Building the Sounds of a Plane Crash, Layer by Layer: SoundWorks Collection Spotlights 'Flight'

The right blend of subtlety and hyper-realism varies in any successful effect, be it in light or in sound. The SoundWorks Collection has brought us many insightful looks into the sound design and mixing challenges of several films -- in a recent case, though, a specific scene (to which sound is truly integral) is broken down, layer for layer, sound by sound, and shot by shot. Check out SoundWorks' look at the crash scene from Flight below.

Before we get into the SoundWorks Collection piece, here's the trailer for Flight, which will demonstrate the vital importance of the sequence highlighted below. The crash, after all, is the narrative nucleus of the film -- which, on top of everything else, marks director Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film in years -- so it had better downright impress, sonically as well as visually. The key to putting you right onboard with Denzel and crew, nearly feeling every vibration and gut-wrenching bout of turbulence, starts with hearing it.

It's always great to see such professional aural artisans at work, and I think this is a particularly excellent look thereof -- because again, we don't as often get a chance to watch a scene gain its sound design layer by layer, waveform views and all. Some of the stuff being recorded (the rickety ladder comes immediately to mind) is so obvious that's it outright ingenious -- but each element's impact really takes off in the context of the sound textures around it, with no apologies for that pun. Before the score even comes into the soundtrack here, the scene's intensity shoots way up once the ambient and incidental sounds (a line that becomes blurred in a scene such as this) are introduced -- the way the sequence is shot is already primed for the flow of adrenaline, to be sure, but watch again on 'mute' and try to tell yourself you're half as excited by the imagery alone.

What's the strongest example of when sound design 'made' a scene in your own films? Are you reminded by this clip of any seemingly silly but ingeniously effective object you used to craft a sound effect?

Link: SoundWorks Collection -- Vimeo

Your Comment


I'm not really that big a fan of Denzel, especially after his John Q comments, but this movie might be worth a look. The trailer, though, oscillates from interesting to typical quite frequently.

In designing the sound for a zombie movie I made, I used the sounds of cows mooing played backwards to accent the zombie yelling/groaning upon finding out a door was locked.

Proper use of source music in conjunction with good shot choice and sound design can really make a scene creepy.

December 30, 2012 at 9:37AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


@DIY what are you referring to when you say John Q comments

December 31, 2012 at 1:21PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Those "Soundworks" videos are some of the most informative videos on all of Vimeo.. even if you don't work in sound, these are fascinating and show a lot of BTS stuff.

My favorite is about how the Foley artists get their job done -

Thanks for sharing, didn't realize how many new Soundworks videos they've put out recently.

December 31, 2012 at 6:00PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM