Outlook 2015: Sony Pictures' Tom McCarthy - Technology drives workflows
Tom McCarthy
Issue: December 1, 2014

Outlook 2015: Sony Pictures' Tom McCarthy - Technology drives workflows

Tom McCarthy
Executive Vice President
Sony Pictures Post Production Services
Culver City, CA

I believe we will see a continuance of trends that developed in 2014. To be competitive in post production, you have to be extremely flexible in the workflows you offer your clients. Although we may have done sound one way for the past 70 years, that doesn’t mean we won’t do things differently in the future. It’s not that traditional methods no longer work. Rather, it’s about being open to new ideas, thinking outside the box, and doing what technology allows you to do. Technology drives workflows. 

At our facility, we offer filmmakers multiple workflows for post production. One is the traditional method: a sound designer and his crew work with the director in preparing the tracks, and then hand it off to two mixers, one responsible for dialogue and music, the other responsible for effects and Foley. In an alternate model that is becoming more common, a sound designer, who has been working with the director for several months and has been preparing temp tracks, becomes one of the mixers on the mix stage, either dialogue and music or effects and Foley. In a less common third model, a one-man sound designer/sound supervisor also acts as re-recording mixer and mixes the film himself. In 2015, we may see a new trend where some traditional style re-recording mixers take on the role of sound supervisors or sound designers, starting their relationship with the filmmakers earlier on in the process. 

The role of recordists is also changing. They have traditionally worked in the back room, out of sight from the client. Now, we place them on the mix stage, where they function in a mix/tech position. They are more involved in setting up the board and assisting the mixers. They are in front of the client and more a part of the team on stage. That may open new avenues for them to become mixers. 

Talent and job titles are becoming blurred. This trend is driven by technological change, not budget constraints. It’s driven by filmmakers and their preferences as to how the work should be done. More filmmakers today are coming out of college and they are questioning the old ways because in school, they did it all. They are pushing workflows in a more consolidated direction. 

For sound professionals, these changes represent new opportunities. Workflows are changing, technology is evolving, filmmakers are working in new ways. Those who best adapt to the changes are the ones who will succeed.