Sound Pros Evaluate Pros/Cons of New Best Sound Category

Labor News, Industry News

Reprinted from The Hollywood Reporter by Carolyn Giardina on April 28, 2021.

The Motion Picture Academy on Sunday handed out a newly renamed Oscar for best sound — combining the prior sound editing and sound mixing categories into a single honor — and while this was a carefully considered change in the Sound Branch and many agree with the move, there are still varying opinions about merging the disciplines. Meanwhile, topics including a potential category name change and how the pandemic affected voting were also raised in this post mortem.

“Each Academy Branch updates its rules periodically. I expect that there will be further refinement by the Sound Branch,” summed up supervising sound editor, designer and rerecording mixer Randy Thom, a two-time Oscar winner for The Right Stuff and The Incredibles. “Going from two sound awards to one is controversial within the Sound Branch. On the visual side of things there are lots of categories: cinematography, production design, visual effects, costume design, makeup. So, quite a few people within the Sound Branch didn’t see why it was necessary to condense sound editing and sound mixing into one award. It’s true that many people do both jobs, and the equipment to do both jobs is strikingly similar, but it’s also true that editing sounds is still a different kind of work from mixing sounds.”

This year the Oscar for best sound was awarded to Sound of Metal, a film that followed a drummer played by Oscar-nominee Riz Ahmed who experiences hearing loss, which was acclaimed for its use of sound as an empathy machine to convey his point of view to the audience. It bested a field of nominees that also included Greyhound, Mank, News of the World and Soul. …

THR 4/28

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Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at