Written by Jeremy S. Bloom, Sound Designer

When someone asks what I do for a living, my answer is sometimes met with confusion. Sound design, after all, isn’t a household term. I explain that what I do is the art of making informed choices to further a story using sound. It’s my job to facilitate those choices for filmmakers, podcasters, exhibit designers, and other creatives who recognize that sound has the power to elevate storytelling.

Informed sound can enhance your work, but the secret to its conceptual success is to trust that a story’s sound already exists deep within. We bring it to the surface by asking our story, “What defines your world?”

“What populates it?”

“What’s beyond sight?”

Listen deeply to your story, between the words, and you will hear its sound.

When Robert Hein and Roberto Fernandez at Harbor approached me to collaborate on the sound design of the IMAX film Deep Sky about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, I was confronted by a classic conundrum obscuring these answers: what role can sound have when the story takes place in the silent void of space?

This isn't a new challenge for filmmakers. For the film Gravity, sound designer Glenn Freemantle and team clearly pondered similar questions. They discovered that the true world of their story was not the endless cosmic void, but instead the cramped confines of an astronaut's space suit. To bring the audience into that spacesuit, sound would become an extension of the astronaut's sense of touch. While sound waves are not present in the airless abyss of space, sonic conduction is present when the spacesuit comes in contact with other objects. This idea guided their film’s entire sonic approach.

Deep Sky | Official Trailer | Experience It In IMAX®www.youtube.com

In Deep Sky we see the lush imagery of distant worlds captured by NASA’s new telescope. I approached the work of discovering the film’s sound with the curiosity of a journalist, asking everything I could about its universe.

At a lecture, I learned that the fantastic colors of NASA’s images depict the range of our universe’s elemental building blocks and their densities. From a physicist friend, I learned about the rotating weight of black holes. Discoveries like these became the guiding basis for all of Deep Sky’s sound.

I discovered that sound could become a poetic way to depict the materiality of these interstellar landscapes, so I explored recording earthly objects that share those material qualities. Exotic materials like burning wax or hair share the sizzle of the sun’s heat. I recorded Pop-Rocks to depict explosive fields of distant star births. Spinning tops on drum heads became a rotating black hole, slowed down to depict its extreme weight through bass-y lower pitches. The scale of these celestial objects is unfathomable.

By sonically depicting their building blocks with relatable textures, they reach out of the screen and touch the audience with familiar magic.

Every story’s soundscape is that bridge between its world and our own. It echoes through the ear and into the heart, resonating our deepest memories and emotions. Listen closely for it in your script. Our work is to find it and let it out!