Asbjoern Andersen


Writer/director/cinematographer Zack Snyder dreamed up a sci-fantasy galaxy full of unique planets, creatures, weapons, tech, and ships for his Netflix film series Rebel Moon. Starting with both Part One: A Child of Fire and Part Two: The Scargiver, as well as director's cuts of both films, Snyder needed a huge creative team to bring his idea to the screen. For sound, he tapped Formosa Group supervising sound editor/designer Scott Hecker and sound designer Chuck Michael.

Here, Hecker and Michael talk about tackling this monumental film series – working on four films with mainly green screen shot scenes, designing sounds of creatures and non-human lifeforms, designing weapons that felt old school high-tech yet familiar, creating unique soundscapes for alien planets, and so much more!


Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of Netflix
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Oscar-nominated supervising sound editor Scott Hecker – at Formosa Group – is a long-time collaborator with director Zack Snyder, going back to Snyder’s first feature-length film Dawn of the Dead (2004). MPSE Award-winning sound designer Chuck Michael also has a well-established work history with Snyder, starting with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Even with all that experience of working on Snyder’s films, it’s hard to be prepared to work on four films at once – films that unfold in a completely unique sci-fantasy galaxy.

Snyder’s Rebel Moon film series – streaming on Netflix – relied heavily on VFX and was mainly shot on green screen. So the sound team had to start work using concept art, storyboards, and inchoate cuts of scenes, feeding their initial effects to the picture department and refining those sounds as the visuals coalesced. With so many sounds to create for the film’s planets, creatures, weapons, tech, and ships, getting started early was imperative, especially since Part One and Part Two were being released just four months apart.

Here, Hecker and Michael discuss their approach to designing a galaxy of sounds that felt cohesive. They talk about how they created specific sounds for creatures in Part One including the bennu, ogumo, and flea-like parasite in a saloon on Veldt, how they designed Nemesis’ glowing swords, how they used a non-whoosh approach to the slow-mo and ramp up sounds during fights, and much, much more!



Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire | Official Trailer | Netflix


Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire | Official Trailer | Netflix

When did you get involved with Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire and what were some of the initial sounds that dir. Zack Snyder wanted you to explore? What were some of your initial ideas for sound on this film?

Scott Hecker (SH): We started work on the film in late October 2022, just as they completed principal photography. So, we’ve been on this for a while. It’s effectively four films: Part One, Part Two, and extended director’s cuts for both films (Part One Director’s Cut and Part two Director’s Cut).

We were looking at a lot of green screen, wondering what the heck is going on.

Chuck Michael (CM): As you can imagine, there was just so much design work and so many new cool sounds to come up with. It took us some time, so it was great that we got to start early. Even if we didn’t see things, we’d start working on sounds based on the script and start working on what scenes we could see – starting to develop the style and the sound of the whole thing.

SH: We were looking at a lot of green screen, wondering what the heck is going on. Haha!

 

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Did you get to look at concept art or storyboards from the art department?

SH: That was a huge help to at least get a look at the concept drawings. It was voluminous. They even had visual representation of motion and different angles, so we could see the motion that some of these creatures, spaceships, and contraptions would make so we could start thinking about how those things could sound and get the juices flowing creatively.

 

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Were you feeding sounds to the picture editing team as they were cutting the picture?

SH: Yes, indeed. That was the idea. Initially, they gave us a couple of scenes. The first scene they gave us was the granary fight.

CM: There was not a lot of green screen in that scene. And there were a lot of speed ramps. So, that was our first experiment, stylistically, of how we were going to handle all these slow-mos and speed ramps. That scene allowed us to set the sonic style that we’re going to use for stuff like that.

…we settled on using actual sounds that were happening at the time to make the speed changes.

