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Review – Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound – “Absolutely unmissable”

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Making Waves is a fascinating feature-length documentary on the importance of sound in movies and is the directorial debut of Midge Costin. Midge teaches Art of Sound Editing at the University of Southern California and previously spent twenty-five years editing sound on films like Crimson Tide, Armageddon and The Rock.

This, plus her links to an incredible array of Hollywood talent, perfectly placed her to craft a film sound documentary that tells the story of the aural pioneers and geniuses that shaped and changed what films sound like, and are.

It is easy to forget, but sound is 50% of the cinematic experience. Costin’s film blends new interviews, archival footage and film clips to educate us on the history and technology behind film audio as well as illustrating how sound can be used and what effects it can have on an audience.

The line-up of talking heads talent is stellar and Making Waves features new interviews with (deep breath): Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Robert Redford (A River Runs Through It), Barbra Streisand (Yentl), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), David Lynch (Twin Peaks), George Lucas (Star Wars), Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and archival stuff with Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather).

Getting to virtually sit at the feet of film-making royalty is more than worth the price of admission alone and the stories they tell, tips they give and potted histories of the contributions and changes they have made to the medium and the industry are priceless.

Costin carefully juggles her interview material with info on the history of film sound and the evolution of the technology and the bios of three luminary game-changing sound editors: Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now), Ben Burtt (Star Wars), Gary Rydstrom (Saving Private Ryan).

You will learn an insane amount about absolutely everything, such as the move from silents to talkies in the 20s, how 1933’s King Kong pioneered sound design because it was the first time sound had to be created for things that didn’t actually exist, how the major studios all used to have their own SFX libraries and used the same sounds in all their movies, Orson Welles’ radio work impacting how he did the sound on Citizen Kane, Hitchcock and his sound scripts, how directors like Lean, Kubrick, Coppola and Lynch started and continued to push the boundaries and how Barbara Streisand insisting on Dolby Stereo for A Star is Born changed the way we experience cinema sound forever.

It is all utter gold dust and Midge Costin has gifted movie lovers with a feature-length film school that is absolutely unmissable and will change the way you watch movies forever. Making Waves is an ear-opening essential.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is released in the UK on the 1st of November.

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