Everyone understands and notices when the cinematography of a film is great, it’s right in front of your eyes to see! The unsung hero of the experience of watching your favorite films and TV shows are the professionals who create and perfectly match the sounds that you hear while watching these stories; they’re the atmosphere setters, the mood creators. Professionals like YuXin Boon create the sonic wallpaper and sometimes the sonic gut punch that helps your subconscious and conscious mind believe that the action you are watching onscreen is really happening, whether it’s a romantic evening, a life threatening storm, or any number of creatures who have never actually existed. Boon has no issues with not being placed in the spotlight, she prefers the covert nature of her work as an editor with “all things sound.” Her exceptional talent, attention to detail, and creativity have allowed her to amass an eclectic resume and led to her getting the attention of Oscar-award winners (who have hired her for these abilities). Boon gives a peek behind the curtain at the life of a modern day sound editor.
Any art form which find the favor and attention of the public progresses. As this occurs so do the tools used and the roles of the artist who take part in the creation of this art evolve. In the early days of Film and TV, the role of a sound editor was more about collecting and syncing the sound to the picture. In these early days this alone was a marvel; the accurate recreation of the sonic environment was exciting when done from the safety and comfort of a theater or one’s own home. In current times, sound editing has become much more about design and editing, focusing on creativity rather than simply recreation. This allows for the other professionals involved in the filmmaking process to further explore their own creativity as well. YuXin’s work may see her working with the director and actors during ADR sessions, going over suggestions with foley artists for creative sounds, or combing over sound libraries adjusting filters and EQs to achieve the proper results to then contribute to a production. The analogies for her role are endless but we thought the best explanation is to go to the source. Approaching YuXin with questions about how she would approach different genres affords a glimpse into what goes on in the mind of this much in-demand sound editor.
Comedy – “For comedy, I like to spend more time in dialogue and Foley editing. Dialogue is the main way to express the humor of scripts and Foley can help the characters’ actions to stand out. I will find the takes with the best emotional expression (dialogue) and natural movement recreation (Foley). The key point is to bring the audience closer to the scene and keep the natural and relaxed atmosphere of the scene.”
Horror – “I might utilize a lot of sound design for this genre. Choosing the sound from different species and layering them with multiple combinations, and finally processing them with special effects like delay, reverb and pitch shift to match the creepy and thrilling feeling of the movie. This is very creative and often allows me to challenge myself to create something very original, which is really fun.”
Science Fiction – “Science Fiction often calls for more sound design in creating sounds which not exist in real life with futuristic and unapproachable feeling. For these types of stories, I will edit a sound from real life with multiple processors like Equalizers and compressors, modifying the location of the sound to enhance the space of the scene.”
Period Pieces – “I think the important idea of a period piece is to recreate the sound from a previous generation. Instead of using sound design, I would use more Foley and Sound effects of physical objects than electric tone to create the texture of antiques. It’s authenticity that is the goal so there is likely some research involved but it’s surprising what the ear wants to hear and will believe. It’s not always the most complex approach that brings the best results.”
Of course sometimes it is the most obvious part of the work that requires her attention. When working on the film “Heavy Rain” (on which Boon was handpicked by Oscar-Award Winner Bill W. Benton) YuXin found herself at the actual ADR sessions making notes with the director and producer as to what emotion should be communicated during the recording. Making her own suggestions and notes about which takes felt best, Boon created a rough head start for herself once she got to the ADR editing process. The end result was the achievement of congruent emotional delivery while allowing more time to focus on the clarity of the sound.
Her Foley editing in “Enchanted Christmas” gives insight into just how complex the seemingly mundane actions onscreen can be. In addition to syncing the Foley to the action visible, Boon layered many layers of sound often needed. To exacerbate the situation, the work was performed at an urgent pace. Anyone in the production industry will attest that this is more the norm than the exception and handling this with grace and composure as YuXin did is yet another important skill to possess to achieve prominent success.
The work of a sound editor requires skills. One must know what to use and when to use it to avoid over processed or unnatural sounds…until this is what is called for. Rules continue to be broken and while some might find this disconcerting, it’s yet another element which calls out to this talented editor. YuXin Boon recognizes that the requirements of her vocation are changing on an almost daily basis. The two factors which are evergreen are talent and a willingness to push your own creativity/imagination. Being a pioneer demands a certain fearlessness and embrace for the unknown, which Yuxin possesses immeasurably. She’s just as engaged by romantic dance scenes as with the creation/communication of an otherworldly creature who never exists…except in your imagination, which is precisely what this sound editor feels called to manifest.