Avengers Infinity war sound effects Asbjoern Andersen


Avengers: Infinity War is an astonishing hit, and in this exclusive A Sound Effect interview, award-winning supervising sound editor Shannon Mills shares the inside-story on how the film's powerful sound was created:
Written by Jennifer Walden. Images courtesy of Marvel Studios, Steve Orlando & Samson Neslund. Contains spoilers.
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Avengers: Infinity War is probably my favorite Marvel film to date. There are A LOT of characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — all of which had their stories told in previous films. Thankfully, Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t waste time on back-story. It jumps right into the action and doesn’t stop until the end when half of everything just, well, stops. Did you see the film? If not, you might want to save the last third of this Q&A until after you see it. Seriously, how can we not talk about that ending??

Avengers: Infinity War’s award-winning supervising sound editor Shannon Mills at Skywalker Sound has worked on many Marvel films — Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: Dark World, Iron Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Iron Man. And, he’s working on the next “Untitled Avengers Movie” slated for 2019. It’s safe to say he’s well acquainted with the sound of Marvel superheroes. In fact, I’d call him an expert on it. Here, he shares his knowledge of how he and his team created the sound of Avengers: Infinity War.
 

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A man with a brown beard smiles for the camera.

Shannon Mills

There are so many metallic sounds in this film. Starting with that first encounter with Thanos and Thor’s team, there’s everything from footsteps on metal grates to giant hunks of metal flying around and clanging together. Then throughout the film there are space ships, weapons, mech suits, and metal impacts. Can you tell me about your collection of metal for this film?

Shannon Mills (SM): I’m glad someone finally noticed because it seems like everything is pretty much made out of metal in this movie. There is metal from dying stars, special metal from Wakanda, and the metal made of nano-bots. There is lots and lots of metal.

We always try to help distinguish the different kinds of metal, especially when two characters are using metal things against each other or are wearing metal. We always try to differentiate each character and to keep the audience aware of who is doing what, sonically. We do whatever we can to help distinguish weapons from different weapons and tech from different tech to keep things fun and exciting.

 
Did you do a lot of field recordings of metal sounds? Did you source metal sounds from libraries? How did you keep all that metal sounding distinct?

World-izing metal fight hits for Scotland fight.

SM: We did a lot of field recording for all kinds of different things, like Captain America’s (Chris Evans) new shield which is metal and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) has a new nano suit which is metal — it’s similar to his old suits but it’s something different.

We did a lot of field recording and we used some commercial libraries too. We also have a large collection of private libraries that the team shares with each other. We also modify existing recordings and layer elements to create new sounds. I think a lot of distinctness comes from our team of sound effects editors — Nia Hansen, Josh Gold, Samson Neslund, and Steve Orlando, who are really good at building sequences that are dynamic and original by layering all these elements together.

 
Can you tell me about your field recording trips? Where did you go and what did you record?

SM: We did a fair amount of recording around Skywalker Ranch because it’s a working ranch and there are a lot of metal things here. So we go out to the farm area of the ranch and there would be a tractor and a barrel — whatever we could find. We’d bang around on things to find an interesting variety of metal sounds.

We use a lot of different mics but one that we started using more is the Sanken CO-100k. It records a much higher frequency range which is useful for when you pitch sounds down. It allows you to keep the high-end in a pitched-down recording. It doesn’t sound as pitched down as things do when they are a narrower frequency range. So we’ve been using that to our advantage a lot, particularly for the metal hits.

For recorders, we use Sound Devices quite a bit but on this particular movie I started using the Zoom F8 a lot just because it has eight channels. You can do a multi-mic set up pretty easily.

Doctor Strange and Wong look down intently.

 
There is so much happening in this film — numerous environments, sci-fi tech, magic sounds (for example, sounds for Doctor Strange and the infinity stones), mechs, ships, gun fights, creatures, and more! How did you divide up the work with your team on this film?

SM: It’s always a group effort with my team. We all work really well together and we are a solid group. I try to assign people tasks based on their strengths for each film we do. I usually divide the work up by reels. I feel like when we cut in categories it’s hard to do, because rhythm is one of the most important things in sound effects editing.

Creating metal textures for Maw’s magic design

If different people are doing different pieces, it’s hard to establish rhythm. So I prefer to do it in reels so that one person can have all of the pieces and they can work out the rhythm of the scene.

