Interview 採訪: Kwong Wing-ka, Law Yuk-mui/ 鄺永嘉、羅玉梅
Editing 編輯、整理: Law Yuk-mui/ 羅玉梅
English Translation 英譯: Daniel Ho Sze-hin/ 何思衍
Hong Kong/ 香港
Cyrus is a young man not too willing to disclose his Chinese name. A graduate of the School of Film and Television at the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts with a major in Sound Design, he has an academic air about him. During his studies, he traveled to Beijing and Taiwan to take part in internships, which gave him an understanding of the developments in soundtrack post-production in greater China. Since he has participated in and been concerned with many works related to social issues, he eagerly decided to further his studies in 2012 in the Master degree program in Visual Culture Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he will endeavor to integrate social issues into sound production.
“While at school, I already leaned towards doing post-production stuff. At first I wanted to do film editing and action animation. I had the interest but didn’t have the patience; once I had edited things half way I had already lost patience or else just wrapped things up sloppily! I chose my major without really having a clear idea, just wanting to try things out, unselfconsciously getting into this profession for a year or so. Then I started taking on freelance work while studying. People in the arts seem to have less interest in sound. Most people are attracted by visuality first, but I have found that with many things related to the emotions, sound can really influence or color people’s feelings, no less than visuals can.”
The Work of a Foley Artist
Cyrus: The last part of sound post-production is the final stage in film production. Sound post-production mainly includes the dialogue, ambient sounds, sound effects, Foley (“special sound effects” in HK Chinese) and the music soundtrack. In Hong Kong, “Foley” is about using props to express the sound of consecutive actions — in mainland China this is called “action effects” — normally this covers footsteps, the rustling of clothes, people sitting down, putting down the phone, and so forth…really any sound that results from an action. “Sound effects” are ordinary sounds. In Hollywood or abroad, they can define anything as Foley; they have the resources and the capital to produce all the sounds in a film from start to finish, using a new sound each time to express a different rhythm or sound quality.
Sound is a Low Profile Profession
Cyrus: Dramas place dialogue at the forefront, so the greatest chance of using Foley is in action movies. Relatively harder are comedies, which require many unusual sounds to create the atmosphere. For instance, the ringing of the phone or the pace of a character’s steps all requires sound to fabricate this “comedic effect”; something similar happens in horror movies. What I mean is that the core of what we do isn’t to highlight the sound but to make the sound serve the visuals. A successful creation of sound production for a film makes the audience not notice the sound, since you’ve made it appear so natural and comfortable that others basically don’t even notice it. Sound is a very low profile profession.
But recently the field of sound post-production has undergone many changes. All of this has to do with CEPA (Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, the agreement to forge closer economic ties between the mainland and Hong Kong). The moment there are co-productions, Hong Kong cinema has changed dramatically. Aside from the themes in movies, a more practical problem technically speaking is that all films now need to have a Mandarin version and film ratings version. The difficulty really lies in the fact that all the dialogue needs to have the sound redone, while the sound recorded on set cannot be used at all. Since the ambient sounds and the dialogue of the actors are “linked” together, when we do the Mandarin version, practically all the sound and Foley effects have to be redone. Basically, the Mandarin version does not have a single bit of sound recorded on set.
The Practice and Imagination of Sound
< Four Steps to the Foley Effect of a Bottle Breaking>
(1) The sound of an empty bottle breaking
(2) The sound of water swishing around in a bottle
(3) The sound of a bottle (with water) breaking
(4) The different sound quality of glass shards falling on the ground, like the sounds of glass hitting concrete, the floor, or the tabletop
The mix of four different timbres and layers of sound makes up what we recognize as the sound of a “bottle breaking” in cinema.
Cyrus: Often times you don’t necessarily have the experience when you create the sound. When I was working at my old company, I was in charge of the sound post-production of Floating City. In the film, many scenes depicted the life of boat people walking back and forth on the deck, under which is hollow space. We continually collected wood planks of different quality and held them up at different heights to get the most desirable result. Sometimes when we get to the side of the boat, the thickness changes again, so we had to try over and over again. Floating City had scenes from several different periods of time — first with small sailboats, then came larger sailboats, hand-cranked motor boats, and then diesel ships…. How do you express the forward movement of boats without a motor?
On the other hand, I got an inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean: on a boat without motors, I cannot hear the sound of the oars but only the sound of rushing water. The sound of the wind plus the sound of water rushing by makes the sound of a larger sailboat. At certain points we would consult some scientific or technical reference material in order to understand the principle of ship movement, but at other times we also wanted to leave ourselves some creative space. We didn’t always have to aim for reality consciously but instead try out other ways: to use the sound of factory motors to pull off this effect could be like an act of creation — to use our own means to express sounds which do not exist any more.
Creation is also about [creating] sounds that do not exist in reality. The sounds of Transformers changing shapes and walking around involve the combination of different mechanical sounds. Sci-Fi sounds like lasers, spaceships, and warp speed are about the feeling of time and quality, while alien sounds are in fact created by the combination of different animal sounds like lions, leopards, tigers and so on. If we need some mechanical sounds, we could go look in a car factory. Large-scale factories like Audi, for instance, usually have their own recording studios. Each time they make a new car, they will record each sound, like the car sound, the brakes, the steering wheel, the inside and the outside, the car speeding up or slowing down — and then sell these sounds to film and video game companies.
Cyrus : 聲音的後期是一套電影的最後工序。後期製作的聲音主要包括對白、環境、聲效、特殊音效及音樂。在香港「特殊音效」是用道具去表達連串的動作；大陸稱為「動作效果」，常見有腳步、衣服的磨擦、坐下、放下電話……等所有因動作而發出的聲音。「聲效」是一般的聲音，在荷里活或外國的層面，他們可以把任何東西都定義為特殊音效。他們擁有資源、資本，整齣電影中所有聲音都可以從頭到尾做一次，每一次都用一個新的聲音去表達不同的節奏與質感。