Hiya. My name is Jen Ralston and I am a professional sound editor. I have worked on about sixty features, a handful of series, a miniseries and a few video games in my 19-year career. I joined reddit a few months back and wandered into /r/TheWire/ where I started a new thread. I didn't even know what an AMA was at the time, but response was overwhelming! I promised to return and do a proper AMA to answer the questions that were straying off-topic from The Wire so here I am!

In addition to all the projects I've worked on as a sound editor, I also co-wrote an episode of Treme (Ep 305, "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say").

I'm also trying to get a web series that I wrote and will direct funded over at Indiegogo right now and would not be adverse to you checking it out. :)

proof part one

proof part two

EDIT: I need to get up early for work but I'll keep checking back and answering new questions, if there are any. Thanks!

EDIT TWO: Still answering questions but today will be the last day I'll have time to check in...

EDIT THREE: Thanks, reddit!

Comments: 244 • Responses: 85  • Date: 

plasmata39 karma

How awesome is that Josh Ray Person guy from Generation Kill? I heard he is even cooler than "the edge."

kipod7132 karma

ha. he's a total douche. (hi josh)

Whatsyourquote7 karma

You really were fucking amazing.

kipod717 karma

he still is, but he wasn't in the series. he's the real guy that pj ransome was playing.

ineedawapon7 karma

Oh shit, you're the actual J.R. Person?

kipod712 karma

/u/plasmata, you're being summoned by your fans.

Look_like_a_Dungeon24 karma

In the old days of film, it seems like the volume was fairly even throughout. Often myself and several others run into films where if there is noisy action and meaningful conversation there is such a large difference in volume that when adjusted either you can't hear the conversation, or the action is deafening. Any clue as to what is going on there? It seems to be becoming more common, and it absolutely stinks when you have to keep adjusting volume throughout a show.

kipod7120 karma

"when you have to keep adjusting the volume" says to me you are watching things at home. my guess is that most of the time, when a thing is mixed for theater, there may be an issue in folding it down or reconfiguring it for home consumption. could be the dvd master (crouching tiger was a frame out of sync when the first dvd came out so i know those things aren't always accurate representations of the mix), could be your cable provider or your receiver is set up wrong... sorry. i don't really know. i'm not an engineer. maybe someone here is and can chime in?

wallyfoggle16 karma

My $.02 but I think that is a multi part issue. Now that theaters can handle the volume there is definitely a trend where louder is viewed as better so action scenes are mixed loud. Therefore theatrical mixes need to be remixed for home viewing as home theaters and TV's can not handle the dynamic range of movie theaters. There is usually a spec we receive from the studio where the mix can not go over a certain level for the home video delivery this differs slightly by studio. We will usually use selective volume adjustments and compression so the loud scenes don't get compressed to hell and raise the dialog a few db in spots to meet this spec. We also preview our home video mix on TV speakers and small home theater setups to verify the clarity. For example with Ocean's Thirteen we raised the dialog lowered the high speed elevator sounds and remixed and EQ'd the earthquake sounds so they can be heard in both TV speakers and home subwoofers.

The other part of the issue may be the home theater setup itself. In a movie theater the left center and right speakers are all the same size and spec. In IMAX there is a second center speaker just for dialog. Often the center speaker in home theater setups are smaller than the left and right speakers. Most of the dialog comes through the center speaker so if it is tiny and the left and right are huge the dialog will get drowned out. Also placement, I've been in homes where the center speaker is behind the TV or placed so far out of the way that the dialog gets muffled and reduced. Most flat screen TV speakers these days seem to be tiny and facing any way but forward using deflected sound to get the audio to the viewer. This can also greatly affect how the dialog is heard.

kipod718 karma


l_AM_NOT_A_COP17 karma

Do you ever hide "Easter eggs" in the films you edit?

Thanks for doing the AMA!

kipod7137 karma

yep. sometimes it's the only way to amuse myself. i slipped the wilhelm scream into a scene in treme once. stuff like that.

TheOtherKurt8 karma

Is this typical of how the Wilhelm Scream gets into a scene?

I don't know who's joke it is. I always pictured the director telling the sound editor "can we get a Wilhelm Scream in there?" But if it's just bored editors pulling a fast one, well, that's even funnier!

And amazing resume man, congrats! Lebowski, Crouching Tiger, and Hedwig alone are probably 3 of my favorite movies ever.

kipod7118 karma

no, directors don't really express any interest in sneaking the wilhelm scream in. that's a sound editor thing. it's a ben burtt thing, really. it's his fault, i think. he is an avid film sound historian and he noticed the sound being used a lot going back to... oh never mind, let me find the last time i answered this question...

at the bottom of this post

TheOtherKurt4 karma

Sorry to be that guy, but thanks for the answer and link. It's interesting that it was already all over the place before it became a "thing".

kipod7115 karma

there are commercial sound effects libraries that are used constantly, if you listen carefully. certain door creaks make me change the channel.

vertigounconscious9 karma

that gate opening sound. it's like used everywhere. I searched the net but I couldn't find what I'm talking about. It's like a squeak from a iron gate hinges opening.

kipod716 karma

it's sound ideas. i can't remember the series number now but they have a disc devoted entirely to creaks and squeaks.

klobbermang2 karma

lady on police scanner: seventy three five code six, one oh four north avenue.

kipod712 karma

the doppler horn by: beep beep beep-beep, beep-beep-beep-beep- beeeAAAp....

Anwyl1 karma

Is there a good way of finding the library a sound comes from if you're not in the industry? There are certain sound effects that are EVERYWHERE, but I'm not sure what their source is.

kipod716 karma

only if you are willing to buy them - the ones you hear everywhere are in commercial libraries. google: sound ideas library effects and browse.

otherwise, freesounds.org is a good source of sounds. i don't use it for paid gigs (that would be wrong and tacky) but i have friends who contribute to it so i've poked around the site and it's useful for weekend editors.