That being said, there are some specialized tasks — for example, magic or creatures that I’ll assign to certain people. Sometimes I’ll have one editor cut the magic sounds and then hand it off to whoever is working on that reel. David Farmer is really good at sci-fi sounds and creatures so I often rely on him to help me with that. Nia Hansen is really good at magic, so I’ll often have her help me out with the magic sounds.

The team consists of me (Shannon Mills), co-supervisor Daniel Laurie, re-recording mixers Tom Johnson and Juan Peralta, sound designers David Farmer and Nia Hansen, sound effects editors Josh Gold, Samson Neslund, and Steve Orlando, dialogue editors Brad Semenoff and Ryan Frias, Foley editors Jacob Riehle, Christopher Flick, and Kimberly Patrick, and assistant sound editor Jamie Branquinho. We couldn’t have done it without this incredible team of talents.

 

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In Avengers: Infinity War, you’re dealing with a lot of established Marvel characters who all have their own signature sounds. Did you have access to the sound material created for the previous Marvel Universe films? Were those sounds helpful, or did you have to re-create a lot of them to fit the needs of this film?

SM: Many of the Marvel films we originally did the sound for, but there were a few that we didn’t. Fortunately, our friends did them. We’re a friendly group who work on the Marvel movies. We are pretty gracious about sharing because you never know when that character will show up in our movie. Any movie could have a special guest character from another movie. So we did have access to the other movies, both from things that we’ve done in the past and from friends who did the other movies.

Some of that material from the previous films was helpful but so much of the tech and the superpowers have evolved over time. So a lot of it required new sound design, for example Iron Man got a new suit. So we had a revamp of his tech. Thor got a new weapon, an axe, so his hammer sounds we didn’t use in this movie.

Tony Stark stands in front of Doctor Strange on a crumbled NYC street

 

Avengers Infinity War sound effects

Recording various spinning elements to be used for Thresher elements.

I loved Iron Man’s new nano-bot suit. How did you make that sound?
SM:
It’s a lot of different things but one of the more successful sounds was lots of small metal pieces that we would imagine nano-bots would sound like, such as small nuts and bolts. We recorded those and tried to create patterns, like ticky patterns, and I would pull those into Pro Tools and work with various delays by Soundtoys to fatten and thicken the sounds up. I added a little bit of high-tech servos and such to them to make it sound like a bunch of super tiny robots coming together and moving around.

 
What was your approach to creating the sci-fi/magic sounds? Could you share some examples of your process and tools for creating those?

SM: For me, these are some of the harder sounds, as they are so subjective and you can’t really just go out and record them. When it comes to magic and sci-fi, I like to keep those in the more realistic camp as opposed to synthetic. I like to start with a sound that exists and then modify it, just alter it enough to make it magic. It still has to feel real in the film because there are a lot of real elements as well. It has to live in the real world. David Farmer and Nia Hansen did a lot of the heavy lifting on the magic and sci-fi stuff.

We used a variety of tools but I probably do less processing than most people. I know David Farmer used Transformizer, and he was testing the Envy software by Cargo Cult. He used that a lot on the sci-fi stuff especially. He also does a lot of processing in Reaper. Nia does a lot of plug-in work with Soundtoys and Waves. We all love Soundtoys, and used their plug-ins often. We used a variety of tools, anything we could get our hands on really.

I used Native Instruments Kontakt when I was making the Iron Man suit. Those rhythmic phrases I created by laying sounds out on a keyboard and playing them through an effects chain. I do that often because I’m an old Synclavier user. They don’t really exist anymore so that’s why I use Kontakt now. But I cut my teeth in that arena years ago while working with Gary Rydstrom. So I’m used to working like that with a keyboard and I use Kontakt or Digidesign’s Structure sometimes.

Creating Ice Crunch FX for use as rock and Infinity Stone breaks.

An example of our approach to the magic sounds would be Wanda’s softer magic in the film. (Wanda is Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen.) I recorded a variety of textures with interesting high-end, such as blown air, metal scraping, and glass shard tinkling, and manipulated them during recording to introduce movement so that I wasn’t just recording a steady sound. I filtered these down to just those high frequencies, and sometimes pitched them up or down and layered them to make a fuller sound. Some of these textures I ran through a granular synthesis program called Audiomulch to make it feel more particulate as the visuals are, and to introduce extra movement by manipulating pitch, density, and feedback in real-time while recording out.

One common sound design challenge is to create a feeling of motion and change for a relatively static event, which visually may seem like it needs a steady sound but we want it to have more character and to pop out in the mix. I took the “mulched” recordings and edited them again, cleaning them up with filters and compressors (I enjoy the McDSP ML4000 mastering limiter and dynamics plug-in) as I would a raw recording, and then layered that with other sounds and processed it further. I like the Soundtoys plug-ins, especially Crystallizer to add additional depth and movement, and Decapitator to adjust tone and punchiness.

Falcon flies over a grassy battlefield in Wakanda.

 
The ending is so quiet in comparison to the rest of the film. There’s this gravitas since half of all existing humans and aliens suddenly disintegrate into dust. Sonically, what was your approach there?

SM: This was a big event from the beginning. It was always by design. The directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and picture editor Jeffrey Ford talked with us about this very early on because this is a crucial moment in the film and in Marvel history. It’s such a heavy moment and we wanted to take it way down and make it emotional and frightening in its quietness. We wanted to leave the audience floored and silent. Early on in the process, we worked on the scene a lot and decided to go with no music, and have it be very quiet and somber and somewhat ethereal or mystical in some ways.

We played our idea for the directors and they loved it. It really never changed after that. That’s one of the first things we worked on that stuck.

 
What was your biggest challenge on this film, and how did you tackle it?

SM: There were so many. The film of this size is often dismissed as “easy” because it’s just a bunch of fighting, but that’s actually not true. It was very complicated and required a lot of care and detail to make sure the audience is engaged but not beaten over the head with sonic overload.

The biggest challenge for us was figuring out when we could take a break and when we could come back and build it up again without fatiguing everyone. Each scene we kind of break down and determine where we are building to, what is the biggest moment in the scene. Then, how do we build up to that and then get back down to take a rest. It’s a film of big moments! There are so many big moments in the film that you have to make it dynamic so that you aren’t just plowing through and fatiguing everybody that is watching the movie. Fortunately, our re-recording mixers Tom Johnson and Juan Peralta are masters at doing this, and it was awesome having them on the team to help us carve this out.

Black Panther, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, and the Dora Milaje and others stand prepared for war in a field.

 
Did you have a favorite scene for sound?

SM: I have several but the one that is sticking in my mind is what we call the sorcerers duel. It’s towards the end of the film, when Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Thanos (Josh Brolin) battle it out with magic on Titan. It’s a really cool, innovative, no-holds-barred magic fight. In that scene, there was a lot of sonic freedom for us, there weren’t a lot of rules attached to the visuals we were seeing or any realistic equivalent of what that might sound like, so we had a lot of freedom in that way. Nia Hansen was the master of that piece. She was perfect for the task. She created a fun and interesting track for that scene.

 
In terms of sound, what are you most proud of on this film?

SM: One of the more fun challenges that the directors presented to us was towards the beginning of the movie when the Q-Ship arrived in New York City. Much of that scene is told with sound. The characters are in a closed building, Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, and they hear something arriving. They don’t know what it is and there are no visuals to tell you. The characters are just standing there listening. Then they run outside and things are slowly revealed visually. That was fun for sound to tell that story and have it evolve over a minute or two. That was a cool opportunity that you don’t often get in a movie — to rely mainly on sound for the drama and story.

A big thanks to Shannon Mills for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the thrilling sound for Avengers: Infinity War – 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
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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.

    Summer ambients Update – library got 2x bigger and heavier than the original library. 59 additional files, 123 minutes of high quality audio recorded with Sennheiser MKH 8040 ORTF setup, Rode NTG3, Oktava MK012 XY setup plugged into SD702 and Sony PCM-10. It features ambients from the forests, ponds, swamps, meadows, lakes and suburbs recorded is very quiet locations, mostly just before the sunrise, during the day and before sunset far away from the cities.

    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.

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  • Cars Cars In Motion Play Track 561+ sounds included, 340 mins total $150 $45

    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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One thought on “How the epic sound of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ was made – an exclusive interview with Shannon Mills:

  1. My fav sound effect in IW was when Thor threw his axe at Thanos and he tried to stop it but couldnt. All the sound effects of the Gauntlet were like music. Wonderful.

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