Film student Cambelle Gregory is making waves at The Sidney Poitier New American Film School — sound waves, that is.
The third-year Arizona State University student helped start, and is the president of, the new student club Safe in Sound, which aims to interest more students in sound for films or music. It’s a subject near and dear to Gregory’s heart as she also celebrates her second win in an Audio Engineering Society (AES) contest for students in sound mixing.
Gregory attended the AES conference in New York in this fall, along with classmate Ameerah Webster and Assistant Professor Rodrigo Meirelles. It was Gregory’s second year attending the conference — and second consecutive year winning the student competition, which is open internationally.
“My approach to this year’s competition was not to win, but to create something I would be proud of,” Gregory said.
Her winning project was the short animated film “Entropy” by Rhubarb Zoo, a dreamlike piece for which Gregory created a haunting sonic landscape flush with sounds of rushing water, gentle piano music and the void of space. Gregory discovered the film on YouTube when she was younger and credits it with inspiring her to pursue an education in film. Gregory first wanted to be an animator, but when she decided her drawing skills weren’t advanced enough, she leaned into her aptitude for sound mixing.
“To see my hard work be noticed and acknowledged is just a huge honor and privilege,” Gregory said.
Meirelles, who specializes in sound design, called Gregory’s win an outstanding achievement, “not only because of the high standards of AES and the international level of the competition, but most importantly for her commitment in putting together an extraordinary work outside regular assignments and class project hours.”
For the competition, Gregory created sound effects, background noise, musical compositions and vocals using the resources and facilities at the MIX Center, which itself recently celebrated a milestone in sound, receiving official Dolby Atmos Tier 1 certification for its two screening rooms. Gregory credits the facility’s industry-standard consoles and software with helping her craft her winning piece.
“Having access to all this technology and software has helped me learn more about the gear and feel comfortable working with the software,” Gregory said.
Webster, a senior film student, also submitted a piece to the contest, mixing sound for the famous stair scene from the 2019 film “Joker.”
“I was able to redesign the sound from that scene with film studio quality equipment, and not many other attendees had that privilege,” said Webster, who added, “The best thing about going to AES was getting to see the manufacturers of my favorite tools and let them teach me about features I did not think they had any plans of implementing.”
Meirelles said Gregory and Webster’s active presence, culminating in Gregory’s win, is critically important in an industry that skews so heavily male.
“I’m glad that ASU’s commitment with equity, diversity and inclusion provides an environment for a diverse student population,” Meirelles said. “I can work as a mentor who not only teaches technical and creative skills, but who can also build safe spaces where students from any background can find support, feel empowered and gain confidence and agency to pursue their dreams.”
The Safe in Sound club is helping to open the field to more students who otherwise might not have considered sound mixing, hosting workshops where students can learn how sound gear works and practice boom mic operation and audio mixing. In the spring, Gregory says, “I plan to bring new opportunities for sound students, as well as hold a sound competition.”
Gregory’s dream is to move to Los Angeles after graduation and eventually become a re-recording mixer, a post-production audio engineer who balances various sound elements to create the final audio track.
“It is a very tough job, yet so rewarding once it is done,” Gregory said. “It is a silent art, which is ironic since sound is much more than just what you hear. It is what you feel, how you connect to a film and what keeps you coming back for more.”
For more stories on The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, visit film.asu.edu/news.
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