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Hulu Summer Film School Week 4: Soundtrack, Score, and Sound Design

August 8th, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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Dear Students,
It’s hard to believe but we’re already halfway through the Hulu Summer Film School semester. This week, we’re exploring the role of the Soundtrack, Score, and Sound Design in the development of the film.
The job of the composer, music supervisor, or foley artist is to use sound to breathe life into the story. Through tinkering with the sounds of the film, they can make the hairs on our neck stand up at the surprise arrival of a villain or our hearts swell over a first kiss. When these auditory artists are able to pair the right song with the right scene, it’s a moment of pure movie magic.
Enjoy the following selections and if you have any suggestions on specific content you’d love to see us feature, shoot us a comment below. Happy Learning!
– The Hulu Summer Film School team

Required Viewing:

1) A Hard Day’s Night

Setting the Score with Source by Jonathan Katz (an analysis of the use of sound in A Hard Day’s Night)

2) Black Orpheus

Composers: Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá
Recently featured in the music video for Arcade Fire’s “Afterlife,” Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus celebrates the carnaval atmosphere of Brazil and radiates energy and visual spectacle through every frame. Composers Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa score this Grecian tragedy with the music of their homeland, inspiring a generation of music lovers across the world to fall in love with the infectious beats and rhythmic guitar stylings of the bossa nova genre. Of special note is the movie’s closing scene in which a young boy serenades the rising sun with Orpheus’ signature tune “Samba de Orfeu” while a little girl dances beside him. By revisiting this song in the final scene, the composers encourage a nostalgia towards the start of the movie and create one of the purest exclamations on the cycle of life in cinematic history.
Extra Credit: Watch Black Orpheus and That Bossa Nova Soundan 18 minute feature from the Criterion Collection exploring the history of bossa nova and the film’s influence on the genre.

3) M

Sound Designer/Director: Fritz Lang
Released at the dawn of film’s conversion from silent to sound, Fritz Lang’s M is a master class on using sound to reflect a character’s internal state. In this case the character whose mind we’re entering is Hans Beckert, a child killer who whistles “In the Hall of the Mountain King” whenever he’s hunting for his next victim. In one memorable scene, the sounds of a bustling city street encompass the soundscape as Beckert prowls the neighborhood. Suddenly all goes silent as our villain notices a child from the reflection of the shop window and is overcome with desire. It’s as if the sight of prey has caused his whole world to come to a standstill. When the child begins to wander off, the sound is abruptly un-muted and we are sonically tossed back into the honking horns and footsteps of the city. Although M is a sound film, it’s these pockets of silence in which it draws its strength.

4) Eraserhead 

Location Sound and Re-Recording: Alan R. Splet
Sound Editing: Alan R. Splet
Sound Effects: David Lynch and Alan R. Splet
Lady in the Radiator Song Composed and Sung by: Peter Ivers
David Lynch’s obsessive attentiveness to sound is apparent in all of his work, and that’s especially true of his debut feature film, Eraserhead. To Lynch, a film’s sounds are as important as its images. Sounds include everything from music to diegetic noises to surreal embellishments and canvases of abstract soundscapes. Eraserhead’s sounds paint a portrait of its vaguely dystopic world. Henry’s jaunts across a barren exterior landscape are supplemented by wind and groans that suggest an alien industrial wasteland. As Henry unravels psychologically, Lynch’s sound design builds to an unsettling crescendo, a technique often used in subsequent films (see: Laura Palmer’s descent in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or the final sequence of Mulholland Drive). Eraserhead also introduces the seamless integration of song with narrative as a psychologically-illuminating device. When the Lady in the Radiator sings “In Heaven,” it’s a great, cathartic musical number whose strange beauty seems to bridge the surreal visuals of the film with its very real emotional states.

Supplemental Viewing:

5) Waste Land 

Composer: Moby

6) Gimme Shelter 

Composers: The Rolling Stones

7) The Pianist 

Composer: Wojciech Kilar

8) The Coal Miner’s Daughter 

Composer: Loretta Lynn

Extracurricular Links:

1) The Soundworks Collection - This video series profiles the composers and foley artists behind some of Hollywood’s most popular hits. Be sure to watch the episodes about The Sound of Wall-E and the spotlight on Gary Hecker, foley artist behind iconic films such as the Star Wars and Spiderman trilogy.

2) How to Compose a Killer Film Score by Michael GiacchinoThe composer behind beloved features such as Up, Star Trek, and Lost walks us through his filmmography and explains his creative choices and where he finds inspiration for his scores.

3) How Wes Anderson Soundtracks his Movies – Wes Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster talks about working with Wes and his process selecting and licensing songs.

Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to view A Hard Day’s Night and learn more about Lighting and Color Theory. 

