogue should never be mixed in such a way that it attempts to push people to another place emotionally – unless it’s an effect or something specific and seldom. If we mix dialogue as though it were the primary audio function of a movie, our audiences may have a great understanding of the story, but they’ll have been checking their phones and talking to each other throughout. You must know the other two aspects of audio and be able to interleave them deftly with the dialogue to have audiences suspend their disbelief, immerse themselves in the story, and be led emotionally where you want them to go.
#10: You Commit False Economy.
You’ve cast Sigourney Weaver as your lead. You play golf with her, so you got her for $10,000/day. Congratulations. Really. She’s amazing. You have a 20 day shoot which means you’re spending $200,000 on her. You need to record audio for 20 days. You want to hire Frank Serafine who (and I’m making this up) is $1,250/day with a $750/day kit fee for a total of $2,000/day or $40,000 total. Now the problem isL you just don’t want to spend that on audio. Instead, you know your wife’s aunt’s dog’s cousin’s boyfriend has an iPhone 6+ and is $50/day with no kit fee. You hire him. Naturally, you get crap audio and you have to re-record all of Sig’s dialogue in a studio in Automatic Dialogue Replacement. This is usually a ten day process, but Sigourney is great at ADR (and she is) and she can get it done in 5 days – or another $50,000. BUT. You also have to factor in your $2,000/day ADR studio and the $750/day ADR engineer. How did you do financially? Very poorly. This is “false economy” and it is the death of far too many independent productions. Unfortunately, it’s steely claws of doom are only discovered when the film hits post production, and it’s why I’m always screaming for filmmakers to start post production in preproduction. This kind of false economy, along with hundreds of other FE traps in production and post, ruin and destroy films just before they get to the finish line. Do your best to route the seeds of false economy in preproduction by finding and employing the best people you can even if it costs a little more. It may save you from spending thousands of dollars you never had in the first place, and it may save you from losing irreplaceable performances that only occurred on set.
If any of these 10 items seems oddly familiar or resonates with you, my strong suggestion is to register in the Sound Advice Tour before seats fill up in one of the remaining locations. Or just Google the reviews of this event and see for yourself how it’s giving independent filmmakers an incredible leg up on their competition. Don’t be left behind. Get the tools you need. Get inspired. Jump on top of the competitive heap in one day.
13 years in the making, Mark Edward Lewis will be directing and writing the initial episodes of the series “Blade of Honor” starring Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager), James Kyson (Heroes), Anna Akana, Jodie Bentley and Brandon Stacy (Star Trek: New Voyages). Lewis and his brother, John-Paul Lewis, developed the concept for the series as a movie of the week in 2002 and originally sought to cast Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3, Pain Killer Jane) in the lead role of the irreverent crack Star Blade pilot, Arina “Head Shot” Kartades, but due to her schedule and other production concerns, the project was resurrected months ago starring internet sensation Anna Akana in the role.
Extremely ambitious in his direction to bring quality sci-fi to the independent budget series, Lewis has spearheaded the thrust into the 2197 future with an all-star cast of above the line crew from the best that independent sci-fi productions can offer including “Star Trek: Renegades,” “Star Trek: Axanar,” “Fifth Passenger,” “Star Trek: Continues” and of course “Star Trek: New Voyages.” This who’s-who of sci-fi production has already shot principle photography on a promo that will fuel their fundraising efforts and spread the word far and wide of this exciting sci-fi project.
Deep in the inevitable future of the human race, the Alliance of human planets has created a galactic rule protected by a vast armada of space faring craft and their valiant crews. The best star fighter pilot in the fleet is one, ARINA KARTADES (Anna Akana). Following her exploits, we find ourselves on the most exotic and fantastic worlds of the human and local alien ALLIANCE [link to tech spec on page] and deepest darkest depths of the galaxy.
After the smashing success of Star Trek: New Voyages “Mind-Sifter” directed and edited by Mark Edward Lewis, the production has asked Lewis to return to direct their latest and very hush-hush episode. Mark is currently working his magic as post production supervisor for the series episode, “The Holiest Thing,” which will continue and be released before the episode to be helmed by him this July. Mark was instrumental in bringing his close friend Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) to the production. Mr. Hatch has been cast as the episode’s antagonist. Look for Mark’s next installment of Star Trek: New Voyages toward the end of 2015.
In the mean time, Mark is busily supporting Mzed Productions “Sound Advice Tour” as Technical Director and directing and producing is own series entitled “Blade of Honor” starring Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager), James Kyson (Heroes) Anna Akana and many more.
