Learning Space dedicated to
the Art and Analyses of Film Sound Design
What's new?
Site Map
Site Search
Sound Article List
New Books
Miami Vice discussion

Elliott Koretz:
I want to share a few insights regarding Miami Vice and also speak to the realities of the sound of the final dub versus the predubs and what was actually brought to the stage.

I supervised both Collateral and Miami Vice for Michael Mann and had two polar opposite sonic experiences. I agree with some of the issues raised on the final result on Vice. We were working with extremely challenging production dia tracks and if you had only heard where we began from you would appreciate how much the dia was improved in the end. But no one knows that in a movie theater. As to the final mix of fx, I can only say, that time honored old chestnut, you should have heard the predubs. We recorded every vehicle, guns, atmospheres, etc. but the mix decisions were creative choices by MM that he felt best told his story. And that is really what counts here. Our job is to present the director with all that cool stuff that indeed most of us do repeatedly but we can only lead that horse to water.

I think what I am getting at is that maybe we, the forum, are better served to encourage and engage in more discussion of how that was made, rather than why. Sharing insights about the process is I think much more valuable.

Peter Albrechtsen:
great to hear some insights to the Miami Vice proces.

I enjoyed the movie on DVD recently (I really liked the beautiful new opening of the unrated edition). I think it's a really bold mix in the way that only selected sounds are played instead of everything at once. And you make it sound like you didn't enjoy the dub at all!!!

I guess we've all experienced that it can be really difficult to kill your darlings at the dub stage when you've brought a whole wide palette of advanced effects which have taken weeks or months to create. How did you approach the radical mix decisions of what to hear and what not to hear?

By the way, the fx work was great - I remember vividly the extreme impact of the gun sounds at some of the assassinations. You must have done a lot of sound effects recording...

Elliott Koretz:
Thank you for your kind words. You are right on the nose with your thoughts about the specific nature of the fx mix. We worked very hard to create sharp sonic contrasts from location to location. Sometimes jarring, sometimes subtle. The process actually starts with our spotting sessions. MM gives very specific sound notes when we spot and although he is open to exploring new ideas it is imperative to incorporate his direction. I have found the procedure that works best has been for me to mix down and deliver elements to the picture editor as early as possible. We all know how much directors fall back to loving their Avid tracks, well my philosophy is to fill the Avid with as much of my material as possible. It makes the dub stage much more productive when you don't have to constantly reference the Avid for differences in materials. On Michael Mann films I work in the same office as the picture editors, the music editors, the director, pretty much everyone associated with the film. Now I know that the companies that we all work at do not like the loss of revenue when we are not in their rooms and using their equipment and I respect that but I must say the synergy of being an intricate part of the creative team and not just "those unseen sound guys" is tremendous. It is a very exciting way to work. I get insight that I would never have being off site.

Another aspect that was important on this film was the extensive field recording I did. Knowing that we would use very specific sounds makes it even more important to have clean well recorded material because I knew that any effect at anytime could play by itself. We used the Sound Device 744 and also made great use in "stealthy" situations of the M Audio Microtrack recorder.

Jeff Storm:
Yeah I've heard a lot from different people about how they love the gun sounds in miami vice. If you want to elaborate on them that would be cool

Elliott Koretz:
Creating the guns for Miami Vice was as expected quite interesting. My approach ended up using gun elements from four different sources. First and probably most important to Michael was the guns fired on the set. We spent quite a bit of time building a cutting library out of the production guns. Thanks go to the production mixer David Ronne who found time whenever possible to record them. He was particularly helpful in getting some nice clean tracks of the Barrett 50 cal rifle that was the major player in the scene where the bad guys assassinate the undercover FBI agents. Also another great sounding production gun element we used was all the poppy o/s machine shots in the climax of the movie. Creating realistic o/s gunfire can often be quite challenging and in this case these production guns worked nicely. Michael's mandate in that last gun battle was to create a documentary or news footage type atmosphere. The second element to the guns was the weapons we went out and recorded ourselves which were mainly used on the close up machine guns. All the guns were recorded using three 2 track digital recorders with microphones places in front, to the side, and in back. The three recordings were then sunk up and mastered back in the office. The next layer was actually incorporating elements of the guns that the picture editors had found in their own libraries and put into the Avid very early on. Michael particularly liked some of them so we resunk them and moved them into our tracks. Last piece of the puzzle was adding a mechanical element to the close up guns from my library. I find that really makes close up guns come to life.

