Tag Archives: Sound Editor

Sound Editor Jingjue Zhou works with Narval Films on impactful new film ‘Pier Las Vegas’

Sound. It is 50 per cent of the movie watching experience. A simple rain drop to a massive explosion would not be made possible without the hard work of the sound editors behind-the-scenes that work tirelessly to create an authentic sound that allows audiences to be immersed by what they are taking in on screen. China’s Jingjue Zhou knows this better than most. This celebrated sound editor has worked on all genres of movies and television shows and is always refining her talents. She is a true storyteller, using sound to subtly enhance a script, creating drama and emotion through the sense in a beautiful and natural way.

Whether taking in her work at SeaWorld Orlando’s “Sesame Street Land” interactive game plays, or through award-winning films such as Spring Flower, millions around the world have appreciated Zhou’s extraordinary sound work. Her versatility and commitment to storytelling through sound make her a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and despite her success, she remains committed to her craft, simply enjoying what she does.

The highlight of her esteemed career came when working with Narval Films LLC. She has worked on several films for the renowned production company, including the documentary Road to Olympia, which tells the story of a Chinese bodybuilding athlete. Long Wu is a celebrity athlete with millions of fans on social media. He is the first Chinese IFBB pro card holder and first Chinese to compete professionally in Olympia.  It’s a story about his career journey over the past 10 years. The film was broadcast on China Central Television, the biggest TV platform in China, and the social media platform Weibo, achieving 1.5M views and 6.9K likes.

“From this film, I got to learn all the hardships Long Wu has been through and the essence of success in one’s career. Long Wu, though successful, is still very humble, hardworking and extremely self-disciplined. I am proud to be on the team telling this story so more people can get to know such a cool person and sport,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s favorite project with the production company, however, is the film Pier Las Vegas. The story is about Gao Xing, a hearing-disabled and vocally impaired person from a small town in China, who works as an ordinary housekeeper at a Las Vegas casino hotel, and always rummages through the guests’ luggage secretly while cleaning the room to search for clues about his sister who was adopted by an American family long ago. However, Gao’s life changes one afternoon when a massive shooting occurs at the music festival outside of the hotel.

“This fictional story takes place during the real life event of the tragic Las Vegas mass shooting. The people killed are not numbers. They have their own life stories and families. The movie is a portrait of one of them. It’s a powerful story that helps people remember those who die in these events and reflects on our society,” said Zhou. “What’s the problem and how can we change it? This film evokes those questions.”

Pier Las Vegas is a drama with an experimental storytelling style. It is directed by Yun Xie, a talented Chinese director. Her award-winning movie Truth or Dare has had a very successful theatrical release all over China. Zhou was happy to work with her on such an important film as Pier Las Vegas.

The sound editing in the film is very heavy and challenging as the main character is constantly in and out of a dream state. Zhou had the chance to play with lots of interesting plug ins and synthesizers to generate her own sound palette.

“It’s fun and challenging when it comes to sound editing for dreamy sequences. The director always said to me that it was my moment to shine. We wanted to create a feeling of being out of place in these dream sequences. We were really happy that all the sound came organically to make the audience feel the same way the character feels,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s hard work more than paid off as Pier Las Vegas has seen immense success all over the world. The film premiered in China’s top art house film festival earlier this year and has been an Official Selection at six prestigious festivals so far. It was also nominated for several awards, and Zhou is thrilled to see where it will go next.

“I am so happy it got the recognition internationally, especially in my home country of China. It’s selected to be in the competition of First International Film Festival, taking place in Xining. Every year, all the top artists and first-class Asian film committees will attend this film festival. Some people tell me that my sound work helped them so much on understanding the style and story of the movie, and that couldn’t make me happier,” she concluded.

 

By John Michaels
Photo by Tianyi Wang

YUXIN BOON HEARS THE ART IN FILM

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Sound editor Yuxin Boon works in the film industry but when she is asked exactly what a sound editor does, she often explains that it’s like being in a band. Boon does have a background in music so this isn’t simple conjecture…she knows what she is speaking about. Yuxin describes, “The general public has a view that the only job of a sound editor job is dealing with sound effects. The truth is that editors are divided into different categories of sound, like dialogue, Foley, and ambience. A sound editor is not usually in charge of remaking all the sound the audience hears. Editors are assigned to one particular category of sound but also applying their work to the overall sonic image of the film. It’s like a band; every member has one instrument and task. They need to play their own instrument while also working cohesively as a team to make the music and deliver the emotional intention of the song.”

