Film Review: Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

Midge Costin’s documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is as immersive as its subject matter. 

Sound is an integral part of the filmmaking process. This film explores the art of sound design and editing in Hollywood, from the early days to the digital age…

Sound editor Midge Costin (The Rock, Con Air) has focused on a highly important aspect of filmmaking, in her debut documentary. It is an area that is often overlooked, as the film highlights. Making Waves functions both as an introduction to the medium, and as a comprehensive look at sound design and editing in Hollywood. 

The film tells its story in a largely chronological format. The story begins at early sound accompaniment, and works its way to the digital era.  Costin concentrates on key developments and films along the way. The documentary tells the story of the development of sound design in a way that is engaging and informative.

One of Making Waves’ highlights is that is very accessible. The film provides enriching viewing for both those well versed in filmmaking and those with the most rudimentary knowledge of the subject. 

The film concentrates on three main sound designers, each of which represents a different era of filmmaking. Costin links the development of technology and ideas with Walter Murch, Ben Burtt, and Gary Rydstrom, as well as others who came before and after. 

The frequent use of film clips is a great way to illustrate the importance and impact of their work. The explanation of technology, for example the introduction of surround sound, is similarly well conveyed. 

Costin speaks to a range of contributors, from household names to lesser known veterans. In the final third of the film, it is really interesting to hear from foley artists, ADR editors, and composers. Also integral to Making Waves is the contributions of directors and producers. Costin signposts just how important Figures such as George Lucas and Barbra Streisand were in making sure sound artists had the space and budget to explore and expand their craft. The interviews with directors also serves to emphasise just how important sound design is to their work.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is vital viewing for those with a love of film, and should prove engrossing for all audiences.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.