YoYoDingDongYo2 karma

That sound always takes me out of the movie. Instead of thinking about Hobbits or whatever I'm suddenly thinking about sound editors. Do you ever feel like it's unprofessional to put it in?

kipod718 karma

that depends. have you ever heard it in treme?

Frajer15 karma

How much fun was it working on The Big Lebowski?

kipod7151 karma

lebowski was awesome! it was my first big budget show and everything about it was cool. the first week, the assistant walked in with a contract i had to sign. it was five pages long and was written by the coen brothers and, what it came down to was this:

the coens had a tradition of taking the post crew out for a steak dinner on the last night of the mix of the movie. back on hudsucker proxy (i think), one of the brothers was talking to one of the sound editors and somehow, the subject of porridge came up. the sound editor said that he had never eaten porridge before. the coens thought this was a terrible oversight and henceforth, if you wanted your steak dinner, you needed to attend a porridge breakfast on the morning of the first day of the mix. the contract was to ensure that we all understood those terms and would not try to get out of eating porridge. i've worked on three coen brothers films (lebowski, o brother, and the man who wasn't there). as a result, i've had porridge with frances mcdormand and steak with holly hunter.

the coen brothers also give great swag. for lebowski, everyone got a deck of playing cards with the characters on them. the dude was the joker, of course. we also got caps with an embroidered logo for "log jammin'" on the front and "ich bring mein tools" on the back.

TacosBreeders2 karma

Did you meet Peter Kurland while working on this film? I'm curious if he has much/any interaction with the post team.

kipod713 karma

nope. i wasn't working on the dialog for the coen films so maybe he had some interaction with them but i've never had a location mixer involved in post.

pdpwns12 karma

What are some surprising sounds that have multiple uses? For example, one time in an editing class my teacher brought to our attention that frying bacon and rain are similar and you can one sound for both.

kipod7130 karma

hmmm... the thing is that a lot of sounds in movies are cheated. we don't fry bacon for a rain scene or anything (maybe i will now, just because) but a lot of things just don't sound the way you think they should in reality. plus, movies are trying to make things hyper-real.

the lesson about what you see and what you hear not always being the same hit hardest for me on sense and sensibility. it took two weeks of searching for the perfect quill pen on parchment sound and in the end, it turned out to just be a fingernail on paper. and the youngest dashwood girl has a quick moment in a montage where she is playing in mud with a stick. my finger slapping the top of a quart of cottage cheese.

Totaltrufas11 karma

What has been your favorite movie/show that you've worked on?

kipod7124 karma

by the time i'm done with a project, i've seen it anywhere from 20-100 times. not a lot of things hold up. i still watch lebowski and hedwig every once in a while. i've watched the wire 3x post original broadcast. more than wanting to watch a thing again after i'm done with it, i consider a job one of my favorites if i enjoyed working on it, you know? i had a blast being at disney in the big room (built to house the orchestra for fantasia) for mr. 3000, but the movie itself was not at the top of my list. and i loved working on the wire and treme more than i could possibly ever rewatch them. but that's probably because the jobs are over and i'm only remembering the good parts.

rapidozak4 karma

This actually responded to my question. So what is your favorite season from wire? Also do you get to meet the actors?

kipod7114 karma

i defer from the favorite season discussion. they all have their moments. for story line, probably season three though. i thought the build up of the collision between stringer and avon was masterful writing and acting.

yes, most of the actors at some point. spent a lot of time with dominic west, working on his accent. he fell in to his brit when mcnulty was drunk or angry (so: often).

GrizzlyManOnWire10 karma

How come when a character hangs up a cell phone (especially smart phones) there is a beep?? It drives me nuts mobile phones do not beep when you hang them up!

kipod7125 karma

you're asking the wrong lady, mister. that never happens on my watch. i also refuse to: use the wrong caliber gun shot because it sounds cooler, the wrong-sized engine for a car to make it beefier, etc. which is probably why my career as a sound effects editor has stalled. i blame my background in documentary. and david simon. his verisimilitude ethics are too deeply engrained in me, now.

radnac9 karma

Hi Jen, I've been wondering about recording vs. mixing levels. Is there really a standard range (such as 20-12 db) that dialogue is recorded at? And if so, how does that change in the editing/mixing process? (I'm assuming compression is added to the tracks.) So at what level does dialogue end up being in the final mix of a film? I've also wondered about room tone.... At what level is that normally? I've noticed that many well-edited/mixed films don't seem to have room tone, and the dialogue is able to pop out without having a strange room ambience underneath.

kipod7116 karma

the goal in location recording is to get the best signal to noise ratio without distortion. that's out of my experience but the last time i operated a nagra, the goal was peaks at zero. of course, the world is digital now and zero is too far. -12dB seems right but maybe there's a location person here who can chime in?

as for the rest, dialog is the backbone of the mix. you mix it first, and start placing other layers around it. some layers are protective and some are additive. protection such as room tones and backgrounds and strategically-placed car bys to hide jumps in the production tones. and here too, i'm not a mixer so i can't say what the standard level is for dialog. there are meters now and delivery requirements that address the average level of sound over time. it's not like "you must not let the dialog ever get above -2dB."

all movies have room tone. even with the compression, which happens, too, you need a constant low-level noise floor to hide the shifts in location sound under.

btopishere9 karma

What is one underrated Pro Tools plugin that you always use that get you the most surprising results when designing sounds?

kipod7110 karma

i don't design a lot of sounds. my go to plug-ins are things like vocalign and the izotope rx pack. i need to clean a lot of clicks and bumps out of production track.

i recently was introduced to fab filter and GRM-freeze, which are also handy.

