Prometheus Forum
We are the Gods now
The Alien Sounds of Prometheus
  • ViscalViscal  (3 like this)
    Brometheus
    https://www.editorsguild.com/FromTheGuild.cfm?FromTheGuildid=314 (thanks to seeasea for the link!)

    Mixers Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett and Supervising Sound Editor Mark Stoeckinger

    Cross Sci-Fi with Gothic


    While set in the same fictional universe of Ridley Scott’s original offering, and sharing some of its key dramatic events, the director is clear in his intention that his latest film Prometheus is unrelated to the rest of the original franchise. There had been talk of a fifth Alien movie — with Scott reportedly committing to a sequel or prequel a decade ago — but it took 20th Century Fox to persuade the director to cast his unique vision of the origins and purpose of the Alien civilization, while also explaining the genesis of the enigmatic Space Jockey that forms a direct link to the original space explorers from 1979’s landmark motion picture. Sequel, prequel or neither, Prometheus is scheduled for release June 8 through 20th Century Fox.

    In essence, the film (originally to be called Paradise) follows a team of scientists as they journey on the spaceship Prometheus to the distant planet of Erix to terraform the world. The crewmembers discover, however, that what they experience from the indigenous life forms is not just a threat to themselves, but to mankind. Prometheus takes advantage of new-generation sound technologies, while very much paying tribute to the original offering. As Michael Fassbender, who plays David, the artificial person in Prometheus, confirmed: “By the end of the third act, you start to realize there’s a DNA of the very first Alien, but none of the subsequent films,” with imagery inspired by its original conceptualist, H.R. Giger.

    Working with elements coordinated by supervising sound editors Mark Stoeckinger and Victor Ennis from Soundelux, the intricate soundtrack was re-recorded at Fox’s John Ford Stage in West Los Angeles by Doug Hemphill (sound effects) and Ron Bartlett (dialogue and music). Creature sound design effects — of which Prometheus features a wide range — were fashioned by Ann Scibelli, Alan Rankin and Harry Cohen. Other members of the sound crew included Foley mixers James Ashwill and Blake Collins; Foley editors Bob Beher, Bruce Tanis and Glenn T. Morgan; Sandy Buchanan handling the recording of computer voices; ADR engineer Derek Casari; ADR recordists Glen Gathard and James Hyde; ADR mixer Andy Stallabrass; dialogue editor Margit Pfeiffer; music editors Joseph Bonn and Del Spiva; and sound effects editor Tim Walston.
    image
    Re-recording mixers Doug Hemphill, left, and Ron Bartlett, right, flank director Ridley Scott during the mix of Prometheus.

    Reverb and Ambience Processing

    In terms of technology choices, “We used an AMS Neve DFC console,” Hemphill recalls. “I would have liked an Avid D-Command to get at the Pro Tools tracks, but that wasn’t part of the workflow. My reverb was from two Audio Ease Altiverb Pro Tools plug-ins, a Lexicon 960 dual-head and a dual-head 480. On the DFC, I have quad delays. I also used a Fulltone ETC-1 tape delay at 15 ips with mastering-quality analogue tape. This device allows a unique feedback sound; it was first used on our stage when Paul Massey and I mixed Walk the Line. The new version of AltiVerb was very disappointing, so right now I’m looking at other reverbs. I’m not interested in endless impulse responses that don’t sound good, or are cumbersome to manipulate in real time; I’m just looking for reverbs that sound good out of the box.”

    Hemphill tends to use spatial sound abstractly. “I’m not that interested in matching what I see; only whether it sounds good or not,” he confides. “Working with Ridley Scott is very much a process of thinking in the abstract. It’s taken for granted that the more obvious soundscapes are filled, without talking about it. He tends to respond to tone and mood, and always gets excited when that adds to the feeling of a scene. Ridley is never afraid to take chances with sound; never a fear that ‘we might break this delicate china!’ There is no question that, with Ridley to inspire and direct us, something unique always happens.

