June 15, 2016

This Filmmaker Recruited George Lucas to Invent the Technology for His Movie

What do you do when you don't have the technology to get that perfect shot? Invent it, of course. 

When Mike Day was filming his award-winning documentary The Islands and the Whales, he encountered a particular production challenge. 

His film, shot over the course of four years, reaches deep inside the controversy surrounding whaling on the Faroes, an archipelago of 18 volcanic islands in the north Atlantic ocean between Norway, Iceland, and Scotland. Forces including vehement anti-whaling environmentalists and the increase of pollution threaten to dismantle the entire foundation of the Faroese existence; whaling is the only sustainable option for the islanders. 

To transport audiences into their world, it was incumbent upon Day to create the most immersive experience possible given the constraints of the medium. The film's sweeping cinematography captures the dramatic oceanside cliffs and the faces of the island's hardworking people, but images are only part of the story.

Day decided to recreate the environment's soundscape in order to provide viewers with the full experience of the Faroes. But in order to do this, he needed a very specific kind of multi-directional microphone. He contacted George Lucas's Skywalker Sound. Together, they invented a groundbreaking sound technique: an ambisonic microphone which allowed Day to remap the full sphere of sound in the fieldincluding the sound from above and below the microphone. In other words, they created the ultimate experience of spatial audio.

"It workedsubtle, but present," Day told Moviescope. "It's not a fireworks FX, but it takes you there to the windswept cliffs."

Harpex developed software specifically for Day to translate the ambisonic recordings from a specially designed tetrahedral mic to Dolby Atmos. The Islands and the Whales is the first film to use ambisonic sound recordings in production and to reproduce them in cinemas. The theater system uses 128 speakers, including vertical channels, which allow audiences to experience the sound as it was when it was originally captured in the field.

"This technique adds another tool for us to transport audiences into the world on the screen," Day said. "It’s been great to hear audience reactions to it, many not knowing the system was being used, but feeling its effect. It gives another reason to see the film on the big screen, and that’s always a good thing!"      

Your Comment

13 Comments

NFS why would you use this headline when you know George Lucas actually didn't really do anything at all, it was the engineers at Skywalker Sound who did the work!?!? again with these clickbait headlines smh.

June 15, 2016 at 1:40PM

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Devin Pickering
Cinematographer/Editor/Composer
137

Hey I gave money to Steve Jobs so I can view this webpage!

June 16, 2016 at 9:31AM

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John Mark
DP
88

June 15, 2016 at 2:04PM

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Yawn. Everyone in VR is making films with spatial audio using ambisonic microphones. The ultimate immersive experience of spatial audio is one that tracks and moves with your head and is binaural encoded so it sounds like it's right at your ear, not a stationary one heard while sitting in a theater with speakers many feet away. This film seems like it couldn't figure out which tech generation it wanted to be in and is just gonna get lost in the transition from film to VR (like radio to TV). It chose the wrong medium for better immersion.

June 15, 2016 at 2:19PM

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I don't think that VR has a monopoly on immersion. Story is and always will be king when it comes to immersion. No technological advancement will change that.

June 15, 2016 at 3:31PM

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We're not talking about the same type of immersion. One can be immersed in a story and one can be immersed in a setting/environment. Those are not the same thing, though they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. See Vincent LaForet's thoughts on the 48FPS "Hobbit" - it's a great example of the dichotomy.

June 15, 2016 at 4:45PM

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I recruited George Lucas yesterday as well!! I was using Photoshop which, as everybody knows, was created for ilm back then. ilm is a company of Lucasfilm and George Lucas didn't do shit to create that software but due to this article's logic it still makes him the creator of it thus I hired him yesterday!

June 16, 2016 at 2:04AM

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Gerard M.
901

So you give him no credit for the decisions he made that allowed so many developments so widespread throughout the industry?

He steered a ship and in the right direction when so many had no clue.

June 16, 2016 at 8:20AM

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November 20, 2017 at 4:23AM

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pankaj
1

Nothing but negative comments...on a filmmaking forum?! There's no way...trailer looks amazing! Cool article. Thanks for sharing :)

June 17, 2016 at 12:58PM

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Brad Bingham
Actor/Writer/Filmmaker
109

Emily,

The click bait title is misleading and your information about Dolby Atmos is incorrect.

Cinema-grade Atmos allows for up to 118 positional objects and 10 (9.1) bed channels (128 total). A maximum of 64 individual speakers/subs are addressable by the Atmos renderer (or 62.2).

Translated to the home version: you have up to 20 positional objects (any additional objects from the cinema files are combined with the closest adjacent objects based on their positional metadata information - Dolby calls this spatial compression), 7.1 bed channels (the stereo overhead bed channels are converted to two fixed objects), and a maximum of 34 speakers and one sub channel are addressable.

Please do better research. :)

June 20, 2016 at 3:29PM, Edited June 20, 3:40PM

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November 20, 2017 at 4:21AM

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pankaj
1