Back to the Barrett 50 cal, we also added a couple of pure low end sub woofer elements to really give that gun an ominous character. It was more than a gun, it was a statement showing the bad guys were really bad. This gun literally ripped apart the FBI men's car and ripped them apart as well so it had to be very special.

If anyone else has interesting weapons stories I think we would all enjoy reading about them.

Coll Anderson:
I would have to chime in here... Still my favorite experience of recording guns was doing the field recording for the Jim Jarmush film Dead Man...

I went to northern Utah where I grew up and enlisted the help of my neighbor who was at the time a historical gun nut. We went through the prop list and found working originals (and a replica or two...) of every gun from set. Then we made reloads with black powder all of the rounds we would need. We did use real bullets. Then we went out into the canyons around my house. Some of the canyons are very desolate with great rock walls... We also found a great lake with rock walls on the far side... Just beautiful places to record both visually and from a sound perspective. It was early april so there were no insects and very little bird life. I recorded with a few different rigs. Two M + S Schoeps rigs, one going to a Stereo Nagra, the other going to DAT. Also we used some sure Dynamic mics and a RSM Kmr 81i pointed generally away from the the guns and at reflections we wanted to capture.

Eugene Gearty then re-recorded all the elements back into a Sonic Solutions station. This was quite some time ago but it was a really great and fun experience. I think analogue still does some amazing things for explosions and the like... I also think Dynamic mic's often record guns and things really wonderfully...

Most of all, and this is the lesson I carry with me always... Sounds do not happen in a vacuum. Great sounds are more common in great sounding places, the reflections and reverb that naturally color a sound often are what make great sounds unique. Sure, every situation is different, and needs often dictate what will work and what will not, but what really makes those recordings shine are the reflections and ring outs that the environment gave us. I have found the same to be true with glass ups and downs and car doors, dog barks and horn honks...

I always love recording in the field, just adds so much life to what we do...

Pascal André Garneau:
Last piece of the puzzle was adding a mechanical element to the close up guns from my library. I find that really makes close up guns come to life.

Adding a dryfire to a CU makes a big difference. Like other gun handling noises, dryfires especially make guns seem more dangerous and unpredictable. The first time I used this technique, I thought that I invented it and was bummed when I discovered that it is fairly common. :-)

Even when I'm spotting foley, I cue dryfires for CU's just in case the FX editor doesn't add this subtle, but effective, layer.

charles maynes:
Nice work Elliott- Did you have Ken Johnson in on any of it?

Elliott Koretz:
Not on this one. Ken is a tremendous guy to utilize but when time allows I love to go out myself to get what I need. All the field recording sessions were done my myself and my assistant Bruce Barris. He is a treasure and one of the most talented guys I have worked with. He knows Protools and Avid inside and out, is an ace field recordists and also is an accomplished mixer. On Vice we went on location for a week in Miami to record all the vehicles, speedboats, and airplanes. We also recorded environments at the various locations (the trailer park was particularly scary) and also did some stealthy walla type recordings using the Microtrack. Back in Los Angeles we always had our recorders at the ready and went out and got many other elements of the film. We rented the satellite telephones that were used in the movie (actually quite boring ringtones) and also rented the walkie talkie headsets used on board the speedboats and rerecorded all the adr thru them.

Sometimes Michael makes special requests for things. On Collateral Bruce and I spent an entire night wandering around downtown LA when MM requested us the explore what really goes on there sonically. There is a large homeless population there and and once again we felt were in occasional jeopardy as we recorded. However those recordings did indeed pay off with some really wild "down the alley" screams that helped keep the tension high while Tom Cruise and Jaimie Foxx were driving thru the city streets.

I think with the low cost of the various mini digital recorders it makes sense to keep one in the car for whenever inspiration strikes.

Thread "Miami Vice " started Jan 10, 2007 at Sound Design discussion list

To Film Sound Design


Star Wars Sounds Film Sound Clichés Film Sound History Movie Sound Articles Bibliography
Questions & Answers Game Audio Animation Sound Glossaries Randy Thom Articles
Walter Murch Articles Foley Artistry Sci-Fi Film Sound Film Music Home Theatre Sound
Theoretical Texts Sound Effects Libraries Miscellaneous