Last Sunday, the Oscar awarded two prizes for the sound work in Mad Max: Fury Road: Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. And, obviously, I went after some info about it: the recording, the design, the mixing. And I found some pretty good stuff.
Let’s start with two interviews with Ben Oslo (Production Sound Mixer) and Oliver Machin (Sound Department Coordinator & Vehicle FX Recordist) about the difficulties of recording a crazy film like Mad Max, in the middle of the Namibian desert. Yep, just think about it.
The first interview (Miking the Madness: Sound for Mad Max Fury Road) is just with Ben, where he talks about the all the difficulties and obstacles they had to overpass during the sound recording of the film. There are some great technical info and great histories in it. Here are some excerpts:
At the risk of painting Ben Osmo as some kind of comedic Carry On Recording character in the desert, I should let him explain how he and his team solved the principal technical conundrum: how to mic and record eight actors in a fast-moving truck cabin where distance is an issue, ambient noise is punishing, and the fact your trying to send RF from a rusty steel cage is also a big problem. The solution deserves round of applause:
Ben Osmo: “There are eight principal cast inside the War Rig cabin and they were fitted with Lectrosonics SMV or SMQV transmitters with DPA 4063 lapel mics. There was an antenna hidden inside the cabin with a coax cable to the interior of the tanker. In the road case hidden in the tanker were two Lectrosonics Venues which had 12 outputs to 12 x UM400 transmitters. The RF output was multiplexed to a RF combiner/booster specially designed by RF engineer Glen English in Canberra. That one coax output then went up the inside of the War Rig and we hid a transmitter aerial on top of the truck above all the metal so we could have 360° line of sight. All this was in a ruggedised road case with a Meon UPS. In the back of the case was a cooling system, as it got to above 50°C and it was very dusty inside the tanker. We called the road case the ‘Sputnik’. There was a 10kW generator in each War Rig for special FX and the lighting departments and sound, so I was able to tap into it to run the Sputnik. I should pay special tribute to Greg Roberts from Lateral Linking for helping me get to this solution.”
Mad Max: Fury Road is big on explosions. Cars are harpooned and explode. Canyons are detonated. When you see a gasoline explosion plume that rises hundreds of metres in the air, you never question its authenticity. It looks real and sounds real.
Ben Osmo: “You never quite know if you’ve got enough headroom when you mic up a crash or explosion. Normally they’re a one-take affair. I’ll use a dynamic kick drum mic, like an AKG D112 — the condensers can’t really handle the big explosions. Saying that, condensers are useful if you place them far enough away. Some of the wavelengths of these explosions are so low that the further you are from ground zero the better.
“I’ve got a beautiful little Sonosax desk. It was made in Switzerland, has beautiful preamps and very delicate limiters if you need them. I’ll try and run crucial audio through those pres if I can.
“When we were back in Sydney doing the Citadel scenes, we also shot another perspective of the final War Rig crash. I thought I’d pull out my old Nagra 4.2 reel-to-reel recorder to see how a bit of tape compression at 15ips would sound on the crash and explosion. I’ve gotta say, the guys in post do a lot of the work with those explosions.”
The mental image I have is of Ben with his headphones on, bouncing across the desert at speed, hoping everything would hold together. So much for the glamour of ‘Hollywood’. Worse still, he was also supplying playback for the aforementioned Doof
Wagon, so iOTA (actor/muso and flame-throwing guitarist) and his drummer boys could have a guide track in their ears when the vehicle armada was on the march.
Ben Osmo: “Again, the first time we tried this, I had iOTA’s temp music on my laptop running from ProTools via an MBox. No dice, the hard drive was skipping — even when I had the laptop cushioned on my lap. I thought I’d run the audio out my headphone output to see if that improved matters. But it didn’t. And I saved the music to iTunes but that didn’t help either. So in the end, playback was coming out of my iPod which I was waving around above my head trying to keep everything steady.”
And this is just a small part of this amazing article, by the Video and Filmmaker blog. You should read it all.
The second interview (Syncing Mad Max- Fury Road) is with Ben and Oliver together. It’s similar to the first one, but with different details and some more technical info on the equipment and techniques. Also a must read one.
Along with this, I found two audio interviews with Mark Mangini, the sound designer of the film.
This first one is pretty short, and he talks about the where he got the inspiration for the sounds of the film, and how he thought that Moby Dick was and allegory for the big truck, War Rig.
(original source, here: ‘Mad Max’ sound designer Mark Mangini was inspired by ‘Moby Dick’)
This second one, also with Mangini, is from The Sound Works Interview Series. It’s a long one (a little more than one hour), where he talks about his work in the film, and the sound moments he most enjoyed on it. Take an hour, and listen to it. It’s pretty nice. 🙂
Well, that’s it for now. Hope you guys enjoyed this!
Mauricio Ruiz – www.mauricioruiz.me