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Learn Sound Design Tips from the Experts with This SoundWorks Collection Video for 'Prometheus'

Though the camera, lighting, and set design can certainly affect the quality of a production, more often than not it is the sound design that separates a film from the pack. Sound has an unbelievable ability to not only surround an audience in the atmosphere of the film, but also transport them in a way that images cannot. Like many big-budget science fiction and action films, sound plays an important role in Prometheus. If you haven’t seen it yet, it certainly is one of those films that deserves a viewing for its production design alone. SoundWorks Collection has put together a tremendous resource for those interested in sound and sound design, and this video detailing the sound design in Prometheus is no exception:

There’s no question that sound is important if you want to make a successful film. It has a tremendous ability to fill in the gaps that are missing from the visuals. By using everyday items, there is a sense of familiarity even with a movie set almost 100 years in the future. It takes quite a bit of creativity to find real-world items that can be recorded and manipulated to create the many varied and layered sounds in a film like Prometheus. If you are wondering why your production seems lacking, even though your visuals are fantastic, your answer might be hiding somewhere in your sound design.

On another note, Prometheus was color graded entirely in Blackmagic (Davinci) Resolve. Company 3 used Resolve and a (expensive) control surface to grade the film in 3D (since it was shot in 3D using RED Epics). It’s remarkable that a movie with a budget over $100 million dollars used software that comes free with the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Of course, they might have a few more toys to take advantage of the program, but it shows you that if a program is good enough for a major feature film, it’s certainly going to be good enough for an independent feature. If you’re interested in seeing a more independent film graded on Resolve, Koo’s Scarlet short film was completely corrected and graded in that software.

Link: SoundWorks Collection – Prometheus

[via Film School Rejects]


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  • Jordan Carr on 06.14.12 @ 12:26AM

    >>> “Prometheus was color graded entirely in Blackmagic (Davinci) Resolve.”

    *No movie spoilers *

    The color and latitude was STUNNING when I saw it on IMAX 3D in Seattle – HUGE screen. The colors “popped” well and the mid-tone roll-off to the shadows was excellent. They did a great job of blending the sets and CG – everything matched.

    It was almost too perfect. The audience I was with kept bitching about the moving looking “too clean” and hundreds of people were expecting film grain in th darker scenes of the movie – there was none. It was polished well.

    And while the sound effects, orchestral score, and acting (David – Michael Fastbender) was top notch, the creatures were laughably cheezy. Very little GIGER influence sadly.

    As for the sound design – OSCAR worthy imo. Cudos to everyone involved, helped make my $14 worth it despite the layers of movie cheeze.

    • Agree completely – that’s why I thought I should share the video clip. The film is a perfect marriage of sound and visuals.

    • I agree to a degree that the Engineers were a bit cheesy (looked like they just found some enormous, Albino Eastern European for the part), everything about the film still brought me in entirely. I’ve seen it twice so far, and intend to see it a third time :)

      The second time, I did pick up much more on the overall sound design, which I absolutely concur is Oscar-worthy. The tones and atmospheric sounds play a huge role in the film, and I’m very glad Joe put this article out- I think sound can be very undervalued in short films when some filmmakers are focused on getting a pretty picture and spot acting.

      I hope someone on NFS writes an article next that discusses the use of practical effects that they insisted on for a number of things within “Prometheus” – I feel like people tend to go the VFX route nowadays because of its ease, but I read recently in a Ridley Scott interview that practical effects, much like the sound design, can pull your mind that much more into the film.

    • IMAX 3D tickets are $14 in Seattle? Bargain! $20 in NYC.

    • Not sure if this was a product of the theater I viewed the movie in, but there was this really Harsh crackling sound during different scenes in the movie. I belief it related to whenever there were seismic shifts in the terrain of the planet, but it was extremely disconnecting. The sound didn’t fit at all with the visuals and was uncomfortable to listen to… Once again, not sure if this was the theater I viewed it in or if anyone experienced the same sound…

      As for the dialogue and atmosphere recordings it was excellent. I remember wondering what qualities of the female lead’s dialogue made it sound slightly better than the others… I think it was a mix with her vocal tones that I may find pleasing, with the workflow they mentioned regarding ADR. Either way her dialogue sounded beautiful and was really quite good.

      As for the VFX and look of the movie, it was awesome. Beautiful film with great compositing and blending… However for some reason we left the theater wondering why it didn’t hit home harder… what were the missing elements to make it a truly awesome film… A very difficult thing to pull off but a great effort and a good movie none the less.

  • Actually listened to the film’s colorist Stephen Nakamura speak tonight. The grade is pretty light in comparison to the original ungraded footage. There are 6 theatrical grades: 3d, high brightness 3d, 2d film, 2d digital, IMAX digital, and IMAX film which are all tweaked for that medium.

    What’s great is whether it’s Resolve or Speedgrade… these were once multi thousand dollar programs that thanks to being bought by major companies, have become very affordable for the power the offer.

    • Interesting! I saw it in IMAX 3D and quite frankly was hoping for a sharper image… Prometheus was finished in 2K and on an IMAX screen, even if you’re not in the front rows, digital 2K can look pretty soft. The colors and imagery were all beautiful, don’t get me wrong.

      • It might not be the resolution of the image so much as the brightness. Because 3D is pretty dim, even high brightness 3D, you’re limited into how far you can stretch your blacks and whites. More contrast overall usually aids in edge/transition sharpness which is what your visual system feels most. Strange but true.

      • Lliam Worthington on 06.15.12 @ 12:04PM

        Agree. I saw it on the world largest Imax screen. Would have liked it sharper if anything. But a fantastic visual experience. Saw it again tonight in 3D in a regular cinema. Held up better and was much sharper, but unfortunately no way it was the high brightness version, which it really needed. And overall much preferred the Imax experience to carry me through it’s glaring script issues.

