What Makes for Award-Winning Sound Editing?

Bob Bayless goes through the Oscar nominated sound editors to see what elements are part of award winning sound editing.

It’s a given that all the top choices for best sound editing are first-rate candidates. After all, if a picture is an awards contender, every element of the film, including sound, has to be at the top-tier of its craft to even be under consideration. Ultimately though, the best sound editing is linked to the best way to tell the story.

Eugene Gearty, sound editor onAng Lee’s Life Of Pi put it best: “Sound design is based on storytelling in the movie. Everything follows the story. There’s no sense in having a weird sound in there if it doesn’t relate somehow emotionally to what’s happening in the scene or the storyline. Those days are long gone!”

In his sound design for a movie that primarily takes place in the middle of the ocean on a lifeboat occupied by only a boy and a tiger, Gearty had to create most of the sounds since much of the film was shot in a water tank in front of a greenscreen without a tiger.

Although support of the story is one criterion that all audio professionals can agree upon when judging the award-worthiness of sound editing, selecting the best sound is extremely subjective. Bad sound is noticeable, but good sound can be so inherently natural to the scene and story, that is renders itself audibly “invisible.” Sometimes for award-winning sound to stand out as unusual, it has to not stand out at all.

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