Happy Birthday to George Lucas! As we know George was a big proponent of the use of digital technology in cinema. When I worked at Sony in the 1990’s, we were on the cutting edge of using digital cameras for cinematography. Here is a video from Sony that highlights the development of the Sony cameras used in Star Wars.
Here is another video from ILM about all the areas that George changed with digital technology for editing and VFX. Thank you Mr. Lucas!
I worked with Joe Herrington when I was at WDI from 1989 to 1994. Joe saved some of the old Jimmy Macdonald contraptions from being thrown out. I was designer of video systems but worked closely with the audio department doing post production sound. Here are some audio and video clips showing how theme park sound is done.
Theme parks have a way of transporting us to magical places, and sound is crucial in maintaining the illusion. From the most action-packed attractions to the background music playing between park areas, theme park sound designers have thought of it all. In this episode, we speak to Joe Herrington and Mike Fracassi, two Disney Imagineers who work to maintain the magic for guests of Disney Parks.
The SoundWorks Collection pulls back the curtain on the talented Imagineers who are responsible for the sounds and music of the Walt Disney theme park properties. In our exclusive video profile we explore the history and role of the audio team as they share their stories and creative challenges. We also take a visit through the original John James “Jimmy” MacDonald sound effects collection, which explores some of the classic Disney sound effects.
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney
Jimmy Macdonald was a one-man sound effects wizard. Over his 48-year career with Disney, he created and assembled one of the largest and most impressive sound effects libraries in motion picture history. Beginning in 1934, he added extra dimension to all of Disney’s animated shorts and features including even more current offerings such as the Mouseworks television series. He also worked on the soundtracks for most of the Studio’s live-action films up through the mid-1980s. But perhaps most notable to fans was his greatest role: that of Mickey Mouse, to whom Jimmy gave voice from 1946 until 1977.
Born John James Macdonald in Dundee, Scotland, on May 19, 1906, Jimmy came to the United States when he was only a month old. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and received a correspondence school degree in engineering before moving to California in 1927. His first job was with the Burbank Engineering Department.
In 1934, he was playing drums and percussion for the Dollar Steamship Lines when the band, in between cruises, was called to the Disney Studios to record for a Mickey Mouse short. Jimmy stayed on to work in the newly formed Disney Sound Effects Department, doing vocal effects and cartoon voices.
His voice repertoire included yodeling, whistling, and sneezing for the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, barks for Pluto, and, on many occasions, the excitable, high-pitched voices of Chip and Dale.
Rarely was there a sound Jimmy could not make with one of the more than 500 innovative Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that he built from scratch. He could create sounds as obscure as a spider web shimmering or a friendly bumblebee washing up before supper. Animator and Disney Legend Xavier Atencio once recalled, “If he couldn’t get a particular sound he wanted from one of those gizmos, Jimmy would do it with his mouth.”
In 1946, Walt Disney handpicked Jimmy to be his successor as the official voice of Mickey Mouse, beginning with the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment of Fun and Fancy Free. Jimmy provided the famed mouse’s familiar falsetto on all film and television projects up until the late 1970s.
On screen, Jimmy was the silhouetted figure of a timpani player in Fantasia. Four decades later, in 1982, he assisted conductor and Disney Legend Irwin Kostal in the digital re-recording of that film. As an original member of the popular jazz group, “The Firehouse Five Plus Two,” Jimmy played drums and made several Disney television appearances in the 1950s. In the live-action film arena, he supplied sound effects for everything from the Academy Award®-wining True-Life Adventures series up through The Black Hole in 1979. For the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers, he came out of retirement to provide sounds for the feisty dragonfly, Evinrude.
Jimmy Macdonald passed away on February 1, 1991, in Los Angeles.
The art of ADR is much more than having a collection of microphones and knowing how to use them, although Doc’s mic cabinet is pretty impressive. It’s also more than having the latest and greatest hardware and software, but rest assured, Doc has all of the most modern bells and whistles.Perhaps even more important and some might even argue that it qualifies ADR as an art, is the sensitivity to the client.
ABOUT DOC KANE:
What has three letters, many aliases and is of major significance to the sound community? You guessed it: ADR aka Automated Dialog Replacement aka Additional Dialog Recording aka Dubbing aka Looping. All of these monikers are understood as the process of re-recording dialog that cannot be salvaged from a production. To make one thing clear, there is nothing automated about it. ADR is an art. And here to tell us more about the art is an artist whose name also has only three letters and many aliases but nonetheless has made a significant impact on the sound community.
His name is Doc Kane but most just call him Doc. He has over 300 projects under his belt and a slew of awards and nominations, including four Academy Award nominations.
Tom Hanks talks about the fact that the voice of Woody for toys and games is sometimes actually the voice of his brother, Jim. He tells a story about what it is like working on Stage B when he is recording the voice of Woody for the Toy Story films.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and parent company Lucasfilm, Ltd. announce the formation of ILM Experience Lab (ILMxLAB), a new division that will draw upon the talents of Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound. ILMxLAB combines compelling storytelling, technological innovation and world-class production to create immersive entertainment experiences. For several years, the company has been investing in real-time graphics – building a foundation that allows ILMxLAB to deliver interactive imagery at a fidelity never seen before. As this new dimension in storytelling unfolds, ILMxLAB will develop virtual reality, augmented reality, real-time cinema, theme park entertainment and narrative-based experiences for future platforms.
