Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing

This post is a tribute to the figure of the sound editor and his/her importance in any audiovisual project. Therefore, I decided to make a clip with the most showy of this world: Hollywood. So what would it be better than editing this video with all the Oscars winners for Best Sound Editing. Don’t mix up with the Oscar for Best Sound, given since the 30s.

Academy Award for Best Sound Editing has had different names: Best Sound Effects (1963-1967, 1975), Best Sound Effects Editing (1977, 1981-199) and Best Sound Editing (1979. 2000-present) . The award is given to the Supervisor Sound Editor, sometimes accompanied by the Sound Designer. From 1968 to 1974, and 1976, 1978, 1980, the Oscar wasn’t awarded.

Below, you have the winners and some quite striking statistics.

List of winners for Best Sound Editing

YearMovieWinner
1963It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad WorldWalter Elliott
1964GoldfingerNorman Wanstall
1965The Great RaceGordon Daniel
1966Grand PrixGordon Daniel
1967The Dirty DozenJohn Poyner
1975The Hindenburg†Peter Berkos
1977Close Encounters of the Third Kind†Frank Warner
1977Star Wars†Ben Burtt
1979The Black Stallion†Alan Splet
1981Raiders of the Lost ArkBen Burtt, Richard L. Anderson
1982E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialCharles L. Campbell, Ben Burtt
1983The Right StuffJay Boekelheide
1984The River†Kay Rose
1985Back to the FutureCharles L. Campbell, Robert Rutledge
1986AliensDon Sharpe
1987RoboCop†Stephen Hunter Flick, John Pospisil
1988Who Framed Roger RabittCharles L. Campbell, Louis Edemann
1989Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeBen Burtt, Richard Hymns
1990The Hunt for the Red OctoberCecelia Hall, George Watters II
1991Terminator 2: Judgement DayGary Rydstrom
1992Bram Stoker’s DraculaTom McCarthy, David Stone
1993Jurassic ParkGary Rydstrom, Richard Hymns
1994SpeedStephen Hunter Flick
1995BraveheartLon Bender, Per Hallber
1996The Ghost and the DarknessBruce Stambler
1997TitanicTom Bellfort, Christopher Boyes
1998Saving Private RyanGary Rydstrom, Richard Hymns
1999The MatrixDane Davis
2000U-571Jon Johnson
2001Pearl HarborGeorge Watters II, Christopher Boyes
2002The Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersMike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn
2003Master and Commander: The Far Side of the WorldRichard King
2004The IncrediblesMichaels Silvers, Randy Thom
2005King KongMike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn
2006Letters from Iwo JimaBub Asman, Alan Robert Murray
2007The Bourne UltimatumKaren Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
2008The Dark KnightRichard King
2009The Hurt LockerPaul N. J. Ottosson
2010InceptionRichard King
2011HugoEugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
2012Skyfall††Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
2012Zero Dark Thirty††Paul N. J. Ottosson
2013GravityGlenn Freemantle

† Special Achievement Award

†† Ex aequo

 

Multiple winners

Sound Editor / Sound DesignerNumber of Oscar
Ben Burtt4
Charles L. Campbell, Per Hallberg, Richard Hymns, Richard King, Gary Rydstrom3
Karen Baker Landers, Christopher Boyes, Mike Hopkins, Stephen Hunter Flick, Paul N. J. Ottosson, George Watters II, Ethan Van der Ryn 2

Multiple nominations

Sound Editor / Sound DesignerNumber of nominations
Richard Hymns9
Gary Rydstrom, George Watters II8
Alan Robert Murray7
Christopher Boyes, Ben Burtt, Michael Silvers, Wylie Stateman6
Bub Asman, Richard King, Bruce Stambler, Ethan Van der Ryn5
Charles L. Campbell, Per Hallberg, Stephen Hunter Flick, John Leveque, Randy Thom4
Lon Bender, Mike Hopkins, Mark Mangini, Paul N. J. Ottosson, Mark Stoeckinger3
Erik Aadahl, Richard L. Anderson, Karen Baker Landers, Tom Bellfort, Gloria Borders, Robert Bratton, Brent Burge, Glenn Freemantle, Eugene Gearty, Cecelia Hall, Robert G. Henderson, Ren Klyce ,Skip Lievsay, Tom Myers, Walter Rossi, Philip Stockton, Matthew Wood, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle2

These tables include special achievement wins.

