Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work Digging Into the Cannes Lineup: More Vet Auteurs and Women, No Netflix Digging Into the Cannes Lineup: More Vet Auteurs and Women, No Netflix Ryan Gosling in Talks for 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' Ryan Gosling in Talks for 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' You Can Now Read Over 200,000 Leaked Sony Emails and Documents You Can Now Read Over 200,000 Leaked Sony Emails and Documents Watch: The New 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Trailer Has Landed Watch: The New 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Trailer Has Landed Watch: This Exclusive Tribeca Trailer Promises a Vérité Southern Gothic in Malick Vein Watch: This Exclusive Tribeca Trailer Promises a Vérité Southern Gothic in Malick Vein 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 'Queen of Earth,' Starring a Gloriously Unhinged Elisabeth Moss, Goes to IFC 'Queen of Earth,' Starring a Gloriously Unhinged Elisabeth Moss, Goes to IFC Cary Fukunaga Takes Over Long-Stalled 'The Alienist' as TV Series Cary Fukunaga Takes Over Long-Stalled 'The Alienist' as TV Series Why the Istanbul Film Festival Cancelled Its 2015 Competition Why the Istanbul Film Festival Cancelled Its 2015 Competition MTV Movie Awards 2015: The Highs, the Lows and the Winners List (Videos) MTV Movie Awards 2015: The Highs, the Lows and the Winners List (Videos) Arthouse Audit: 'Ex Machina' Leads Four Big Openers, Kristen Stewart Opens 'Clouds of Sils Maria' Arthouse Audit: 'Ex Machina' Leads Four Big Openers, Kristen Stewart Opens 'Clouds of Sils Maria' From 'Boyhood' to 'Boy Next Door,' the 2015 MTV Movie Awards Noms Are All Over the Map From 'Boyhood' to 'Boy Next Door,' the 2015 MTV Movie Awards Noms Are All Over the Map 25 Years Ago I Wrote: "Hollywood's Female Stars An Endangered Species" 25 Years Ago I Wrote: "Hollywood's Female Stars An Endangered Species" The New Ladder: Anatomy of Indie Women's Picture 'Farah Goes Bang' The New Ladder: Anatomy of Indie Women's Picture 'Farah Goes Bang' Here's the First Image of Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Woody Allen's 'Irrational Man' Here's the First Image of Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Woody Allen's 'Irrational Man' Reese Witherspoon Nabs 'Luckiest Girl Alive' with Lionsgate, with "a wily, intelligent, complex narrator" Reese Witherspoon Nabs 'Luckiest Girl Alive' with Lionsgate, with "a wily, intelligent, complex narrator" Kristen Stewart Explains How She Held Her Own with Juliette Binoche in 'Sils Maria'--and Won a Cesar Kristen Stewart Explains How She Held Her Own with Juliette Binoche in 'Sils Maria'--and Won a Cesar Scientists Choose the 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies Ever Scientists Choose the 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies Ever Ryan Gosling Reveals How and Why He Shot 'Lost River' Ryan Gosling Reveals How and Why He Shot 'Lost River'

'Gravity' Set to Dominate Oscar Craft Nominations: Talking the Film's Sound, Music and Editing

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 3, 2014 at 2:07PM

As we approach Wednesday's Oscar voting deadline, at least one thing's for certain: "Gravity" is a lock for a majority of the craft nominations. We've already covered production design, cinematography, and VFX in depth, so now let's look at the corresponding design for sound and music, which were made for the immersive Dolby Atmos surround experience, along with the editing of what was essentially an animated movie.
0
'Gravity'
'Gravity'

And the sound design profoundly influenced Steven Price’s eerie score as well. "We worked very closely so that we weren't trying to do battle, Freemantle adds. "He used vibrations as well in place of percussion and we used filtered stuff, radio signals sometimes. We did it in a scientific way. Sometimes we would underscore the music with some subsonic base that you don't actually hear but you feel. The dynamics between the two makes it more exciting."

Price says the music needed to have an expanded role in keeping with sounds coming through vibrations. And Cuaron wanted to express sounds through tonal means as well as through music, so the sound became part of the composing process. The director also insisted that there be no percussion.

"The early cues were the hardest and took the longest time," Price suggests. "How do you compose an action score when all of the conventions of action scoring have been removed and there's no sound to compete with? We did a lot of experimentation with getting that intensity and trying to get the pacing right so you're with her all the way. There's a lot of layering in the score with the idea that it's immersive. 

Gravity

"The 'Debris' cue is the first time you get that and you hear all sorts of things that we recorded separately, and lots of elements I wrote to fly around you and to nudge you into her head almost. We blurred organic and electronic instrumentation so a lot of the sounds start out organically: glass harmonica, pipe organ, and textures that derive from breathing or low voices. 

"But everything was processed after recording, including the orchestral elements, which could be moved around throughout the surround speakers. I might record one line and then another so they could follow the movement of the characters. For instance, as Sandra falls, the string line would fall with her and it might meet something that was coming in. It was all designed around the choreography of the characters."

For co-editor Mark Sanger (who previously served as VFX editor on Cuaron's "Children of Men"), his impact began early. He joined the project in pre-production four years ago, helping the director build on his initial vision. They had a complete cut of the movie in animation 18 months before Bullock and George Clooney arrived, which they screened for Warner Bros., with temp sound and music, and Sanger and his assistant, Tanya Clark, standing in for the two stars. 

The camera was rarely locked to any spatial plane so it was a challenge to make the cuts work within the right geography. But the cyclical process with Cuaron and Framestore, the VFX company, allowed for changes in blocking that inevitably occurred. Sanger spent hours or days re-editing the rest of the scene to achieve the proper balance, continuity, and rhythm.

"It's not often that the editor gets to work collaboratively with all of the other guys at the very beginning of the design process in pushing the film along," Sanger admits. "For me, it was very exciting because there were decisions that we were making early on that would obviously change the script. We were all working together to get the best possible movie long before we were ever going to shoot it. 

"Once we could see how the structure of the film was coming about, then there came a point for several months where it was more of a technical process. And editorial decisions at that stage had financial implications. As an editor, you're used to dealing with financial implications in post-production where you've got visual effects shots and figuring out how many you can use within a given sequence. 

"But we were having conversations about how we were going to shoot it, and whether it was physically possible for us to deliver the actors' performances within the confines of the shots we were putting together. And so it was a unique situation, but then there came a point after about 18 months when the actors arrived and it blossomed into a creative process. And those were the times when you got a burst of enthusiasm after working on a cut with a lot of featureless previs for so long."

They certainly delivered a unique blockbuster spectacle with emotional resonance beyond anyone's expectations.

This article is related to: Gravity, Immersed In Movies, Sound and Score, Editing, Alfonso Cuaron, Sandra Bullock, Thompson on Hollywood, Interviews , Awards Season Roundup


E-Mail Updates