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PRO SOUND AWARDS 2014: Under the Skin, Gravity and other sound in post

Four very different films lead the charge in the Best Sound in Post-Production category.

Four very different films lead the charge in the Best Sound in Post-Production category of this year’s Pro Sound Awards.

The sound teams behind super hero blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past (Craig Berkey, Doug Hemphill, John A. Larsen, Chuck Michael et al.), biblical epic Noah (Craig Henighan, Dominick Tavella, Skip Lievsay et al.), creepy arthouse flick Under the Skin (Wave Studios) and sci-fi thriller Gravity (Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Glenn Freemantle, Skip Lievsay, Steven Price et al.) are each in the running for the gong.

Gravity, famously, scooped seven Oscars at 2014’s 86th Academy Awards – including the awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing – while Days of Future Past and Noah have both won widespread critical acclaim for their ‘immersive’ Dolby Atmos surround mixes (handled by Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, and Deluxe New York, respectively).

Sound design on Under the Skin – which stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress (pictured) who preys on Scottish men – was created over the course of a year by Johnnie Burn, of London-based Wave Studios, who was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement at the British Independent Film Awards for his work on the movie.

Describing how he created the reality of presenting the film’s world through an alien’s eyes, Burn told Filmmaker magazine: “We knew we had to record an awful lot of reality in the sound, because Jon [Glazer, director] was clear that in order to convey the alien we had to present the world as honestly as possible.

“Initially, I thought that meant just record everything and try and make it later. But when the first picture cut was done and we went through a traditional film process of track laying sound onto the film, and doing foley in the traditional way, it turned out to be completely inappropriate. It sounded a like a [regular] film, which was really wrong. I then took the sound team up to Glasgow and we spent two weeks recording everything we could find, just people’s conversations. We had an umbrella with a microphone hidden in it! It was a bit James Bond.

“We built a library from about 2,500 hours of sound, and Jonathan and I spent a month listening to every single thing and cataloguing it into a library that was specific from Glasgow. We knew we could rely on it. When we spent a further few months sitting in a dark room, actually piecing the sound of the film together, we knew we had a pot of gold to make it from. All the scenes came from ideas of how to make this as real as possible.

“The interesting thing about this approach was we were finding was that exactly the sort of stuff you’d normally remove from a film was making it in: a bump here, a clip there.”

Under the Skin was released through iTunes on 24 June and on DVD/Blu-ray today (15 July).