 

Filmmakers whose films won the Oscar for Best Sound Editor

FilmmakerNumber of Oscar
Steven Spielberg6
James Cameron3
Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan2
Stanley Kramer, Guy Hamilton, Blake Edwards, John Frankenheimer, Robert Aldrich, Robert Wise, George Lucas, Carroll Ballard, Philip Kaufman, Mark Rydell, Paul Verhoeven, John McTiernan, Francis Ford Coppola, Jan de Bont, Mel Gibson, Stephen Hopkins, the Wachowski brothers, Jonathan Mostow, Michael Bay, Peter Weir, Brad Bird, Clint Eastwood, Paul Greengass, Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes, Alfonso Cuarón1

 

According to the genre

GenreNumber of Oscar
Sci-Fi10
Action, Adventure9
War7
Comedy, Kids, Thriller, Drama3
Romance, Animation, Horror2

 

Explaining what sound design is through The Shining

If we visit Wikipedia and we search the tasks of a sound designer, we’ll find the following: “Sound design is the process of specifying, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements. It is employed in a variety of disciplines including filmmaking, television production, theatre, sound recording and reproduction, live performance, sound art, post-production, and video game software development. Sound design most commonly involves the manipulation of previously composed or recorded audio, such as sound effects and dialogue. In some instances it may also involve the composition or manipulation of audio to create a desired effect or mood. A sound designer is one who practices the art of sound design.”. In other words, like the video editor (with the filmmaker, the cinematographer, etc) gives order and meaning to the visual aspect of the story, the sound designer should do the same with the work’s sound concept.

This profession, especially in Spain, is quite unknown. Unless we talk about high budget products, it’s a work that never appears in the credit of a short film, an advertisement or a 3D animation, for example. However, it’s a very difficult job to accomplish. A sound designer must deal with the sounds as if they were a story character. That is to say, antagonist’s footsteps don’t sound the same as the hero’s footsteps, just as the typical birds, those we hear on the street, aren’t the same in a romantic scene or in a scene where an important character is going to be killed.

For a more detailed explanation, let’s watch one of the most famous scenes in movie History: Danny’s tricycle pedal power through Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

The sequence, in terms of sound, just has the tricycle movement. From an exact point, we have the music of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, creating an even more disturbing atmosphere (we don’t hear it on the linked video). The tricycle’s movement continues in the sequence. The sound of the scene changes between the sound of the pedal power on the parquet and the carpet. It might seem a poor scene about sound, but it’s enough. This abrupt change between wood and carpet makes that an innocent action such as we see on the screen (a child enjoying his beloved toy) becomes a shocking and disturbing suspense.

Thus, Kubrick uses Danny’s pedal power to define the location and to show the relationship between the environment and the character. Throughout the film, Kubrick uses the sound effects to personify the Overlook Hotel as a supernatural force. He alters the acoustic qualities of the dialogue and sound effects to emphasize the isolation of the characters. It happens the same with Danny and his movement. Every sound carries a distinctive reverb dealing, therefore, with the Overlook Hotel as a main character in the story.

Without this precise construction that Kubrick and his sound department provide to the movie sound design, The Shining would loose much of its dramatic intensity. An example:

In this editing, I added different backgrounds to the mix. Attending to the script, it does not get misplaced: we hear the typewriter in the hall (it’s where Jack writes) and the same crows we hear in other fragments of the film (for example, the opening scene). Also, I added a hum that follows the way of the tricycle between hall carpets. The final result would have been this, loosing much of the emotional burden scene that it has and, possibly, not being anymore one of the greatest scenes of cinema History.