This year, all five Oscar nominees in the sound category have also scored Motion Picture Sound Editors nominations at the 69th annual Golden Reel Awards. For the second year in a row, the Oscar category combines sound editing and sound mixing.

The MPSE Golden Reel Awards, to be held as a virtual global ceremony March 13, recognizes the craft of sound editing, dividing those accolades into three disciplines for the awards category.

“Dune,” “Nightmare Alley,” “No Time to Die” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” all received nominations. “Dune,” a leading contender in the Oscar race for sound, as well as other crafts, leads the way with three nominations for achievement in sound editing, which includes feature effects/Foley, feature dialogue/ADR and feature underscore.

“Sound effects are everything from doors opening and closing and car sounds to dinosaurs and aliens,” says Mark Lanza, president of the MPSE. “These can be recordings found in nature or things that have to be manufactured specifically for the item on the screen.

Backgrounds would also be found here. They set the location of a scene as well as the mood and provide clues or hints as to where you are and what is coming. All of these elements can develop tension or make you feel at ease — perhaps falsely.”

MPSE-nominated supervising sound editor Oliver Tarney worked to give the opening scene in “No Time to Die,” set in Norway, a creepy quality as Rami Malek’s character enters the house. From the slow sliding door to Malek’s footsteps on the creaky floorboard, Tarney crafted the scene with sound as a primary emotional component.

With dialogue and ADR, editors often need to clean up set dialogue from extraneous noises, choose the correct microphones to use and match performances.

“ADR is the dialogue recorded after the shooting is finished,” Lanza says. “There are many reasons that a project needs the actor to come into a stage and re-record some dialogue after the fact.
“ADR has to be matched for sync with the actor’s lips and also matched into the room and blend into the actor’s performance that comes before and after it.”

With “The Power of the Dog,” re-recording mixer Tara Webb (one of only two women nominated for an Oscar in the sound category) strategically stripped the sound away, working with dialogue editor Leah Katz to protect the spare chatter.

Per Lanza, the third aspect of sound editing is music editing. “The music editor needs to hit key points on the screen with selected parts of the score or song and make it seem like the music was written directly for this scene and hide all of the edits along the way. A good music editor can fool you into not noticing all of the cuts.”

With Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” supervising sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green made the soundscape as realistic as possible using elements not often employed, such as an ornithopter, an insect-like aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. Mangini layered a cat purr over the ornithopter, with tent straps and beetle wings flapping in the wind.

But it was nailing the correct sound of the Bene Gesserit, a community of nuns in “Dune,” that proved the most challenging.

No CGI or auto-tune was required for the scene. Ultimately, it was the magic of composer Hans Zimmer, as well as the singer Loire Cotler, whose voice was superimposed over cellos, bagpipes, guitars and a Tibetan war horn, which worked to pull off the scene’s unique sound.