Oscar winner discusses 'Wall-E,' 'Apocalypse'

NEW ORLEANS — In the first keynote address by a soundman at the Siggraph computer graphics conference, sound designer Randy Thom told a packed crowd that creative use of sound is key to making a long-remembered film.

Thom, who won sound editing Oscars for “The Incredibles” and “The Right Stuff,” said he is often asked about the difference between designing sound for animation and live action. “One emerging difference that’s very important … is the directors of animation more and more often are asking me and other sound designers to get involved very, very early in the process, and do speculative sounds to help animators get inspired,” he said, adding that this sort of interactive process rarely happens in live-action films.

Afterwards, Thom told Daily Variety, “This idea that sound is something you do at the end of the process — that it’s sort of a decoration you apply at the end of the movie — is false. I think it’s bound to make a better movie if you start thinking about sound and start experimenting with sound as soon as you start the project.”

Thom presented the openings of two movies he worked on, “Apocalypse Now” and “Wall-E,” along with video interviews with their filmmakers and his sound collaborators: Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch on the former film, Andrew Stanton and Ben Burtt on the latter. He urged the assembled graphics designers and animators to remember, “When you’re writing the story, think about what your characters might hear that could tell the audience something about who the characters are. Create moments to feature those sounds.”

He also warned that if the characters are always talking, “neither they nor the audience will get a chance to hear the objects, places and events that will make your film more cinematic.”

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