As part of their Topics in Sound Design course, Professor Keith Brown’s Film/Media students were given an opportunity to attend a workshop titled “The Sound of Boardwalk Empire.” The workshop allowed students to listen to the Boardwalk Empire’s mixers, engineers and sound editors, who spoke about the techniques, and workflow processes used to create the audio of each scene during both the production and post-production phases.
According to Brown, the panel consisted of people who worked in various areas of sound, such as production mixing, production recording, production playback, and post production sound mixing. In the workshop, there were screenings of three different scenes from the series. The panel isolated the different tracks of the soundtrack and demonstrated how layering all of these sounds make the scene more realistic. For the students, seeing how the labor is divided amongst team members was especially important, since in Brown’s course, the students do most of the labor themselves.
“I try my best to expose our students to professionals working in the field,” Brown said. “We often have guest speakers that can work with the students, but when I heard of this event, I felt it connected with my course perfectly. I wanted them to learn how professionals worked in this specific field of the industry.”
Of the 19 students in Brown’s Topics in Sound Design course, 10 attended the “Sound of Boardwalk Empire” workshop. Alison Walsh, a Film/Media student, expressed an appreciation for the many technical aspects that creating quality sound requires.
“The workshop really made me realize just how much work goes into all the different layers of sound,” Walsh said. “Whether or not being responsible for sound mixing will end up as my job on set or someone else’s, I can respect the job much more. I learned so much about different ways to record sound as well as sound editing and mixing.”
Ryan Gilman, another Film/Media student, said that attending the workshop made him look differently at the sound design of projects he directs and works on as part of a crew. According to Gilman, he and his fellow classmates, as a result of the course and the workshop they’ve attended, are now becoming more aware of the efforts needed to create extraordinary sound design in their movies for present and future projects.
“Personally, it was very inspiring to sit in a room with people from all over the country with the same aspirations and desires to become great filmmakers and learn about things very essential to making a great final product,” Gilman said. “The information that I took away from this workshop was information that I probably couldn’t have learned anywhere else, even in the classroom, and will stay with me throughout my career both professionally and personally as a young filmmaker.”
Even though Rhode Island is very close to New York, according to Brown, URI’s proximity to NYC is not taken advantage of as much as it could be. However, Brown expressed that organizing trips outside of the state and having the opportunity to participate in workshops similar to the “Sound of Boardwalk Empire” is essential for Film/Media students.
“Although these types of trips take a lot more work and coordination than traditional classroom learning, it’s so important for students in Film/Media to get exposure to events, trainings and screenings outside of the URI community,” Brown said. “These experiential learning experiences are very valuable to the students and help them get a better taste of the film industry and community.”
By: Kimberly DeLande