×

Sound nominees aim to take auds deeper

Eye on the Oscars: Vfx, Sound & Editing

The six pics that snagged the 10 nominations for sound (five each for mixing and editing) make up a bewilderingly diverse mix. The list comprises everything from the gigantic actioner “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” to the more indie-flavored “Drive.”

That shows what sound pros have always known: Great sound isn’t just about bigger and louder. It’s about choices, design and immersing the audience even deeper into the visuals on the screen.

DRIVE
Editing
Two elements of the central character’s life became crucial to the sound: waiting and concentration.

“We wanted you to feel how long it feels to wait for someone in Ryan Gosling’s situation,” says Victor Ray Ennis, supervising sound editor. “So we’d pull out almost everything except the sound of a clock ticking and there wouldn’t be any off-camera sounds.”

Even as Gosling’s character descends into a nightclub armed with a hammer, there’s very little off-screen sound. And the idea is to keep you in step with the character’s thoughts, Ennis says.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Editing, mixing
The sound team for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” had to take the audience into sleek Swedish offices and homes and a serial killer’s hidden lair.

“Sometimes those spaces are the same thing, like in the case of Stellan Skarsgard’s home,” says Ren Klyce, sound designer, supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer. “It’s this cold clinical environment on the main floor and below there’s a murderer’s torture chamber.”

Klyce tied the two together by focusing on sounds that would follow you everywhere. They spent time gathering the noises made by a frozen tree being blown around in the wind. Metallic noises also helped establish a sense of the freezing cold and isolation.

“In scenes where there were assaults we also were careful to choose sounds that supported the visuals and weren’t overwhelming because you’re taking people to the darkest places they can imagine,” says Klyce.

HUGO
Editing, mixing
Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the origins of cinema challenged its sound department to live in two worlds.

“We were balancing the memories the boy had of his father and the tinkering he did in his workshop with the sounds you’d hear in a train station,” says Eugene Gearty, a supervising sound editor on the film. “You have to find a way to move between both things without it being jarring.”

Luckily, a kind of through line made itself obvious along the way. Mechanical sounds were also a big part of the film’s “real” world in the way the train station inspector moves and the noises made by trains. Clanking, machine-driven sounds brought both worlds together.

“Hugo’s interior and exterior worlds kind of reflected one another in terms of sound,” says Gearty. “He was trying to preserve his dreams in the real world.”

MONEYBALL
Mixing
When it came time to create the soundscape of a baseball stadium during a key game for “Moneyball,” Deb Adair quickly found out that less was more.

All the pops and crackles in recordings from decades ago actually put the games in context for the film, so Adair resisted the impulse to clean up the old recordings too much. Additional crowd noises made by extras in the stadium during filming were layered into the mix.

“You’re going to these events with the characters and it’s a very particular time and place in professional sports,” says Adair, sound re-recording mixer. “Imperfections in a recording can work for you when capturing the past.”

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Editing, mixing
The “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” sound team had to immerse the audience in the powerful moments, then ease back.

“You can’t just have this wall of sound coming at them the whole time so you’re careful to give them those breaks when there aren’t moments of full on battle,” says Erik Aadahl, supervising sound editor. “You also want moments of deep emotion to stand on their own.”

This also makes those moments where the sound supports the characters at war more powerful, explains Aadahl. You’re more likely to absorb the carefully layered sounds of the robots doing battle when you’ve actually had pause before those fights happen.

WAR HORSE
Editing, mixing
Sound designer Gary Rydstrom’s choices in “War Horse” were driven more by character and story structure than World War I weaponry.

Explains Rydstrom: “Steven (Spielberg) didn’t want to overwhelm the audience with the sounds of the fighting but instead wanted them to feel what the horse and the other actors were feeling while they were experiencing the war.” That meant using a lot of restraint, even while creating an immersive sonic landscape for the battles.

“These aren’t really the gritty noises you might hear in a movie about a very recent war,” says Rydstrom. “You’re definitely hearing the sounds of a war but you’re not always hearing bullets piercing flesh and that fits because it’s really the story of how this boy and his horse manage to reunite.”

Eye on the Oscars: Vfx, Sound & Editing
Training your f/x eye | Sound nominees aim to take auds deeper | Cuts help exotic settings play their role in the story

More Film

  • Beware of Children

    First Trailer Released for Venice Days Entry 'Beware of Children' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the first trailer for Dag Johan Haugeruds’ politically and socially charged drama “Beware of Children,” which premieres as part of the Venice Film Festival’s Venice Days section. The pic, which is being sold at Venice by Picture Tree Intl., features the dramatic aftermath of a tragic incident in [...]

  • The Tower animated film about Palestinians

    ‘The Tower’ Animation Wins Japan's Skip City Festival

    “The Tower,” Mats Grorud’s animation about the plight of the Palestinians, as viewed through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl in Beirut, won the grand prize in the international competition at the 16th edition of Skip City International D-Cinema Festival. The film also scooped the section’s audience award. The Skip City festival, which launched in [...]

  • For web story

    Transgender Immigrant Pic 'Lingua Franca,' Thriller 'Only Beasts' to Bow at Venice Days

    New York-based Filipina filmmaker Isabel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca,” about a transgender immigrant, is among 11 competition entries, all world premieres, that will launch from the Venice Film Festival’s independently run Venice Days section. The only U.S. entry set to compete in the section modeled on Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, “Lingua Franca” is Sandoval’s third work. It [...]

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content