    “He told me once, ‘Imagine an angry pike fish has just landed in your boat and is thrashing about,’” Hemphill continues. I can’t give the scene away, but that was all I needed to hear! It’s part of the Golden Rule in Sound. The ‘What’ is easy to do — you see something on the screen and you cut a sound for it. The hard part is the ‘Why?’ If you know the why — a pike thrashing in your boat — then it gets exciting. Chances are good that the audience will get excited as well, and that’s why we’re doing it: for the audience.”

    “When I learned that we were going to mix Prometheus” for Ridley Scott, I was very excited,” adds Bartlett. “I wanted to tie in some of the original aesthetics from the first Alien film. We studied the voice processing of the android character in Alien and re-created that sound very closely. It invoved a lot of fun experimenting with various vintage guitar pedals — and some new ones as well. We settled on a MXR Flanger and a side-band ring modulator. The only problem with this approach was that the effect had to be performed live every time I went into record on those sections! Other processing included computer vocals, warning alarms, com channels between helmets, ship PAs, holographic playback and some other special characters in the film. I used a speaker phone for various futzing and distortion; the ring modulator and speaker phone were used to help ‘age’ one of the character’s performances.”

    “Whenever I start a mix on a new film, I first think of sound in terms of mood, story and character,” Hemphill says. “What are the characters feeling and experiencing, and how can I translate that with sound for the audience? I was very interested in bringing some of the heritage of sci-fi films to Prometheus; movies like Them and The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the radio version of The War of the Worlds that Orson Wells and the Mercury Theatre did [in the 1940s]. I believe that we are wired to respond to sounds that have a musical or pitch characteristic. I tried to push for that type of sound and develop it with Mark Stoeckinger and Ann Scibelli; after all, white noise-type sound rarely has meaning to an audience!

    “This philosophy ties in with the idea that, in mixing, you must emphasize content over sheer volume. There are big sequences in Prometheus but, if they are successful, it’s because of content and not just pushing at the audience with sound level. I have always admired some of the classic mixes by Murray Spivak [a legendary sound designer and re-recording engineer, who worked on such movies as King Kong, South Pacific and The Alamo] because, no matter what volume you play it at, you can still hear the dialogue and still recognize the balance, content and drama.”

    image
    A selection of effects pedals and processors used by Doug Hemphill on sound effects during the re-recording of Prometheus, including an analogue MXR Flanger, left, an Eventide Space delay and an Electro Harmonix Ring Thing.

    Bartlett concedes that “one of the biggest challenges in the film from a dialogue point of view were the recordings made inside the spacesuit helmet. Simon Hayes, who recorded the production sound, did an outstanding job! Due to his expertise, we were able to save a lot of the original track; his recordings really dictated how we were able to build our tracks.”

    The trick was matching the ADR to the original helmet acoustics. “Soundelux’s Charlie Campagna did a great job creating an impulse response using an actual helmet from the film to be used in Altiverb,” Bartlett continues. “I sent the ADR tracks into Altiverb IR and was able to match the production with the exact qualities of the production-helmet recording. Which gave Ridley the freedom to ADR any character he wanted that was in a helmet or not. So that individual takes could be processed in the final mix, our dialogue pre-dubs had to be kept very wide; the only processing done in the pre-dub itself was matching the ADR helmet sound.”

    Silence As a Creative Tool

    And lack of sound figures prominently in the mix for Prometheus. “Silence is probably one of the most effective tools out there, and one of the most overlooked,” Bartlett continues. “We used silence very effectively a few times in the film with great dramatic impact. When you go from very full and powerful sounds to almost complete silence, you can really take an audience’s breath away. This difference not only draws you in, it also makes you lean into the movie wanting to find out what happens next. For me, dynamics and pacing are such a huge part of mixing the sound on a film.”

    Regarding the overall sound editorial direction for Prometheus, co-supervising sound editor Mark Stoeckinger uses succinct terminology. “Without giving anything away,” he confides, “I feel the film’s theme is a certain sense of adventure that gives way to spirituality and evolves into intensity. It was a combination of both honoring the previous offerings in the Alien series and taking a fresh approach. Of course you want to understand what came before, but this film is unique and not a direct prequel. Our approach was to make the sound as stand-alone as the film, yet at the same time, create a design that was both technical and sci-fi but also a bit gothic and Victorian — an amalgam of various technologies. Sounds are not always smooth or high tech.”