Following the fast-paced 11 day shoot schedule in June, 2014 for the 72 page script based on one of the most beloved #StarTrek short stories ever written, Executive Producer James Cawley and Star Trek: New Voyages release “Mind-Sifter.” Directed and edited by Mark Edward Lewis, this production has waited over 2 years to be completed. This version, penned by Rick Chambers relies more heavily on the original published version of the short story including some extras which not only enhance the drama but also bring about many anticipated “meetings” and even redrafts several poignant Trek-lore axioms.
The cast, helmed by Brian Gross as Captain James Tiberius Kirk, has several returning members in the form of Brandon Stacy (Spock), Charles Root (Scotty), Patrick Cawley (Xon) and Wayne Johnson (Running Bear). But this episode sees a complete turnover of all other roles and brings new life into the production including Jeff Bond (McCoy) who’s brilliant representation of Deforest’s 23rd century doctor is heralded by all. Guest stars including Robert Withrow, Claye Sayre (both veterans of New Voyages) and Julliard trained wonder Rivkah Raven Wood as the beloved Dr. Jan Hamlin. Also returning are the visual effects wizards Pony Horton and Tobias Richter who have brought so many incredible fantasy worlds to life.
This release also heralds the cutting edge for any production released on Youtube in the form of both “vintage” and “modern” visual effects releases. The former effects being fashioned by Daren Dochterman (Star Trek TMP). Also, the modern effects version is available in 5.1 surround for those with the players and tech-savvy to know how to listen to youtube in that fashion.
Watch the modern visual effects version in stereo from this link:
Watch the modern visual effects version in 5.1 surround from this link:
Watch the “Retro Effects” version in stereo from this link:
In the July, 2014 issue of Mix magazine, Mark Edward Lewis and legendary Sound FX supervisor Frank Serafine receive a prominent feature for their work on the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. in New York’s Discovery Times Square. This four page article chronicles Lewis and Serafine’s team as they put together, designed, and created the audio elements for the exhibition. In addition, they describe their personal anecdotes and equipment used for the incredible 10,000 sq/ft installation.
Mark received his first Mix magazine at age 12 while attending recording arts classes at Fullerton College at age 12. He has had his boyhood dream fulfilled in having his first writeup in the globally distributed periodical.
Pick up your copy at newsstands today.
Coming off the whirlwind schedule for Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N as both Audio Supervisor and Visual Effects Supervisor, Mark Edward Lewis will be directing the much anticipated newest episode in the Star Trek Phase II series, “Mind Sifter.” Excited to be working with the longstanding crew and returning cast of the series, Lewis has served in several roles for the series from production to post production including on such episodes as “Kitumba,” and “World Enough and Time” starring George Takei.
The production will shoot outside Albany, NY from June 20-30th, 2014. Following this compressed schedule, Mark will oversee the post production on Star Trek Phase II: “The Holiest Thing” which should release sometime in the Fall of 2014.
Long time friends and filmmakers Jerry Harned and Lad Allen brought Mark in to write music in a style they hired him for when he was 17 years old. “King of Creation,” the newest installment of inspirational filmmaking by the duo at Illustra Media, is a modern High Definition rendition of what made both this team and Moody Institute of Science great: beautiful footage mixed with inspirational hymn arrangements atop scripture.
Narrated by William Knight, the film spans eight different subjects both visual and spiritual. Mark created diverse arrangements for the various segments from some of the most beloved hymns including “Amazing Grace,” “Be Thou My Vision” and many more. Using traditional and exotic instruments such as the uillean pipes and native American flutes, Mark pulled out all the stops in creating a score that is moving, elevating and deep. The soundtrack will be available on iTunes and Amazon.com shortly.
Mark also served as re-recording mixer for the stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. The mix, done at Michael Lehmann Boddicker’s Sol 7 Recording and Post and produced by Boddicker, was completed in 3 days, and all of the techniques and wizardry that Lewis uses when he mixes in 11.1 for DTS Headphone-X mixes were applied here.
Be sure to look for “King of Creation” on Amazon and a general announcement about the release of the inspirational film.
Years in the making, the principle photography for Star Trek Phase II: Kitumba took place in 2009 in New York. Helmed by Producer James Cawley and the entire Phase II cast and crew, this episode marked a milestone in depth of story, computer generated effects and deep examination of the Klingon world.
Mark Edward Lewis was brought in late November of 2013 to oversee and complete the post production process for the film. Mark’s responsibilities included interfacing with brilliant CG artists Tobias Richter and Pony Horton as well as overseeing the audio mix and sound design elements made by Ralph Miller. Mark’s talents were directly applied to the creative process as the editor, colorist, and he even had some of his music applied to the film.
Star Trek: Phase II can be seen by clicking here.