Ron Howard Rush
Ron Howard's "Rush" screened at the first annual Jalopnik Film Festival last year.

With Joseph Kosinski's "Oblivion," there's a very sparse sound design because of the desolate wasteland, necessitating quiet ambiance with wind and rain until the action kicks in. The two biggest sound ideas were the drones and the Bubbleship. Kosinski told sound designer Ren Klyce that he wanted an evil R2D2. They communicate tonally and electronically with a force and menace, using the science of voice encryption.

With the Bubbleship, they built a full-scale model that was a twin-turbine jet with tech beeps that needed to be created. And, again, Atmos places you in a more immersive environment where objects fly by and you can sense greater resolution.

The visceral Formula 1 experience in Ron Howard's "Rush" is more than just about the racing rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) -- it's about making their McLaren and Ferrari secondary characters. They not only captured the sounds of the engines, tires, transmissions, and gearboxes, but the recordist stayed on through post with sound designer Markus Stemler, supervising sound editor Frank Kruse, and sound mixer Danny Hambrook to make sure the final mix was accurate.

Meanwhile, ambient sound is used almost like another character in depicting Solomon Northup's abject terror and struggle to survive in "12 Years a Slave." From the cicadas, birds, frogs, and flies, to the spike of the cotton and the sugar cane, to the laceration of the whip, to the ache of loss in the spiritual/field songs, director Steve McQueen and sound designer Leslie Shatz pull us in on a subliminal level.

"It can infect you, seep into you, lull you, or jar you," Shatz says.

Like all of these movies, the sound design impacts the entire emotional texture.