Hulu Summer Film School Week 3: Color Theory & Lighting

August 1st, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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Greetings Hulu Summer Film School students! One of the most powerful tools in a filmmaker’s arsenal is their lighting kit. Through light and color, a cinematographer is able to enhance the mood of a scene and draw the viewer into the world of the character. Even the subtlest changes in light or color can give the most ordinary of objects an entirely new meaning. Explore the role of light and color through the following visual masterpieces. 

Required Viewing: 

1) The Red Balloon

Cinematographer: Edmond Séchan
Winning both an Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and the Palm d’Or for short films in 1956, writer-director Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon is among the most endearing children’s films ever made.  Its elegant and nearly wordless story tells the tale of a young boy named Pascal and his wayward balloon as they navigate the streets of Paris. From early on, it becomes apparent to Pascal (and the audience) that the balloon has a mind of its own — one that is mischievous and surprisingly headstrong – as the pair’s adventure through the city draws bemused looks from adults and the envious gaze of local neighborhood bullies.

Rather than photographing Paris in its traditional beauty, Lamorisse and his cinematographer Edmond Séchan focus on the city’s drabness, highlighting the contrast of dank buildings and alleyways against the vibrancy of the balloon’s deep red color.  Lamorisse composes the action in such a way that the balloon is always at the viewer’s center of attention, bobbing and weaving past glorious backdrops as it hovers above Pascal.  In one memorable and charming scene, Pascal and his red balloon pass by a little girl with her own balloon, a blue one.  As Pascal keeps walking, the red balloon floats towards the little girl and begins to “flirt” with her blue balloon before Pascal ultimately manages to wrangle it back.

The film takes a darker turn when the neighborhood bullies catch up to Pascal and ensnare his red balloon, subjecting it to abuse at the end of a slingshot.  But that tonal shift is essential, as it sets up a magical finale that won’t be spoiled here.  The Red Balloon achieves rarified air, capturing the essence of childhood innocence, heartbreak, and joy in such little screen time.

-Naveen Singh

2)  Eraserhead

Cinematographers: Herbert Cardwell and Frederick Elmes
David Lynch’s first feature film is a surreal meditation on the anxieties of becoming a father, of living in an alienating and dehumanizing world, and of feeling trapped in a life that is fundamentally fated to tragedy. The stark black and white photography and low-key, high-contrast lighting create a world that is apart from reality. Eraserhead might draw formal comparisons to other works and may have influences that inform its technical execution, but the film is timeless in its depiction of Henry (Jack Nance) and Mary (Charlotte Stewart) as they give birth to a child that seems completely alien.

Eraserhead’s cinematography and lighting help create one of the most self-assured, visually-compelling, and visceral portraits of an abstraction ever put on celluloid, and for that alone, it has a place in cinematic history.

-Christopher Rowe

3) Electrick Children 

Cinematographer: Mattias Troelstrup
A critical darling at the 2012 SXSW Festival, Electrick Children 
tells the story of a young fundamentalist Mormon who believes she has been impregnated by a rock song and ventures off to Vegas to find the singer on the tape, whom she believes is her baby’s father. While the plot may seem outlandish to most, the innocent idealism of our main character coupled with the film’s symbolic use of color and light make the whole “pregnant-by-cassette-tape” deal a bit more plausible than it initially comes across.

Throughout the film, a sharp contrast is drawn between the landscape of Rachel’s countryside compound and the urban sprawl of Las Vegas. Cinematographer Mattias Troelstrup capitalizes on the countryside’s natural light, giving each frame a subtle desaturation to reflect a sense of comfort yet also boredom towards the surroundings. The softened grading provides the perfect contrast to Rachel’s subsequent experience in Vegas, a world of bright lights and big personalities. There’s nothing conventionally glamorous about the slacker musicians and the “bummin’ it” lifestyle that Rachel encounters in her Vegas adventure, but through her unexposed eyes, and the subsequent cinematic interpretation from Troelstrup, everything is bathed in a technicolor glow to reflect the child-like wonder that Rachel feels towards this brave new world.

-Kelly Lin

4) Persona 


Cinematographer: Sven Nykvist
“Lighting Persona by Michael Koresky

Supplemental Viewing: 

5) Take this Waltz
Cinematographer: Luc Montpellier

6) Red Desert
Cinematographer: Carlo Di Palma

7) Wild Strawberries
Cinematographer: Gunnar Fischer

Extracurricular Resources: 

1) No Film School – A must-read blog for any aspiring cinematographer, No Film School has tons of great tutorials on how you can achieve the perfect lighting set-up for your own film. Check out these recent articles on how to create a three-point light set up with flashlights and magnifying glasses and the tools professional cinematographers use to light their scenes,

2) If it’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling – Besides having the best title in book history, this book has some valuable insights on how color is used to evoke emotion.

3) Sparkles and Wine Teaser - This music video is a testament to just how much lighting and color can affect tone, mood, focus, and perception.

 

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