i love playing with altiverb but that's something that gets pulled out at the mix, not the edit.

mrpunaway3 karma

FabFilter, iZotope, and Altiverb are amazing. I need to check out GRM-Freeze.

kipod713 karma

it's useful in situations where you can't find any room tone at all.

brutalsniper1058 karma

If you were to make your own movie, what would it be about and what crazy underused sound affects would be in there?

kipod7113 karma

i have written a few feature-length scripts but i haven't given any thought to the sound work on them. i am about to direct a web series, though. it's about a straight couple that moves to san francisco from pittsburgh and they break off their engagement when she realizes she's gay. it's sort of like "friends" only with more queer people.

i wrote it because i've grown a bit frustrated with popular culture's idea of "diversity" and wanted to see something that had all kinds of characters in it that wasn't just about their differences.

and i'll be so tired by the time i get to the sound edit, i'll be lucky if there are any sound effects in it!

whatIshouldvedone8 karma

What do you think is the greatest misconception about your line of work?

kipod7126 karma

that it's glamorous, maybe. either that or the other end of it - that it's technical and not creative. my job is to use sound to help tell the story. i need to know some technical things to accomplish that, but it's still an art form. one that involves many hours in windowless rooms staring at a screen so, not glamorous.

briskt7 karma

I don't know much about your field, but I can appreciate the fine quality of output that you have produced. I have noticed in my 50+ viewings of The Big Lebowski that in a couple of scenes there is a noticeable difference in volume between The Dude and the one he's talking to.

For instance, when he leaves The Big Lebowski's office for the first time and Brandt approaches him, Brandt's voice is sort of muffled. Also, when The Dude visits Maude and he's making a drink at the bar, talking to Maude while she putters around the room in the background, her voice has a muffled quality. This seemed pretty unique to me, as usually characters are at an equal level of volume and clarity, even when they are not in the closest proximity.

My question, is there a name for this technique, and why did you decide to use it?

kipod7119 karma

50+ viewings. whoah!

i was a foley editor on the big lebowski. what i remember doing specifically is putting in sounds like when the dude sorts through walter's undies and the whipping/spinning sound the bag makes when it's tossed out of the car. i placed the sound of the mug that the chief of police of malibu throws at the dude's head and the roach that the dude flicks off the inside of his window when the brother shamus is tailing him.

i think what you are referring to though is not really muffling so much of "perspectivizing." it also happens when the dude is reading the ransom letter to himself. his own voice is foreground and the big lebowski is prattling on in the background. i believe the reasoning for this instance and the maude scene is that the sound mix is reflecting the dude's attention focus, which is limited. the other person talking is a background distraction to him, compared to trying to read the letter or make his caucasian.

when brandt approaches, he is coming from the end of a long hallway and the reverb is a logical by-product of that.

TheUsher4 karma

Awesome. You are now the luckiest person I've ever met. That noise when the cup hits his head always elicits such sympathy pain.


kipod713 karma

you know that movie was pretty much picture locked when we started working but the one thing that kept changing was the amount of time the dude just stares at the chief before he says "i'm sorry, i wasn't listening."

it was funny the first time. then they made it like, 10 frames (less than half a second) longer and it was even funnier. then they a shaved a couple frames... still funnier. i forget what they arrived at vs. how long the pause was when they started but i learned a valuable lesson about comedic timing!

TheUsher2 karma

Still that's incredibly cool. It's been my favorite movie forever now, I've probably seen it 80+ times, it's my go-to when I'm feeling shitty, or want to laugh a lot. I've got limited run posters for it, toys of it... it's the best.

kipod714 karma

i took a trip to israel after that job and it was playing in a theater in tel aviv. i explained to the theater manager that i worked on it and they gave me two copies of the hebrew poster. it's the dude's face, the rug reflected in his sunglasses, and "the big lebowski" spelled phoenetically in hebrew (rather than translated). then, beneath his face, in hebrew "the dude is a way of life."

i gave one to the brothers in exchange for signing the other one for me. most treasured film poster.

Peakevo7 karma

What did you major in at college? Was it sound engineering?

kipod7110 karma

film, radio and television production at nyu. i focused on documentary directing because i was afraid of actors. so now, ironically, i work with actors when they can be at their potentially worst: after the filming is over and they've already been paid and gone on to something else, in a room with a microphone and no camera, being asked to repeat lines they've already said. karma is a bitch.

lukediehl7 karma

Having worked in all these movies did you meet any really cool actors or directors? Not just famous actors or directors, but also actors and directors that aren't idiots, or have bad personalities.

kipod7116 karma

i've worked with more cool than not cool people, i'm relieved to report. there are assholes, to be sure. and folks i would never work for again if asked to. but for the last ten years or so i've been working with david simon, and that doesn't suck. eric overmyer and george pelecanos, too.

my favorite feature film experience was at the mix for sidney lumet's remake of gloria. not a great film but richard portman mixing, sidney lumet sitting quietly, playing solitaire until portman was ready to show him something. he would just say "i'm ready for you to listen now, sir." and lumet would put his cards down and watch. and before any criticism, he would always give three compliments. it was so civilized.

broncobluster7 karma

Any hearing damage from all the sound work?

kipod7115 karma

huh? ahahaha. no really, my ears are fine. i'm careful with them. they pay the bills.

mayonegg886 karma

Hi Jen! Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm a newbie sound editor working in NYC. I'd love to hear more about your work on Treme. As a New Orleanian who has been to a number of second lines, I'd imagine you encountered some challenges with production audio for those scenes in particular. Anything you can share about the process of giving the series (and especially second line scenes) a natural feel (like balancing the music with the dia and sfx as the characters move in and out of the second line)? Also, a career related question. How did you begin the transition from editing to working as an SSE?

