David Farmer (LOTR and Hobbit Sound Designer) on Creature Sounds | #SoundDesign

Hello, long time, no see! But, we’re back!

So, I think that every sound designer would like to hear some insights from David Farmer Hobbit.jpgabout creature sound design. Of course! He is “only” the responsible for the creature sounds on the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies. It’s hard to think about someone more qualified to talk about it.

Well, the A Sound Effect Blog got us covered! They did a great (although small) interview with David about the subject. Below, some of the highlights of it.

What’s important to listen for in the source sounds?

That central “voice” can be pretty elusive. There have been creatures over the years that re-defined this. I didn’t make either of these, but Chewbacca’s cry, and the T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park, really raised the bar when it comes to creatures. From what I’ve been told, the defining bellow of the T-Rex roar came from a single baby elephant sound, that only happened once.

So when listening through sounds, it’s important to listen for parts that might stand out. They may be quite short, but you might just find that signature sound in a place you weren’t looking for it.

Other than vocalizations, what are some of the other sound components you consider when designing the sound of a creature?

The larger elements are what gets the most attention, but breaths, lip smacks, and smaller expressive pieces can be the real threads that stitch a creature together. No pun intended, these bits really breathe life into the final result.

For me personally, Smaug, particularly in “The Desolation of Smaug” has been my favorite creature I’ve ever done. And I’m not talking about the big action sequences, but rather the more subtle dialog scenes between Smaug and Bilbo.

The most important part of that treatment was to take Benedict’s voice and make it sound like that was an actual dragon in the room speaking. Making it sound large but natural and authentic was the trick. So first I got all the dialog lines processed in place and what I determined to be believable. Then it was time to add other elements between Smaug’s lines to tie it all together. Those were things like alligator growls, but also some breaths and hisses that came from Benedict, and myself, vocoded with alligators that had hints of both human and alligator. This kept him alive both on and off-screen, and gave the spoken voice a place to come from, as well as go to.

Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Mauricio Ruiz – www.mauricioruiz.me

One thought on “David Farmer (LOTR and Hobbit Sound Designer) on Creature Sounds | #SoundDesign

  1. I remember an interesting part of a “behind the scenes” feature about the original LOTR films. There was a really interesting insight into the way they blended Gandalf & Saruman’s voices together to confuse the Fellowship in the forest, how John Rys-Davies spoke through a carved wooden box with various shafts and caverns in to create his “Treebeard voice” and how Andy Serkis had “Gollum Juice” to help him perfect the creature’s raspy voice!

    Liked by 1 person

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