If you’ve watched the Academy Awards ceremony in any of the last, like, 25 years, you’ll no doubt remember the often belabored jokes-cum-explanation about the difference between Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing Oscars. Nobody watching at home can comprehend the difference, apparently. “Editing sound and mixing sound are different? Well, since I don’t know what words mean, I guess I’ll never understand.” But it was a yearly tradition at the televised ceremony to say, yes, these categories are separate, and no, you don’t really need to know why. And yet, for the 2021 Oscars, the Academy has created the single “Best Sound” category. Why?
To overly simplify: Sound Mixing largely involves recording and balancing sound on set, during production. Sound Editing is the process of after-the-fact editing the sound for picture, a post-production job. I think we can all understand the differences there. For years, the Oscars had merely a “Best Sound” award, meaning the on-set sound recording techniques; Best Sound Effects Editing came about later. In 2000 they changed it to Best Sound and Best Sound Editing; then in 2003 they added the “mixing” qualifier.
The decision was part of myriad announcements from the Academy 0n April 28, 2020 in response to the then-worsening COVID-19 pandemic and how it would impact the film industry for the year. The biggest push of this announcement was that movies that debuted on streaming services were eligible rather than the usual rule of at least a seven-day run in Los Angeles cinemas. (This has been a question for a while, given Netflix’s push for Oscar recognition. This year, naturally, the streamers have plenty of representation.)
Buried in the original
“It seems natural to me that sound has evolved into one category,” he says. Sylvester points out that the line between sound mixing and sound editing is so blurred these days, “I can’t tell when the sound was changed by one person or the other. By nature, the editors mix, and the mixers edit.”
So while, yes,
And let’s not also forget that just last year, the Oscars awarded
I’m not going to pretend I know the difference and intricacies between sound mixing and sound editing. I don’t have to, because I don’t do those jobs. But for 91 years, sound mixers and sound editors were recognized as the completely different functions and skillsets that they are, and now it’s a blanket “Best Sound;” we hear it, so it’s a sound. Why now, when they still clearly recognize the difference, have they decided to merge the categories? Who knows, but it definitely leaves a strange ringing in our ears.