kipod7111 karma

hey! the production sound was recorded pretty nicely on treme but a lot of things aren't recorded in production no matter how good the recordist is. there are rules about who you see on screen and whether you hear them talk, for example. all the foreground voices were added later in loop group because you pay someone more who is seen and heard than (someone who is just seen) + (someone who is just heard). we recorded layers of crowd in LCR (left center right) to give it more life and individual lines and shouts were recorded in separate passes and then panned throughout the sound field. it feels more immersive for the viewer that way, i think.

our music editor, blake leyh, presented the music to the mix that was recorded on set and also a few tracks of sweeteners so that when the bass drum passes by on camera, for example, we could pan it past, too.

i supervise for david simon's projects but i still also edit on other jobs. i'm cutting dialog on a movie right now for a different supervisor. supervising is the top of that particular ladder and you just have to put in the time and work your way up to it. i'm at the top of the ladder in david simon's world but in the feature film world, i still have a few more rungs to climb. i have supervised a couple of low low budget movies.

CoryGM5 karma

Did you find working on the Wire different from other things you did?

What I mean is that the style of that show made it so that 95% of the sounds you heard were coming from dialogue from the people on the screen, as opposed to other shows or movies which have a lot of non-diagetic sound.

Were there any challenges to its style? Was it easier?

kipod7111 karma

i'm glad you think that's the case, but it's not. we used a lot of the production sound in the final mix, but there were many other things going on in there too. an average of 30 lines of ADR per episode, plus 30-50 lines of loop group. tons of background works, foley, sound effects. we just didn't have music to hide behind, which means in fact that we had to pay more attention to detail in a lot of ways. we added things in the backgrounds to take the place of music - dogs barking to represent danger (or mcnulty, because he was a dog), sirens and helicopters, shouts from across the street, all of it was justifiable but most of it was added in post and chosen and placed for maximum effect.

and essentially, it was one hour of a feature film (fully filled M&E, 5.1 mix) that needed to be turned out in a fraction of the time and budget. it was definitely harder. and much more rewarding.

emil123455 karma

First of all I want to thank you for Generation kill! I think I've watched it 6 or 7 times. What was the process of choosing the song for the ending scene? It hits me so hard every time...

kipod714 karma

thanks! that was a very tough show but very rewarding to do. i got to work with the real marines the story was about and a lot of their voices are the backbone of the backgrounds - the radio calls are all authentic targets, the conversations off screen during down time, it's all the real guys!

as for the song, i believe it was scripted. when the filmmakers know what they want to hear that early, legal steps up to make sure they can actually get it or something else has to be decided on. remember david simon was still working on the wire when he and ed burns wrote the scripts for gen kill and david had used a couple of johnny cash songs in short prez montages as a teacher. i'm guessing he scripted the end of gen kill around the same time, too.

Kknowsbest5 karma

Who was your role model growing up?

kipod715 karma

martina navratilova.

goofballl5 karma

I don't know if you're into Japanese cinema, but there's a great comedy called Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (or The Time of Radio, depending on what language you're reading) where a radio station is trying to put out a radio drama live despite constant adlibbing and script updates during the broadcast. At one point the sound board goes down and they have to recruit an old sound engineer (who has since become a security guard at the station) because he was around when they were still doing effects by hand live on air. It's incredibly funny, and I'd recommend it if you get a chance to check it out. It even has Ken Watanabe (of Last Samurai and Batman Begins fame) in a bit part as a trucker listening to the broadcast.

Have you ever gotten close to a deadline without feeling like you've found a satisfying effect for something? You mention that you found a perfect effect by slapping your finger on cottage cheese. Has a discovery like that ever come in the 11th hour?

kipod715 karma

that sounds interesting! i'll see if i can find it here. thanks.

everything seems to happen at the 11th hour when it's a low budget job, because there isn't enough time to properly address anything. also, some directors aren't great at expressing what they want so when you get notes like "the car didn't sound blue enough" you just sort of throw up your hands and say "time to start throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what will stick for this one!" that's a bad feeling. when a director wants something specific but doesn't know how to explain it or put in the time to work with you to achieve it and they just get frustrated at the mix because you failed to read minds.

records265 karma

Foley artists have always fascinated me. I don't think most people realize how nearly all of the "natural" sound in any given film is completely reproduced after the fact by talented, skilled, zany and creative Foley artists.

Were you involved with that process at all in any of the productions you worked on? If not, did you do most of your work before or after the Foley was introduced?

kipod713 karma

i was a foley editor and supervisor for several years at a feature film house in nyc. i rarely was involved in the recording but in order for the recording to happen, someone has to go through the movie and notate every place where something needs to be recorded - where it starts, where it ends, what surface and type of shoe (if footsteps), etc.

the foley supervisor lays it all out in a dummy session for the recordist to work in so the sounds get placed in a mix-friendly fashion. foley supervisors have to make the call to re-record some sounds if, after the foley edit was done, the desired sound wasn't achieved yet.

the other departments in the sound edit are usually all working at the same time. we may never hear each other's work until the final mix. it depends on the schedule and the approach of the filmmaker and/or supervising sound editor.

aztec_tomb5 karma


kipod716 karma

nope. those people should contact the coen brothers. if they bless it, then maybe skip lievsay can resurrect some sound from the vaults.

Naweezy5 karma

Hi, I'm a huge fan of The Wire. I love the dialogue in the show especially between the characters. From the profanity laced police humor to street slang. One of many things that added to the realism of the show. Question: I believe you were dialogue editor, what did that entail and what was your /(overall show's) approach when it came to the dialogue? Did the sound aspect play a part to this?

kipod717 karma

thanks! the dialog on the wire came to me that way, mostly. it was more in how it was written, performed, and recorded on set than anything i could have done in the edit. we did do some work after production to change lines, make some things clearer, or fix accents. if you read that other AMA i did on the wire, i cover that pretty thoroughly already.

as for the realism of the show, our philosophy in sound was to approach it as a documentary. not in the sense that we were trying to maintain the original recordings and not alter things cinematically, but we were trying to be subtle with it (reference intended).