Rather than doing artificial whooshes in and out, we settled on using actual sounds that were happening at the time to make the speed changes. For example, having her voice echo out when it goes slow motion. We were carrying those sounds over rather than trying to put some artificially zippy sounds in and out. We decided we would take what was there and freeze it in time like the image does, slowing it down. We settled on that as a stylistic choice, and that seemed to work pretty well.

SH: I’ve noticed a lot of situations like that in other films where there’s a bit of an over-reliance on using whooshes to get in and out of slow motion with speed ramps.

CM: We wanted it to be different and to approach it in a different way in this particular instance.

…if Kora is coming at a villain with an axe, the metal shing would take us in and out of a certain speed ramp at that point.

SH: Plus, those sounds associated with the scene and incorporated with the action are more colorful sounds than whooshes. For instance, if Kora is coming at a villain with an axe, the metal shing would take us in and out of a certain speed ramp at that point. It’s a more colorful sound to get us in and out of the slow-motion portions.

CM: That sequence is really fun, too. A lot is going on sonically in that granary fight. Music goes away during the slow-mo stuff, allowing us to take over with sound design and do our thing there before the music comes back in. It all just hands off nicely from the score to the design and then back to the score.

SH: I think initially they had some temp music in the scene, but once they saw how cool the scene was with sound design, they chose to go in that direction. It’s one of the rare moments in the film that they chose sound design without any score. There are some musical sounds in there, but it’s not from the composer. Chuck did a great job incorporating some musical-like tones and stings and rings and shings. That was really effective.

CM: Many of those musical sounds are based on what you’re seeing – the metal axes, the guns, and the vocals, especially.

SH: The granary fight happens early on in the film. Kora sees a young girl being harassed by the villains and she comes in to save her. It was a very cool scene, and that was our first scene to work on. It was a juicy one and paid off well.

CM: It was a dream project from a sound standpoint, to be able to have an opportunity to create these different worlds sonically, support the visuals, and come up with so many new sounds. Just about everything had to be designed or created; there’s very little straightforward sound in the film – things that you can go out and record.

… there’s very little straightforward sound in the film – things that you can go out and record.

So, it was a lot of fun to get in there and help figure out what these worlds are going to sound like, what these ships are going to sound like, what the slow-mo is going to sound like – plus everything else that’s in there, like the guns and creatures.

SH: None of it happens on Earth. We’re on six different planets with their own environments, and atmospheres. Each of the different groups has different types of spaceships and different types of weapons. There are different creatures on all of these planets. It was a feast served up for us. Zack does that regularly. So, no surprises there. All of his films are so flavorful. He gives you so many opportunities to have fun and do what we do.

 

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Diving further into the slow-mo sounds, were there specific plugins or a processing chain of plugins that you used?

CM: I used a lot of reverb, but it wasn’t just regular reverb. I used Valhalla Shimmer a lot, which is nice because it takes the source sound and creates this big, long tone. You can still hear the source sound but Shimmer just fills it out. So, it’s more than just a reverb; it has a feedback effect to it. That was really useful for the vocals.

I also often reversed sounds and then processed them with Valhalla Shimmer or with Audio Ease’s Altiverb using the ‘cistern’ or ‘train station’ IRs.

I did a lot of pitch-shifting with Serato’s Pitch ‘n Time because I like the graph where I can change the pitch over time – speed it up slowly. I like to modulate things.

I also often reversed sounds and then processed them with Valhalla Shimmer or with Audio Ease’s Altiverb using the ‘cistern’ or ‘train station’ IRs. Those work so well. I render those and then I reverse them and do some pitch modulation as well.

 

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Even with so many creatures, non-human life forms, weapons, ships, and tech, there’s a cohesive feel to the overall sound. Did dir. Snyder have a few keywords or references to describe how he wanted Rebel Moon to sound?

SH: Yeah, in that initial granary fight scene, we were thinking, wow, this is a sci-fi film so we can get a little wild with some sci-fi sounds. We didn’t go too crazy, but we wanted to have a sci-fi flavor. Initially, in the granary fight we did use some more sci-fi sounds for a couple of the weapons, and when we presented the scene to Zack, one of his first reactions was, “That’s too sci-fi.”

