Sound Pros From ‘Belfast,’ ‘Dune’ on Sonic World-Building – The Hollywood Reporter


The story of Belfast — Kenneth Branagh’s semiautobiographical movie a few household set through the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1969, is seen by way of the eyes of Buddy (Jude Hill), and it additionally depends on Branagh’s reminiscences. “You are always kind of two places divorced from an actual witnessing of the event. It’s always a subjective experience of a subjective experience,” explains supervising sound editor and rerecording mixer Simon Chase. “In a lot of these moments, we didn’t have to tell the story of what we were seeing literally. It was always about what’s the emotion and what’s Ken’s remembrance of the emotion.”

The Oscar-nominated sound groups from Belfast — in addition to Dune, No Time to Die, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story — can all boast extremely efficient use of sound to raise their tales.

In Belfast, authenticity additionally was key to the soundscape. “We were very keen to establish the right sounds for that period,” says supervising sound editor James Mather, noting that they ranged from sirens to crowds, for which the crew aimed to “give the essence of the native dialect and the group and the way in which that they interacted so there was a mixture of genuine sound results, plus the fixed consciousness of the group round us.

“We also developed sound design that gave a sinister tone for [sequences where] intimidation was being portrayed. These were all sound design, and they gave an essence of something that felt uneasy. And there were trains, there were boats. Those little motifs gave us the opportunity to enhance the world you don’t see.”

Belfast
Courtesy of Rob Youngson/Focus Features

Extra sound recording classes had been wanted to create crowd noise whereas adhering to social distancing tips. “Ken actually attended all those sessions,” provides Mather. “He would tell them about the scene, and they would perhaps have their own stories. There’s humor in the film and there’s great tragedy, and they were able to discuss all that and bring their own experiences to those recordings.”

Mather additionally discovered {that a} black-and-white movie “allows you to be specific about what you want to articulate without having to overcrowd the frame with sound. It can be something very simple on a black-and-white image. It portrays a nostalgic, evocative emotion.”

From early conferences, the directive for the sound on Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic Dune was to create an “organic, believable” soundtrack, explains supervising sound editor Mark Mangini. “We began recording sounds in the desert, for example, for many of the fantastical elements like worms burrowing under the sand. It all started with a guiding aesthetic from Denis.”

With that in thoughts, members of the crew even spent a day in Death Valley with recording gear to seize sounds that may very well be used to attain their aim. “That included really simple and fundamental things like footsteps walking in deep sand. Normally those kinds of sounds would be captured in a recording studio, maybe a Foley stage, but the desert has a very unique, powdery kind of sand.”

They additionally gathered uncooked components for issues just like the sand worms furrowing. “We beat on the sand, and we buried Hydrophones — the kind of microphone you would drop underwater to capture underwater sounds — under the sand to capture this very resonant signature of the sand in Death Valley,” Mangini explains, including that for approaching sand worms, the sound of surf additionally was included into the scene. “It all of a sudden brought to life these huge movements of sand that we were seeing onscreen.”

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Dune
Courtesy Of Warner Bros. Pictures.

For Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond, filming occurred in a number of nations with a variety of conditions, beginning with a flashback of Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) as a baby at a secure home. “[Director Cary Joji Fukunaga] gave us very specific sound notes that he wanted, like the very slow slide of the door,” says supervising sound editor Oliver Tarney. “Everything was given enough space for the small details to shine. We knew we were in for a slightly different Bond film. We still had the big high-octane set pieces later on, but for a big film like this, it’s fantastic to have those dynamics between going from a very specific, considered soundscape into the big, and then back down again into a different type of sound realm.”

For the sound crew, the automobile chase by way of Matera was the hardest of the motion scenes. “We built that from the ground up,” says Tarney. “They gave us two days with stunt drivers and motorcycle riders and all the Aston Martins and all the SUVs. Everything was recorded from scratch and built from scratch.”

Another problem was the motion sequence set in Cuba, with Bond and Paloma (Ana de Armas) on earpieces. “Sometimes you’re hearing them talking in the room, sometimes it’s over an earpiece, and then you start hearing Blofeld on the earpiece as well. And trying to weave that was quite a hard one for dialogue editorial and also for the mix to try and get the ambience of the room, plus all those different streams of dialogue, all intermingling.”

Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is about largely on a ranch in Montana through the Nineteen Twenties. “Very early on, Jane was interested in the sound of the wind and the landscape and that juxtaposition between the intimacy of the close-up sounds versus the wide expanse of the Montana landscape,” says supervising sound editor Robert Mackenzie.

The drama was filmed in New Zealand, which Mackenzie says wasn’t a very windy location. “We had to then re-create that soundscape — I call it world-building,” he says. As an instance, Mackenzie describes the scene throughout which George (Jesse Plemons) and Rose (Kirsten Dunst) are dancing on a hilltop. “We shift that focus from the close-up of their feet and hearing that detail to then hearing [echoes off] the distant expanse of the mountains. That’s the idea, hearing that intimacy and the wide expanse of the landscape. That was something that I think defines the sound of The Power of the Dog.”

West Side Story opens with the enduring whistle — with, for theatergoers, the call-and-response emanating from completely different elements of the theater — and continues to immerse the viewers within the music and the sounds of Fifties New York. “It reminded me of being in a live performance,” says rerecording mixer Andy Nelson of the whistles. “Then out of that, the atmosphere started to grow.”

The first photographs of the longer term website of Lincoln Center present the demolition of the neighborhood. Notes supervising sound editor and rerecording mixer Gary Rydstrom: “It started with these great images of buildings torn apart and wrecking balls. It made it doubly tragic that these gangs essentially were fighting over territory that they were both going to lose. [The opening] was good for sound because we could set up the sound of demolition. Later in the movie, you would hear it offscreen without having to see it, to remind us that this is territory that’s being changed.”

A vet of Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound, Rydstrom says he and the Skywalker Sound crew recorded key sounds years in the past, when the Letterman Hospital on the Presidio in San Francisco was torn down (a Lucasfilm website now sits on the location).

To create Fifties New York, he says, “We recorded a lot of old cars. I looked for old New York recordings, which are hard to find. My favorite sound to record was a siren because the sirens from that era weren’t electronic, they were cranked. They make this great, natural sound and they take forever to wind down. I got ahold of an actual 1950s siren and we recorded the hell out of that.” Adds Rydstrom with a chuckle, “I love old sounds in general, and the 1950s were a much better sounding decade than ours, I’m sorry to say.”

This story first appeared in a March stand-alone problem of The Hollywood Reporter journal. To obtain the journal, click here to subscribe.





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