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Posted by on Mar 31, 2008 | 1 comment

10,000 B.C. – Exclusive Interview with Supervising Sound Editors Simon Gershon and Jeremy Price

“10,000 B.C.” started taking theaters back in time March 7th. Making the natural selection of sound for the dub stage were sound supervisors Jeremy Price and Simon Gershon. The team got to play with some of my favorite sound effects in 2004′s “AVP” bringing that “Predator vision” back to the theaters. “10,000 B.C.” mixed at London’s De Lane Lea studios with Doug Cooper and Chris Burdon at the helm. Cooper mixed “Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix” while Burdon dubbed last fall’s “Stardust”. Nico Louw handled production sound for “10,000 B. C.” as well as Robert Towne’s last, 2006′s “Ask the Dust”. Composing duties were divided among the team of Thomas Wanker and Harald Kloser. “10,000 B.C.” also marks Kloser’s debut as a screenwriter, sharing credit with director Roland Emmerich. The composing team’s next collaboration takes them into the future with 2009′s, “2012”.

Here is the Q and A for 10,000 B.C. I wanted to thanks supervisors Simon Gershon and Jeremy Price for taking time out of their busy schedules to do this!

DS: Some of the hardest sounds to create are those of naturalistic creatures. How did you guys approach the design of the many featured in “10k BC”?

SG+JP: There are three creature characters in the movie, all of which were designed with elements of the real animal calls that they were visually based upon. The “mammoth” calls were made from a combination of female elephant calls we recorded at a Safari Park. (The male elephants were unavailable for recording as they were in “musk” which meant they were moody, separated from the herd, and would have trodden on anyone in their vicinity). Consequently, we were unable to make our own recordings of bull elephants and relied on gathered sfx from game parks and sourced recordings from wildlife recordists. The resultant library of calls were cut and divided into groups in the sampler and sweetened with other re-pitched animals (camels, bears, seals) to give them a larger, meatier sound. We ended up with a large palette of calls ranging from ‘mild rumble’ to ‘very-pissed off indeed’. These were triggered on the keyboard and recorded to tracks for further manipulation. Once played out we took the calls various stages further by morphing the calls with human vocal fx. The main trunk sounds were from the female elephants who didn’t seem too bothered having mics around their heads all day. Again, the edited blow fx were combined in the sampler with various sounds that either we made vocally or sweetened with blows from other animals (walruses, whales, dolphins).

The sabre-tooth followed the same route as the mammoths. We were able to gain very close access to the lions and tigers at the safari park. Neither species like having microphones near them and happily provided us with a set of nice angry calls and charges. Whilst these were good foundation sounds, they suffered from the acoustic limitation of the pens and compound (nasty reverb and metal cage bangs) and we could never get close enough in the jeep once they roamed in the open. We were fortunate that one of our sound designers (Andy Kennedy) had a plentiful supply of the noises we were after and we were able to sample, sweeten and re-pitch the calls. We morphed various lion calls with foley tiger-in-water performance to give a wet personality to the sabre-tooth nearly drowning as it struggles in the trap, and having seen the film recently these are only just audible in the mix.

The terror birds went through many stages in their sonic evolution. We initially went down the human vocal-only route taking ADR sessions with several vocal artists and creating a language of calls and noises. Then we moved onto bird calls (avoiding chickens, geese, ducks and pigs) and combined and morphed with heavier animals. Next, we went onto more of a prehistoric raptor feel. With some exotic birds we recorded bird and more angrier animals like walrus and even a dog with various degrees of Lfe added. As the CGI’s changed we adapted and changed noises to follow, (beak noise, feet fx. body fx, etc.) Eventually the terror birds ended up coming back to a combination of human calls made by Harald Kloser, the compossor/producer who was very involved with the sound, and some of the more successful raptor sounds as sweeteners to cut through in the mix.

DS: How did this emphasis carry over into the backgrounds? Many of which could be populated with extinct creature call outs and beds.

SG+JP: We made a library of prehistoric calls that could be bedded into the backgrounds for each terrain, either mountainous, jungle or desert. These were designed as textures that would always be there but never distracting or confusing. We didn’t want anything to be registered too much as there would be an expectation of that noise coming up later in the film. Winds and atmospheres were similarly classed, divided and laid accordingly. The forest environments were played up more than other locations, and we messed around more with pitching of insects, monkeys and bird calls. The deserts were kept very thin and delicate. This sort of movie relies less on atmospherics and any areas where gaps appear are usually filled with full-on score.

DS: In addition to creature vocals, scenes like the wooly mammoth stampede must have been exciting and daunting at the same time. How did you sell their bulk, (especially when a heard of them was moving all at once) while still trying to maintain definition?

SG+JP: Roland wanted the best part of the stampede sequence to play without music which was nice for us. We tried all kinds of ways to achieve the mammoth feet during this sequence. Whilst it was important to make a huge noise, we wanted to avoid a big mush and try to retain some definition and detail. We initially played with explosions, body falls and group stamping on various surfaces, all of which didn’t give us what we wanted. Ultimately, we found the best material came from sessions of recordings we took from punching various surfaces including buckets and bags of different soil using a variety of standard and contact mics. When re-pitched, these recordings formed the massive bulk movement sound we were after. We created further background mix-downs for the rest of the herd and spotted individual feet for the main on-screen mammoths. Foley detail enhanced and grounded the designed fx with surface and ground noises and we added separate low end events for Lfe when in close up.