…this is sci-fantasy, not necessarily sci-fi, and he gave us three words: natural, organic, and steampunk.

He clarified that this is sci-fantasy, not necessarily sci-fi, and he gave us three words: natural, organic, and steampunk. We kept that in mind through the whole process – to keep it more natural, organic, and steampunky versus typical sci-fi.

One of the beautiful things about working with Zack is he doesn’t overload you upfront with a lot of instruction. He’s really smart that way. He wants to see what your ideas are, what we’re going to come up with, and then he reacts and we move down the road.

CM: Also, if you look at the visuals, there’s something familiar about it, even the big dreadnought ship. It feels like old tech, even though it’s futuristic tech. So we wanted everything to be familiar. With the guns, for example, we went with a more big gun sound with some sci-fi elements rather than all sci-fi “pew-pew” sounds.

It feels like old tech, even though it’s futuristic tech. So we wanted everything to be familiar.

We did that with everything, especially the guns on Vedlt. They are a lot less sci-fi while the guns from the Imperium have a little more of the sci-fi element but they still have power, and they’re big.

We tried to develop sounds based on the technology that the various worlds have, yet it should feel familiar. You know what something is, but there are a few elements that make it sound futuristic and make it sound sci-fi – just not completely sci-fi. We wanted that element of familiarity.

SH: It had to sound unique but familiar, for sure.

CM: The guns look like guns, but they have an electronic display readout on them and they shoot these molten lead projectiles instead of bullets. So, we played off of that visual.

You can have the sonic tension accentuate the tension that’s already there visually.

SH: Right before a shot is fired (if there’s space in the soundtrack), you hear a wind-up sound. That’s another little sci-fantasy element that we introduced to help flavor it up a little bit.

CM: We could use that in a lot of dramatic situations. When people are putting the gun up to someone, you can have that little build-up before they shoot and increase the tension, especially in Kora’s flashback. When young Kora is with Belisarius, that’s a moment when you get that pullback of the trigger and the wind-up sound. You can have the sonic tension accentuate the tension that’s already there visually.

 

RebelMoon_sound-06

I love how the opening has an old Western vibe. Kora is wearing that big coat and she has the big handgun on her side…

SH: There are a couple of scenes that have that vibe, like the bar scene in the port town of Providence. The music in there accentuates that flavor, as well.

 

RebelMoon_sound-07

Let’s talk about that bar scene! There’s a flea-like parasite creature that’s using another person to talk through. What went into that creature’s sound?

SH: It’s like an old Saloon. There’s sex for sale in there, and the gentleman that the bug was attached to was being paid so the bug could suck his blood. Zack has so much backstory to everything. So when I asked, “What are those tentacle things around that guy’s body?” Zack said, “He’s sucking that guy’s blood. There’s a timer in his hand. The session is timed. The bug is paying for a certain amount of time to suck this guy’s blood, and he ends up talking through him.”

CM: That was one area where we had quite a few go-backs to Zack. We did the bug and we did the processing of the voice and then we sent that to Zack. There were several revisions of the processing before we got what he was looking for. He had a lot of input into how that ultimately sounded.

SH: To get a clean signal, we had to do ADR because the production had a ratty feel to it and didn’t lend itself well to processing. We tested with some loop group actors and provided those as options to Zack as well, but ultimately Zack wanted to use the actor’s voice.

So we brought him in and he did his lines. Then we went about processing them in many different ways. We did up to 8 versions.

CM: Any noise on the production dialogue really stands out when you add processing. Even a little background noise produces a lot of aliasing and artifacting when you pitch or otherwise process the line. Then you not only lose intelligibility but the processing sounds artificial.

You can have the sonic tension accentuate the tension that’s already there visually.

Once we had the actor’s ADR, that made a huge difference. With the ADR lines, we had the intelligibility and we could get exactly what Zack was looking for.

SH: That character was revealing story about where they could find Titus, so we had to make sure it was intelligible. The idea was to make it sound really strange and cool. But at the end of the day, it couldn’t be so processed that you couldn’t understand what he said.

Scott…cut that bug language to match the dialogue and then offset it so that the intonations, inflections, and rhythm match.

CM: The last thing we did was to make it clear that the bug was speaking through the guy. We kept some of the proper names like ‘Titus’ in the bug’s language. He says that word and ‘Pollux,’ the planet. Scott had this great idea to cut that bug language to match the dialogue and then offset it so that the intonations, inflections, and rhythm match. This makes it very clear that what the bug is saying is being translated by the guy.

SH: The bug has a cool, interesting chitter to it. It’s ‘bug talk’ that one of our loop group actors did. But as soon as you hear the bug say, ‘Titus’ and ‘Pollux,’ you know that he was talking through this guy.

CM: For processing, I used a fair amount of Kilohearts plugins. They have Snap Heap – a plug-in that allows you to build effects chains by stacking other Kilohearts plugins inside it. You can reorder the plugins in Snap Heap to alter the processing.

I generally render what I do, but for this, I kept it virtual and I automated the various factors.

I generally render what I do, but for this, I kept it virtual and I automated the various factors. (For creatures like the bennu, though, I was rendering as I go using Pro Tools AudioSuite tools.)

With Kilohearts Snap Heap, they have LFOs, so I can get modulation without having to write automation, which is especially useful when I’m rendering using AudioSuite. So, I like that and I like being able to stack up the effects. This allowed me to have parallel processing chains, so one was pitched down a little bit and then another pitched down a little more. And I had some EQ, some gain, and also a little bit of delay.

 


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What about the sounds of the droid Jimmy (voiced by Anthony Hopkins)? Were the robotic attributes part of his performance?

SH: Zack wanted a very human performance for Jimmy. His character represented humanity through AI housed in a robot. Zack was very direct and specific about not wanting to hear a bunch of servos.

Typically, when you see a robot, you automatically start hearing servo sounds and a bunch of metal. He didn’t want Jimmy to sound robotic and mechanical. He wanted to keep a human feel to it. And so we went extremely light on that.

…we came up with…guitar strings stretching and very subtle sounds to cover his movements. So you feel his movement as a robot, but he wasn’t clanky.

It’s interesting, the material that we came up with was guitar strings stretching and very subtle sounds to cover his movements. So you feel his movement as a robot, but he wasn’t clanky.

CM: There are subtle pneumatic sounds that feel high-tech but it’s all played very subtly. We don’t want to take away from the humanity of Jimmy’s character, the natural sound of Jimmy, but not hearing anything seemed wrong, too. We tried to make everything feel right, so you don’t get taken out of the story and you buy his character and the humanness of this robot, ironically.

SH: In the backstory, those Jimmies were trained to kill for the Imperium. They were warriors that would go out into the battlefield and kill. But then once the king was slain, the Jimmies all laid down their arms. They went sort of ‘hippie.’ They’re peace-loving at this point.

For Jimmy’s vocal processing, re-recording mixer Andy Koyama was very subtle, with just a hint of sci-fi processing.

That’s why it was so difficult for Jimmy to walk into that granary fight and pick up the rifle. He looks at the rifle and he rubs his hand along it, remembering that he used to use that regularly. And now he’s no longer a violent entity but he’s in a situation where he has to defend Sam and ultimately ends up shooting the bad guy.

For Jimmy’s vocal processing, re-recording mixer Andy Koyama was very subtle, with just a hint of sci-fi processing. It wasn’t complicated. It’s just there to take the edge off the natural performance and to make it sound like it was coming from this mechanical being, but in a way that didn’t sound tricky or gimmicky.

 

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What went into the sound of the bennu – the griffin-like creature that Tarak tries to tame and then takes for a ride?

CM: That took some work. Again, we wanted it to sound familiar. It has to sound bird-like, but it has to be huge. It also has to have a lot of character to it. It can’t just be ‘squawk, squawk.’ There’s a lot of interaction as it calms down and the sounds are subtle. Then, there are big angry screeches. It needed to have all that emotion and character; it needed to change during the flight – before and after.

It can so easily start to sound like a grab bag of animals…It’s hard to find that low-mid section.

It takes a lot of experimentation. You try a lot of things that don’t work, and you cut little sections of it and see what’s working and what’s not. I always end up cutting layers, like a low-end layer to give it some weight, but I ended up using very little of that, just a hint of it.

It can so easily start to sound like a grab bag of animals; you can easily hear the separation. It’s hard to find that low-mid section. You end up with a mid, a high, and then a low and there’s nothing connecting them. It’s really difficult.

I used The Cargo Cult’s Envy to shape lower-end elements to match my primary sound. It’s all about finding a unique set of sounds that sound like they’re coming out of that creature’s mouth but that also give you the emotion you need for the scene.

…if it doesn’t make me feel the right emotion, then I’ll keep working on it.

I like to cut sounds for a scene and then sit back and watch it. I’ll ask myself if I’m getting the emotion that I want out of the sound. A lot of sound work is all about the emotion you’re instilling in the audience.

So, even if it fits or if it works okay, if it doesn’t make me feel the right emotion, then I’ll keep working on it. So if that big screech that’s right in your face doesn’t make me feel like, “Oh, my God, this thing’s huge and I’m in danger,” then I keep going.

We had the wings, too, which were huge, and it had giant feet. You can’t just have the disembodied voice. Everything has to work together.

SH: You might think to start with processed bird sounds for the bennu, using crows or ravens. But those aren’t big enough. We ended up predominantly using elephant sounds.

CM: Yeah, it was mostly elephant. I processed it so much that you don’t recognize it as elephant. And I used racoon chitters and some other smaller anmials for the more subtle, gentle sounds as Tarak was talking to the bennu to calm it down.

You can hear the distinct animals. Our goal was – no matter how many different sounds we used – to make it sound as if it’s one creature.

SH: It sounded very homogenous, which is the goal. In some films, you can hear an assortment of animal sounds. I call it the ‘barnyard special.’ You can hear the distinct animals. Our goal was – no matter how many different sounds we used – to make it sound as if it’s one creature. It didn’t sound like we stitched a bunch of different animal sounds together.

CM: It’s weird because there are not that many animals that sound as big as you think they would sound. It’s hard to find a real bear roar that has the “movie bear” roar sound. None of the animals on this planet actually sound as large and as cool as you may think they should. You have to look in unusual places, and I do a fair amount of processing as well.

None of the animals on this planet actually sound as large and as cool as you may think they should.

It’s such a tricky thing to do because you don’t want to hear the processing. It’s got to sound natural. Oftentimes when you slow things down, you lose all the high end. Pitching them up introduces a lot of aliasing. It’s a delicate balance of a variety of elements and processing to get the right sound. I’m pretty happy with the final sound of the bennu.

SH: I’ve gotten reactions from other people in our community saying how cool all the creatures, atmospheres, and weapons are – everything sounds very unique and flavorful. We’re happy about that.

 

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I was wondering if you used a voice actor to perform the creature sounds for the bennu. They sounded so expressive…

CM: That’s great to hear! I do a lot of searching for the right sounds, but I also do a lot of pitching – graphing pitch changes to modulate the sound and make the voice do what I think it should do. You can only do that to some degree, though. I can’t totally take a sound and turn it into anything.

I can’t totally take a sound and turn it into anything.

