Working with sounds is working with something invisible. Not like the video footage where you can see which angle or color of each clip, we only have a line of waveform to ‘see’ every audio file. Clueless, as someone might say about the job of sound editing. And it was also how I started my journey as a sound editor.
When I finished high school, unfortunately there was no school or college that taught audio engineering/music production formally in Vietnam, the only way to learn was to take a no-pay job at some local studio and to learn while working, or to study abroad. I couldn’t afford it at the moment so I spent my whole savings for a computer and an audio interface and started making music at home while taking a job as a cook’s assistant and shipper to support the family. Then I applied to Digipost as an intern and started learning from the people here.
My first big project was sound mixing for Surviving Borneo, a 6-episode Discovery documentary series. It was after I’ve just finished my internship and I totally freaked out with the workload and precision needed for an international standard TV series. Unfortunately, my supervisor had family issues at that exact moment and had to fly back to his country. Alone in the Audio Room, I felt the stress creeping up my body, I felt clueless, indeed.
Then I decided this was the chance to prove myself and to learn as much as I could with a short deadline. It was like your intensive learning the night before an exam. While mixing the sound, I opened millions of tutorials to learn new techniques and dived into previous project files to learn the way seniors had done. Also, because Surviving Borneo was an incredibly good show, I binge-watched it a bit too much (thanks to the job for letting me watch good series before the whole world!). My head at that moment was flooded with information. I realized most of the time, out of habit, we applied a commercial sound mixing technique to the products. But with this Discovery series, I treated it with a documentary movie mindset. And it came out nicely (Episode 5 was my most proud episode, go watch it!). Despite being stressful, working on the series was a pleasure. And eventually, I learned so much more than I set my goals for.
In the end of the day, good sound editing is the one that the audience do not even realize while watching movies. Like Billy Fox said: “When you do your job well, the audience is totally in the moment and totally in the story, and never notices your work at all”. It is always something you can feel but you cannot see. Nowhere near being perfect, but I am on my way to polishing my craft – the job of creating the invisible.
Thanks Duy Dao, who started out at Digipost for more than one year and later joined our team when Digipost became our integrated partner, for contributing this article.