    In terms of sound elements edited for the dub stage, “I prefer not to tie the re-recording mixer’s hands by delivering sounds with lots of pan and imaging moves that they could clearly do better in the larger space of their mixing stage,” Stoeckinger says. “But, at the same time, we are limited by time in creating a first pass of sounds for a temp mix. As a result, some decisions in imaging that were made early on can end up staying with you throughout, simply because everybody likes how a sound is working. We all move along in the process.”

    Although Prometheus will be released in 3D, Stoeckinger says that sound editorial and mixing team “never saw the film in 3D until about 80 percent of the way through the final mix. We could reasonably guess what sound imaging was going to be in the forefront — and Doug Hemphill mixed it that way. As various visual effects came towards completion, we were able to pick out key elements to pull even further back into the room to be complimentary with how they would play in 3D — but which are still interesting and effective in the 2D world.

    “For signal processing, we used a little bit of everything. Working with Charlie Campagna at Soundelux, we experimented with gear that could help emulate a late-1970s sound where we could use it. That process inspired an analogue approach, which lead us to use guitar pedals and effects like an MXR Flanger, Eventide Space delays and an Electro Harmonix Ring Thing. Doug brought in a tape delay deck and we were like kids at play coming up with new spaces and effects.”

    image
    Dialogue editor Dan Irwin, left, sound effects re-recording mixer Doug Hemphill, co- supervising sound editor Mark Stoeckinger, dialogue/music re-recording mixer Ron Bartlett, sound designer/editor Ann Scibelli and co-supervising sound editor Victor Ennis.

    Reflecting on sound for Prometheus, Stoeckinger says, “The biggest challenge was to never cloud the story being told, and to be original and unique. We intellectualized why things would sound the way they did — or would — so there was always a motivation for a sound. Ridley is very hands-on in the way he’s always focused on story and characters, and how sound interacts with both. He is a ‘Big Picture Guy’ who seems to enjoy contributions that fit into the story he is telling. My fondest memory from the sound editorial and re-recording was the symbiotic relationship we all had with the process. I really feel that we were all on the same page all the time. And that is pretty rare.”

    Dialogue pre-dubs were as follows: Production; Production helmets; Heads-up Displays; Helmet breathing; Computer futzes, ship warnings and holograms; Group ADR and special dialogue; ADR+Helmet ADR; and X-tracks. “Mixing in the 7.1 format allowed us to really take advantage of the environment,” Bartlett says. “There were times I kept the dialogue reverbs and delays in the rear surrounds, while I tended to keep music in the surrounds further up in the mid-surrounds.”

    Again, source link: https://www.editorsguild.com/FromTheGuild.cfm?FromTheGuildid=314 (thanks to seeasea!)
    I wanna go home and party.
  • hellsfoxeshellsfoxes  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    I worry that Ridley is too democratic these days. not hard arse enuf to insist on some things. in two weeks we'll either scope back through these interviews in silent awe of the genius or in sad retrospect.

    thanks for all the pimp links!
  • NickIsSmartNickIsSmart  (4 like this)
    Flaming_Telepath
    So much nerdness.
    Vivez la yoga pants.
  • LampOfTheUniverseLampOfTheUniverse  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    wow, thanks for this. Im a pedal/music gear nerd myself so it was nice to see some of my favourite pedals being used for this movie :)
  • MariaMaria  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    So the planet name is Erix, or the moon that they land on, LV-223.
    ~In space, no one can hear you scream, unless space is CGI~
  • antovolkantovolk  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    Maria said:

    So the planet name is Erix, or the moon that they land on, LV-223.



    I think it was originally going to be called Erix (probably in early drafts) than changed to LV-223
  • tpktpk  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    "We studied the voice processing of the android character in Alien and re-created that sound very closely. It invoved a lot of fun experimenting with various vintage guitar pedals — and some new ones as well. We settled on a MXR Flanger and a side-band ring modulator."

    At what point did Ash's voice sound like that?
  • kjohnson26kjohnson26  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    tpk said:

    "We studied the voice processing of the android character in Alien and re-created that sound very closely. It invoved a lot of fun experimenting with various vintage guitar pedals — and some new ones as well. We settled on a MXR Flanger and a side-band ring modulator."


    At what point did Ash's voice sound like that? 
    (Just in case) Maybe after his head got knocked off. I guess that could imply something related occurs in Prometheus.
  • tpktpk  
    Colonist
    That's the point I was trying to make but my spoiler tag refuses to show up. Anyway, I think this confirms that you-know-what happens to our favourite android.
  • NickIsSmartNickIsSmart  
    Flaming_Telepath
    Welcome to the forum, tpk! : )
    Vivez la yoga pants.
  • kjohnson26kjohnson26  
    Colonist
    tpk said:

    That's the point I was trying to make but my spoiler tag refuses to show up. Anyway, I think this confirms that you-know-what happens to our favourite android.



    I noticed your spoiler tags when I quoted your comment. My tags worked without a problem. I tried retyping your tags but it didn't make a difference.
  • IcelandIceland  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    Great article Viscal + seeasea, was hoping for something about the Sound Design in the film...

    "And lack of sound figures prominently in the mix for normal">Prometheus."

    Couldn't be happier about this!
    "Maybe I am an experiment, a god brain in a human head. In a century or two, there will be god men who live easily, and exist because of me."
  • bunnypfbunnypf  
    Colonist

    Ah, terraforming Erix. And there was me thinking....

     

    "Once upon a time I was a hell of an Engineer."
  • tgbyhntgbyhn  (2 like this)
    Colonist
    The script Spaihts wrote about a Prometheus on the planet Erix is an entirely different film script.

    I've read the entire Shadow 19 script, and besides taking the name Prometheus as the name of the ship (and film), there are no commonalities between Shadow 19 and Prometheus or Alien.

    Erix is a world targeted for terraforming by a scientific agency of the Allied states government.  A planet rich in heavy minerals and twice the biomass of Earth, in which the native wildlife incorporates elements like titanium into their skeletons, claws, and teeth.  Something goes awry with the terraforming device.  A marine is hired on by the scientific agency to be teleported to the planet from their lab on Earth (which actually duplicates the marine, not teleport him) in an effort to fix what went wrong with the terraforming device.  18 copies ('shadows') of the marine are sent through the device to Prometheus and butchered as he progressively advances closer to the device 100+ km distant from Prometheus.  Shadow 19 finds an alien city (pre-industrial), and that they'd put out of commission the terraforming device.  

    This poses ethical and moral issues, terraforming a planet that is home to a civilization (genocide).  The scientific agency had previously covered up the alien civilization, including flying the original 3000 crew and scientists returning home from Erix into the sun (a "navigational error").  Shadow 19 'shadows' himself back from Prometheus and starts taking out the scientists and the project.

    The film script has nothing to do with anything in the Alien universe.  No Weyland, no xenos, absolutely no connection with any of that stuff.  

  • MartinRobyMartinRoby  
    Colonist
    Quote: "The new version of AltiVerb was very disappointing, so right now I’m looking at other reverbs. I’m not interested in endless impulse responses that don’t sound good, or are cumbersome to manipulate in real time; I’m just looking for reverbs that sound good out of the box."

    So right, including that remark about AltiVerb.
  • kamikazekurtkamikazekurt  
    Colonist
    "Silence as a creative tool" - it's good to know that the sound is not going to be overly bombastic.
    my God, it's full of stars!
  • JasonDiazJasonDiaz  
    Colonist
    Wow they really went kinda old school with some of their gear choices, I like it. Wondering if they used Thunderbolt wiring, it def made my work flow that much faster and productive, can't wait when it goes optical. 

    I have some old school reverbs and oscillators lying around that makes some very unique sounds, one of them being the Korg Prophecy. 

    My next purchase will be a Apogee Symphony I/O and Symphony Thunderbridge 64. If I only could be a fly in the wall of their sound studio.
    "Not too close, I hope"

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