Robertson Treatment Syndicated Column (RTSC): Power Series Sound Engineer Russell Williams

russell williams

*It’s easy to take for granted the powerful role that sound plays in TV and film.

But it does… From the smallest sound to a powerful boom, what we hear plays a big role in how we process what we see on screen. Few tradesmen in Hollywood have mastered the trade like sound engineer Russell Williams.

The recipient of 2 Academy Awards and multiple Emmy Awards, Williams is a virtuoso when it comes to manipulating what we hear and turning that into magic on screen. Currently dividing his duties between picking and choosing the projects he takes on and teaching upper-tier classes in sound to students at American University, Russell agreed to share with Robertson Treatment the tips of his trade.

Robertson Treatment: How do you contribute to the overall process of making a film?
Russell Williams: My department and I would be tasked with watching the actor rehearsals on set and determining the best method of recording these performances. We have a variety of options in our “tool box” but must find a balance between getting near-pristine tracks and staying invisible to the camera, except in scenes where a visible microphone would be expected. We would (with the assistant directors) also function as the “noise police”, to identify and hopefully prevent unwanted sounds from reaching the set and therefore be recorded with the performance.

RT: Why did you pick sound mixing as a career?
RW: The short answer is, the line was shorter to get into sound than to get into camera jobs.  In truth, I had somewhat of a perfect foundation to enter into the business of listening for a living starting with my music background and 7 plus years working in radio and television.

RT: What distinctive quality do you bring to your craft?
RW: Being a department head on a film or TV project requires that you be thoroughly versed in your field, plus be able to manage your team, plus maintain a working relationship with the other filmmakers in front or behind the camera.  As it relates to my actual role as sound mixer, having been trained to listen critically–first in music then in radio as an engineer/announcer the next important phase of my career was being able to observe or apprentice with people that had mastered their craft and passed these lessons on to me.

After considering those formative steps, bottom line–I really loved movies and was not dissuaded by the long hours and highly competitive nature of the business in general. So I attribute much of my success to respecting the craft and being a team player that wants whatever is best for the project to be successful. I learned during my first “real job” [NBC TV during the Watergate Hearings], that having a 9-5 mentality was one of the first things to get tossed.  I was “baptized’ through working 22-hour days 3-5 days a week for about three months.  You can’t work those kind of hours unless you are passionate or a prisoner.

RT: Are there any …read more

Source: Electronic Urban Report