Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema through the personal histories, experiences and expertise of sound pioneers who became award-winning artists in sound design.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is a fascinating insight into the different elements of sound that go into making what we hear on screen. It is more American and Hollywood focused, with only the barest mention of what French New Wave directors like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut were doing to be innovative with sound on film. But still, as a documentary that spans the invention of sound in American cinema, it’s fantastic. It spans from silent film era to the start of the “talkies”, naturally, The Jazz Singer is featured, to the decline of cinema because of the invention of TV and how the Hollywood blockbusters got people back in the cinemas.

Not only does Making Waves chart the evolution of sound in cinema, but also the people who pioneered it. Partnerships between directors and sound artists are heavily featured, such as George Lucas and Ben Burtt, and Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch, and how what they did influenced others and the systems that they used to create sound. More modern directors and their collaborators are featured too, like director Ryan Coogler and composer Ludwig Göransson who talk about their work on Black Panther.

All the interviewees in Making Waves were so interesting and knowledgeable that it was a joy to listen to them. It was clear to see how they are all passionate about sound in cinema, how it’s made and how it makes people feel, and it was just great to get that insight into that world of post-production. From directors, to sound designers, to sound editors, to composers, to sound mixers, they all break down the different elements of what goes into making what we hear on screen in an informative yet fun and easy to understand way.

For instance, in Making Waves sound in film is broken down into three main areas – voice, sound effects and score – and those three are broken down even further, giving the viewer a fuller understanding of what is actually meant by terms like sound mixer, sound editor or Foley artist. People who work in each of these fields talk about how they produce the sound you hear on screen, and what their experiences have been like working on different films. Throughout Making Waves excerpts of films from across the decades and from all genres are shown as examples of what the people featured are talking about

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is the kind of documentary that makes you fall in love with film and filmmaking all over again. It is full of illuminating insight into an area of film that’s often forgotten about and I for one will be paying more attention to the sound I’m hearing in the films I watch after watching this documentary.

Rating: ★★★★★

Directed by: Midge Costin
Written by: Bobette Buster