Click here for an exclusive interview with Rob Bredlow at FX Guide.
Composer Neil Brand celebrates the art of cinema music, Neil explores how changing technology has taken soundtracks in bold new directions and even altered our very idea of how a film should sound.
In the last of three programmes in which composer Neil Brand celebrates the art of cinema music, Neil explores how changing technology has taken soundtracks in bold new directions and even altered our very idea of how a film should sound.
Neil tells the story of how the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet ended up with a groundbreaking electronic score that blurred the line between music and sound effects, and explains why Alfred Hitchcock’s the Birds has one of the most effective soundtracks of any of his films – despite having no music. He shows how electronic music crossed over from pop into cinema with Midnight Express and Chariots of Fire, while films like Apocalypse Now pioneered the concept of sound design – that sound effects could be used for storytelling and emotional impact.
Neil tracks down some of the key composers behind these innovations to talk about their work, such as Vangelis (Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner), Carter Burwell (Twilight, No Country for Old Men) and Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream, Moon).
“Ray Dolby was a brilliant scientist whose inventions are in use every day in recording studios, sound editing suites, mix stages and cinemas worldwide,” said MPSE president Frank Morrone. “He was a giant in our industry and we take great pride is saluting his many contributions to our craft.”
Dolby, who passed away last September, is the founder of Dolby Laboratories. He is credited with developing a noise reduction system which delivered sound recordings with greater clarity and fidelity that was previously possible. The Academy Award winner also developed the first commercially-viable surround-sound system, which led to the widespread use of 5.1- and 7.1-channel sound systems in theaters and homes.
In 2012, the home of the Academy Awards was renamed the Dolby Theater, and the grand ballroom at Hollywood & Highland is now known as the Ray Dolby Ballroom.
Alan Blumlein is a true lost genius, an EMI engineer, who during his brief life propelled Britain to the vanguard of the modern electronics world. Celebrations of some of Blumlein’s outstanding achievements in audio, television and radar were highlighted in the BBC Radio 4 programme, “The Man Who Invented Stereo.”
Blumlein invented stereo sound and the modern TV system while working for EMI during the 1930s. He lodged the patent for “binaural “sound, in 1931, in a paper which patented stereo records, stereo films and also surround sound. He and his colleagues then made a series of experimental recordings and films to demonstrate the technology, and see if there was any commercial interest from the fledgling film and audio industry.
The tests included him walking and talking in one of the Abbey Road studios to show how sound could move and recordings of multiple overlapping conversations to demonstrate how his techniques could “open up” the sound being recorded. Please use this link to hear some of the experimental stereo recordings made at Abbey Road. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7538101.stm
In January 1934, Blumlein used his stereo-cutting equipment at Abbey Road to record Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as it rehearsed Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony.
In his short life, Blumlein devised over 120 patents and is considered as one of the most significant engineers of his time.
His career was tragically cut short due to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1942. There is much secrecy surrounding the crash as Blumlein and his colleagues were working on a top-secret government project at the time, developing radar. When he died Alan Blumlein was 38. He received no obituary and still does not appear in Who’s Who.
Here is a very good book about his life and inventions.
To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in this darkness and grope towards an answer, to put up with anxiety about whether there is an answer.
The Dolby name appears so often on films that it has become like Kleenex or Xerox, a generic for noise reduction. But the many innovations of Dolby Labs are largely the work of Ray Dolby, a man of prodigious ingenuity. He died of leukemia on September 12, 2013, at age eighty, at his home in San Francisco. Born January 18, 1933, in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Dolby was hired straight out of high school by Alexander Poniatoff of Ampex Corporation. At the time, Mr. Dolby had volunteered as a projectionist for a talk that Mr. Poniatoff was giving. Impressed by his talents, Poniatoff invited the young Mr. Dolby to come to work with him at Ampex, where he contributed to the design of the first quad videotape recorders.
After completing studies in electrical engineering at Stanford and physics at the University of Cambridge, Ray Dolby invented a system of high-frequency compression and expansion that minimized recorded hiss. He formed Dolby Labs in 1965 to bring this noise reduction system, called Dolby A, to market. Mr. Dolby later turned his attention to the problems of sound recording for motion pictures, which still relied on decades-old technology. His endeavors would lead to the introduction of a surround sound system that could be duplicated using traditional optical soundtrack printing techniques. It replaced the expensive and cumbersome printing techniques previously used for big-budget films.
At Dolby Labs he is remembered as much for mentoring a new generation of scientist/engineers as for his particular innovations. He was a scientist who expanded creative horizons for artists.
His contributions are covered in greater detail in Scott Smith’s series “When Sound Was Reel” in the Summer 2011 and Winter 2012 issues of 695 Quarterly. These are available at: