Avengers Endgame sound Asbjoern Andersen


Avengers: Endgame soars at the box office and has taken in an astonishing $2.2 billion in less than two weeks - making it the 2nd highest-grossing movie in history worldwide (!).

Supervising sound editor Shannon Mills has worked on a number of Marvel movies, and in this exclusive A Sound Effect interview, he gives you the in-depth story about that Avengers: Endgame sound - including the audio team's tactics for creating sounds that match the scale of what’s on-screen, how they kept the epic battles from becoming a chaotic mess, working with (and recreating) unique superhero signature sounds & much more:


Written by Jennifer Walden, images courtesy of The Walt Disney Company. Please note: Contains spoilers
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Marvel/Disney’s Avengers: Endgame — in theaters now — gave me all kinds of new movie-going experiences. First, at 9:30am on a Friday morning, the theater was packed. I’ve never seen this happen before, not even for Star Wars releases. Usually, when I go see a film in the morning, I have the whole theater to myself. For Endgame, I was lucky I found a seat!

Second, the entire audience very vocally expressed their emotional reaction to the film. People were sobbing, cheering and whistling, clapping, and laughing — sometimes crying and laughing at the same time. It was a wonder. Even I cheered when Captain Marvel showed up on the battlefield. (She’s awesome! Did you read about the Skywalker team’s work on her film, Captain Marvel?)

The entire audience very vocally expressed their emotional reaction to the film. People were sobbing, cheering and whistling, clapping, and laughing — sometimes crying and laughing at the same time.

Third, and most shocking of all, absolutely everyone stayed until the very end of the credits. Perhaps they were hoping for some post-credits extra scene (as Marvel films tend to have), but there wasn’t any. Doesn’t matter, though. I was so happy that a general audience watched the long list of names and saw just how many people it took to create Avengers: Endgame.

On that list was supervising sound editor Shannon Mills at Skywalker Sound. As you know, Mills has worked on many of the Marvel films, including Avengers: Infinity War. He really is a walking Marvel-film encyclopedia! For Endgame, that was important. The final battle was a who’s who of superheroes, each one with his/her own unique sonic signatures that Mills and his team needed to faithfully reproduce. Plus, there were the time travel sequences that went back to previous films. Here, Mills talks about tracking down all those sounds, and then creating new material to expand the story. He also talks about their tactics for creating sounds that match the scale of what’s on-screen and how they kept the epic battle from becoming a chaotic mess.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**
18 sound designers sit and stand in front of the theater screen showing the Avengers: Endgame title
In preparing for Avengers: Endgame, did you go back to the previous Marvel films and re-organize/search for sonic elements you knew would be showing up in this one — like, the Infinity Stones activating in the gauntlet, or character specific sounds like Captain Marvel’s energy, or Black Panther’s suit, or Ant-Man’s quantum realm machine, and so on?

Shannon Mills (SM): There was a lot of that. Since I’ve been doing a lot of the Marvel films, I’ve been keeping a log and a live version of all 22 films because you never know when someone is going to show up in a Marvel film that you are working on. So I have all of the films live and available. At this point, I’m a walking encyclopedia of sounds in the Marvel universe.

I’ve been keeping a log and a live version of all 22 films because you never know when someone is going to show up in a Marvel film that you are working on

When we first started on the film, it was obvious that we were going to have to go back to a lot of the films because in certain places there are direct lifts from previous films and in other places there are just references to characters that we are familiar with, who need to sound the same.

We try to carry that through all the films — whether it be their origin film or a film that they show up in with someone else.

We started by researching and listening to the previous films and moving those elements into this film to try to stay true to the originals.

 
I can’t even imagine the amount of work that is…
SM: It was a lot of work for sure! I have an excellent team and we had done a lot of the sounds together. We had Samson Neslund, Nia Hansen, Josh Gold, and Steve Orlando on the sound effects side. They were instrumental in helping to find those moments that we needed.

We also had a lot of assistance from our picture team — editors Jeff Ford and Matt Schmidt. They’re also very familiar with the films so if I ever had any questions or wasn’t sure I could always talk to them.

But, most of the sounds or scenes I recognize because I had worked on them in the past and have seen the other films that friends have worked on.
The Avengers Endgame Gauntlet
What were some unique challenges you had in terms of sound on Endgame?

SM: There are lots of unique challenges on a film like this, with such size and scope and so many characters. All of these characters have special abilities. Managing that in itself is pretty unique for a film. You don’t normally have a film that has 21 other movies attached to it. That’s pretty amazing.

The time travel was a big focus for us in this particular one. It comes from previous films like Ant-Man, the first one, which is where they started experimenting with the quantum realm. Our sound designer David Farmer worked on that, and so he carried those sounds forward into Ant-Man and the Wasp, where the quantum realm became more of a focus. Then it came forward to our film, and now they’re learning to control it. We had some of that vintage Ant-Man quantum realm sound at the beginning, when Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), and Captain America (Chris Evans) start to experiment with time travel.

Shannon Mills as Iron Man

Re-recording mixer Juan Peralta dons an Iron Man helmet to get a particular scene just right

Then, when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gets involved, we started to move the sound into a high-tech arena that was more Tony’s style — slick and cutting edge. We tried to blend those two but then move it up to the digital world.  It becomes more high-tech and on a larger scale.

Tony also creates those time travel space-GPS watches. Every time they time travel, the watch makes a specific set of beeps that sound designer Nia Hansen came up with. And those are now my ringtone.
 
Let’s start with that first time travel experiment. Ant-Man is popping in and out of time but it’s not perfect. He comes back as a baby and as an old man. How did you make that sound for Ant-Man popping in and out of the quantum realm?

SM: One thing we’ve always done with Ant-Man is give his technology a vintage sound because it comes from older days. And for Hulk — as he admits in the film — time travel is not his expertise. So he’s fumbling with the technology, and they’re doing time travel out of the back of a van. It’s new and experimental, so we tried to keep the sound vintage until Tony got involved.

 

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The Avengers split up into teams and go back in time to different moments to collect the Infinity Stones. Revisiting these past places, how close did you have to stay to the sound of past films? For example, Peter Quill shows up on Morag to get the Power Stone. We see him dancing and singing and kicking those little creatures like he did in Guardians of the Galaxy. But then we see him from James Rhodes and Nebula’s point of view. So it’s familiar territory but with a new twist. How did you approach the sound for that scene?

SM: We tried to stay as true as possible to the original films initially, when we first show up in that time. We wanted to keep it the same for the fans, but also, we wanted to really get back to that time and place. Then we had to figure out a way to blend out of that scene and continue with the story that wasn’t in the original films.

That moment with Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Quill (Chris Pratt) singing is one of my favorite scenes. It’s so funny. That scene was all about the comedy. Initially, we start with the Guardians scene, and then it’s all about when the music cuts out. It gets dead awkwardly quiet, just to make it that much more ridiculous with him singing and kicking things. So that scene in particular was about the comedy, about knowing when to be quiet and let the joke play.

On the stage at Skywalker Sound

On the stage at Skywalker Sound

Looking at the epic battle near the end, there is so much happening when Thanos’s (Josh Brolin) army shows up. I know you can’t hit everything you see with sound (it would be a mess!). What was your process of elimination? How did you choose what elements to hit with sound?

SM:  There were lots of fun opportunities for sound but that battle was so huge that our main focus was to try to help the viewer track the story. We tried to pare back everything as much as we could while still supporting the action, just to help the audience follow who is carrying the gauntlet. That was the over-arching story. We tried to keep people’s attention on that as much as we could.

We also had to leave some real estate for composer Alan Silvestri’s music, which helped to play the emotion and heroism of the scene.

It was an overwhelming moment to pick and choose where to focus.
Rocket walks into a building on a rocky shore
You also have to keep the backgrounds going. There has to be something back there to convey the scale of this battle…

SM: Exactly. Luckily, there were scenes in there that we could take breaks, just to give the audience a break too. For example, when Peter Parker (Tom Holland) first sees Tony Stark, they have a nice little conversation. We took that opportunity to get really quiet — of course while supporting the background battle, but that was a nice little breather where we could bring it down and get quiet for a moment before we started back in with the full-scale battle going on.

Their talk gave us an opportunity to reset the ears before we go back into the battle. We didn’t want to continuously pound people with sound

Same thing with Quill and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), their talk gave us an opportunity to reset the ears before we go back into the battle. We didn’t want to continuously pound people with sound.

Audio interview on the sound for Avengers: Endgame:

Check out this Tonebenders interview with Shannon Mills on the sound for the film:

 

How did you make the sound feel large enough to fit what is happening on-screen? For instance, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) wrecks Thanos’s ship and it falls out of the sky. That’s massive! What are some of your tactics for helping the sounds to feel huge without completely blowing every speaker in the theater?

SM:  A lot of credit goes to re-recording mixer Juan Peralta. He’s really great at getting scale and size to match what’s on-screen. There are a variety of tricks that he uses, but one of the tricks that we do a lot is right before there’s supposed to be something huge happening, we try to get quiet. That way the next moment feels so much bigger than what you just heard. Working with Juan, working with the subwoofer, and also trying to get quiet before a big event gets us a lot of mileage.

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A collection of official Avengers: Endgame behind-the-scenes video featurettes

That must’ve been so difficult for the Captain Marvel moment because you get a wide view of the battle right before she comes in…

SM: Right before she comes in, Thanos is “raining down fire” as he calls it. There are thousands of missiles shooting down on our heroes. It looks like it’s going to be the end of them. Then, everything stops. It’s totally quiet. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) looks up and sees Captain Marvel come in, and then, boom, she takes out the ship.

Avengers: Endgame Supervising sound editor Shannon Mills

Supervising sound editor Shannon Mills

There were so many explosions from Thanos’s missiles! Where did you get the elements for your explosion sounds? Did you get to go out and blow stuff up and record it?

SM: We do have quite an extensive array of explosions but we always try to record more when we can; it’s just hard to get permission to blow stuff up.

Often times, we’ll try to keep an eye out for when people are already planning to blow stuff up and then will send a team out to record it.
 

Did you have a favorite scene for sound design? What went into it?

SM: One of my favorite moments of sound design was when future Nebula comes into the same time as past Nebula. Their circuits interact with each other and get into a feedback loop. That reveals to past Thanos that the Avengers are using time travel to defeat his plan.

When the two Nebula’s get into a feedback loop, there are some interesting sounds that happen and that was one of my favorite things that Nia Hansen and I worked on a lot very early-on. We experimented with feedback loops and different chains of processing that resulted in sounds you typically don’t want to hear — it would be an accident or generate a sound that you are normally trying to prevent. But in this case, that’s what we were looking for. We were trying to create that feeling that these two were interacting in a wrong way.

Some of the plug-ins we used for processing were Crystallizer by Soundtoys and we used Waves MetaFlanger and the Eventide’s H3000 Factory plug-in. We chained those three together and created different feedback loops.

What is something surprising you’d want other sound pros to know about your work on Avengers: Endgame?

SM: I think it’s surprising how much influence our early sound design had on this film. On this film and a lot of films that we do with editors Jeff Ford and Matt Schmidt, we start the process very early with sound design. As soon as they have picture and pre-viz, they are sending stuff to us and concepts to us to try to get us to start thinking about and creating things for the film. So much of the early sound design we did for this film had an influence on the VFX. They got so used to the sound and liked the sound so much that things started to get designed around the sound (as opposed to the other way, which is the way things usually happen).
 

A big thanks to Shannon Mills for giving us a look at the powerful sound of Avengers: Endgame – and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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    This sound library is the ultimate achievement of a really ambitious project of recording winds from very remote places across the world.

    Included are authentic recordings from the Boreal region (North hemisphere: in Canada and Iceland), from the Austral region (South hemisphere: Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and the Last Hope province in Chile), on Islands in Mediterranean region (Thira in Greece), in the Sahara desert (Marocco), Isle-aux-Grues (Canadian winter), and more (see file list for more details)


    These were recorded either in urban settings, countryside, or complete wilderness.

    Included is a set of useful synthesized, tonal, and designed winds.

    The sounds are categorized into 3 folders: Designed, Indoor & Outdoor.

    WHAT’S INSIDE:

    • 102 stereo files
    • Highly focused and meticulously edited sounds
    • Ready to use Loop
    • Urban area and Wild area
    • Useful Designed & Synthesized Wind Sounds
    • Recordings from the Boreal region (North) in Iceland & Canada
    • Recordings from the Austral region (South) in Argentina & Chile
    • Recordings from Islands in Greece & Canada
    • Recordings from the desert in Marocco
    • Abandonned houses and shelters
    • Marina, lake, forest, car, flags, arctic, metal pole, prairie, street, mountain, grass, …
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574463599
    Add to cart
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    The Summer Ambients sound library contains 33 beautiful WAV files recorded with Sound Devices 702, Rode NTG3, two Oktavas MK012 in MS and stereo XY pattern. All sounds were gathered in different and beautiful places like forests, lakes, meadows or swamps. You can expect amazing ambients, textures, different birds, insects, forest during rain, calm and windy days. It’s a perfect library for designing background sounds. Everything was recorded in amazing Masuria in Poland.

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    Water Flow sound library took me about six months to record, consumed about 15 thermoses of tea and 42 litres of gasoline to get to all locations. It offers 90 BWAV files recorded in different locations. Huge part of this library is based on the recording sessions on the rivers. Two completely different locations, recorded regularly for the last 5 months allowed me to create this unique sound library. Most of the recording sessions took place during winter just before the sun was rising to reduce the amount of unwanted sounds. Almost all recordings are completely clear and only few have birds in background, since it was my intention to record some location ambients with natural backgrounds.

    You can see the metadata and sound list below.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1574463599
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  • Cars Cars In Motion Play Track 561+ sounds included, 340 mins total $150 $75

    The Cars In Motion sound library gets you exterior sounds of cars driving at different speeds, slow/medium/fast/very fast pass-bys, reverse sounds, accelerations, braking sounds and a lot of additional files. You’ll find different engines, and cars with different character.

    From a small BMW 114i through to a powerful Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8 with Magna Flow exhaust, up to a fast twin turbo BMW 640D F12. In addition to cars there are also files covering big machines like tractors and excavator.

    The library features 561 WAV files with total length of 340 minutes, recorded in 96kHz and 24 bits with a Sound Devices 702, two Sennheisers MKH 8040, Rode NTG3 and Sony PCM-M10.

    Here are the cars included in this library:

    • Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI – 73 files – 73 minutes
    • Audi A4 B8 2.0 TDI Avant – 11 files – 10 minutes
    • BMW 114i E87 – 20 files – 10 minutes
    • BMW 530D E60 – 55 files – 21 minutes
    • BMW F12 640D Gran Coupe – 87 files – 49 minutes
    • Excavator MF 860 – 30 files – 20 minutes
    • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 V8 – 62 files – 51 minutes
    • Renault Kangoo 1.6 16V – 71 files – 32 minutes
    • Renault Master II 2.8 dTi – 21 files – 13 minutes
    • Renault Master F3500 dCi135 – 30 files – 12 minutes
    • Tractor Case II CX90 – 15 files – 10 minutes
    • Volkswagen Golf II – 26 files – 13 minutes
    • Other Cars – 60 files – 23 minutes

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Cars Hyundai Kona Electric Car Play Track 428 sounds included, 98 mins total $100

    An electric car sound library with a range of FX from the Hyundai SUV, Kona.

    The library includes numerous driving FX on both gravel and asphalt including pass-bys, take offs, corners, approaches and skids.

    It also contains a large range of interior recordings from driving at highway speed all the way to buttons and switches.

    Multiple FX on each track – recorded in Sydney, Australia

  • Cars Car Interiors Play Track 430 sounds included, 14 mins total $69 $38

    car interiors library is a great supplement for all the car engine sounds that you already own. That way the action on the inside of the car is not stale at all. Dashboard buttons, seatbelts, automatic windows, switches, switching gears, brake, clutch and gas pedals, vents, turning signals. They’re all here!

    Got a whole bunch of roaring car engine sounds but then realised that you’re not equipped with all of the boring stuff like:


    car door handles, seatbelts, turn signal, air vents, buttons and switches, seats, storage compartments, horns, windows, pedals (gas, brake, clutch), handbrakes wend

    and all other Car Interior sound effects? Well then.. look no further! This is just the pack for you.
    160 wav files with over 400 single sounds in total. Car Interiors will spice up that car interior scene with real, crisp sounds, recorded from over 6 cars in total!