As a professional female sound editor focusing on dialogue and Foley editing in the film post-production industry, YuXin has created a career path in the industry that includes working with Oscar-Award winners (as she did in “Heavy Rain” with Bill W. Benton) that display nature’s fury, romance films (“Christmas in Mississippi” & “Enchanted Christmas”), Westerns, and a myriad of other genres. A sound editor is required to be creative as well as detailed, which are the characteristics which drew her to this work. While many vocations in the TV and film industry steer professionals towards a certain genre, it’s the absence of this aspect for sound editors which allows professionals like Boon to test themselves to apply their talents a wide variety of story types. While the application of abilities may differ, the means by which they are applied is often universal.

A sound editor must possess a discerning eye, well…perhaps ear is the appropriate body part in this particular scenario. Talent is a requirement and the application of these are a given but Boon believes that this is only a baseline for contributing to a production. One needs only to watch your favorite movie with the sound down to gain an immediate appreciation for the work of a sound editor. Even this simple example does not properly communicate the affect a sound editor has on the entertainment. The work of Boon and her peers involves layers upon layers of sound that weave together a sub-story that most of don’t ever fully appreciate. In Yuxin’s opinion, a good editor not only inspires the other professionals on the production team to perform at the next level but also carries the emotion to the audience for a better understanding. A good sound editor can offer intriguing soundscapes which the director is looking for as well as combining it with creative designs and techniques. Skill is an element that can be used to evaluate editors’ work, but it’s far from the only one. Creativity may be the most important trait a sound editor can bring to those they work with.

It’s likely that Boon’s unique perspective came from her path to sound editing. As a child of parents who were not musicians but great lovers of music, her parents took her to piano lessons and encouraged (but did not push) YuXin towards making music a part of her life. While she thought that her aim would be in the music world, Boon took a film class and discovered that her natural inclination towards detail and her finely tuned ear (thank you piano) made her highly adept at timing and sound editing/design. The process of mixing different elements to create completely new sounds, such as the dinosaurs’ roar in “Jurassic Park” fascinated her and stimulated her creatively. As Boon discovered that a sound editor is given the opportunity to work with aspects like dialogue, Foley, and other sonic presentations of a film, she became increasingly drawn to it. Trail blazers like Singapore’s Ai-Ling Lee (Oscar-Award Nominee for La La Land) continue to reinforce the idea that an Asian woman/professional has a place in the film industry of Hollywood.

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Any art form must grow. To achieve this requires individuals with fresh perspectives who understand and respect the process and individuals which created the template being used. Yuxin Boon has already created a community of peers and professionals who recognize this in her work and her view of her own application of her talent. The very fact that she sees her role in a manner that is simultaneously similar and differs from the traditional idea indicates the reasons why she has found herself so busy with an eclectic set of productions these days.

Sound editor Zheng Jia transports audiences to 1930s China in upcoming film ‘Luna’

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Zheng Jia at Luna premiere

Zheng Jia did not always plan on being a sound editor. She spent most of her young life working towards a career in computer sciences. However, when she realized she wanted to pursue something different, she started exploring as many career options as possible, and filmmaking kept coming back to her. It gave her the power to tell stories, to change lives for the better, and to share her work with the world. After starting to watch films for more than simply entertainment, she began to realize the power of sound. It has the ability to completely transform a scene, to take it to a new level. She would be storytelling, bringing out emotions with her work, and she was intrigued. It was this realization that put Zheng on the path to greatness, as she is now an internationally sought-after sound editor.

With an outstanding reputation, Jia has come a long way from that girl who didn’t know what to do with the rest of her life. She has worked with some of the world’s largest production companies and on many popular film and television projects. She is currently working with NBC Universal on their long-running show Law & Order: SVU, and her esteemed resume features many more hits. Earlier this year, Zheng worked with Warner Brothers on the upcoming film Luna, and once again, she has proven what a force she is as a sound editor.

