The July-August issue of Editors Guild Magazine is now available for viewing online. There is an interesting article about sound work of Randy Thom on “The Last Airbender”.
This movie is a playground for sound,” says Randy Thom, CAS, referring to director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, The Last Airbender, for which he serves as supervising sound designer, co-supervising sound editor (with Richard Hymns) and re-recording mixer (with Rick Kline).
In the film, which opens July 2 through Paramount Pictures, four tribes with mystical control over the four elements of nature do battle. “The tribes are able to do amazing things––like cause the water in a lake to rise up into giant columns and fly through the air,” Thom continues, adding that very little of that kind of visual imagery has been seen in films before. “So it’s a challenge to create the sounds for them. Like the visuals they accompany, the sounds need to seem organic, believable and real-world––as well as have a kind of majesty or larger-than-life feel to them. I’m having a ball.”
Perhaps no sound design/mixing professional is better suited for the job than Thom, who joined Skywalker Sound in 1979 and has worked on a laundry list of iconic films starting with Apocalypse Now (1979) and running through Return of the Jedi (1983), Wild at Heart (1990), Backdraft (1991), Forrest Gump (1994), Cast Away (2000), Shrek 2 (2004), Ratatouille (2007) and many, many others. No surprise that he has garnered 14 Oscar nominations and two wins (Best Sound Mixing for The Right Stuff in 1983 and Best Sound Editing for The Incredibles in 2004).
Thom got Airbender after he contributed a few sounds to Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water (2006). “Although we never met, we talked on the phone and hit it off well,” recalls Thom about the director. “So technically, this is my second film for him.”
The Last Airbender, a 3-D movie, taps all of Thom’s many strengths as an inventive sound designer. Take the scene in which the villainous fire tribe is holding the members of another tribe in an outdoor prison. One tribe member throws a ball of fire at one of the innocent captives. “You see the fire almost as if it were in slow motion, traveling 100 feet or so, getting closer and closer to its intended target,” recounts Thom. “In terms of the visuals, the fire is moving in all kinds of interesting ways. I couldn’t just record a fire; there would be no movement or sense of it changing as it is propelled through the air.”
There is also a pretty cool review of Sonnox Restore plugins by Charles Maynes. You can read it here.