Sound Editing Django Unchained With Wylie Stateman & Harry Cohen
Django Unchained, the latest film from Quentin Tarantino, revived the Western Spaghetti genre and became Tarantino biggest box-office success. The film received 5 Academy Awards Nominations including one for Best Original Screenplay (you can read the script here) and one for Sound Editing.
Sound Editor Wylie Stateman and Sound Designer Harry Cohen talked with DP/30 about creating a new palette of sounds for a Western that would come out in 2012. Truly passionate about their art and craft, they give a better idea about their work integrates the overall workflow in making a movie, and how they think and create to build a story through sounds that will serve the film.
If you are not familiar with what sound editors and sound designers do, and what part of sound they are working on, here are the three parts they end up working on:
- Part 1: The Production Dialog
- Part 2 – Any Sound Issue that happened during production and that needs cleaning/fixing
- Part 3 – Sound Design (i.e.: creating sounds)
Tarantino first mentioned about his desire to do Django while working on Kill Bill. When the project became a reality, the first thing he did was to give Stateman and Cohen the music he had in mind. The early music selection is actually an asset as it helps the team decide how much complementary sound will be needed and where. Very early on, it was decided to create sounds that had an acoustic feel, using modern tools to achieve a vintage effect.
As we’ve seen with other big production, having the budget to have sound editors, designers and mixers is often what will give your film a wholeness and a finish look that lacks in indie movies. The trick, as Stateman and Cohen explain, is to find the right balance between creating a sound that will correspond to the sound the audience associates a certain action with, all the while finding a fresh angle so that it will add in layers and build the atmosphere.
In Django Unchained’s case, that meant going the extra length and recording new sounds to give them a fresh spin instead of relying on the pre-existing Western Sound Library. In the case of gun shots, that meant going to three different locations, to shoot guns and record a multitude of steps. But a gun shot doesn’t have to stay that way. Thanks to modern tools, the said gun shots also became whip cracks, door closes, or scene transitions.
Then the Sound Mixers come into play, and that’s another story, but the whole sound team on Tarantino’s movies is highly collaborative and trying to work hand in hand.
Watch the full interview below:
And to refresh memories, here is one of the final scene from Django where a lot of the sound design comes into play. *WARNING : Contains SPOILERS*
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