Oct 19: Kenneth Hall

Associate Professor

Ken Wannberg Endowed Chair in Music Editing

Kenneth Hall has edited and completed over 950 films and TV productions. He has been associated with several Oscar-winning and nominated pictures including: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Amityville Horror, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Patton, Under Fire, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Basic Instinct, L.A. Confidential and Mulan.

Hall received two Gold Records for E.T and Mulan and was nominated for the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award for First Knight, L.A. Confidential, Executive Decision, Mr. Baseball, The Ghost & the Darkness, Star Trek: First Contact and Mulan.

Hall has worked with some of the most respected and talented film composers in the world including: John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, Henry Mancini, John Barry, Bill Conti, Maurice Jarre, Lalo Schifrin, Marvin Hamlisch, Lionel Newman and Miklos Rozsa. When time permits, Hall continues to work in the industry.


40 comments on “Oct 19: Kenneth Hall

  1. Fantastic seminar, it was truly a pleasure to have such an accomplished industry professional talk to us about the use of music and sound effects. Bringing guests from other departments within USC is always a good idea but this one was particularly important seeing how most of us will work with a composer during our time here. Helping us gain an understanding of the process is vital and I thank Ken for taking the time to share his experiences with us. Seeing the mind-bending artwork of Mulan on the big screen was a big plus too.

  2. Ryan Gillis says:

    I know a lot of times I enter into seminar pretty tired, but Ken was so excited about his work, and about our future work, it was infectious.
    It didn’t take him long to paint a picture in my mind of collaborating with a composer and redefining the tone of an animation. I very much look forward to finding a like-minded film-maker who can help bring something to fruition.
    Animation seems to me like such a personal thing, the burden of creation falls totally on the animator, especially at this stage in our careers. I often have trouble trusting other image-makers, and knock heads with collaborators. But I’m just becoming aware of how much of a movie is audio, and how much it can change the momentum and tone, so collaborating with a musician seems like it would be incredibly interesting AND a huge relief.

  3. Ruthie says:

    Tonight we got to hear from Kenny Hall, a film composer and professor from the USC Sound Department. He introduced us to all the things sound and music can do for our films including how it can aid or contradict the action or emotion being portrayed onscreen and reveal components of the setting like location and era. For animators, the way sound is utilized is even more creative than in a live production because we essentially start from silence. we have the range of choosing off-the-wall effects for comic value like in classic Looney Tunes cartoons, or to use a beautiful motif to assist in getting the emotion of our character to envelop the audience, as we saw in the portion of Up that was screened. Despite the quality and detail of the animation, I don’t know if so many people would cry during the opening 11 minutes if there was no sound. Likewise, I don’t know if Mulan would kick as much ass without her horn section. I am really looking forward to the chance to work with a composer on my films!

  4. Amy Ketchum says:

    It was refreshing to have a guest speaker at seminar who believes in making a great picture that works as a whole. Too often there seem to be competing egos that prevent a picture from being all that it can be. I have had a great previous experience with the Sound for Motion Picture and Television department and hope to have more in the future.

  5. Tristan Dyer says:

    During Ken Hall’s presentation it was nice to hear him talk about composers and directors fighting with each other, fights over musical choices because both people were passionate about what is going to make the film better. For me, music and sound turns a movie into an experience. Ken had great things to say as well about keeping the motif simple, this way it would be memorable.

  6. Nesli Erten says:

    George Lucas postulated that sound was fifty percent of the movie-going experience and to that end, a generation of audio professionals began to see themselves as more than just technicians. Professor Kenneth Hall witnessed the evolution of sound first hand, and in many ways helped pave the way for his successors over the course of his oscar-winning career. He lectured on the process of pulling apart production sound and putting it back together where designers and editors come together to underscore story points and further the filmmaking process. Success as such is contingent upon cooperative communication between animator and sound editor/composer. Like Jack Dubowsky notes in his article, “The Evolving ‘Temp Score’ in Animation,” ‘Access’ and ‘director time’ are valuable commodities within the filmmaking process. Proximity to the director affect the evolution of the music used in a feature animated film; or, more practically, student production films. This is particularly relevant to the movie “Up,” during an eleven minute intro in which music was used as a medium to evoke powerful emotions upon its’ viewers.

    Today most animated feature films take several years to fully develop, animate, and edit. Thus, temp music is used from the earliest seeds of an idea. Although not much was mentioned about temp music during the lecture, it would be a mistake to under estimate the importance it has in the animation production process. Temp music is used for pitches, “inspiration reels” all the way through the editing process until final-lock.* Dubowsky points out that “changes in the film mandate changes in temp music assembled for the picture.“ Temp scores evolve dynamically as the picture develops from concept to final inception, until the final composer receives it as a guide. “This carefully vetted temp track,” argues Dubowsky, “results in a precise guide for the composer that can be seen to diminish creative opportunity, since decisions regarding spotting, mood and trope selection are made by others; however, it is not practical for the final composer to endure years of working through rough cuts.“It would have been interesting to hear Professor Hall’s insight on the difference and obstacles imposed on the musician when working on an animated feature as opposed to a live action feature. Perhaps the aforementioned topic is worth discussing next time he comes to visit. A big thanks to Professor Hall for the inspirational opportunity to analyze sound in a different tone.

    *Jack Curtis Dubowsky, “The Evolving ‘Temp Score’ in Animation,” MSMI, 5:1 Spring 11

  7. Lisa Chung says:

    The key thing that I picked up from Ken Hall’s lecture was the word “Emotion.” We should feel it and speak it when conveying the type of music we want for our film to our composer. I loved his tip about collecting clips of existing music to further establish that mood for ourselves and others. I knew music played an important role but after Ken’s seminar I am much more aware of it’s emotional impact and limited but effective music notes. The examples he brought to class such as “Up” and “Mulan” really hit home his lecture on emotion. The fact that that many of us were teary eyed after watching the opening of Up illustrates the power of music in a film. As a person who usually leaves music until post, I should really consider it as a start process and she how my story, concept and technique develops. Thanks Ken for being such a fun and informative speaker!

  8. One of the most difficult things for me to do is to relate to a music composer because I don’t have the knowledge or technical skills to communicate with them in the same level. This makes me feel uneasy and concerns me a lot because I do know how important music and sound are in communicating ideas through animation, at least the kind of animation I want to produce.

    The lecture by Kenneth Hall was important for me because he gave very valuable information on how to assume this challenge and make the most out of the audio & visual relation of an animation project.

    With a very enthusiastic approach he showed us the minutia of creating a piece like the one on UP and a big intricate piece like the one on Mulan. Which by the way, I’ve never got to see in a big screen and looked bright, colorful and awesome.

    I’ve had some experience with musicians before but I have never beet really satisfied with my performance when interacting with them. I’m looking forward to begin working with them here, on this graduate setting. And I’m very thankful that we have the guidance of Mr. Hall so near.

  9. Lanzhu Jian says:

    That is really wonderful we met Mr.Kenny Hall last week, During his speech I understand how important music score is to a film. For example, The music from UP and MULAN are extremely amazing and natural and I m totally drawn into the story, I laugh and cry together with the character in the movie. How come movies has such power?? After listening to Mr. Kenny, I notice that a great part of the emotion I gain while watching the movie were bought from music. and music had this power to lead the emotion of audience.
    It is so hard to imagine nowadays a movie without sound and music. How we can use this powerful weapon in our movie and get closer the relationship between the director and the audience? I can’t wait to working with music composer and let’s rock people!!

  10. Linda Jules says:

    Last week’s seminar was a great one. Most discussions about sound are either too technical or too drawn out. Kenny was clear, exciting, and very well aware of his audience. I have always found sound to be the most challenging component of film making. Kenny’s break down of sound elements as they relate to cinema was truly enlightening. Kenny’s explanation of the four notes in Up took a seemingly complicated soundtrack and broke it down. Hearing him list out the elements really gave me a boost of confidence to try to approach my composer with a greater understanding than I thought possible.

  11. Rachel Jaffe says:

    From his undeniably effervescent personality to his spectacularly well-versed display of enthusiasm, Kenny Hall broached an occasionally dazzling smorgasbord of subjects — spanning the conversational (and cinematic) gamut from behind-the-scenes anecdotes to faux-musical jargon.  Though his stories were undoubtedly engaging and his advice helpful, a less rehearsed approach might have imbued a bit of liveliness to his presentation, which veered wildly in tone and was neither pedantic enough to succeed as a footnote-littered lecture nor industry-centric enough to serve as a how-to for amateur animator-scorers.  

    In any case, though, the nearly infectious degree of ardor that Kenny still holds for his chosen field is genuinely amazing — and I can’t help but envy him for it.  Thank you, Kenny, for deigning to address our seminar last Wednesday — your undying zeal for editing sound has definitely renewed my interest in working on my thesis soundtrack!

  12. Andrew Malek says:

    I had a nice time during Kenneth Hall’s presentation, it was really nice to watch some classic successful films and actually just focus on the sound elements. It is amazing how much of the touching moments in film are dictated by the soundtrack and at the same time it is something that we probably talk about the least in animation.
    Kenneth’s advice was also quite helpful such as talking to a composer on an emotional level in contrast to a technical level to get the right kind of results.
    Finally I was intrigued by Kenneth’s life story, he appears to be a very interesting man with a lot of interesting anecdotes and experiences regarding the industry. I can’t wait to work with more sound.

  13. Di Gu says:

    From Professor Kenneth Hall’s lecture, I was shocked by the function of sound in the movie once again. I just saw my classmates sat beside me cried a lot because of the section of UP. I also was great touched by it, and I think almost fifty percent credit must go to the music. The truly great music is kind of tricky. It is not only fit the film itself, but also need to touch audience’s heart. And I admire sound workers, the business they work on is kind of work behind the scenes, when did a great job, it wouldn’t reveal itself, but sometimes it’s inappropriate, it will be very clearly.

  14. Emily Chung says:

    I had a really emotional time during Kenneth Hall’s presentation. The biggest reason must because he plays the movie “up” during the class. It was the only time I drop tears in a class. I bought the up DVD long time ago but I never watch it. When I apply the USC animation program I actually wrote lots of thing about “UP” in my personal statement. Because this is the movie that make me decided to apply the animation graduate school. What I think it is amazing about this movie is because the movie totally touch my hart but without using any word and dialogues. That’s the power of the animation. After finish the lecture by Kenneth Hall makes me also realize, not only the animation makes “up” so great but also the music has play a really big part of it.

  15. Larry Lai says:

    Animation cannot do without sound and music! Music suggests the emotion, the atmosphere or the attitude of a film. When you’re listening to the soundtrack, a sequence of images may come out in your mind—you’re recalling what has happened in the film. Most of the time, music help the film tell the story. Music creates anticipation of the characters’ performance, strengthen their personality, and lead the audience to be ready for the next scene (function of transition). In my opinion, music is the soul of film and animation. The goal is: our creations satisfy not only the viewers’ eyes but also their minds.

  16. Hall is quite an accomplished professional. I am largely unaware of the audio side of film making so learning about that side in film making in general was quite an accomplishment. I was interested in how Hall thought sound related to animation. I like the reference he made animation as a blank canvas. That is of course generally true. I would have liked to hear more from Hall about how animation and sound relate specifically. The examples he showed are of course quite remarkable, however, I would have loved a greater discussion of the impact and development of music in the films.

    I loved the anecdotes that Hall shared too. I am interested in stories about the production of various films that have historical value. I appreciated Hall’s presentation and enjoyed his stories greatly.

  17. Joseph Yeh says:

    Lets get down to business to create the greatest animations in the world! I’ve probably watched the “I’ll make a man out of you” scene a ton of times over my life time and it has inspired me to do great things. And now with Kenneth’s presentation, the song comes back to inspire me even more. I will be swift as the coursing river with my in-betweens! I feel the force of the great typhoon flowing in my overshoots! With all the strength of the raging fire I will commit my heart and soul to animation. My content must be mysterious as the dark side of the MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!

    Ah… the power of music is so great; now I realize this even more with Kenneth’s great words. I found it so interesting when he said that a composer speaks with emotions because in acting, an actor’s language is based on actions and not emotion. There is so much more heart to a great story that is accompanied by a great score. They say that it is actually better to be blind than deaf because it becomes harder to communicate when you are blind (although as an artist I would much rather have my eyes).
    Another main point that Kenneth had was the fact that with your films “the audience has never seen it”. What an eye opener! Understanding the individual’s perspective is so important and when you fail to realize that your audience has not seen you can go down the wrong path in terms of content. Keeping this idea in mind will keep your work on its toes.

  18. Dan Wilson says:

    I’ve been told many many times that sound is half the film. Last week, I happened to do a research project and presentation on Kenneth Anger. Throughout his career, Anger constantly updates and otherwise changes his previous films, sometimes after decades of leaving them untouched or even unreleased. I was struck by one film in particular — Rabbit’s Moon — which used pop songs from the era as the soundtrack. Though both films are composed of the same images, the two versions with different soundtracks feel like entirely different films.

    It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the soundtrack and especially music when we’re all working on our own personal films during school. I always want to charge forward and remain nimble in my projects; I don’t want to spend too much time in pre-production before I attack the core of my film. So far, it has been too difficult to lock the timing and editing in my films early enough to find and collaborate with a composer. Luckily we get three semesters and a summer to work on our thesis projects: I’m very excited to have the time to work with a composer on creating the perfect feeling and mood for my film.

  19. LaMar Ford says:

    It’s great to hear Kenny Hall’s presentation of his work. Music plays a vital role in films, and Hall’s point is true when we watched Pixar’s Up and Disney’s Mulan. The montage at the beginning of Up is very emotional and gets me every time because of Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score. It’s cool to hear the stories of him working with some of my favorite composers, Lalo Schifrin, Jerry Goldsmith, and John Williams.

    I loved editing my projects at Xavier because I get see the movie come together and I get to experiment with sound editing and mixing. There is a lot you can do with sound and music, and they occasionally helped my edits.

  20. Jovanna says:

    This week’s seminar was hosted by the composer and School of Cinematic Arts professor Kenneth Hall. His introduction described the relationship between sound and image. The power of sound in a film can dramatically shift the quality of the film. Composer and sound designer manipulate the image with sound to invoke an emotion.

    The clips from Mulan and Up screened in class exemplified this relationship. In the film Up, Carl and Ellie’s story is accompanied by a variation of melody and tempo. Their life is introduced by a orchestra of string, woodwind, and brass instruments, played brightly and in the major scale. A single piano follows the emotional narrative of the two character. The piano’s tempo slows down as the couple resolves that they cannot conceive children. Speeding back up as their life goals change to travel and adventure.

    This is a strong example how the non-visual elements can influence the feeling, mood, and story of a film. The piano comes in again when Ellie is hospitalized in her old age. We never see Ellie die, but the piano continues slowly at a grave tempo through Ellie’s wake. Playing in the minor scale, the piano resolving finally on a diminished cord. Carl walks up his steps alone to meet a dark house.

  21. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    the music Kenny Hall made for Up so simple but so heart moving, I love it.

  22. I’ve always enjoyed good music and sound with my movies. I experienced a slew of scores of different kinds, all with different types of sensations and levels of effectiveness. As a music composer myself, the task of doing something like scoring for a film at bare minimum seemed daunting and at absolute worst felt outright terrifying. But Prof. Hall managed to explain the process in such a straightforward way that it greatly cleared up a lot of the fog that I had about how music for films comes into existence. His enthusiasm and well-scored lecture gave me deeper appreciation for what good music and the USC scoring program can bring to a project and I’m eager to take advantage of that once again. I’ll definitely be adding one more layer to the way that I enjoy and analyze movies going forward. Thanks Prof. Hall.

  23. Simo Liu says:

    For me, music is one of the indispensable parts in my life, as well as animation. It has strong power and infectivity to make people resonate. “UP” is one of my favorite Pixar animations. When I saw it again in this week’s seminar, I couldn’t stop crying. The part choosed by Kenneth Hall , is my favorite part. Pixar uses a smart way, a piece of music, to show the emotional experience of the hero. If we only see the pictures, it may be taken more long time to deal with it. But, music makes it different. It can change with the changes of storyline and make the film consecutively and completely. Besides, the perfect combination of music and animation will strengthen the environment and atmosphere of the whole film. Most important, music is a way to express emotion and feeling. It will help the heroes emphasize their emotion and it also makes the audience produce the responses. It can be sad, moving and hating. Wonderful music will make senses to the animation.

    I love music very much. My dream is to create my own music to combine it with my animation. Maybe I will sing songs or compose music by myself. Even if I haven’t learn something about composing music, I am really interested in it and want to learn more about it and try to do it. It must be fantastic!

  24. Eric Tortora Pato says:

    Sorry I’m a tadbit late on this week’s comment, I’m a bit discombobulated with a couple of festival deadlines coming up. Not meant to be an excuse, just an explanation. Anyways, I really enjoyed Ken’s demonstration to us last week. As a lover of sound and musician myself, I find that they are often the most overlooked sections of our audiovisual medium. It happens that UP is one of my favorite scores, so he was definitely starting off on the right page. However, the most important piece of advice he had for us was that simple idea that the best score is not the best piece of stand alone music, but the piece that best accents and enhances the film as a whole. A great, great example of that is, in my opinion, the Psycho score. Those strings really do nothing but irritate me on their own, but paired with Hitchcock’s iconic imagery, they create a nigh unmatched zenith of tension. It’s something we always have to remember.

  25. LIE says:

    It was truly a pleasure to hear Kenneth Hall speak in seminar. His guidelines are incredibly helpful, and his powerful and positive energy was contagious! It was inspiring to hear from someone within our own school who is such a resource. Kenneth Hall’s talk helped illuminate the ways picture and music can work together in filmmaking. He broke everything down in an understandable and interesting manner – it was a great seminar!

