Thanks to Michael Coleman's SoundWorks Collection mini-docs, we've gotten some great behind-the-scenes peeks into sound designers working at the highest level of the industry. Though more common now than in previous decades, it's not every day one gets the chance to sculpt the soundscapes of an epic superhero flick -- even at the highest level of the industry. Even more rare is the opportunity to do so for Superman. Check out the SoundWorks Collection's look into Zack Snyder's Man of Steel below.
Not that it isn't very, very hard work, but these guys truly have a dream job. What other profession may (depending on the challenge, of course) call for you to experimentally pour ball bearings on a toy xylophone -- because that just may be the trick that produces the needed sound effect? It's that joyful-spirited brand of creative problem solving that has always fascinated me about sound design, in addition to the way that a sound team is essentially a whole other film crew on top of the one you normally think of. On the other hand, of course, it takes a very special type of person to deal with some of the issues that can arise with a world as rich as sound.
I'm sure many of us have, at some point, returned from a small shoot or miscellaneous one-person freelance gig, perhaps, to find a major problem with a stretch (or more) of the recorded sound. It may have been a refrigerator you just couldn't pull the plug on for whatever reason, a helicopter buzzing by overhead, or simple hiss or hum. The hours you can spend trying various combinations of equalization and noise cancellation tactics to get the thing fixed and sounding "right" (or, at least, "better") really lends some perspective to the functional bond of a strong sound team.
In Man of Steel, the use of multiple pieces of software to bring down the cicadas on some of the on-set sound or multiple plug-ins to tweak elements of Krypton -- things that can be extremely subtle and even maddeningly sensitive -- make it easy to appreciate the effort, skill, and mentally-burned calories that can go into such work. It's also nice to see that little easter eggs for fans of long-standing sagas such as Superman are still built into soundtracks to find with a wink and a nudge -- almost Wilhelm Scream-style.