But, if I find something that’s in the range, then I can graph those up and down to artificially impose a performance to some degree. But it takes time to find the right combination of sounds – that sound like they’re coming from the same creature and have the right feel – then you can fine-tune the performance by graphing pitch changes in Pitch ‘n Time.

I always have a session just for the creature design. I had a session for the bennu with the tracks of sounds and the processing, and I automated everything. I specifically created every little vocal that the bennu makes. I cut all these elements and then changed the processing and pitching almost syllable by syllable. That’s the only way to make sure that I get the performance that I want. Each little utterance has to be custom-designed for that split second on the screen.

I specifically create every little vocal that the bennu makes.

I don’t want to carry so many tracks with heavy processing to the stage, so once I have what I want, I’ll render it out to be mixed. But, it exists as a separate session so, if needed, I can go back and adjust elements and re-render it.

SH: Besides the creative sound challenges of the bennu, the visual effects were constantly changing. It was a challenge just keeping up with this beast, when and where it was opening and closing its mouth, flapping its wings and stomping its feet.

Initially, it didn’t have wings on it. The wings were developed secondarily, which was a combination of sound effects design work with foley as well. We got some really huge foley recordings and that made a nice combination of sounds.

For its stomping feet, we wanted to sell the weight and size of the bennu with big thunderous footsteps.

We spent a lot of time on the flying and creating the differences in the vocalizations, between it being wild and untamed to finally tamed by Tarak, so the sounds accordingly calm down and become more expressive and mellow. We were trying to sell that it wasn’t a wild beast anymore, and it was more tame – until Hickman climbed onto it. Then, it was not happy.

 

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What went into the sound of ‘ogumo’ (the large spider-like creature on Daggus)?

CM: We used a lot of heavily processed female screams. There are a lot of sticky web sounds when she first comes down and we have a lot of big, growly, low-end sounds, like a heavy presence. As she was lowering in, I just wanted this big, heavy presence sound that doesn’t literally make sense, but portrays the weight of this giant spider coming down on you.

SH: There are some clicking sounds as well. So, it’s a combination of processed female vocalizations and screams, clicks, and growls.

A steady sound will vanish in a busy track and just take up space.

CM: I processed the screams with a ring modulator to get a stuttery sound. In big action scenes, modulation helps you hear what’s there. A steady sound will vanish in a busy track and just take up space. You have to make sure sounds are constantly changing when you have a dense soundtrack with big music, the sounds of the swords, the spider, the screams, and the feet.
There’s also the introduction of Nemesis’ swords. Nemesis is an assassin and she has steel swords that can glow red-hot.

SH: We knew composer Tom Holkenborg was writing the score. We have worked with Tom on a handful of films with Zack, and on Fury Road.

During the action scenes, Tom’s score is pretty dense, covering a full range of frequencies. We knew any steady sounds would get covered up, as Chuck said. So we are always trying to create movement within our sounds, like pitch bending, and trying to use colorful sounds. We always say no ‘gray sounds.’ We literally call them that. It’s got to have color, shape, pitch bending, and tone movement within the sound so that it stands out and identifies itself within the music.

 

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What went into the sound of Nemesis’s swords?

SH: We knew that we did not want to use sounds that sounded like lightsabers. But the brain works in funny ways; no matter what interesting sounds we put up against the images, it sounded reminiscent of a lightsaber. Producers Debbie and Wes were saying, “Yeah, it’s a cool sound but I’m still feeling lightsaber.”

We eventually got over that hump as the visual effects developed because they started to look less and less like lightsabers.

CM: The visuals constantly inform what we do. Even if we come up with really cool stuff early on, once we start seeing the visuals, we have to refine it. That’s not unusual.

I stretched out screaming and it was cool, but the lightsaber is so well established in culture these days that your mind thinks that’s what you’re hearing.