  26. Javier Barboza says:

    Ken had some grate points in sound for film. What he said puts it well emotional tones of the film. Also had he broke down the 5 points of sound for film, Dialogue, hard FX, Foley BG and music. Grate seminar, one of my favorites.

  27. Louis Morton says:

    Mr. Hall’s seminar served as a great reminder of the fantastic resources available to us at USC, in all aspects of film-making. In our classes we are encouraged to work with composers from the start of a film, and to have the sound develop in an organic process with the visuals. Hearing Mr. Hall’s lecture and watching the examples he shared, especially the intro to Up, illustrated the fact that sound must be thought of from the start of making a film. Since there is no dialogue in Up, the music becomes the voice, and the story is told and characters develop just as much with the audio as with the visuals. It’s interesting to think of the countless youtube remixes of cartoons, where different sound is added and a completely different mood is invoked (the David Lynch Goofie Movie comes to mind). Thanks Mr. Hall for sharing some great examples and inspiring me to really consider sound on equal groundings with visuals when it comes thesis time.

  28. Miguel Jiron says:

    I always like it when sound and music are emphasized and underlined here at USC, as it’s the easiest way to separate professional films with amateur films. So often marginalized and shuffled as an afterthought, sound is so crucial to film, especially animation. In animation, the artist and filmmakers are creating a whole world from scratch, and it’s easy to get obsessed with visuals. But since the animator is creating this whole world within his/her mind, sound is a crucial element that will sell the authenticity and immersion into animation. Getting sound and music into my animation is possibly my favorite part of the process, and it was great to see Mr Hall’s enthusiasm about this same idea.

  29. Cecilia De Jesus says:

    Kenneth Hall had such a wonderful enthusiasm and insight about music and its role in film. I loved how he talked about a very simple 4 note theme can be so incredibly powerful and moving. I think this line of thinking is very important in any art form. To boil something down to its beautiful, simple essence and then riff on that point to make something more dynamic and deep. This of course was illustrated very well through his example of “UP”. I’ve always taken an interest in music scoring so it was a great treat to hear more about it from a professional level. After all, sound really is half of the film.

  30. Brandon Lake says:

    It was great to hear from an industry professional outside of the normal animation track. We all will at some point be using a composer in out projects, if we haven’t already, and it’s interesting to get their point of view on the matter. As i realized when I was doing my production one, sometimes an animator can get lost in their own world and gloss over things like music. It’s not until we see someone who has focused on a path, that we truly see the advantages of using outside help.

  31. Chen Huang says:

    It is a good opportunity to hear Kenny Hall’s presentation as a music composer.
    Music and sound is very important in films and animation….
    I feel lucky that I am in USC where I can find amazing composers..
    I am super excited about the music composers make for my films every time.

  32. A.W. Gammill says:

    Mr. Hall was a great speaker with many great anecdotes and an engaging way of speaking. Of course, the highlight for me was getting to watch clips from “Mulan,” which is just a wonderful movie. However, thanks to Mr. Hall, I was able to think about sound in ways that I normally don’t. I tend to think of the music in Disney movies just in terms of what they say about the character, usually via the words they say. Mr. Hall’s discussion of music helped me to appreciate how the music beneath the words–the score, even the instruments selected to produce it–can say just as much about a character and the world they inhabit. I really appreciate Mr. Hall’s dedication to his craft and the enthusiasm he brings when discussing it.

  33. Robert Calcagno says:

    Besides my extraordinary late entry to this man, it was due to my own personal incompetence than the nature of the seminar in question. If anything, I was quite taken back and confirmed in my admiration in the kindredship of music and animation. The scenes that were present demonstrated that point admirably.

    Mulan’s music was very cultural but modern in his emotional variety; in fact, the music can be very 1980s-esque in how it wears its music on its shoulders, not hiding from the fact that “yes, you’re supposed to feel something right now”. While not one of my personal favorite Disney scores, its emotional simplicity is what has allowed it to be loved by so many people, in particular various girls and women that can sympathize with Mulan’s struggle for acceptance and honor.

    The scene that always ALWAYS gets to me though is the opening eight minutes of Up. Pixar’s always been a master of emotional quality and it’s been helped greatly by the composers they choose, be it the serene and ethereal symphonies of Thomas Newman or the wildly versatile music of Michael Giacchio, who’s also had amazing scores for The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

    Just the music and the story is illustrated so flawlessly, not to mention my own personal feelings regarding the passing of my own grandparents, it’s just an incredible scene every time I see it.

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