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The sound somewhere between China and Hollywood of 'The Shanghai Job'
China's film industry works with Hollywood talent in the upcoming blockbuster film "The Shanghai Job" (aka SMART Chase) starring Orlando Bloom.

(By Luigi Paglia) Identifying the world by sound is something that Wenrui Fan (aka Sam F) has built his career upon. As a sound editor for feature films and documentaries, he is tasked with assisting the audience in losing themselves in the stories they watch; creating layers to a sonic atmosphere which support the visage of said story.

Sam served as sound editor on the Bliss Media production SMART Chase which has already premiered in China and is set for release in the US under the title The Shanghai Job. Starring Orlando Bloom and a number of household names of the Chinese film industry, the film allowed Sam to flex all of his "action film sound muscles" and induce the energy the story aspired to achieve. In addition, this production also afforded him the ability to present one of his favorite cities, Shanghai, and communicate the authenticity of this location known for its energy. While The Shanghai Job is a truly Chinese production, the number of Hollywood film professionals working behind the scenes gives further evidence to the excellence of the productions coming out of its own film community.

Orlando Bloom plays Danny Stratton, a washed-up private security agent given the rare opportunity to escort a valuable Chinese antique vase out of Shanghai. His team is ambushed en route and with the safety of the woman he loves in jeopardy, Danny must work with his Security Management Action Recovery Team members to save her. A conspiracy begins to unravel and the layers of intrigue and suspense in this story reveal a complex plan set in the backdrop of Shanghai.

The Shanghai Job is an action film and contains all of the car chases and fight scenes for which the genre is known. Because the score for a film such as this is so prominent, Sam needed to make sure he complemented the music with his work rather than overpowered it. He confirms that each fist punch, car engine, subway train, and the like are built up from different layers and multiple frequencies. The low-end, mid-range, and high frequency sounds combine together into a full and rich sounding effect that is custom designed to deliver impact without overpowering the dialogue that is the center of the story. Placing a sound is a job anyone can do but expertly fashioning one to perfectly placing it to blend with the other story elements requires talent and knowledge.

While much of his work can be manifested in the studio, some things simply cannot be recreated. Sam felt so strongly about the location setting of The Shanghai Job that he used a personal touch to display it.

He describes, "I've always believed that everyplace has a unique sound scape. Even though many of the elements in a big city are the same, the small differences really communicate something. As a person who grew up in Beijing, Shanghai was always a fancy place to me. It's a good mix of the traditional and new technology. I always bring a portable recorder with me whenever I travel to a new city or country. In the same way that most people like to take photos, I take sound pictures. Sometimes the elements are the same but you still can hear the little differences, certain details that are unique and only exist in a specific place. You can never know if the next project you work on will need some special sound effect but when you have a self-produced/custom-designed large sound library, the chance that you'll have the specific sounds needed is much higher. I've visited Shanghai a few times so I could create the authenticity that lent itself well to The Shanghai Job. Shanghai's dialect is one of the most difficult and unique accents among all the those in Mandarin. It's also a really modern city with nonstop traffics and busy life. The subway sound we used in the film was one that I recorded in 2012. It fit perfectly for the picture even five years after I recorded it."

The subway scene is a prime example of Sam's attention to the minutia of his work. The passenger sounds, the subway sound itself, the public announcement for the station, the rail way clank, even the outside traffic when the subway is on the ground; all of these ingredients contain the true elements of Shanghai and allow the viewer to immerse themselves in the moment, regardless of whether they have ever been to this city or not. While many of these can be reproduced or manufactured with software, microphones, and actors, the reality which Sam manifests is undeniable. Sam's involvement in The Shanghai Job saw him working in conjunction with a number of notable Hollywood professionals, including Oscar-nominated supervising sound editor Kami Asgar and three times Oscar winner re-recording mixer Mike Minkler.

As the US and Chinese film industries grow closer together, collaboration between the two is expanding the audience size and allowing professionals from these two countries to work together on films such as The Shanghai Job. Modern technology allowed for a staggering twenty-minute turnaround time for mix and edit sessions to travel the thousands of miles between LA and Shanghai. It's been less than a decade since Sam's time at the Beijing Film Academy and the change he has seen in this brief time is staggering even to him.

He relates, "In late 70s' China started to reform and open up. Western culture has taken root in aspects of Chinese life. The entertainment industry has grown incredibly fast. People love film in China and it has become an important part of their lives. I can see the younger generation becoming very inspired and travelling abroad to study filmmaking. The film industry in China has exploded over the past thirty years or so and I think this will increase exponentially. The Shanghai Job is another example of how the professionals in front of the camera and behind the scenes are working together all for the love of film. My inclusion among them is a great source of happiness for my professional and personal life."

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