A picture may be worth a thousand words but sound is far more powerful in its ability to transport us to an exact emotional moment. Vera Tin has long been aware of this and it has led her to a career as a sound designer and sound mixer in the film industry. Her skills are utilized by both fictional films and documentaries about real occurrences; a powerful contribution to manifesting the conduit between subject and audience. Her work testifies that regardless of the genre, the “sound” of life carries great weight. The viewing public recognizes the authenticity of what Ms. Tin is able to manifest and translate in the audible impressions of joy and tragedy. The film community en masse first became universally aware of Vera’s talent in the 2017 documentary Mrs. Fang which presented the accounting of a dying woman’s final days. Left bedridden, essentially emotionless, and inactive from Alzheimer’s, it was the surrounding auditory environment and atmosphere that made this film so intriguing and heart-wrenching concerning the elderly woman’s demise. In addition to being awarded the Golden Leopard at the 2017 Locarno Festival, this film focused immense attention on Vera’s contributions and abilities. Since this production, her outstanding work has proven Vera to be one of the most committed and talented of her generation.
“As a creative artist, I’ve always wanted to work on different genres, new stories and have the opportunity to create plenty of sound experiences for a variety of films and even beyond.” declares Vera. This permanent state of curiosity on her part is a quality most attractive to her collaborators because it cultivates a unique sonic personality for each production that Ms. Tin is a part of. As sound designer and re-recording mixer of the animated film What They Left Behind (recipient of the award for Best Animated Short at City of Angels Women’s Film Festival), Vera masterfully crafted a sonic world that connected present day with the memories of one young woman’s happier time with loved ones. The complexity of this process demands a powerful love for the craft. One scene in the film presents family members arguing at the dinner table as they morph into an angry goat and ox. In addition to copious hours of auditioning animal sounds which communicated the proper emotion, Vera informs, “To help create the chaotic feeling of the fight, I also cut at least 30 different sound clips of glasses breaking, wood smashing, and hitting. In the mixing, I panned all these sounds to different speakers in the left, right, center, left surround, and right surround. This filled the space with all kinds of breaking and hitting sounds and placed the audience in an immersive environment, surrounded by the chaos of the fight between the mom and the granddad.” Existing at both a micro and macro level, the sounds created and structured by Ms. Tin establish an emotional tone for What They Left Behind that is bittersweet and immensely satisfying for both the main character and the audience.
After Sunset, Dawn Arrives is the heralded 2022 film which delves into a widowed Chinese man’s battle with recognizing of his own sexual identity. Vera accepted the role of rerecording mixer for this production which was awarded Best LGBTQ Short (Indie Short Fest) and was an Official Selection of the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, Seattle Asian American Film Festival, Silicon Beach Film Festival, and Sherman Oaks Film Festival. Wan, the central character, is a man in his mid-sixties who develops feelings for another man following the death of his wife. Some of the most impactful scenes in the story range from a thunderous ballroom to a serene bathhouse. Such diverse settings required a precise balance between environmental sounds and dialogue. Managing echoes, augmenting low frequencies in the music, even adjusting the voices of Wan and Ken (the younger love interest) to intensify the difference between them and their emotional state, these were all subtle but vital tools utilized by Ms. Tin to enhance the connection between characters and audience. She remarks, “It was most rewarding for me that I could be a part of a story that focused on the sexuality and the emotional state of older Asian people, something which has always been neglected or lacked representation. I believe that it’s a story that needs to be told, and I’m glad that I can make a contribution to the film by telling the story sound-wise and inviting more audience to learn and care about the emotional needs of older Asians.”
Vera admits that often the opportunities she receives and takes on are a means of becoming more self-informed. Her most recent role as sound mixer for the short film Launch Fever has enlightened her (as it will for audiences) about the STS-107 Columbia tragedy in 2003. Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this film testifies to the power of both filmmaker and viewer to learn and grow from the experience. Vera agrees, “As a foreigner, I didn’t know about the story of Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster or ever had the chance to hear about it, so I came across the story as someone who knew nothing about. Being a part of the film gave me a chance to know more about the Columbia tragedy as well as the people and story behind it. The main character has a few emotional scenes that had quiet dialogues and were full of emotion. To capture the best sound and the performance, I needed to stay close and accommodate the camera movement at the same time; which sometimes required me to ‘dance’ around the camera. Meanwhile, I had to be careful and avoid becoming a distraction, like avoiding eye contact with the actor, so that he could stay in character and bring out the performance.”
Other recent projects for Vera include The Unreachable Star, directed by Sharon S. Park and starring actress Tamlyn Tomita (of the Oscar Nominated Karate Kid Part II, Primetime Emmy Winning Series The Man in the High Castle and Golden Globe Nominated TV Series The Good Doctor) in addition to a series of commercials for Marvel’s latest venture “Snap.” Such an eclectic group of employers are unquestionably drawn to that special component found throughout all of Vera’s work; an ingredient that she vocally professes proclaiming, “Sound isn’t just the dialogues we record on set, or the lightning sound effects we can add in the post-production. Sound is something that can make us feel the space, the story, and the emotions.” She hopes that in the future, more writers and directors will realize that sound is such a powerful tool they can use to tell the story, or even develop a story from the start. With her work, Vera hopes that she can maximize the effects that sound, as a powerful medium, can have in the film and the story.