SoundWorks’ Michael Coleman Sounds Off


The subtlety of sound mixing is often lost on the average Friday night movie patron. Perhaps he or she will get the shivers from a swelling Fray single over the closing credits, but is likely to take for granted sound’s nuanced texture in a film: Leaves crunching underfoot, door hinges squeaking, knuckles cracking, etc.

Director Michael Coleman of Colemanfilm Media Group has been discerning such sounds for years, but an Internet search for sound mixing did not return the results he desired—Websites offering comprehensive insight into the process. Thus, through a partnership with MIX magazine, SoundWorks was born. A relatively new site, SoundWorks provides behind the scenes access to the dubbing process through direct interviews with sound teams along with exclusive footage of major Hollywood films. The site has since amassed an impressive repertoire of streaming profiles (2012, Up and There Will Be Blood among others) that will soon include James Cameron’s highly anticipated Avatar and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Coleman answered our questions about his innovative Website and what we can expect from it in the future.

Todd Ayres (MM): Why did you create SoundWorks? What attracts you to the subject of sound mixing?

Michael Coleman (MC): Growing up watching films in theaters was always a special experience and what lead me to become a director. I remember watching the movie Jurassic Park as a kid and hearing the sounds of the dinosaurs vocals and having a sense of fear for these creatures. I was intrigued by the relationship of picture and sound and how the two interact to tell a story.

As a freelance director, I have had the opportunity to profile several sound teams at Skywalker Sound. From this experience I took away a better understanding and greater appreciation for the creativity and passion for the work being done behind the scenes.

As someone interested in movie sound early in my career, I would read books and search the Web for any information. I realized that there was a lack of resources and places for people who are interested in film sound to find out more information. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped right in to pursue this new video series.

MM: All of the films featured on your site are pretty high profile. What deems a film worthy of your inclusion?

MC: When I was thinking about the types of sound profiles to launch this video series I wanted to start with Hollywood feature films. The reason for this was that these films have larger audiences around the world and I wanted to focus on content that would interest more then one audience. If the content of the interviews were too technical, I would be cutting off a large audience of movie fans and film/sound students. My goal was to tell stories that would be interesting and engaging to the seasoned veteran and inspire and educate the incoming class of students.

Ultimately I’m trying to tell a non-biased, even view of the work being done in this enormous industry.

MM: Who is your intended audience?

MC: I wanted the SoundWorks Collection to be a series that would be enjoyed by film fans and those working in the sound industry. I also wanted to have this video series be accessible to sound and film students as a teaching tool. Just as I was inspired and intrigued by film sound growing up, I wanted to share my passion for the craft to others interested in this field.

MM: What can independent moviemakers in particular learn from a site such as SoundWorks Collection?

MC: For anyone who is interested in making films, I strongly believe that having an understanding of the role of sound is just as important as capturing a strong image. The use of sound in an independent film is just as important as it is in a Hollywood feature film. When a director is telling his or her story, they need to use all of their tools in their toolbox and I believe that sound cannot be an afterthought.

MM: Animated movies seem to account for about a quarter of the films profiled. Is this a coincidence?

MC:Animated movies have become more popular over the years with the advances of computer graphics and continue to draw large audiences and tell amazing stories. The role of sound in an animated film is just as important as sound design in a live action film. When you’re working on a film that has no source sound from the beginning, you quickly realize that the role of sound is what gives the picture its character and life.

I also think that animated films give the sound team the flexibility and creativity to explore new sounds and environments for characters and spaces that are sometimes not from this world. Looking back, I think the success of Mickey Mouse in his third cartoon “Steamboat Willie” (1928) was because of the synchronized sound of Mickey’s whistle and other sound effects that brought to life this animated mouse.

MM: What’s next for the site? Are there new developments in the works?

MC: Since launching SoundWorks Collection in November, I’ve had amazing feedback and support from the worldwide sound community and movie studios. It has been very encouraging to see this series be so well received and I have big plans for it in the future. Between now and March 2010, I will be releasing the sound for film Oscar consideration video profiles including such films as Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Invictus, The Princess and the Frog, Where the Wild Things Are, 2012, Avatar and several more. I’m also excited to focus the series into other sound crafts including sound for video games and original music composition.

My ultimate long term goal for SoundWorks Collection is to bring a better understanding and appreciation of the role and use of sound for all aspects of the entertainment and movie business. One video at a time…

Visit SoundWorks for more information.

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