I did multiple versions of the swords for when they’re activated. One sound I did was based on processed screams. I stretched out screaming and it was cool, but the lightsaber is so well established in culture these days that your mind thinks that’s what you’re hearing. If you listen to the actual lightsaber sound next to the sounds I created, they’re completely different. Of course, the audience doesn’t have that luxury. But it’s just so ingrained in the psyche of people who watch movies now, especially sci-fi movies, that even if you present something totally different, your brain starts to think that it sounds like a lightsaber.

So, at Zack’s suggestion, we ended up focusing mainly on the ringing of the swords hitting objects.

SH: Zack wasn’t interested in the static sound of the sword – the sound of the sword itself – but was more interested in the sounds that emanated from the contact with different objects. He offered up the idea of tuning forks that have a long ringout.

We created a low-end sound of air distortion and ripping and modulating and turbulence as the sword moved through the air.

CM: I modulated the ringouts. And also, visually the swords have a ‘hot’ component. We created a low-end sound of air distortion and ripping and modulating and turbulence as the sword moved through the air. I used the TONSTURM Whoosh plugin for Reaktor to make heavy air ripples and distortion turbulence. That plugin is great, but you have to spend some time creating the right source material to drop into it in order to get the results you want.

I also like the TONSTURM Traveler plugin. I used that for some of the tonal sword-bys of Nemesis’s swords.

SH: Her sword is glowing orange and sometimes it even has sparks flying off of it. So, along with the turbulence cutting through the air, we definitely wanted to sell the hot factor. So there are some sizzles and fiery sounds laced in there.

CM: Since we did the ringing sword sounds, we could use that for dramatic effect. For example, when the spider is dying, we could use the intensity of the ringing to help add to the energy of what’s happening on screen.

SH: The sound of that comes through very nicely when Nemesis impales the spider and it’s full-on camera of the glowing, sizzling swords. That was a great opportunity for us to feature the sound and show how powerful and sizzling hot the swords were.

CM: We can change the pitch and rate at which it’s vibrating to help with the emotional intensity of the scene. The way we ended up going was a really good decision.

 

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There’s a scene near the end when Admiral Atticus Noble is plugged into a neurolink machine that transports his consciousness to an astral plane where he’s able to talk to Balisarius. What went into the sound there?

SH: There were a lot of processed arcing sounds. We didn’t want it to just sound like pure electronic or electrical arcing. So we used a lot of different flavors in there to make it sound interesting.

…the sound of the astral plane atmosphere is my favorite atmosphere in the whole movie.

But the sound of the astral plane atmosphere is my favorite atmosphere in the whole movie. It’s ice-cracking with a gurgling underwater atmosphere. You see huge koi fish swimming under the surface of the ice. After all the action of the film, and all of the intense arcing sounds in the previous scene, it’s nice and peaceful in the astral plane. It’s a great respite where you can relax and take in those cool, subtle sounds.

CM: Then, when Balisarius stamps his staff into the ice and you get those cracks, it’s jarring.

SH: We went to a couple of screenings and at each one, the person next to me jumped the first time that Balisarius slams his staff into the ice. So, it was very effective.

Sound effect designer Alexander Pugh used a plethora of different subtle recordings of ice cracking…

My initial instruction for the astral plane was to make it sound very quiet and airy, like a dream wind, a presence, a hollow air, mysterious atmosphere. Sound effect designer Alexander Pugh used a plethora of different subtle recordings of ice cracking (ones that didn’t make you feel like they were going to fall through the ice). The Frozen Lake was a character unto itself. You might have noticed some of the undulating lower-tone gurgles and sounds that had a fluid feeling in a quiet, atmospheric way.

It’s a nice way to wrap up Part One – short of Nobel lurching forward up to camera and screaming to end the movie.

 

RebelMoon_sound-15

Sound Supervisor Scott Hecker and Sound Designer Chuck Michael

What’s something new that you learned while working on the sound of Rebel Moon ?

SH: It’s like taking a can opener to your head creatively. We’ve worked on so many Zack films and this one was so unique. I loved it.

