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Sound Editors and Mixers Built Dynamic Sounds to Pull in Audiences

Traditionally, films dense with sound effects, music and dialogue become front-runners in the race for sound editing and sound mixing and this year is no exception. Here’s a look at eight of this year’s contenders. Others, such “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Detroit,” “The Shape of Water” and “Wonderstruck” could also make the cut.

“We designed and mixed in Dolby Atmos for an immersive experience,” says “Beauty and the Beast” supervising sound editor Warren Shaw. Song and sound effects played a large role in detailing the visual canvas. Matching reverb, pitch and ambiance was critical for father-and-son re-recording mixers Michael and Christian Minkler in creating a seamless transition from dialogue to lyrics. For its Beast (Dan Stevens), a sense of humanity was instilled even at his scariest.

“Blade Runner 2049” director Denis Villeneuve didn’t want a polished science-fiction soundscape, but instead stressed the importance of nature and the elements to draw in the audience.

“We recorded organic and acoustic sources in the real world and then re-contextualized them to serve the story,” says supervising sound editor Mark Mangini.

Re-recording mixers Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett drove a focused and simplistic track that stripped sounds to their essence. “The desert walk is a perfect example of this,” says sound designer Theo Green. “It’s a study of silence and we sell it by layering melodic bell sounds that feel somewhat lonely, distant and spiritual against this beautiful orange backdrop.”

In the “Darkest Hour,” room ambiance was subtlety changed acoustically to match the storyline. “We talked about Churchill’s arc as he struggles with this big decision and how it weighs on him,” says supervising sound editor, re-recording mixer Craig Berkey. “When there’s a tonal shift in scenes, like that in the war cabinet room, we adapted the sound to give it a feeling that something has changed or is different in the room.”

To highlight the heroic events of Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” being impactful and memorable was crucial. “The sound effects and music were thought of as one and emphasized in ways to put you in the characters’ shoes,” says supervising sound editor Richard King. “It was a real experiment in how far we could push it and how immediate and visceral we could make the sound for the audience.”

To helm “The Greatest Showman,” Michael Gracey designed previs for the song-and-dance numbers, which aided the recordings from production sound mixer Tod Maitland. To transition from dialogue to song, the same boom microphone and lavalier was used in studio recordings to match the acoustical environment.

“The songs fall into a few categories, either as a performance piece inside the circus or a more reflective piece that goes into a montage,” says re-recording mixer Paul Massey. “The challenge was getting the vocals to match the pre-recorded song and production dialogue. Sometimes dirtying up the studio vocals to match the grit and noise of the production piece helps when you go in and out of the song.”

For Steven Spielberg’s 1971-set “The Post,” everything from the phone bells to the typewriter clicks had to be period-accurate. “Spielberg really wanted to accentuate the idea of a woman being in a man’s world,” says supervising sound editor, re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom. “Something as simple as the way her high heels walked across the room full of men subliminally added to this kind of idea.”

In “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “[Director Matt Reeves] wanted the dialogue to be real, authentic and emotionally dramatic without sounding fake in anyway,” says supervising sound editor Douglas Murray.

“Matt approaches sound on a holistic fundamental level and wants to transport you to another place,” adds sound supervising editor, re-recording mixer Will Files. “Our biggest challenge was keeping a conscious effort so nothing was as big as the avalanche near the end of the film. It needed to feel very real with the sound effects doing all the heavy lifting.”

On “Wonder Woman,” pictured above, director Patty Jenkins “didn’t want a bombastic or overwhelming soundtrack,” says re-recording mixer Gilbert Lake. “She wanted to protect the performances and the intimate moments in the film,” and to differentiate the lush sounds of Wonder Woman’s island homeland from London.

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