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Building the Fantastical Soundscape of 'The Hobbit' with SoundWorks Collection

Speaking of The Hobbit, thanks once again to Michael Coleman’s indispensable SoundWorks Collection we now have another angle of the rather extensive amount of behind-the-scenes material on the film (trilogy). Previously we’ve had a look at the environment the crew created to be creatively conducive, questioned the aesthetic nature of its 48 frames-per-second acquisition (and delivery, in many cases), all the way back to the films’ truly epic on-location shooting and production design. But foley work, mixing, and sound design in general are things that end up getting less making-of attention than the imagery of films, so check out the SoundWorks mini-doc that rounds out The Hobbit BTS goods below.

We’ve already shared the ninth Hobbit video blog, which details the film’s post production process in general — but since it includes a bit more material on sound design, I’ll re-include it here as well (sound-specific stuff starts happening at 08:40).


The soundscape of a film like The Hobbit is truly staggering in the variety it contains and the scale on which it exists. Everything from open fields, earthy Hobbit holes, castles, cavernous underground spaces, and waterfall-side Elven outposts must be represented — not just in terms of ambient or background sounds around it, but also in the way each space reshapes the discreet sounds happening within it. Dialogue, the clanging of armor, footsteps — the ‘texture,’ envelope, or overall quality of every sound must be affected by its surroundings, and feel at home in that space.

This why impulse response is a truly amazing development for sound design, because a customizable effect can be created to represent the reverberative (or absorptive) nature of virtually anywhere. Of course, that’s only part of honing in the soundscape — if an orc’s battle-shriek doesn’t pack the punch, it still won’t work even with authentic reverb settings applied. So really, the sound of everything from the enormous landscape to the briefest, quietest action must be created,and given its proper place in the mix.

Which of you guys have used impulse response for convolution reverb purposes in sound design? What manual techniques or work-arounds have you used to simulate a sound effect’s ‘belonging’ within the space of a scene? What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever used to create the sound of something else?

Link: SoundWorks Collection – The Hobbit

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  • Dolby’s Atmos is truly a revolutionary step in sound delivery. Learn all about how it works in this video: http://www.dolby.com/us/en/professional/technology/cinema/dolby-atmos-video.html

  • Thanks Dave, hadn’t seen that and really enjoyed it. Still waiting for the release over here in Australia!

  • Well… honestly it’s all about tweaking until it sounds right for me. Start with close settings/preset, then move sliders and knobs till it sounds ‘right’.

    But hey, that’s pretty much all media design lol. So I guess post didn’t really have too much to add

  • Once I´ve used the sound of a bike chain to give personality to an old mattress (spring sound)!

  • I haven’t seen a movie in Atmos yet, but there is a theater around me that is showing the Hobbit at HFR and Atmos. I’m going to see it this week.

  • Freda Tocchio on 02.17.13 @ 1:01PM

    I consider Lord of the Rings to be among the finest cinematic achievements in motion picture history. As for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the closest approximation is The Phantom Menace. I liked The Phantom Menace back in May 1999 and I still do (in defense of… ). But I now know exactly how those who disliked or hated Episode One felt on that fateful evening 12.5 years ago. I feel your pain, for now it is my pain as well.;

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