It’s that time of year again! On March 28th, we’ll be seeing the Academy Awards roll around for its 94th annual ceremony to showcase the incredible talent throughout the film industry. As always, myself and the team can’t wait to see fellow sound and music creatives, commended for their fantastic work on some of the past year’s biggest blockbuster hits. In 2021 we saw Darius Marder’s ‘Sound of Metal’ deservedly take the top spot as winner of the Sound category – a film that showcased every audio professional’s worst nightmare through the use of highly creative sound design techniques.
This year we’ve seen some great films nominated for the Sound category, with the below making it to the final five. Which one will claim the title this year?
- No Time to Die
- The Power of The Dog
- West Side Story
Most notably for myself and the team, Dune was one of our favourite films of the year, from both a storytelling and sound perspective. Not only did Dune feature an incredible score from Hans Zimmer, the superb sound design and mixing certainly made the viewing experience far more immersive. Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, all nominees for the award would be more than deserving of the win for their incredible work. Dune presents us with an ‘otherworldly’ soundscape, as sound and music intertwine to create a truly integrated soundtrack.
Last year we saw some controversial changes to the now newly named Sound category. In previous years, we’ve seen Sound Editing and Sound Mixing as two separate categories, essentially doubling the number of awards granted compared to today. Although not all audio professionals are against the change, many (myself included) feel that this only further reduces the recognition that sound talent receives for their work. I personally believe sound and music can often easily account for at least 50% of the viewers’ overall experience when engaging with a film. Each part of the audio puzzle from sound design, mixing, dialogue and music, must all cohesively merge together for an immersive viewing experience. As soon as one of these elements is removed or executed poorly, even the untrained ear can quickly become disengaged from the film. For this exact reason, I believe showing recognition and appreciation to the very best sound departments in the business, should still be prioritised, which this change unfortunately does not help achieve.
In total, this year we’ll see eight categories taken off air, including Sound, from the Oscars television broadcast. After record-low viewer ratings in 2021, this could be an attempt from AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to further consolidate the broadcast, attracting more viewers. Unfortunately, this streamlining of the program will inevitably mean that many talented teams across the film industry will be less publicly recognised for their contributions to some of the past year’s greatest films. Although Sound and some of the other categories taken off air are often seen as less glamourous and immediately obvious (than say Best Picture or Directing), it’s a shame that these often lesser known industries and talent will be kept under cover. They stay lesser known due to decisions like this.
So why is sound so important in the context of film? Both sound and music are essential components in creative storytelling in any visual and industry and without them viewers would struggle to become fully immersed. Just imagine the storming of the beaches in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ without the chaotic flurry of explosions and gunshots crafted by the sound team. Or how much less engaging the ‘Bathroom Dance’ scene in ‘Joker’ would have been without the incredible music of 2021 Oscar winner Hildur Guðnadóttir. These examples are just a few that clearly show how essential the symbiotic relationship between picture and sound is. Without a carefully considered soundtrack, our favourite stories would certainly lack character and poignancy.
Regardless of the winner of the sound category – as they’re all ultimately deserving – we hope that in the future the industry sheds more light on the technical and creative behind-the-scenes talent that puts just as much into the art as the rest of them.