Mark Edward Lewis Channels Sound into the Movie Experience
The thud of approaching footsteps, followed by the crack of a gun. The quiet tick of a clock drowned out by the whistle of a teapot. The sound of a film can draw viewers into a scene just as effectively as the visuals. Few understand this better than Mark Edward Lewis, who has spent decades working as a composer, post-production supervisor, editor, and director for film and television.
In addition to working in various post-production roles on projects including Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II and Blade of Honor, Lewis most recently taught MZED’s Sound Advice Tour. He hosted nearly all of the programs on the 70-day, 32-city tour around North America, teaching filmmakers how to produce superior audio results. Lewis talked to Adobe about his work and why he thinks Adobe Audition CC is an application that more people should investigate, especially as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud video editing workflow.
What inspired you to work in the film industry?
Lewis: As a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist. That all changed when my grandparents took me to see Star Wars. I was blown away by the story and the special effects, but I was also mesmerized by the music and sound. My parents were professional musicians, so I decided that I wanted to become a composer for film and TV.
I did that for about 20 years – long enough to see the industry change. More and more projects involved making music digitally out of a box, which isn’t my style; I prefer working with musicians to bring a track to life. I was making short films as a hobby in my spare time, so a friend suggested that I spend more time behind the camera. I started directing short films and episodes for TV and web.
How did you get started with post-production work?
Lewis: I’d been involved in the post-production process for a long time as a composer. Composers are usually the last people brought on board, and you’d be amazed at how much music can bring to the table. A good soundtrack can enhance, or even save, a project. So most of my jobs really involved figuring out what I could do with limited time and budget to take a project to the next level. It was actually a natural next step to start working as a post-production supervisor.
I’m regularly asked by fellow filmmakers how to do this-or-that in post-production because of my experience. So, when I’m not working on a project, I spend time teaching others about post-production techniques, especially as they relate to sound. A lot of people don’t realize how much good sound matters. And one thing that I’ve come to realize is that the best kept secret in audio is Adobe Audition CC. Right now, my biggest problem with Audition is that not enough people know about it.
What makes Adobe Audition special?
Lewis: Adobe Audition does things that no other program does and probably won’t be able to do for some time. A lot of filmmakers ask me what they need for professional audio mixing. I’ll say, “Do you have Adobe Creative Cloud? Then you already have everything you need.”
Take Automatic Speech Alignment. It makes replacing dialogue or sound effects so simple that anyone can do it. When I show it to people, they’re always amazed at how effortless it is. Or Remix, which helps edit and remix songs to the exact length you need. It’s incredible!
How does the Creative Cloud workflow enhance working with Audition?
Lewis: Audition alone is already so powerful, but it’s even better when part of the full Creative Cloud experience. In a typical holistic post-production process, you’ll have someone working on effects in Adobe After Effects CC, someone else adjusting color in Adobe SpeedGrade CC, and someone trying to balance dialogue in Audition—all while the editor’s cutting the film together in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Dynamic Link helps keep all of the changes up to date across the entire project so that people don’t have to keep stopping to export their work and send it to someone else. It saves so much time, and we’re looking forward to the Adobe post-production workflow being able to eradicate the audio conform-to-a-new-edit process altogether.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Audition?
Lewis: The two biggest misconceptions I hear are that Audition isn’t really a professional-grade product, or that it doesn’t work with other platforms. Neither of these could be further from the truth. Dynamic Link makes the Adobe experience so smooth that you might not want to work with anything else, but Audition is absolutely compatible with other platforms and plug-ins. Most people don’t realize that it’s already compatible with Eucon, which means all the amazing control surfaces out there work with it.
The fact that there are regular updates for all your Adobe applications, many times with the fixes and requests you asked for, puts Adobe way ahead as a company supporting professionals. To me, it doesn’t matter if a program is the “industry standard” or “understood to be what’s used” if it’s stagnant and the company creating it has no connection or desire to be connect with its user base. As a result, creatively, my team and myself are stymied into working the way they want us to work, and that usually costs us tens of thousands of dollars of their software and hardware.
So, user interaction, updates, and pushing the technological envelope are critical in a product or company growing and being “professional.” I’d much rather trust my post process to a series of products that aren’t considered “this is what everyone uses”, but are advancing at twice the rate of competitors—in directions I want to go. If it isn’t professional to deliver cutting edge workflows for its users, solve problems that have plagued the post production process for years, push post-production technology forward at double the rate of anyone else, be completely compatible with available hardware, and be used on major “A” list films, then I don’t know what a “professional product” is.
Who would you recommend using Audition?
Lewis: Audition is powerful enough for experienced audio engineers, but it’s easy enough for people who aren’t audio experts as well. Editors don’t need to know about theories of compression and loudness and equalization to use Audition. I can just show them what buttons and presets they need, and they can sync dialogue or adjust tone with just a few clicks. It’s the best of both worlds.
Watch Mark’s theater presentation at NAB Show 2016:
Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud video and audio tools