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The other half of a film called sound

No matter how good the visuals may be, if the sound is very bad, it would still be a bad film.

With film being an audio-visual medium, good visuals is just halfway towards a good film. The marriage of visuals and sound is what makes up its totality. They always go together.

Many filmmakers and even film viewers would probably agree that the sound aspect of Filipino films, whether commercial or independent projects, is one of the most ignored parts in production work. This is often due to the lack of budget, resources, and time allotted for sound production. Another reason is that there are relatively a few number of available experts in the field.

In general, cinematography and acting are given the top favors in terms of budget, resources, and time. Art requirements, location, and other production requirements typically follow with sound often at the bottom of the priority list.

During the shoot, if the shot is not good, a retake is almost always expected. However, if a complicated or difficult take is finally shot right but the sound is not even acceptable, it would mean making do with the existing good take and the “Let’s fix it in post” mentality comes in.

I remember a sound expert from one of the top audio production houses in the Philippines mainly catering to advertising projects telling me that live sound is always the best for the film. ADR (automatic dialogue replacement), no matter how effectively done, will never be able to replace live sound.

Come post-production stage, the filmmakers usually run out of time that everything gets rushed for the premiere. At times, the final film only gets completed a few days, if not a day before or even a few hours before the actual play date. In such case, the film sound, which is one of the last few things to be worked on in the project, gets really compromised.

Other than such technical difficulties and setting of priorities, another thing that should be taken into account is the fact that there are less people who become interested/passionate about film sound. Compared to directing, cinematography, acting, producing, production design, musical scoring, among other facets of film production, only a few people become experts in sound production and engineering. Moreover, there are only a few audio production houses (as compared to video-editing houses), especially because the demand for it is pretty low

Being in this industry for more quite some time now, I have really noticed that sound experts and affordable/accessible audio production facilities are rare finds. More often than not, the production settles for video editors doing the sound as well – or sometimes allowing the musical scorer to do the sound mixing, or if there is an audio production house rented, the minimal budget, time constraint, and/or lack of resources still wouldn’t make things work well.

Formal film sound courses and even workshops for sound production are rare and far in between, compared to those meant for other aspects of filmmaking as directing, cinematography, acting, production design, animation, among others. For instance, a film student would most likely major on the more familiar/in demand facets of film production rather than becoming an expert in film sound. More often than not, taking one subject about sound production is just about it. Even in seminars, workshops, symposia, and other film-related events/activities, film sound is usually ignored or overlooked. Indeed, a young filmmaker focusing on film sound is a rare gem.

Come to think of it, many Filipinos love music. There are a good number of Filipino music artists and sound production experts in the music industry. Looking into these facts, it would then be clear that it’s not a problem with production talent and audience appreciation but a question of preference, awareness, and opening up to exploring more of the field. People should start giving more value to film sound like how priority is given to the visual aspect of films. If film schools are not yet ready to open up degrees majoring in film sound production/sound engineering, it would be great to conduct more seminars, workshops, film festivals, and more award-giving bodies also valuing film sound. The film industry should really start looking into these things and let future film sound experts realize how significant they are in every film production.

Perhaps, it is just a matter of setting priorities, increasing the demand for top sound production work, and allowing more film sound enthusiasts to realize their calling. I would say it again and again, the whole film experience is always a marriage of two things: the visuals and the sound – together.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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