Joepth64 karma

What advice would you give to someone who has done studio and live sound, but wants to get a job editing sound in the film industry?

kipod7113 karma

figure out who your connections to that world are and work them. i've worked with a couple of people who left live sound so i know it happens. remember that you might have 10 years experience as a front-of-house mixer but you'll probably have to start as an assistant in post. even if you know pro tools, there's a specific way of doing things and many things you learned with live sound won't apply. it shouldn't take long for a motivated person to move their way up though. good luck!

calvi_benso2264 karma

what movie are you proudest of you work n. they all seem great to me but whats great to you?

kipod719 karma

i worked really hard on crouching tiger and i'm pretty proud of the results. i don't do a lot of big action and most of my editing work has been in the dialog and ADR departments lately so that would be the pinnacle of live action sound effects for me.

RMELT8 karma

Wow...that's funny, Crouching Tiger was the first movie I remember seeing where I really noticed the way the sound was a separate thing from the images, and changed my perspective on just how collaborative the filmmaking process really is. Top notch work.

kipod713 karma


oFLIPSTARo4 karma

What is your take on grabbing room tone? After watching a presentation by Jan Mclaughlin and the sound supervisor from Nurse Jackie they mentioned there is pretty much no need to get room tone as long as the BG is pretty consistent and 'handles' at the start of the take (between "frame and "action").

I always try to get a nice chunk of good room tone, but I really enjoy picking post audio's brains about this subject.

kipod719 karma

i rarely get room tone from location but when i do, i put it in. it is ideal though to roll sound and let everyone settle for a second or two before calling "action" and again a pause before "cut." the tone of a room shifts so much from minute to minute that i sometimes can't even get handles out that! and when that happens, it is nice that there is a chunk of similar room tone that i can loop and play through the whole scene below the checkboarded dialog.

fathappybuddha4 karma

Did you edit older films using speakers or headphones?

kipod717 karma

both are an option today as well. i'm not sure i understand the question.

when you have a room to yourself, you can use speakers. when you are sharing a room, you use headphones. people who edit loud sounds (sound effects) usually use speakers. it can get painful working on loud things all day with headphones.

Llermer2 karma

What headphones did you usually use for work?

kipod715 karma

did and do still use sony mdr v900s. comfortable to wear all day, flat response. a bit dull in the bass but for what i'm doing, they're good.

commandercream4 karma

Hi Jen!

As someone who wanted to break into this field (actually, more sound design for games, but just ended up doing it as a hobby) I'm always drawn to the use of incidental music in the Wire - makes it so much more visceral and documentary-style. Was this your idea, or something that David Simon wanted? Hope this hasn't been answered already. Tremendous amount of respect for your field - Hugo

edit - sorry, I realise this has been answered in your other thread. I'll ask something else then - one of my favourite recent films, Upstream Color, has some very interesting use of Foley work. Have you seen it, and if so do you think it was a bit of overkill?

kipod716 karma

hey hugo! no this was david's idea. he is very opposed to score. if you compare the wire, generation kill, and treme, even though they are very different projects and sound tracks, the one constant is that there is no score and very little use of music outside of the diegesis.

i think it comes from his background in journalism in a way. he feels that using music to cue the viewer when to feel a certain way about what their watching is cheating.

kipod714 karma

just saw this update. no - no idea what upstream color is. sorry.

vacaboca4 karma

I definitely recommend you give it a watch - pretty thought-provoking in terms of most of the aspects of its production. I found the sound to be pretty interesting in its effect.

kipod713 karma

it goes on the list of things to watch then. thanks for the recommendation.

DJ-20004 karma

How closely does the sound editing team work with the film editing team?

kipod714 karma

usually, sound editing doesn't start until picture editing is almost finished. ideally for me, we would be involved for a spurt at the very beginning, while stuff is still being shot, to address major scenes and complicated design moments. and then we wouldn't come back again until picture was locked. i really dislike working on unlocked picture. i want to move forward with editorial, not constantly stop and move everything i've done to match a new picture. it feels wasteful.

in reality, on big movies, someone from the sound crew gets involved at the beginning and stays marginally involved throughout - providing temp sound effects that aren't as temp as the ones that would go in if it was the picture assistant choosing from a commercial library, say... and then as the picture edit proper is happening, more and more of the sound crew will go into full work mode. sometimes big budget films start mixing before the picture is locked. the overlap doesn't mean we're "working together" though. they do their thing, send us the changes, and then we find out what's happening, usually.

levine21123 karma

Do you still have the playing cars and/or hat from The Big Lebowski? Can you please post pictures of them or other swag?

Are you interested in attending Lebowski Fest in L.A. at the end of April? First night is at the Wiltern. We (the royal we and all of us Acheivers) would love to listen to you interviewed or just buy you a White Russian.

kipod712 karma

i have the swag, in a box in a basement in the family home. about 3000 miles from where i live now.

i'm up in SF so it's possible i could visit april in LA. i've always been curious about going to one but the schedules have never lined up. thanks! i'll think about it.

madness253 karma

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an amazing film. With the weapons used, what weapon was the most difficult edit?

kipod7110 karma

my primary work on crouching tiger in the fight scenes was the fight between michelle yeoh and zhang ziyi. michelle yeoh changed weapons every ten seconds or so, which made the sheer volume of weapons the biggest challenge. i was proudest though of that heavy stick she uses at the end - the one that breaks the stone floor and she can't really control. i created a nice ring out for the green destiny striking it and then pitched the subsequent impacts (i think it was) 1/3rd of an octave up each time. when things ramp up like that, it creates tension. the last strike, which breaks the stick, goes sour.

