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Sound Editing: Never Thrown for a Loop

Sound f/x carry auds to Middle-Earth or mid-ocean

When it comes to sound effects and dubbing, stories about dragons and desolate men at sea have the same problem: How to place audiences right there with the character.

Brent Burge and Chris Ward, both nommed for sound editing on “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” were faced with doing additional dialogue replacement (ADR) for an enormous, mythical creature that was also all-digital. But had lips.

“Luckily we were working with Benedict Cumberbatch,” Burge says. “Our job there was to create a situation where he could comfortably create the dragon’s voice and then we could alter it slightly later to convey the sheer size of Smaug.”

Burge and Ward also had to work out a set of creepy sounds for the giant spiders that tormented Bilbo and the dwarves on their journey. The pair decided to keep away from any heavy noises and settled on light elements such as sticks against tree trunks to evoke the sound of movement of spider legs on webs.

“It became all important to say away from weight,” Ward says. “The spiders needed to be light for the audience to feel they were real.”

Steve Boedekker, nommed for his sound editing work on “All Is Lost,” quickly realized that since there was so little dialogue in the film, Robert Redford’s breathing would replace a dialogue track, indicating his level of fear and desperation. And Redford was game for coming in to do ADR for all the breathing.

“We were going to have a sound-alike do it but (Redford) wanted to come in and in the end we replaced a lot of the breathing with what we recorded later,” Boedekker says.

Boedekker also had to convey the feeling of the boat where Redford finds himself fighting for his life. He needed to be able to process any sound effects so they resonated with the small space of the boat’s interior.

The convolution reverb plug-in for Pro Tools gave him just what he needed, as he was able to record the acoustics of the boat, record whatever he needed later on a vessel in San Francisco and then process it with information taken from the yacht shown in the film.

“The boat never stops making noises so those sounds had to tell the story in a believable way.”

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