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The Sound of Cinema: Daniel Hernandez

We “watch” movies and television shows. That simple statement reveals the fact that we often overlook the other senses which transfix us when enjoying the stories presented to us through these mediums. Sound engineer and musician Daniel Hernandez takes no offense to this; partially because it’s the norm and partially because the lack of direct attention to the sounds he is in charge of means that he is performing his work at the highest level. When you expect to “hear” the story and don’t notice anything, this is proof that it is done exceptionally well. The sound of these productions is essential and yet unassuming. This belies the varied and often challenging nature of the work that Daniel does for the films which populate his resume. From dark comedy to heart-breaking drama, “seeing” a film with your ears is a required complement to what you watch.

In the music world, an engineer is on the opposite side of the production equation. An accomplished musician in his own right, Hernandez has found that his musical ear and experiences have made him a much better professional in his film career. As sound engineer for Director Leonardo Foti’s In Vino, Daniel needed to contend with a large cast including Sean Young (of the Oscar Nominated Blade Runner, No Way Out, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dune), Edward Asner (five time Golden Globe winner known for Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning film JFK and the Mary Tyler Moore show), Candice Azzara (of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nominated film Catch Me If You Can and Warner Bros. Ocean’s Twelve), and Jennifer Candy (daughter of legendary Canadian actor John Candy). Hernandez describes, “During some production days, the cast would be up to twelve characters on camera. With twelve lavaliers to take care of and track down, plus a couple more microphones, you end up with a perfect scenario for a catastrophe. It’s work that demands a lot of attention to detail. The ear training I have as a musician is particularly helpful in situations like this. Being able to individually analyse one instrument among many that are being played at the same time helps a lot when you are recording many actors in one scene, all with different tones, timber, and dynamics.” This film about a dinner party which turns into a deadly free-for-all when the hostess explains that she has poisoned everyone in the room, providing the antidote only for those who are willing to kill another guest, received numerous nominations and awards from the Hollywood Film Festival (Best Comedy Feature) and the Arpa International Film Festival (Best Screenplay).

Daniel confirms that his role is not always that of procuring the proper sounds but sometimes rather in resurrecting or saving the sounds, and thereby the film itself. Director Camila Rizzo was in a precarious situation; her film My Two O’clock was complete and exceptional except for the less than desirable sound quality. Starring Nick Larice and Henry Mark (of Golden Globe winning ABC TV series Grey’s Anatomy), the plot is built around mind games. The dialogue and peripheral sounds are paramount in transferring feelings of anxiety and surrealism. Daniel was called in as a fixer to raise the film to its ultimate potential. He explains, “This film is the perfect example of a great movie that could’ve been ruined by not treating the sound properly. The material was there but it was noisy and it required some real help; something more than simply applying a few audio plug-ins from video editing software. After cleaning the dialog by using different plug-ins in Protools, I got to play with different psychological tones that come in and out throughout the movie. Using dissonant room tones, and sonic tools like the clock sounds, modified by adding some delays and other time base effects and modulations, I managed to enhance the tension of the scene and the psychological mind game of the script.”

Daniel took a very different emotional approach for Lia Chapman’s In My Mother’s Arms. This painful tale of a woman named Angel (played by Chapman) dealing with issues at the bedside of her mother who has fallen into a coma also stars award-winning actor Joaquim de Almeida- (of Oscar nominated film Clear and Present Danger, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, etc.) as Salvador. From her trepedatious breathing as she enters the hospital room to Angel’s monologue arguments with her incapacitated mother, the range of sounds is delicately handled by this sound engineer. He injects, “Silence is a very powerful tool and there are different ways to approach it. In this movie there were moments where the acting didn’t need dialogue. There were many intimate moments in this film and I wanted to respect them. For example, when we see Angel crying in the bathroom after arguing with her husband Salvador, we could feel the solitude and suffering of Angela simply by hearing her weeping and nothing else. In these moments that’s all you need to give to the sound a more subjective point of view.” While he is helping us understand how the characters feel in these productions, Daniel Hernandez notes that working on these films also prompts him to analyze his own life. He truly “hears” every lesson which each film teaches.

Author: Kelly King
The Sound of Cinema: Daniel Hernandez Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:23:00 AM Rating: 5
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