tall_and_thin_3 karma

Do you always get to meet the cast of the films on which you work? If so, which cast was your favorite? Also, the Coens rock. The Big Lebowski might be my favorite movie of all time. Keep up the good work.

kipod713 karma

i only have a reason to meet the cast when i am doing ADR (automated dialog replacement). that's when the actors come to a studio after shooting is over to re-record any lines that need to be fixed for whatever reason. i met most everyone in the wire and treme because there were so many scenes with everyone that eventually, almost all of them had to come in to record at least once.

the people i didn't meet on the wire were brother mouzone, cheese (method man was scheduled for ADR once but we were released from waiting anymore after two hours no show), and clay davis. i think those were the only ones who never came in.

redartifice3 karma

How much of your work is stock sound, and how much is specially comissioned foley?

kipod717 karma

i edit dialog, ADR, sound effects, and foley. depending on the job, i might be doing any combination of those things. foleys are recorded to match specific actions so a foley editor is always editing things recorded to picture.

sound effects editors work from libraries and will also go out and record additional sounds if they are specialized enough and the budget and schedule allows. for the shows i've supervised, i'm the only member of the sound editing department that usually has a reason to be anywhere near set (and then, only occasionally) so i will take a small digital recorder with me and record ambiances at locations to send back to the sound effects editor to use.

a show like treme couldn't really rely on stock sound libraries for much because new orleans doesn't sound generic. the streets are very damaged, so even using smooth-sounding car bys for the backgrounds of scenes wouldn't work in most cases. the calliopes, the street cars, etc. none of it sounds like new york or los angeles (where most of the city sounds in libraries are recorded). even the trains - when the picture department would cut in a temporary sound effect of a train, they had this nice-sounding train that was obviously traveling at a clip because the horn had a nice doppler to it. but trains in new orleans aren't allowed to go that fast and so they would just never sound the same, either. i had to record most of the backgrounds and sound effects for that show.

AwfulLoofa3 karma

How was it writing for Treme? Did you enjoy the writing room experience more than sound work? I'd imagine they are very different worlds...

kipod713 karma

yeah, very different! sound is the end of the chain practically and writing still happens even then but it's limited to filling specific holes in a scene or clearing something up for the audience that might have not come through as intended when they filmed.

writing the teleplay still has very specific limitations to it but it's also freer creatively. the story arc for the season was mapped out but also open to mutations and some specific details weren't worked out. in the writers room, we went over what had been written in the previous eps and what needed to happen by the end of the season. i have been writing scripts since film school but i'd never written on-assignment before. and characters i didn't create. it seemed daunting, but david, eric, and george are all great and encouraging and i knew them and the show very well so it wasn't really hard at all to do. and it pays better than sound, too! now i just have to figure out how to make it happen again.

beiber_hater_baiter3 karma


kipod712 karma

the coens are very sound-oriented. they script some sound effects ideas, even. they've had the same supervising sound editor since their first movie, skip lievsay. he's really brilliant and they've worked together so long that he understands what they want. i've never been privvy to a spotting session between them, so i don't know how much discussion/suggestion there is and how much is just the coens saying "do this." i imagine it's a pretty collaborative process, though.

infinitebling2 karma

Crouching tiger hidden dragon's sound is amazing.

How do you treat the sword/movement fighting sounds in that type of project?

I'm assuming it's a bit boom capturing, foley, but then how do you give it that transience that pierces the score and dialogue, but doesn't overwhelm either?

Such good sounding stuff in that film, always admired it. Thanks for doing this very interesting AMA.

kipod713 karma

thanks! i think that sound you are referring to is the sound design element of the green destiny sword. that wasn't me - i was all the normal-scale fight sounds (impacts, slides, breaks) and the foley for the entire movie (footsteps, cloth, etc)

but i think there are elements of musical water glasses in there. a lot of sampling and manipulation but i remember there being recording sessions.

infinitebling3 karma

Thank you for the reply.

i was all the normal-scale fight sounds (impacts, slides, breaks)

Yeah, that's actually more what I was referring to. I've always been impressed with how solid and punchy you were able to get those and yet the score and dialogue still seem at a consistent RMS. Like those huge slides and impacts seem to have a lot of full-spectrum content. Not the kinds of sounds I've ever found easy to blend into a soundtrack without sacrificing some sonic character of some other element in some way, especially when trying to preserve a dialogue track.

One example would be in the bar fight scene, Zhang bursts through the doors out into the courtyard, sending a couple guys flying through the wood and onto the ground. I believe that specific moment you have a speaking voice, a bunch of grunts and cries, the impact of exploding wood, the clatter of debris and the score, which is a high flute and low drums, yet, every particular component can be clearly heard, and it never seems like the explosion-type noises ever force anything to try to be heard.

I was interested in the technical side.. whether that's strategic eq, or multiband compression, or some combination of techniques.

kipod713 karma

thanks! yeah, i did a bit of work on the sfx in that tea house scene, too.

i was not present at the mix but my best guess is that it's a combination of compressions, eq, and panning. one trick is to clean a hole in the music with eq for the dialog to sit in - just notch out the frequencies in the music that would clash with the vocal range. it's important to spread things in the speakers, too. you can get away with a lot more happening at once when it's not all coming through the same speaker.

