Thursday, May 26, 2011

My secret tour at Sony Studio

Last week I traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California to spend 4 days that mixed some business and pleasure for me. I stayed with my best friend from college, Amy. She lives in Sherman Oaks with her husband and 3 kids and they were my gracious and warm hosts for the weekend. Ah, I can feel the warmth of the sun and the cheerful flower colors fade as I sit here in my basement studio and look at the gray misty day outside. *Sigh*

One of the fun things I was able to do, was take a tour of Sony Studios with Amy's husband, Michael. He is a sound editor and one of the greatest tour guides since he's been in the movie/sound industry for over 20 years. He rattles off movies and shows he's worked on like we rattle off our grocery list for the week. "Oh, I met him when I was working on Charlie's Angels." or, "I met {insert famous actor here} when I was doing the editing on {this famous movie we all know}", or "Hey, that's Adam Sandler's Caddy" I'm not normally a star-struck kind of person, but it's difficult not to look like a wide-eyed girl from Ohio, who looks around at the studios and thinks "so, did Brad Pitt sit in this chair?" and "Did Gwenyth Paltrow walk into this very sound stage??" I did not say these things out loud because I had a rep to protect and the need to look cool when your not is important when in famous places.

Michael is super low key and I'm so pleased to say that so was everyone I met. He showed me around the grounds of Studio City in a golf cart used to transport all the actors and actresses to their dressing rooms or sets. Here is a picture of me on the look-out for an actor I would not likely recognize anyway because I do not keep up with movies, much less a current a movie star's name.

We tried to get into some of the sets like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy but they were unfortunately not taping the day I visited. I took a photo in front of the giant billboard anyway.

I did get to learn all about the sound part of a movie and man, is it cool! Pretty much everything you hear in a movie is a converted or replicated version of what the director wanted you to hear. Actors say their lines in the studio to adjust a performance. Background sounds are removed if one part of a scene is done when the birds are chirping in real life and are quiet when the scene is re-shot later in the afternoon. It's all been modified, beautified and perfected--sort of like the actors, now that I think of it!

I was permitted to take pictures in the Foley room, where I was lucky enough to get a longer tour friendly folks who were working that day. I'll share a little about what I learned. FYI, I'm not great with names of people or proper nouns so forgive my generic room references. And the Foley people I met will heretofore be referred to as "Hunky Tattoo Guy" and "Renee Zelweger Lookalike" (Hunky and Renee for short).

The sound effects are created by the Foley artists in this room and recorded behind that window in a sound room. You can see the guy in orange working on his "desk" (the one with all the sliders and lighted buttons). For a second, I thought that the sofa on display there was the one from my husband's first apartment, but then realized that it was unlikely some homeless person would drag it from his curb all the way to Hollywood. The glamor in Hollywood is definitely reserved for the red carpet!

 This room is packed from floor to rafters with all kinds of shoes, brooms, rugs, sandy floors, grated floors, wooden floors-- anything that they might need to use to replicate an exact sound effect. Hunky was kind enough to climb the rickety ladder to the loft and take this great shot of Michael and me.



This shows a small portion the different floor sections they have, along with the variety of shoes that might be needed. If there is a street scuffle, the Foley people watch it on the screen and actually recreate the scuffle themselves on a piece of flooring that matches the one in the movie. Now I will be thoroughly delighted when I watch a fight scene because I will be thinking of Hunky and Renee throwing down punches on this tiny piece of Pergo. Hilarious!
Here's Hunky showing me how they make splashy sounds for water scenes. It's so "Silent Movie" style isn't it? I love knowing that no matter how fabulous computers are, they still have to splash the water to make that sound. Low-tech and high-tech joining hands to make movie magic.

So I also got to go into the sound theaters where the editing happens in the context of big screen sound. I was not allowed to take pictures but let's just say I saw a little Justin Timberlake and a few blue Smurfs getting their sounds perfected. Pretty cool! Thanks again to Michael and everyone I met on the tour. You were all gracious and lovely and made me feel not so much like the Ohio gal I am.

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