…this was creatively and logistically the most complicated and challenging film I’ve worked on.

After many years in the biz and working on a lot of different types of films, this was creatively and logistically the most complicated and challenging film I’ve worked on. I really want to thank Zack because he provided all these completely different opportunities for sound. Most films happen in a certain place and you’re there for most of the film. But on this one, you’re traveling to different planets. And through the journey of working on this film, I’m probably better at what I do. It was super rewarding. So, one film down and more to come. The journey is not over.

CM: One thing I love about this business is that on every show I learn new stuff. I learn from the other very talented sound designers working with us. I learned from their different approaches and I learned by experimenting, as well. Every time I dive into something, I try a different way to do it. It’s not like, “Oh, creature vocals. I’ve done a bunch of creature vocals so I’m going to break out my creature vocal template.” I want to do something different.

Every time I dive into something, I try a different way to do it.

I used a new set of plugins I’d never used before. It’s the first time with slow motion that I’ve used Valhalla Shimmer. I’m always looking for new, different plugins and new, different ways of working. I’m always looking for little obscure ways of using them that nobody’s thought of yet. How can I use it in a way that maybe wasn’t intended?

I played around with a bunch of other plugins and I learned a little more about what they do. I always learn a little more about how to get the sounds that I’m looking to get. The biggest challenge for me is to get what I hear in my head to come out of the speakers.

On every show, I learn a lot of new techniques and tricks, and even Pro Tools shortcuts, like Option+Shift+J will toggle between video pictures. I didn’t know that until this show. I learn so much just from other people, their ways of working, their designs, and their aesthetics. I’m grateful every time I have an opportunity to tackle creative challenges, and this film provided those welcome challenges.

SH: Before we started on Rebel Moon, everyone was used to working at home because of Covid. But since this film was so huge, I thought we all needed to work together at the Formosa Group facility in Santa Monica. We had five rooms going and we could go from room to room. It was very collaborative.

You can create cool sounds by yourself but you lose the chemistry of collaborating and being together.

One of the shortcomings of working remotely is that you end up in a silo. You can create cool sounds by yourself but you lose the chemistry of collaborating and being together. Even in just the half-hour lunch break, we were exchanging ideas. I hope the outcome of our collaborative work can be heard in the film. It was a super collaborative process and I hope it feels that way sonically.

 

A big thanks to Scott Hecker and Chuck Michael for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the sound of Rebel Moon and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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  • Mechanical Sound Effects Old Engines Grab Bag Play Track 486 sounds included, 265 mins total $129

    “Old Engines Grab Bag” is a pack of numerous old, unique and characterful engines from early 1900s. It’s a massive collection of 56GB multitrack 192kHz recordings of old tractors and stationary engines, both diesel and gasoline fueled.

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  • User Interface (UI) Sound Effects Casual UI Play Track 3345 sounds included From: $129 From: $103.20

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    CASUAL UI | Sound Effects | Trailer

    Upgrade your UI

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  • Embark on an auditory journey into the heart of Asian gambling with our meticulously crafted collection of royalty-free music and sound effects. Immerse your players in a world of captivating audio that’ll leave them craving more!

     

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  • Royal Cannon is a mini sound library created by sound designer Barney Oram. It features recordings of a British royal cannon salute, fired by six WW1 field guns in February of 2020, to mark the 68th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. All sounds in the library are contained within one single 192kHz 24bit WAV file, with 23 individual takes contained within.

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    Behind the Scenes Video:


    Royal Cannon


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  • Over 375 sounds of creaking materials, including breaking cables, ropes under tension and about to split, wires and strings under stress, metal friction causing tension. Recorded with a combination of Sanken CO100K and Nevaton microphones for full frequency sound content. Saved as 192KHz these files allow for high resolution editing. Useful for impact sounds in cinema, games or documentary, but also for cartoon sounds or even creature sounds as many of the recordings contain vowel-like screeching and scraping.

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