DS: I can only imagine the demand for unique foley for this film! With so many primitive props was there a lot of experimentation on the foley stage to get the sound right?

SG+JP: Our foley supervisor Barnaby Smythe is a pretty primitive sort of guy; he grunts a lot and gathers and keeps the things that most people throw away. His stage contains a load of weird and noisy junk and multi-surfaced danger zones. We left the film at a pre-arranged location with some raw meat and a set of simple instructions. We don’t know how he does it …and we don’t want to know how he does it, but he came up with great foley.

DS: There are scenes with crowds containing hundreds, if not thousands of people. Did you get any record sessions to help vocalize the films hordes? What other techniques are used to sell crowds of that size?

SG+JP: We sent Matt Skelding, one of our editors, to the Namibian desert for several days where he recorded a set of exterior crowd sessions with various mixed groups of local people for all the crowd scenes. He broke down the recordings into cheers, yells, charging, chat and spot calls much in the same way as a standard ADR session. These were enhanced with more controlled mixed crowd sessions in our studios back in London .We also used the Namibian location to record
a range of hammering, chiseling and general men at work sfx for the pyramid scenes in the film.

DS: What was your first gig like?

SG+JP: We both started out together on television drama back in the days when we cut dialogue, fx and foley on nasty 16 track Audiofile systems.

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Posted by on Mar 21, 2008 | 0 comments

Horton Hears A Who

“Horton Hears a Who” stampeded into theaters March 14th. Dennis Leonard supervised the Dr. Seuss adaptation. Randy Thom served as sound designer and re-recording mixer. Mixing took place at Thom’s usual stomping ground, Skywalker Sound. Along with Gary Rizzo, the two mixers helped populate whoville with sound for Horton to hear. Original dialog recording for “Horton” was handled by Carlos Sotolongo whose work will be heard in another animated film this summer, June’s “Kung Fu Panda”. Score for “Horton” was tracked at the Newman Scoring Stage at Fox. John Powell who is currently on this July’s “Hancock” composed for the film. Below is an interview excerpt from Ain’t It Cool News featuring Powell in 2006 talking about a particular “Horton” sequence. Below that is Randy Thom expanding on the work he and Powell did in that sequence for Film Sound Daily.

AINTITCOOL.COM

SK: Will you be working on anything until then?

John Powell: Yes. I’ll be doing pre-work on “HORTON HEARS A WHO” (2008) for Blue Sky and Fox and that doesn’t come out until March of 2008. I’m basically just writing some pieces of music that we need right now. If you look at the book, as with a lot of Dr. Suess books, they’re very musical in the sense that they have a lot of people playing crazy instruments. In this one, the huge climax there’s this whole society trying to make itself heard and they’re playing every conceivable kind of instrument you’ve ever seen…or not seen actually. That has to be done in advance. We can’t just start animating to nothing…it has to sound like something.

…and now Randy Thom describes his experience.

“Horton Hears A Who” was a blast to work on. Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, the Directors, are very sound-conscious guys who are always interested in experimenting, and John Powell, the Composer, and I had a great collaboration. This was one of those rare films where the sound effects and music for a sequence were orchestrated to work seamlessly together. One of the characters in the movie constructs a giant music making machine in an abandoned observatory. It’s a Rube Goldberg kind of contraption with gears, bows on saws, huge rubber balls pounding on trampolines, etc., that we wanted to sound like a kind of industrial symphony orchestra. John recorded lots of exotic musical instruments for the sequence, and we did the same on the sound effects side. Then the challenge was to cut all these sounds together so that the music and sound effects and music complimented each other. Pete Horner traveled down to Los Angeles from our home base at Skywalker, and he worked with the music editors to weed out the many, many elements we had recorded and gathered for the “machine” part of the sequence. Colette Dahanne did a lot of editing on that sequence too. By the way, there was score running through this scene in addition to the “source” symphonophone. When we begin a project we often try to coordinate sound effects and
music in this way, and I’m proud to say that this time everything came together that allowed it to happen. We’ll definitely be doing more of this kind of collaboration in the future.

UPDATE: something I missed (thanks GUYS). Randy chatted with some folks about a sound designer’s role in film and among others why we don’t mix on headphones, HERE.

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Posted by on Mar 19, 2008 | 0 comments

The Art of Sound: The Update

UPDATE:

I wish I could’ve made it to this. The bad case of the flu unfortunately had other plans. Thank god the Editor’s Guild posted a little transcript of some of the action, HERE. Keep posted, it seems they’ll be another sound event this summer featuring some very animated sound pros.

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! On March 8th, The Academy is presenting “The Art of Sound”. A sort of reverse bake-off showcasing clips from the Oscar nominees in both sound categories as well as holding a panel discussion with the winners. I am excited because until last year the bake-off was historically one of the only nights each year where all us sound folk got together in the same place, so it is awesome to hear the academy bringing us together again! Save the date!

