TROY professor’s Universal workshop bringing film experience to students

A workshop designed by TROY professor Robert W. Smith brings movie-making experience to high school and college students at Universal.

A workshop designed by TROY professor Robert W. Smith brings movie-making experience to high school and college students at Universal.

A workshop designed by a Troy University professor is bringing hands-on movie making experience to high school and college students at Universal Orlando Resort.

Sound Design: Music and the Art of Foley is a workshop designed by Robert W. Smith, coordinator of TROY’s music industry program, and aimed at giving students around the country an opportunity to explore music and sound design in films.

“Universal Studios was looking for additional attractions, additional reasons for groups to come down to the Universal Orlando Resort,” Smith said. “They needed somebody who understood their business, understood movie production and the entertainment side of what they do, but also somebody who had their foot in the education door and would know what would appeal to musical groups, bands, choirs and orchestras.”

One of Smith’s former students who works with Universal suggested him as a potential resource.

What resulted was a workshop that gives visiting students a chance to score a movie from the ground up, complete with professional production and a full sound stage.

“It’s really an attraction, a reason for someone to come to Universal Orlando outside the normal entertainment,” Smith said. “I combined all parts of my life and all parts of what they do, and we created this sound design workshop. If you’re a band, choir or orchestra, you can go to Universal, take over a sound stage just as if you were in Los Angeles about to score a new movie.”

The program started three years ago, and so far Smith has given students three films to work on – the original silent “Frankenstein” film, “Despicable Me,” and “The Lorax.”

The groups arrive at the studio, choose their film, then go into a sound stage with a full video production crew, professional audio engineering crew and a producer in the room.

“These kids can walk in the room and know what it’s like to be a working musician in the movie industry,” Smith said. “They record the soundtrack, and they have to record it to a very specific tempo so that everything will sync to the action on the screen. Once they’re done with that, they get into the sound design – sound effects, everything from the closing of a steel door in Frankenstein’s dungeon to a firefly that’s buzzing through the air in ‘The Lorax. They get to actually be sound designers.”

The students even cast in roles for automatic dialogue replacement, a system of re-recording dialogue by the original actors.

When the workshop ends, a professional production team edits the film and sends the group links to a version of the film with their sound included, along with all their names added to the credits.

Smith said the workshop has grown in popularity each year since it was enacted, and future plans include adding “Jurassic Park” and “King Kong” options.

Schools interested in participating in the workshop can find out more through Universal Orlando Youth Programs.