by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Stickler for Details…
The movie Race, about American hero Jesse Owens, looks terrific. The sound? Well, that could use work. Just listen to the movie trailer. Notice something odd about the cameras?
That sound effect you’re hearing is an auotwind motor. My colleague Rick Sanchez, who owns the audio post production house Post Haste Media, pointed out that those cameras in 1936 didn’t have autowind motors. If you were there, you would have heard just the loud burst of the flash and maybe a click – film was advanced manually.
Rick and I discussed several possibilities about how this could have happened:
- Whoever did the sound editing was under 40 and simply didn’t know.
- Whoever did the sound editing was drunk, stoned, or looking to play a joke.
- Whoever did the sound editing was under orders of a clueless studio exec who wanted “more camera sound.”
For creative professionals who take pride in their work, such disregard for quality is painful. When Rick shared this trailer and his eagle-eared observation on social media, the comments from his peers included “That is so hilarious but depressing at the same time!” and “Ha!!! (*sob*)”.
Now, except for these top production professionals and the nitpickers who fill IMDB “goofs” sections, most people likely won’t notice. Even if they did, one sound effect probably won’t affect their enjoyment of this trailer. But in the long run, such carelessness won’t win many races.
As you pointed out, there are a hundred reasons of how this sound effect could have been selected. It could have been a creative choice to use a sound more people would know, but this is a period film, and it looks like a pretty good one.
If there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s that attention to detail rarely hurts you. Look at Mad Men, almost any Spielberg or Scorsese film, Downton Abbey. The detail and accuracy is stunning.
One thing I’ve noticed over the last 15 years of doing this sort of work is that budgets and timetables keep getting squeezed. That means fewer and less experienced mentors, fact checkers, spell checkers and researchers. It means smaller sound libraries with more generic music and sound effects. What may have been intended to be a temp sound effect placeholder got overlooked in the time/budget crunch and approval process.
In the end, does this mean that fewer people will see the film? That is debatable.
What I do know, is that if the director chose to put NIKE running shoes on Jesse Owens, he most likely would have been replaced.
All awesome points, Rick. Sad to see how some of the richest companies sacrifice quality for a few more dollars, while overpaying their executives. Then they whine when no one wants to buy their products.
Maybe it’s what’s known as the coconut effect (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheCoconutEffect) – “Any special effect, design feature, or sound effect that is patently unrealistic, but which you have to do anyway because viewers have been so conditioned to expect it that its absence would be even more jarring.” As mentioned above, they figured more people will (unfortunately) recognize that sound as a a camera than not.
I’d never heard of the coconut effect before. Cool to know!