Submit :
News                      Photos                     Just In                     Debate Topic                     Latest News                    Articles                    Local News                    Blog Posts                     Pictures                    Reviews                    Recipes                    
Xiao Hou explores the sonic depth of 'Our Rose Garden'
Sound designer Hou created the perfect emotional sounds to pair with the difficult story in this acclaimed film.

Listening to Sound Designer Xiao Hou speak about his work makes him sound like a private investigator of auditory clues. His constant enthusiasm concerning the effect of what might seem mundane and its ability to direct the perspective of an audience is infectious.

Hou is microscopically discerning when it comes to his work; viewing scenes countless times to assess what belongs, what doesn't belong, and creating what is needed if not present. When Justin and Maria Storrs (co-founders of Storrs Productions) received his pitch for their film Our Rose Garden, the attention to subtle detail was remarkable. Justin declares, "In my career I have worked with sound designers of all backgrounds and talented levels; Xiao is absolutely one of the most exceptionally talented." While the actors on screen are directly displaying the emotion for the audience, their sonic costars of Our Rose Garden are enhancing and maneuvering to assist this goal. Xiao finds the process of matching the sound "emotionally" to be the most challenging and most gratifying part of his work.

Our Rose Garden is the story of two couples: one struggling against infidelity and the other fighting mental illness. The film's twist ending is only a part of what garnered it such recognitions as Best Short Film Finalist at the Love International Film Festival and Great Lakes Christian Film Festival, Honorable Mention (for Best Short Film) at the International Christian Film and Music Festival, and others including the Bronze Remi Award at WORLDFEST [Houston International Film and Video Festival]. The film covers a difficult and pervasive occurrence with the message that true love is more than a feeling: it's a choice that requires heroic forgiveness and fidelity. Storrs Productions took great care with every minute detail to transmit the message of the film, as recurringly proven by the sounds found in this tale.

The approach for sound design in this film was to make it rich but not obtrusive. We often have a heightened state of sensitivity in stressful situations; Xiao used this in the film. Rather than creating sounds that were dominating, the idea was to direct our attention to everyday things in what seems to be an altered mode of emphatic awareness. The subtlety of this demanded creativity and immense focus on Hou's part. When director Ligia Maria Storrs Rojas requested a ceiling fan that was almost exclusively the sound of air (rather than the normal mechanical parts in union with the air) during the pivotal seen in which Gabby discovers her boyfriend Mark cheating with another woman, Xiao combined the appropriate sounds of multiple fans (along with a pitch shift plug-in called Vari-Fi) to achieve the proper quality. In another scene, Old Gabby is seen hiding in the bathtub while water is dripping because she heard a "demon voice" inside her mind. When Mark comes in and shuts the water off, the water slowly makes its way down the drain and continues to make a path down the pipes that is quite sustained. Xiao had the sound mixer on set mic the pipes separately in multiple places, allowing him to manipulate the sounds in post-production to match the emotion and movement of the actors. While not comprised of bombastic percussion and massive frequency range variations, the effect of these commonly peripheral sounds are immense in effecting the tone of the scene because of the work Hou has done with them.

While he doesn't refuse the utilization of sound libraries, Xiao is more often a fan of creating each film's unique sonic fingerprint. He relates, "When you search for a sound in a sound library you should never use the first sound that pops up in the finder. You have to listen each of them and search for the right one that matches or helps create that soundscape that you want to create. Personally, I like the creativity involved in sound design from a personal source of inspiration. It's one of the reasons I enjoy Foley so much. For example, I've used a contact mic taped on boots while recording footsteps to give me a very solid and short thump. While doing this, little details are picked up, like when metal tips on shoes laces hit the boots; resulting in a very unique Foley sound effect. Sometimes it's easier and less time consuming to just look for what you want in a sound library but I think it's imperative for a sound designer to match the emotional tone of THAT specific film. You want to match THAT picture, match THAT time period of the movie, or even attribute unique elements to each characters in that unique story. Unfortunately, not a lot of movies have a budget to do Foley work or Field recording in order to make a unique "sound palette" for their film but I always encourage my clients to set aside the budget and time to do Foley work for their film. It makes a huge difference on the final product."

More than perhaps any aspect of filmmaking, it's important for all the professionals creating a film to understand the tone and message of the film. In other words, "what we are saying and how we are saying it" are essential to making a cohesive story. Our Rose Garden is about forgiveness and love; a universal language people can find themselves relating to. In the difficult scenario at the heart of this film, Xiao states that the message of love and redemption is something which he feels we all could measure as a counter balance to the negativity and hate speech which gets so much attention in current times. 

Email Id
Verification Code
Email me on reply to my comment
Email me when other CJs comment on this article
Sign in to set your preference
merinews for RTI activists

Not finding what you are looking for? Search here.