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Get In-Depth with 'The Dark Knight Rises' Sound Design Team (Including Hans Zimmer)

Christopher Nolan’s last few films have all had one thing in common: very detailed sound design. Maybe that goes without saying for a large Hollywood film, but the depth and scope of the sound work is what really helps each of his films come together. We’ve talked about SoundWorks Collection before, when we shared their video for Prometheus, but this time they take a look at the team behind The Dark Knight Rises, including the movie’s composer, Hans Zimmer.


If you’re wondering how you can improve your film (assuming the visuals are already fantastic), sound design and music are usually the two places you can look first. While it helps to have a huge budget to back up your sound ambitions, a lot of what the sound design team does is problem-solving. They ask themselves how they can make each particular visual element that much more powerful with the use of sound, and then they figure out how to combine and rework those individual pieces until they work together harmoniously to improve each other.

Like anything, sound is all about trial and error, and it’s interesting to hear them talk about trying to improve Tom Hardy’s voice by adding all sorts of different elements, but in the end, they removed all of the extraneous bits and just let his vocal performance stand on its own. Decisions like that are what can make or break a film, and it’s important to be conscience of those things when you’re working on your own film.

Link: SoundWorks Collection – The Dark Knight Rises

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  • Now this is what I’m talking about…love it.

    • I’m really eyonnijg the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog audience have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

  • Black dynamite on 08.3.12 @ 1:33PM

    Great !!! thx Joe

  • Cory Ewing on 08.3.12 @ 2:20PM

    That was really cool. Thanks for sharing!

  • Woow ! I don’t know what else to say, just Woow !

  • Brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

  • Very cool featurette. I was wondering if they would talk about Bane’s voice, because I felt that was the sound design team’s weak point. To me, it always sounded ADRed, and I think that may be why so many people don’t like his voice, because a lot of those people don’t know what ADR is so when they hear something that isn’t mixed just right, they don’t like it and just automatically think it’s the voice itself. Though that’s just my thought on it.

    Otherwise, very good stuff.

    • One thing to keep in mind: IMAX cameras are very loud in terms of the noise they generate on set. If there’s dialogue in an IMAX scene it is most likely ADR’d out of necessity.

      • I knew Bane would be ADRed regardless of which camera was being used, simply because he has a mask on. But it sounded very obvious and poorly mixed to me.

  • Question for more experienced filmmakers… So when the editor cuts a film like this, does s/he edit the entire movie with no music/sound effects? How difficult is it to hit the emotional rises and falls when you are cutting without music/sound? Any insights into that process would be greatly appreciated.

    • That’s a really great question, Ray, and I’d also be interested about what other people think about this subject. My understanding is that the editor cuts the film with temp sound and temp effects on his timelines in order to get the basic feeling of the piece, and then once he has it cut he ships it off to the the sound and vfx departments for the more detailed work.

      On the other hand, I’ve also noticed that a few editors prefer to cut their films silently so that they’re not distracted by outside elements such as sound, and then they can focus solely on the task of cutting for purely aesthetic and rhythmic reasons. Obviously a technique like this wouldn’t work for cutting dialogue scenes because the editor’s primary job in this case is to cut the actor’s performance as best as he or she can, which is impossible without taking into account the sound.

      When I edit, I typically use both of these methods in that I’ll watch the cut with and without sound to make sure that each edit point works visually, rhythmically, and aurally.

      Hope that helps.

  • Something I’ve wondered about too?

  • thanks for sharing, nevertheless, I somehow feel the execution of sound in this extract was better than the film itself, I dont no, could be wrong, once again thanks for sharing

  • Robert…thanks for your reply to Ray’s question. Your method might even work for me cuz I have been battling with that same issue

  • Liftman Productions on 08.10.12 @ 3:13AM

    Your blog is one of the most interesting, compelling collections of weekly highlights. One of the very few when it arrives at my inbox I get excited as more than half of the links are very interesting and informative, full of content.
    Thanks and keep it up!