The Academy Award for Best Sound Editing

   By Emilie L   Categories: General

In the summer of 2006, the Academy made a major change in how the Best Sound Editing awards would be nominated and voted on, bringing them closer to how most of the other disciplines, such as Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Actor, and so on, are considered.

Image via Flickr user Rachel

The tradition of gathering at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater and reviewing the seven semi-finalist sound editors came to an end. On the one hand, it was a sad decision. However, it was time to evolve and find ways to make the process more in step with how the other disciplines were doing it—and hopefully making it a more fair and open proposition. (One of the drawbacks of the bake-off was that the Sound Branch members who did not live in the L.A. area often found it difficult to attend.)

Now we vote for our five top choices on a mailed ballot sent out right after Christmas. The Sound Branch members list their top choices and mail their ballot back. PricewaterhouseCoopers add up the votes and the five with the highest number of votes become the five nominations that appear on the final ballot that PricewaterhouseCoopers sends out to all voting Academy members for the final vote.

This simplifies the process and allows the Sound Branch members who may not live in and around L.A., or who are living or working outside of the United States, to have an equal say, thus deemphasizing the L.A.-based advantage that the bake-off could not help but encourage.

Even though I miss the getting together, the camaraderie, and the catching up each year with my fellow sound editors, I personally feel that the change is healthy for the art form and has opened up more craftspeople throughout the world in the process.

I am often asked exactly how this process works and why certain individuals are considered. The following is the exact extract from the rules and regulations of the Sound Editing award from the Academy, followed by the rules for the Sound Mixing award.

Special Rules for the Sound Editing Award

  1. A reminder list of all eligible productions shall be sent with a ballot to all members of the Academy Sound Branch who shall vote in the order of their preference for not more than five productions.
  2. The five productions receiving the highest number of votes shall become the nominations for final voting for the Sound Editing Award.
  3. Eligibility for this award shall be limited to the Supervising Sound Editor directly involved in and primarily responsible for the planning, creation, direction, and execution of the sound design and editing for each achievement. The Supervising Sound Editor must be the primary creative decision maker and principal interpreter of the director’s vision to the sound editing team. The Supervising Sound Editor must approve the sound effects and their specific placement in the film, coordinate the creation of newly designed sound and Foley effects and the editing of dialogue and ADR. The Supervising Sound Editor must oversee the recording of the pre-dubs and be present to supervise the final mix. In the event the above responsibilities are divided, both co-supervisors must adhere to the above criteria.
  4. Nomination eligibility of the Supervising Sound Editor responsible for the achievement shall be determined by the Sound Editing Award Rules Committee.
  5. Final voting for the Sound Editing Award shall be restricted to active and life Academy members.

Special Rules for the Sound Mixing Award

  1. A reminder list of all eligible pictures shall be sent with a nominations ballot to all members of the Academy Sound Branch who shall vote in the order of their preference for not more than five productions.
  2. The five productions receiving the highest number of votes shall become the nominations for final voting for the Sound Mixing Award.
  3. The talents of the rerecording mixers on a panel (not to exceed three) and the production mixer will be judged as contributing equally to a soundtrack achievement. On an Official Data Record supplied by the Academy, the producer and the sound director shall designate the eligibility of the co-rerecording mixing collaborators (not to exceed three) who have contributed substantially to the final mix, and the production mixer (not to exceed one) for Academy Award purposes.
  4. In the event of a credits dispute, the nomination eligibility for the Sound Mixing Award shall be determined by the Sound Branch Executive Committee.
  5. Following a review of the Official Data Records, determination of nomination eligibility shall be the responsibility of the Academy, as provided in General Rule Two.
  6. The Theater Sound Inspection Committee shall inspect and approve the projection sound systems of the Academy’s theaters at least one week prior to the annual screening of nominated achievements. No changes may be made in the sound systems after final approval by the committee. Any production that deviates from the normal sound system, or requires modification of the system, must be approved by a majority of the committee before the final check of the system. Notification of such deviation or modification requirements must be submitted to the Academy at least three weeks in advance of the inspection and approval of the sound system. Any composite release print that plays on the normal projection sound system of the Academy’s theaters requires no special approval of the committee.
  7. Before screening films nominated for the Sound Mixing Award, representatives of the pictures to be shown may run a maximum of one A/B reel of their pictures to audition them. At the actual screenings, films will be run at the Academy Standard sound level.
  8. Final voting for the Sound Mixing Award shall be restricted to active and life Academy members.

Excerpt from The Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound, 4th edition by David Lewis Yewdall © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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