The Sound Branch Executive Committee of the
ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES

presents

The Art of Sound:
An Evening Celebrating the Nominees
and Winners from the 80th Annual Academy Awards

Featuring clips from each of the
Sound Mixing and Sound Editing award-nominated films
and a panel discussion
with the winners in these categories

Saturday, March 8, 2008

at 7:30 p.m.

in the

Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills
(Complimentary parking available in the Academy garage and at
8920 and 9025 Wilshire Boulevard)

Free admission to Academy Members
Public Tickets $3.00
For tickets: www.oscars.org/events. (SOON)

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Posted by on Mar 10, 2008 | 0 comments

Exclusive Interview with Julian Slater, Sound Supervisor on “In Bruges”

“In Bruges” is hiding out in theaters now. Supervisor Julian Slater helped populate the soundtrack of the quaint medieval town. Slater supervised the hilarious “Hot Fuzz” last year and had another release this past weekend with “The Other Boleyn Girl”. Mixing took place at Hackenbacker Audio Post in London with Nigel Heath dubbing with Oliver Brierley assistning. Nigel, also of “Hot Fuzz” fame proved his versatility bouncing from re-recording mixer to foley mixer to dialog recordist over the past couple of years. Alistair Crocker shot production sound for “In Bruges”. Crocker’s current work will be heard in the TV show “Sharpe’s Peril”. Composer Carter Burwell lent his talents to the film, tracking the score at Angel Studios in London. Burwell, a Coen Brothers mainstay is currently working on their next, “Burn After Reading”. A consistent blogger, Burwell has samples and some notes on his work for “In Bruges”, HERE.

Thanks to sound supervisor Julian Slater for taking time out to do this Q and A!

DS: How did director Martin McDonagh’s theater background influence his thoughts on sound in this film?

JS: Martin, more than many of the directors I have worked with is extremely focused on the dialogue in the film. Being a playwright, he is obviously a man who sees the sound effects and maybe even the music as secondary to the words in his film. As for looping, he will do everything he can to avoid looping dialogue or adding new dialogue for that matter. As far as he is concerned, what he captures on the day is what he wants to go out in the cinema.

DS: In a film with so many different accents, did any actor stray away from their role’s dialect? How often does that happen in film, and is looping the only solution to bring cohesiveness back to a performance?

JS: In ‘In Bruges’ it wasn’t really an issue. With Martin’s desire to capture the performance on the day shot, he made sure that all the accents were tuned in on set. I have been involved with other films where that is not the case though. Of course the editor will fish around for takes that will bring the most to the performance and indeed the accent but when this avenue is exhausted, looping is the one option left where you have the ability to start again so to speak. This can make for a tricky looping session and you must be very careful how you communicate with the actor that there accent needs to be or can be improved!

DS: During the film, Bruges as a city is viewed as a fairy tale and at the same time, a nightmare. Was there any specific direction in presenting the town sonically and did it differ with point of view?

JS: Very much so! Having worked on the film for a few weeks, the effects editor and myself trotted off to Bruges for a few days to record the ambiances. We were immediately struck with how different it sounded compared to how it looks in the film. Watching the film you get the impression that it is very quiet and almost idyllic in its overall sound but not so. Bruges, like most places today has heavy traffic, sirens and many other modern day noises that we have all gotten used to. There are sounds that are specific to Bruges such as the many clock towers with their bells chiming and we did record these but on a Sunday morning at 5am! In effect we did a ‘Sonic Lie’ in the final mix and made the town sound much quieter and peaceful than it actually is.

DS: Speaking of dramatic change in sound, how did your approach differ between “In Bruges” and last year’s loud and proud “Hot Fuzz”?

JS: Chalk and Cheese! Edgar is a very different director to Martin. With Edgar, the sound design and the layering of sounds is another tool at his disposal to take the film to another level. Edgar is a machine gun of ideas and he is constantly firing them at me! Its great fun because all the time we are trying different sound ideas on different scenes to see what direction we can take it. Also, the sounds have to be justifiable with a comic twist. You can’t just lay a bar atmosphere in a bar; there has to be elements which to some degree will make you laugh with the action on screen or add to it in some way. Without a doubt Edgar is the most sonically demanding director I work with but the pay off is you get to produce stuff that is very unique and fun to watch and make!

DS: When was the idea to use sound puns in “Hot Fuzz” mocking action movie clichés conceived? Did you guys do any research for accuracy in the mockery?

JS: That came from Edgar at the outset. He gave me the generic conceit and we, as a sound team developed it. Looping Simon in the action scenes to make him sound over the top macho was an example of this. We tried to pay homage to Michael Bay and Bruckheimer in the film a lot. It wasn’t always easy as “Hot Fuzz” is essentially a Hollywood high budget action film comedy with the real budget and confines of a small to medium British film!

DS:  What was your first gig like?

JS: Hehe, I feel like every gig is my first gig! As every film is unique and has its own set of challenges I really do feel like I am starting out for the first time every time. I always make sure that whatever challenges I have in a certain movie, I take the solutions with me to the next project. I never relax into the job and I have learned that that is a good thing.

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