        Can’t wait to see films like this mastered in 4K – or a pulldown form Dragon 6K. Going to be magnificent.

  • I guess that would be why everyone thinks sort films lacking anything apart from music are good – because there is no audio to be bad (considering they use music from famous bands)

  • Didn’t anyone think the music was annoying in some scenes? I felt it being some-what cheesy and over sentimental when we were supposed to feel the “divine” moments. As always music is best when you don’t think about it. Sound design wise: Cool to see the lady who did the door sounds! I reacted to them during the film thinking: “That’s a fresh take on door sounds!”. Besides the “airy” Alien sliding doors, Aliens had some classic door sounds (MPV entering the reactor, bay doors with drop ship, Bishop closing shutters in lab , Ripley entering cargo room with power loader) Sure, some are reminiscent of the Carbonite Chamber sound in Empire.

    • The adventure aspects of the music were annoying. Especially, that heroic tune right at the end. They tried to implement too much of an eclectic mix

    • Jordan Carr on 06.14.12 @ 5:43PM

      Jon I sort of agree with you but there is a clear reason WHY the Prometheus team went with a stronger leitmotif throughout.

      Remember Aliens 3? (my personal fav or the bunch – David Fincher – but this is a whole different topic).

      Despite the lack of complete script and the incredibly dark nature of the film, critics AND the public never seemed to understand the sound track direction that Eliot Goldenthal and David Fincher was going for. They clearly wanted a blending of the soundtrack AND the sound effect design – ie pure atmosphere that would confuse audiences into wondering “who what were” sounds were coming from. It was brilliant!

      Sadly Fox Studios wanted the cheezy standard Hollywood score that required Eliot Goldenthal to re-edit much of his work (though a good portion still survives if you listen to it). He mentions in this interview that he felt he was working with 30 different people pushing him in different directions.


      I’d like to begin with ALIEN 3. How did you get that assignment?

      – The director [David Fincher] was very interested in a score that would not sound traditionally Hollywood, so they came to me. He would have already heard DRUGSTORE COWBOY, and I went to David Fincher and I told him that I had the perfect sound as the voice for the alien, this instrument called the steel cello, which is heard throughout – it’s an acoustic instrument. I also created some demonstration tapes for him, to show the direction I was going to, and we agreed that I would have the time to experiment and there would be money to experiment for maybe five-six months before the movie was scored. We’d do a series of experiments, so nearly a half year was spent electronically in working on different sounds. And then, when the orchestra got there, there was time for me to orchestrate everything, and it was just a lot of time on that thing, and I think that was one of the advantages of working in that system.

      But there was a lot of re-editings?

      – That just drove me crazy, beacause once the film was done, the studio gave the director a very hard time. I was no longer working with one person, I was working with 30, I was working with the studio and all the assistants. It became impossible. It was a much more interesting movie before the studio got involved.

      When I studied your score for ALIEN 3, I found some interesting connections between the orchestraions and the story. For instance, you have those french horn glissandi, almost sounding like an alarm foreboding the horror and catastrophy seen in the film. And in the scene where Ripley examines the dead body of Newt, you use a simple piano as a way to underline the human relation between Ripley and the girl. Is this the way you try to think when you compose your scores, to manipulate?

      – Well, maybe not the first one, in terms of an alarm. I use the french horns in many, many different ways – sometimes I use them isolating pitches, it creates a sense of uneasiness in the stomach. And it also creates an environment for the rest of the orchestra. In terms of the glissandi, it’s very dramatic, sometimes to emphasize certain pictorial images, it’s used for different reasons at different times. But you’re correct about the piano. We’re in outer space, in another world, and the most bourgeois, most family-type of instrument you can imagine is the piano. It’s in many, many people’s homes, in families where mothers and grandmothers and children gather around the piano, so I wanted the sound of the piano in space to make a point that it reminds you of home and children and family.

      Sadly I think the days of “atmospheric” music scores are over….but if you notice the minimal Trent Reznor design of current David Fincher movies….there might be hope left.

      Oh and David Fincher said that there most likely will be no work on a rendezvous with rama movie – DARN!

  • I thought the movie looked and sounded amazing, but was frustrated by the plot and strange character motivations. Felt like I just slept with a super model… Amazed and empty at the same time.

    • Lliam Worthington on 06.15.12 @ 12:08PM

      I think your in the majority. Script and characters had a lot of issues. Production design and visuals. Stunning.

  • The DaVinci they use is actually quite different from the one that comes for free with BMD camera. It’s the Linux version of Davinci which is the most powerful one. It utilises Nvidia Quadro Plex or Tesla (unlimited units) to achieve real time 2k and 4k playback and grading.

    • Don’t forget they’re also running off some pretty nice disk arrays to provide the throughput for DPX files.

    • Just because it’s for linux and it’s run through a much beefier pipe doesn’t mean it’s really all that different from the version we use. That’s like saying the mac and PC version are not the same. Basically, it’s the same program with the same interface/tools…just compiled to run on a different architecture.

      Same can be said for running AE/PP on a machine without GPU acceleration, but it’s not different software.

      Just want to be clear. The Davinci resolve you get with your BMCC is the same “functioning” software as the linux version…but compiled for Mac/PC…so the only thing you’re not getting is the optimization for that platform/hardware.

  • hello everyone
    my question is not about sound design its about color correction
    does anyone know how color grading in animation is done ?
    i mean its not like that all color choose in 3d software so whats the color correction part for ?
    and is there a link between davinchi and final cut ?


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