Supervising Sound Editor Will
Files, Re-Recording Mixer Kevin O’Connell and crew invent the sound of the
future for space love story.
CULVER CITY, CALIF.—Passengers, from Director Morten Tyldum and Sony Pictures
Entertainment, is a futuristic love
story set on a mammoth spaceship carrying thousands of passengers, kept in
sleep chambers, to a distant planet. Stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
play two of those passengers who, through an equipment malfunction, awaken 90
years early.
For the sound team, based at Sony Pictures Post Production
Services, and led by Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer/Re-Recording Mixer
Will Files and Re-Recording Mixer Kevin O’Connell, the space epic presented the
interesting challenge of imagining the sound of the future. Among other things,
the crew needed to come up with hundreds of sound effects representing various
aspects and functions of the space craft as well as the large assortment of
robots that serve as its crew.
Working in close collaboration with Tyldum, picture editor
Maryann Brandon and composer Thomas Newman, Files, O’Connell and their crew
began producing sound elements and temp mixes shortly after live action was
complete, but at an early stage of visual effects production. Sound production,
then, went through successive stages of development, elaboration and refinement
as visuals were more fully realized, a process that continued nearly to delivery.

One recurring creative challenge was to imagine the sounds
of future technology. “There are a lot of motors on the ship, but we didn’t
want to use traditional motor sounds,” Files notes. “That would sound too
familiar and too low tech for a state-of-the-art spaceship hundreds of years in
the future. We tried to give everything a twist to take it out of our normal
everyday world.”

Files points to the mechanical effects that were applied to some
robots. “We wanted it to feel warm, friendly and cute,” he says, “so we
collected sounds that had nothing to do with robots. We recorded glass rolling
on a desk to give the motor a whirling sound. We also recorded the squeaks of
my assistant’s office chair and that became a component of the robot’s voice.”
In fact, many of the robots have voices as did the ship’s
central control system, and they “talk” with the actors. Hundreds of voice
actors auditioned for robot parts. Files notes that an especially lengthy
search was conducted to find the voice for the ship’s central computer. “It
needed to be authoritative, but pleasant,” he observes. After several
unproductive casting sessions, Files recalled a voice he’d heard while visiting
England. That led him to actress Emma Clarke whose voice is familiar to patrons
of London’s Underground with its gentle admonition to “Mind the gap!” “She was
perfect,” Files says. “Exactly what we wanted.”
Computer and robot voices were modified to give them a
not-quite-human sound. “We doubled up the tracks with a perf or two offset so that
they were a bit out of sync, and added different levels of futzing” explains
O’Connell. “Sometimes Morten thought it became too mechanical and we brought it
back to a sound that was a bit more human, but we still made it sound like it
was coming from a machine, rather than a person.”
Summing up the months-long effort to build the soundtrack, O’Connell
stressed its collaborative nature. “Many people contributed to the sound of
this film,” he says. “Ultimately, we were all striving to fulfill Morten Tyldum’s
vision and applied all of our talents to get there.”
Files concurs. “It was a very satisfying project because we
got to try a lot of creative things and we had enough time to get it right,” he
says. “It was a challenge but it was also a lot of fun.”
About Sony
Pictures Entertainment

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Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global
operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition and distribution;
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