“It was an absolutely amazing experience working with Warner Brothers, and truly a privilege to be able to work with the most experienced post production crew, alongside close filmmaker friends. I got to experience the freedom of great communication and artistic collaboration with talented filmmakers that I’ve known for years, and also got to go through the strict disciplined post-production schedule and protocol through one of the most professional film studios. It was also a great feeling to know that the whole studio system was there supporting the entire journey for us filmmakers and we could always communicate and work closely together towards any potential issues and obstacles. Our main goal was always the same: to create great art,” said Jia

Luna is set in 1930s Shanghai, China. It follows the famous prostitute Luna, who offers to play a gambling game with an unexpected guest. As the attraction between the two builds, both of their undercover political identities unravel, leading to unexpected consequences.

Zheng’s worked as the dialogue editor for the film. She was in charge of the whole audio build-up from the human voice perspective. All the crowds in different locations (on the street, inside the brothel) needed to be created from scratch. Because of the unique texture of the story, everything needed to be in Mandarin with a certain accent and in the certain location. To do this, Jia collected many Mandarin sound footage from past projects and from her own personal collection, and put them together piece by piece in order to create the perfect tune for a 1930s Shanghai brothel back in that era, which was a key point of the whole story. Her work was invaluable.

“Working with Zheng was a great experience. Firstly, she gave us constructive suggestions on sound recording before we started shooting. The story takes place in 1930s Shanghai but we shot it on Warner Bros. back lot. To make the story sound real, we needed a lot of effects to recreate the environment of 1930s Shanghai. Finding them in the United States was nearly impossible, so Zheng got them from her own collection,” said Xu Zhang, Director of Luna. “She has a lot of experience, skill, and work ethic, which make her one of the best at what she does.”

Luna is Warner Bros. first production that is fully produced and presented in Chinese Mandarin, with with a Chinese main cast and crew, telling a Chinese story, with a strong Chinese female lead character. As a Chinese female filmmaker herself, there wouldn’t have been a better fit than Luna for Jia. After, Zhang and writer/editor Mei Liying approached her to be a part of their project, knowing that they needed a talented sound editor due to the nature of their film, Jia was immediately on board.

The film required not just a good sound editor, but one that also was fluent in Mandarin. Although that is the language of the film, the lead actress was not fluent. There were many takes with good acting, but not a completely authentic accent. This is where Jia’s extraordinary talents truly shine. She had to go through multiple takes to find lines that would match the performance, and string them together flawlessly. To do this, Jia had to have full knowledge of the certain dialect in that region in China, back in the day, in that specific location or situation, with the very specific crowds and groups and everything human voice related. Such a task is normally daunting and time consuming, but Jia turned everything around in two days.

“Especially for Western audiences and Western crew members including Warner Brothers studio producers and other staff, my work was their direct way of experiencing a world that is vastly different from the nowadays Western World, and that was immediately affecting their whole emotional experience when watching it. I worked closely with Xu and Mei in order to pick up and fix the subtlest places of the dialogue in creative ways in order to keep the performance authentic while still making sure that culturally or language-wise everything still made sense,” Jia described.

Besides the technical part of dialogue editing, Jia was in charge of creating the human voice environment for the crowded brothel, with different groups of people – men, women, laughter, flirting, drunk conversation, polite, higher-class small talk, etc. in order to make the whole story as authentic as possible. To achieve that, she went through all of her sound library collections, and even went out and recorded some authentic materials herself. Eventually, she was able to build up the whole brothel environment, and it sounds remarkable.

The film premiered at Warner Bros Studios in May. It will begin making its film festival run soon, and there is little doubt that not only will Luna be a tremendous success, but Jia’s sound editing will receive acclaim from both critics and audiences alike.

“This project itself was a great pleasure to work on. Xu and Mei created such a great story and characters that were so very intriguing and authentic, and as Chinese filmmakers, it was an absolute honor and great presentation to be able to work on a great project featuring strong female minority lead in a major Hollywood studio,” she concluded.

Audiences can also look forward to Jia’s work on the small-screen in the upcoming CW series Life Sentence. It’s a dramedy, very different from the sound editor’s previous work. Be sure to check it out next year.