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  • Destruction & Impact Cinematic Strikes Play Track Up to 4140 sounds included From: $119 From: $95.20

    ENORMOUS SOUNDING PERCUSSIVE HITS

    CINEMATIC STRIKES joins the BOOM Library Cinematic Series – and it focuses on big sounding drums. A whole world of cinematic percussive sound design lies a few clicks away: From devastating cracks and stomps over crisp swells and rolls to epic ensemble hits – you will be sure to find and build just what you are looking for.

    With the ultimate flexibility of different microphone positions, single and ensemble hits, flams and swells using various drums and beaters, you couldn’t be better equipped to design huge blockbuster and trailer hits – or simply place ready-to-use DESIGNED sounds into your timeline and feel the earth shake.

    CINEMATIC STRIKES – CONSTRUCTION KIT:

    FLEXIBLE SOUND DESIGN TOOLKIT

    The Construction Kit offers you one of the most comprehensive drum hit packages ever recorded. Carefully planned to satisfy and complement every spot in the frequency range, you will never run out of low end booms, aggressive cracks, mid-range body impacts, reverberant tails and excellent sweeteners to top it off.

    PERSPECTIVE & RHYTHM

    Not only are you able to produce impressive sounding hits, but also transition into, out of and between peaks. Control the attack and release of each sound, using rolls, flams, double hits and other meticulously performed techniques. Three coherent microphone positions make spatial adjustments a breeze.


    Files: 618 • Sounds: 3708 • Size: 13 GB


    CINEMATIC STRIKES – DESIGNED:

    MAXIMUM PUNCH – AND THEN SOME

    CINEMATIC STRIKES – Designed is what you get when layering and processing Construction Kit sounds BOOM Library style.

    From rumbling low-end BOOMS, soft and natural sounding WHOOSH HITS to aggressive, frontal CRACKS and PUNCHES, the Designed library showcases what’s possible, while saving precious time and budget on a tight schedule.

    This package is particularly useful for filmmakers and trailer sound designers.


    Files: 108 • Sounds: 432 • Size: 1.4 GB

    CINEMATIC STRIKES BUNDLE:

    THE BUNDLE – The best of both worlds at a discounted price.
    The Bundle gives you the full sound design power as it contains both – the DESIGNED and the CONSTRUCTION KIT edition at a discounted price.


    Files: 726 • Sounds: 4140 • Size: 14.6 GB
    Included sounds – keywords:

    BASS DRUM, BOOM, BOX, CAJON, CONCERT TOM, CRACK, CRASH, DAIKO, DOUBLE HIT, ENSEMBLE, FLAM, FOOT, GONG, HARD BEATER, HIT, JAM BLOCK, KICK, KODO, LOG, MALLET, BIN, PUNCH, ROLL, SINGLE, SNARE, SOFT BEATER, SPLASH, STICKS, STOMP, SWEETENER, SWELL, TABLA, TAIKO, TAMBORA, THUNDER SHEET, TOM, WHIP, WHOOSH HIT, WOOD PERCUSSION, WOODBLOCK
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  • Destruction & Impact Implosion Play Track 42 sounds included $100 $70

    Implosion is a sound effects collection of buildings being destroyed with explosives. It features 10 unique building implosions recorded across the country.

    Each implosion was recorded with 4 to 14 channels of audio. To offer multiple perspectives, mics were placed as close as 150ft (~50m) and as far away as 2000ft (~600m) from the various explosive demolitions.

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  • Drones & Moods Audible Silence Play Track 105 sounds included, 170 mins total $80 $64

    The eerie sound of wind resonating through wires, fences and abandoned buildings.

    Recorded using the JrF C-Series contact microphone, these recordings capture the metallic resonance of wind with natural ebbs and flows.

    All sounds were recorded using the JrF C-Series contact microphone stereo pair and Sound Devices Mix-Pre 6.

     

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Bonus: Even more superhero sound specials:

Want even more superhero sound stories?
Travel down memory lane these selected videos and interviews from the Soundworks Collection:

The Sound of Doctor Strange:


The Sound of The Avengers:

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The Sound of The Avengers: Age of Ultron:

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The Sound of Marvel’s Ant-Man:

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The Sound of Iron Man:

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The Sound and Music of The Dark Knight Rises:

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Behind the Picture and Sound:

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The Sound of Spider-Man: Homecoming:



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