×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘A Quiet Place’ Leans on Sound Team to Deliver Maximum Chills

Never underestimate the gravity of sound. In “A Quiet Place” — from John Krasinski, who co-wrote the script, directed and stars alongside his wife, Emily Blunt — looming monsters hunt by noise, going after their prey when they hear its sound. For the farm-living Abbott family, silence is the only means of survival.

This means supervising sound editors Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, who share two Oscar nominations, had to shape an atmosphere with maximum auditory impact. “We knew it would be a huge challenge creating this world of quiet,” Aadahl says. “It’s actually as hard if not harder than making a movie full of sound. You’re naked in a way, and everything has to be delicately balanced and perfect.”

Perspective, or what the sound team called “sonic envelopes,” played a key part in ratcheting up tension, particularly from the point of view of the daughter, who is deaf. By harnessing her inability to hear, sounds could be removed during visually intense moments to magnify the macabre. “Going into her perspective sonically allows the audience to hear what she experiences at the same time we see what’s lurking behind her. It’s an interesting dynamic,” notes Aadahl.

At times, picture even took a backseat to the sound design. Because loudness motivates the hunt, visuals needed to be cut to whatever the creatures were tuning into, says Van der Ryn. “We discovered when telling the creatures’ perspective, it needed to be clear for the audience. So for instance, when Emily Blunt’s character sets an egg timer in order to create a distraction, we needed to show the creature’s ear first, then the egg timer.”

Rules defined what sounds were too loud or below the threshold of danger. Foley was meticulously placed, right down to sandy footsteps and eerie monster clicks, while the score carried the emotional swell. Composer Marco Beltrami “gave us a lot of wonderful music to choose from, and it was tough because we didn’t want it to interfere with the perspectives we created,” notes Van der Ryn. “The sound design is so important to the storytelling that we needed to get those beats all working correctly. Then we could add in the music to help us.”

Rerecording mixer Brandon Proctor connected music to the scary moments of the allegory. “There are a lot of jump scares in this movie, and we tried them many different ways,” Proctor says. “It was important to ask ourselves, ‘If they didn’t have music attached to them, why didn’t the creatures hear it?’”

Music also crafted the mood as it shifts from absolute silence to starkest dread. Scenes were mixed to maximize the tension aurally, either pushing up or pulling back the sensitivity of sounds to match visuals. “We were always asking where we are in the story or whose perspective we’re hearing, and do those background noises drip away in that moment,” Proctor explains. “It was an orchestra of these different ideas that created the soundscape. Sound is a tool that’s often underutilized, and this movie really proves you can do a lot more with it.”

More Artisans

  • Luciano Pavarotti

    Ron Howard Turned to Editor Paul Crowder to Make His 'Pavarotti' Documentary Sing

    Ron Howard is fast becoming a noted music documentarian: His 2016 film, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — the Touring Years,” released by Abramorama in theaters and Hulu on television, was a Grammy winner. His follow-up is “Pavarotti,” a doc about the man who became one of the most successful and beloved opera singers in [...]

  • Lesley Barber Film Composer

    How 'Late Night' Composer Lesley Barber Channeled Paul Shaffer for Talk-Show Theme

    When director Nisha Ganatra started planning “Late Night,” the new Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling film about a failing late-night network talk show, she knew she’d need a house band and a theme for the program. Her first call was to composer Lesley Barber (“Manchester by the Sea”), with whom she had worked a few years ago on [...]

  • Ma Movie Set Design

    How 'Ma' Filmmakers Turned a Garage Into Octavia Spencer's Party Basement

    In the new psychological thriller “Ma,” a middle-aged woman played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer befriends a group of teenagers and invites them to use the basement of her house as a place to party. Of course they accept, and much of the film happens there, though the subterranean space we see in the film [...]

  • Jim Frohna Big Little Lies Cinematographer

    'Big Little Lies' Gets a More Naturalistic Look for Season 2

    Jim Frohna has a knack for framing female-centric stories that are lyrical and dramatic. As Jill Soloway’s shooter since her debut feature, “Afternoon Delight,” as well as several seasons of “Transparent,” Frohna has become a preferred DP for capturing the female gaze. So when conflicts in scheduling kept director Jean-Marc Vallée and DP Yves Bélanger from [...]

  • Fosse Verdon BTS

    How 'Fosse/Verdon' Recreated 'Big Spender'

    The making of one of filmmaker Bob Fosse’s early triumphs, the sizzling “Big Spender” sequence from the 1969 musical “Sweet Charity,” kicks off the opening moments of the first episode of FX’s bio-limited series “Fosse/Verdon” in the same sultry style for which the legendary director-choreographer was known. It juxtaposes the film’s dancers in a sinuous, [...]

  • Andy Vajna Remembered

    Hungary's Film Business Copes With Life After Late Producer Andy Vajna

    When the producers of Lionsgate’s “The Spy Who Dumped Me” were struggling to get a permit for a key location on the streets of Budapest several years ago, they knew exactly where to turn. “I called Andy,” says Adam Goodman, whose Mid Atlantic Films serviced the shoot. “I said, ‘Look, we need your help.’” Goodman [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content