TasteOfTarantino2 karma

The fighting scenes in Croughing Tiger Hidden Dragon are very spectacular and different compared to other movies visually, but was the sound editing any different?

kipod713 karma

i think so, yes. there was a heavier emphasis on the recording of foley. we did one full pass of each fight "hollywood style" and one more naturalistic pass in foley. in the mix, foley was favored. ang didn't want the film to sound like a typical wire-fu movie.

jeremylickhair2 karma

With the academy awards coming up whats the difference in sound editing and sound mixing in movies?

kipod712 karma

there're articles online that can go into greater detail but basically sound editing happens completely after the filming takes place and involves the choosing, creation, and placement of sounds - the majority of which were not recorded on set.

sound mixing is an award that goes to the location sound mix team and the re-recording mix team combined.

superlogon2 karma

As an aspiring sound mixer/editor here in the UK, what was your bid break into the film industry? Do you have any advice to give in order to make it where you are today?

kipod713 karma

i had no big breaks. i started at a non-union shop working 14 hour days for a flat rate. then i worked my way to a different non-union shop that paid a little better and abused me a little less. then i got promised a union job on a movie, so i paid my dues to get in and the supervisor forgot he promised me a job and i had to work an office job for a few months between non-union jobs to keep my head above water...

there aren't big breaks. you work hard, you pay your dues, you stick at it and eventually, it gets better. that or you're related to someone in the business and they sneak you in. that's clearly not my career path, though.

sarnianarnia2 karma

Where did you guys get the sound of people fiddling with the police siren in the wire? I think about that noise all the time! McNulty was so good at it!

kipod712 karma

i don't recall mcnulty ever fiddling with a siren, to be honest. do you have a link to that clip?

we did what you'd imagine needed to be done: acquired access to a police car and recorded fiddling with the siren.

mogulermade2 karma

I see you answered a question 50 minutes ago, so I'll give this a shot. We run a small youtube channel where filmmakers learn about the business.

How would we get in contact with you for an interview for our channel?

kipod712 karma

message this account, i guess. i'll see what's what.

wazoomble2 karma

You did great work on The Big Lebowski. The sounds were fantastic. Subtle things will make me laugh more than outright jokes. In the scene when Walter is smashing the corvette, Goodman sort of shuffles his feet when he moves to the front of the car, and it's very obvious that you made that more audible. That sound is one of the funniest things. Also, when Bridges bangs on the ceiling of the car when "Lookin Out My Back Door" comes on, is that the actual sound? Or did you pick a different metallic noise?

kipod713 karma

i think i actually did work on both of those scenes! they were both enhanced by foley.

RefrigeratorRock2 karma

How long do you typically spend doing ADR during post production?

kipod713 karma

there's not a typical. on the shows i do for david simon, i get about 5 days in the schedule to address ADR. that's spotting, recording and editing what amounts to about 30 lines of ADR and 50 lines of loop group per episode.

feature films are a much more relaxed pace, normally.

Revertit2 karma

What's your thoughts about Foley artists?

kipod712 karma

thoughts about... whether they are necessary? yes.

Revertit2 karma

I should clarify: Why in your opinion are they necessary? What makes them essential to the listening viewer? When it comes to Bad vs. Good, how makes the artist one or the other?

I understand mics can't pick up the subtle nuances we would like to hear while watching a movie, but some of the methods used look like that person is either a hack or a genious. What differentiates the two?

kipod712 karma

simply put - foley is necessary because film is larger than life. to sit and watch humans projected large in front of you and not hear the details of what they are doing dulls the audience's perception of the actions and keeps them removed from what could and should at times be an immersive experience. there are no hacks working in the field. there are preferences that supervisors have. for me, i want footsteps to have variations in them. people don't walk clip-clop-clip-clop. when you walk down the street, if you're ever lucky enough to be somewhere that it's quiet enough to hear your own footsteps, that's not how they sound. that's a performance issue that happens sometimes but there are ways to fix it editorially. mostly, there are poor mixing decisions but it's not the foley artist's fault.

i prefer foley recorded "in situ" (on location) since the goal is to make things sit in the mix naturally. i think it's wasteful to spend all that time in a sound proof room, recording sterile sounds, and then trying to give them life on the mix stage.

my favorite foley artist that i've worked with is marko costanzo. not only is his sync good and his joints don't crack and pop often (that becomes an issue when you need to edit that stuff out all the time, believe me!), he's very creative and expressive with his props. remember steve buscemi peeling the blood-stickied bandage off his face in fargo? marko. foley. great.

Doyvid2 karma

Hi Jen, love your work! I'm a beginning sound post guy from Australia. A few years ago through some of my connections, I met up with Ben Cheah in NYC, an Aussie who has worked on many of the same films that you have. You probably know him. He was awesome to meet with, and an evening of his time was one of the most invaluable experiences in my career so far.

No real question, just saying thanks for making the art of sound editing known to a greater audience. The amount of people who I talk to about filmmaking who don't realise that sound post is an actual part of the process boggles the mind. All the best with you career!

kipod712 karma

cool! yeah, ben and i worked together quite a lot back in nyc at c5. he's a smart guy!

Doyvid2 karma

Oooh, I just thought of a question, hopefully you'll get it in time.

In about 5 years time (perhaps a bit less), I will probably make the move from Australia to the USA. Obvious visa issues and whatnot aside, which coast would you recommend more for a beginning soundie? LA or NYC? I know the bulk of the work happens in LA, but I much prefer NYC as a city... Where do you find yourself most of the time?

kipod712 karma

where i find myself doesn't really answer your question. LA is where you need to be.

BeefCentral2 karma

What was it like recording the live music sections of Treme? All the different venues must have been tricky to nail the recording of performances.

kipod712 karma

i wasn't involved in the music recording. every other aspect of the sound was my problem.

they were all venues for live music though and production had hours to set up, access to the venues' boards, plus a 5.0 mic that they always hung from the ceiling to get a full spread.

