Every sound in a movie is built by a sound designer. Often, the only sound being recorded on set is the actor's voices. And even then, the actors are often re-recorded in a carefully controlled studio during post-production. The Last Hurrah was filmed at a house party with as many as 50 dancing, partying extras. But the party was completely silent except for the two or three actors on camera. The extras who appear to be conversing in the background are lip-synching. And the dancers moving to the music are miming.
Watch closely the next time you see a dance club in a movie or TV show. The dancers in the background probably aren't dancing to the beat. In fact, the dancers may all be moving to completely separate beats.
Notice how lead actors are able to speak in conversational voices during a crowded night club scene. Why aren't they screaming into each other's ears?
Crowd noise and music are created in post production. The editor has no way to cut together a sequence if there is real music recorded in the background. Every dog bark, every cricket chirp - it's all carefully recorded and controlled by the sound designer.
Sound Designer's Job
Our Sound Designer Jeff loves to think big picture. In one sense, Jeff's job is very similar to Chuck's (Cinematographer) and Shane's (Production Designer). To make a one take movie feel as if it's divided into separate scenes. To give each area of the party its own distinct mood by assigning noises and environments to different areas of our blocking charts.
Another part of Jeff's job is to make the audience listen very carefully to our dialog. Our movie does not have big sex scenes, car chases, or explosions. We need a quiet and delicate sound design that will pull the audience into the party and make them listen to all the voices around them.
This is a finesse job. The crinkle of red beer cups. The clink of beer bottles. The sound of ice dropping into a glass. These delicate noises tune the audience's ears to listen, as opposed to deafening everyone with a loud score and violent explosions.
The Era of Sound Design
Thanks to incredible movies like "No Country For Old Men," Sound Designers are finally getting the attention they deserve. Someone told me (I tried googling and can't verify this statistic) that two-thirds of the Academy Award winners for Best Picture also win for best Sound Editing or Sound Mixing. I can certainly believe it.
A statistic I can verify is that since 1950, two-thirds of the Best Picture winners also win one of the two Best Screenplay awards. This makes sense to me, too...