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Simon Hayes on d:screet-ly recording Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Dave 'Drax' Batista, who goes through the entire film topless, presented a unique challenge...

Oscar-winning production sound mixer Simon Hayes chose lavalier mics from DPA Microphones to record the Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn.

Hayes, who first used DPA microphones as production sound mixer for the film adaptation of Mamma Mia! in 2008, has used DPA d:screet 4061 and 4071 miniature mics on every film he has worked on since, including Les Misérables (for which Hayes picked up Oscar and BAFTA awards for best sound mixing) and upcoming releases Tarzan, directed by David Yates, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughan.

Responding to Gunn’s vision for the film – of preserving the authenticity and emotion of the actors’ performances – Hayes chose DPA miniatures so he could “capture original dialogue right at the point of shooting”. He explains: “It was clear from the first meeting with James Gunn that he wanted to capture original performances, which of course isn’t always easy when you’re talking about large-budget special effects and action-driven visual effects type movies.

“We knew that we were going to be shooting three or four cameras at all times, so the DPAs took precedence over the booms on a lot of scenes. This meant that, in the final mix, at least 75 per cent of the dialogue that made its way into the movie was recorded on DPA [d :screet] 4071s and DPA [d :screet] 4061s.”

Leading man Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord Peter Quill, was fitted with the DPA d:screet 4061 omnidirectional mic. “We felt that the 4061 added a little something extra in the bass region for his voice, which was quite exciting,” Hayes (pictured right) continues. “All of the other characters used 4071s on their chest rigs, and if we were rigging microphones in their hair or in their helmets, we used 4061s to increase the bass.”

Finding regular-sized sound stages too small for the galaxy-spanning epic, set designer Charlie Woods had sets housed in old British Ministry of Defence buildings. This provided Hayes with a few hurdles to overcome, sound-wise: “That kind of environment isn’t as easy to record sound in as a sound stage, so I had a lot of background noise and a lot of reverb to contend with,” he says. “Again, the DPA mics excelled at rejecting that reverb and just capturing dry, up-front vocals for me.”

Dave Batista, whose character Drax the Destroyer goes through the whole film topless, presenting another challenge altogether. “We collaborated with the special makeup FX department and were able to have a [d :screet] 4071 basically rigged into the special makeup effects, which was applied to his upper body so it became part of a scar in the middle of his solar plexus,” Hayes explains. “This meant that even though we had a topless man through the whole movie, in every single scene we were able to have a perfectly placed 4071. DPAs are so reliable that you can have it buried under makeup and you know that it’s going to work all day… you’re not going to have any problems from them.”

Guardians of the Galaxy will be released for digital download on 18 November and on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD on December 9, 2014.

Main picture: Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray cover (photo: Marvel Entertainment, LLC)