Monday, January 14, 2013

The Sound of "Django Unchained"

I went to see "Django Unchained" just kind of for the heck of it, not having heard much about it. I enjoyed it in a lot of ways.

While I'm not a big fan of movie violence, I was impressed by the artful portrayal of gunplay and other physical conflict. In particular, the Foley and sound effects were terrific-- big, raw and edgy. Given the clear inspiration of Sergio Leone, this seemed like a perfect approach-- after all, Leone's films were often (always?) shot without sound, the dialogue looped in later and the soundscape dubbed as stark Foley cues.

Anyway, I was psyched to find an article in Post Magazine about the sound design of "Django Unchained". It appears that Tarantino did indeed want a big, "analog" soundscape for the film.

Evidently, 150-year-old chains were recorded to provide the titular sound cues. The individually forged links apparently resonate at variable pitches, whereas today's machine-made chain is a lot more monotonous.

Also: it seems that the sound crew collected impulse responses in Death Valley, Zion Canyon and Monument Valley to create echoes for the gunshots. Quite a length to go to for echo collection; I love that they went to the extreme of traveling that far to gather these echoes.

When you get up to that kind of budgetary level, what is the ethos? Is the potential box office return even part of the equation? Or is it just "hey, we can go to Death Valley to record impulse responses! Let's do it!"?

In any case, they sure made a nice-sounding film out of it.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

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