Laser Sound

SCA lobbyHere’s what I learned at graduate school yesterday: The sounds that the dinosaurs make in Jurassic Park are a composite of different real animal cries. The sound of lasers shooting in Star Wars is a manipulation of the noise a bal peen hammer makes when hitting a tight cable. Terminator 2 is a landmark film in terms of sound design.

It was actually the most fun and in some ways most inspiring day I’ve had at USC yet. I attended a microseminar in the brand-new fancy Cinema Arts building as part of my duties as an Annenberg fellow. The seminar – on Sound Design, led by William Whittington – was not my first choice, and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much. Whittington’s book Sound Design & Science Fiction has quickly become a seminal text in the field, but I was afraid this was going to be nerd city.

Actually, Whittington’s the kind of movie fanatic whose love of the genre is infectious. He plied us with clips from Pixar and Apocalypse Now, and I realized this is one of the best things about the Specialized Journalism MA: We get to take courses in other schools, including the storied film school, where figures like Lucas and Spielberg still occasionally roam the halls. I can see the movie industry sucking me in … It’s gotta pay more than journalism.

Much of the seminar was devoted to the six students from three schools – film, Annenberg, and engineering – getting to know each other. That was cool too. We’re planning to meet again later this fall, to go see an IMAX movie. And I’m getting paid to do this!

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