Sound studio

Inside the sound of the dunes, from the giant worm to that magical voice

This story about the sound of “Dune” first appeared in the Problem below the line from TheWrap Awards Magazine.

When Denis Villeneuve told supervising sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green that he wanted “Dune” to blur the lines between sound design and music, it was a direction they had heard before. “I can’t count how many directors have encouraged this, but unless someone really forces it to happen, it tends not to happen,” said Green, who started his career as a songwriter. “But Denis encourages cross-talk.”

As a result, the sound team had sketches of Hans Zimmer’s score to work with to plan the film’s intricate sound design. “In traditional paradigms, sound people aren’t supposed to do anything melodic or tonal, and composers shouldn’t make explosions,” said Mangini, whose career in sound for huge movies started with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. “Allowing us to blur the lines increases the size of our palette. “

For “Dune,” the experimentation involved spending days in the California desert recording the sounds of the sand – burying microphones under the sand, hitting the sand from above, and shooting microphones through the deep sand to get the sound. sound of a giant sandworm traveling in an underground environment. (“Then we would take that little sound back to the studio and magnify it into the sound of a 400-meter worm traveling under you,” Mangini said.)

They even recorded themselves walking on sand sprinkled with Rice Krispies, supposed to represent the sound of “spices” – the most precious material in the galaxy, according to “Dune” tradition – embedded in the sand.

But the most delicate sound they must have made for the film had nothing to do with sand. It was “the voice,” an authoritative tone by which a member of the mysterious Bene Gesserit organization could obtain instant obedience from whoever he was speaking to.

“The voice has certainly been the longest gestation,” said Mangini. “We never really defined exactly what we wanted to do until the last week of final mixes – and that time is very close to a year and a half of experimentation. ”

One of the keys, Green said, was the idea that the voice could channel ancestors who had used power for generations. “So when the person uses the voice, maybe we hear an element of a crisp old voice that carries the ancestors. We picked an actor who had that kind of voice and recorded him saying a bunch of possible things. And then other tricks appeared, such as attenuating and sucking air into space to convey the effect it has on a person and the environment in which it is used.

As they tinkered with the vocals, editor Joe Walker changed his editing of the stage to match the timing. “There was a nice back and forth to find the best way to present the streak,” Mangini said. “It’s not very common for sound and image writing to work together, and I found that very refreshing.

Read the additional sections of TheWrap’s ‘Dune’ package here:

Denis Villeneuve: “I like to put all the chips on the table and jump without nets.”

Production design: “Denis approaches his films as if they were documentaries – it encourages us to dig and create worlds that make sense.”

Costume design: “It was clear that Denis wanted this psychological, multi-layered, political drama strewn with mysticism.”

Cinematography: “The spaces had to be beyond the big ones, and that meant that I also had to light up beyond the big ones. “

Editing: “When you walk on a set and see what they’re doing, it’s really hard to cut things off after seeing all the work it takes to take a picture. “

Visual effects: “If you’re about to get a physical benchmark, the visuals are more believable – but we just couldn’t find that kind of big disturbance in the sand.”

Music: “If you define something in the future you want that weirdness – why would you have a bunch of strings or rely on some Western vocabulary?” “

Learn more about the Under-the-Line number here.

Wrap the problem below the line - Dune