TwistedSou12 karma

Did you ever get to work with T-Bone Burnett directly? The man is my hero. How closely do you work with composers and musicians?

kipod715 karma

sorry, no. the music and the rest of the sound don't really interact until the mix. at least not in my experience. i've heard tell of some instances where the forethought and planning was in place to allow a more organic collaboration between the two departments but... haven't had the pleasure.

seawied1 karma

Not so much a question, but more of a request. If you ever have to edit a sword being drawn in the future, could you PLEASE not add the "SHHRRRNKT" screech that every Movie/TV show/sock puppet miming does?


kipod713 karma

nice video. i hope that guy's not trying to become a foley artist. he's not very good at it. those swords sound really boring!

in all seriousness i hear what you're saying and a lot of the "hollywood" sound rules annoy me, too. but it's also kinda sad-making that the only people who usually have a particular passion about what i do either 1) want my job or 2) have a bone to pick about a certain sound they hear in movies all the time.

1) no you may not. 2) it wasn't me! but the job of the sound edit is to make you think we haven't done anything so usually, what's getting noticed is criticized.

BlazingBuzzard1 karma

Hey Jen thanks for doing this AMA! My questions are... How did you get into your line of work? What advice would you give to someone who's interested in this line of work?

kipod714 karma

i went to film school and was told very early on there that we all needed to find a vocation because hollywood would not be calling us to direct after graduation. i gravitated towards sound because, frankly, the camera professors discouraged women from that area. we were told the cameras were too heavy and we'd never become DPs if we couldn't handle being operators.

i've given the work advice about four times in this AMA already, please just poke around and you'll find it.

lovelylayout1 karma

Regarding Hedwig and the Angry Inch, why did Stephen Trask do the vocal tracks for Tommy Gnosis AND backing vocals for Hedwig's band? I ask because I had access to the soundtrack loooong before I was able to actually watch the movie, and it confused me at the time.

kipod712 karma

no idea. my discussions with JCM were more along the lines of "so when the beads on your dress slap that guy in the face, how funny do you want it to sound?"

iamhtrain1 karma

Is JCM a cool guy? I've always wondered what he was like in real life! Love love love this play and movie

kipod713 karma

my interactions with him were all great. he was really sweet. we talked about comic books a bit. we both prefer the marvel universe, where superheros have day jobs and live in hell's kitchen.

Dild231 karma

If Jeff Bridges a good guy?

kipod711 karma

never met him. heard good things though.

AnArrogantPrick1 karma

As a guy who works as a Live Sound Engineer would you suggest getting into this line of work and if so how would you go about doing it?

kipod712 karma

i can't say to either, really. you already have a job in sound, why would you want another? do you not like it? what don't you like about it? what is your skillset? what are your interests?

short answer: no. you don't want my job.

raymont1 karma

This might not be up your ally, but why did the Dude hate the fucking eagles?

kipod712 karma

it's not up my alley at all but there are many reasons to hate the eagles.

FortyMikeMike1 karma

Generation Kill is my favorite series to date. Just wanted to say thanks for the excellent work on it and your other projects!

Quality sound editing is something I really notice and appreciate in any media.

kipod711 karma

thanks! i appreciate that.

Misfitg1 karma

I have an amazing ear for music sounds and noise. How can I get into this industry?

kipod713 karma

apply yourself to finding that answer and you're halfway there. seriously. you can't armchair quarterback a career choice. if you're interested, take some classes. find a studio near where you live and offer to intern. just do it.

dragontale1 karma


kipod712 karma

i don't think there's anything about today that's changed since i started. knock on doors, show you're interested, be willing to run errands for awhile. attack every assignment you're given with accuracy and efficiency. and good luck.

dragontale1 karma


kipod711 karma

no i worked in NYC for about 12 years steadily. i've done some work in LA too, of course, but now i live in SF. if you're looking for major feature experience in the US, those are the 3 cities where there's work. not so much up here in SF though. pretty closed shop.

RobertB911 karma

I've seen reports of another possible season of The Wire pending the U.S.'s cease of the war on drugs (pfft. like that'll happen). Supposedly this came about from the Attorney General asking Simon about it. Do you think there's even a slight chance/merit to this or is it just a tease?

kipod712 karma

david's response about there being a possible 6th season was totally a joke, dude. the AG said "i'd love to see a 6th season" and david said "i'll give you one. when you end the war on drugs." translation: when hell freezes over.

RobertB912 karma

That's what I figured. I like to think the AG replied to that with "So...you're saying there's a chance?"

Also I know you said you don't take part in the "best season" discussion, but which version of the opening theme is your favorite?

kipod712 karma

tom waits.

fviz1 karma

Maybe I'm too late, but: What do you thing about Audio Engineering courses? I'm planning on studying AE in Berlin, but I've hear people say that maybe it's not the best way to get into that field of work and that I should just major in something broader, like you did.. Thanks and congratulations for your work

kipod713 karma

i don't really know what goes on in AE coursework compared to film production. i think there are a lot of technical points and concepts that it's good to understand, but overall, i've found that understanding what sounds role is in telling the story is more important than all of that.

everythingsweetnsour1 karma

How is music/sound selected for scenes? I imagine 100's of folders on a desktop with titles.

kipod712 karma

sometimes the song is scripted into the scene from the beginning, sometimes the director/producer picks things during the picture edit, sometimes the music editor is given an idea of what kind of song needs to fill the hole and they pick from a library of available songs... there's no one way it happens.

plaidracul1 karma

Have you ever worked with a fellow sound editor Scott Hecker?

kipod711 karma

i looked him up and the face looks familiar but no, his credits are mostly big budget and west coast whereas the bulk of my feature experience is more independent and new york.

MOPMetallica1 karma

The Big Lebowski I think is one of the greatest movies of all time. It's soundtrack and everything I think made it so good. I love it so much I've become an ordained Dudeist priest. So if I'm not too late, have you heard much or follow Dudeism and have you ever gone to a Lebowski Fest?

kipod712 karma

i am quite aware of dudeism and the fest, thanks. i haven't attended yet but there's still time. there's always time.