'Transformers' Director Michael Bay Weighs In on the Importance of Sound (Q&A)

3:10 PM PST 12/02/2011 by Carolyn Giardina
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Michael Bay

The "Dark of the Moon" helmer talks to THR about how the movie's climactic Chicago destruction sequence came to be and the scene that caused Industrial Light and Magic's computer system to crash.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon director Michael Bay weighs in on the importance of sound.

The Hollywood Reporter: You have quite a large below-the-line team.

Michael Bay: Roughly 3,000 people worked on this Transformers. Some have been with me since 1995's Bad Boys. The people I work with are animals. They're passionate. It irks me that VFX and VFX movies aren't considered art. It's a different type of art, but it's definitely art.

THR: How important is sound to your films?

Bay: Sound has been a major part of my movies. It's something I love and put a huge emphasis on. The sound on this film is the most complex I've ever done. The Transformers sound team invents sounds, and they start very early. It's a long, creative process, and nothing for this movie is off-the-shelf.

Chaos in Chicago: Image progressions of a skyscraper's demise caused by The Driller, which ILM constructed from 30 million polygons -- the digital equivalent of an atom. If they were laid out end to end, the polygons would stretch 68.36 miles.

THR: What did you use to create some of the sound that became part of The Driller's "voice"?

Bay: At one point, we worked with an orangutan whose trainer said to sound designer Erik Aadahl, "Turn your back and put your keys to the side. I'm going to steal your keys when the orangutan is watching. He'll go crazy because he can't imagine the injustice of what's going on."

THR: Can you discuss the Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound mix in the climactic Chicago destruction sequence?

Bay: [Rerecording mixer] Greg Russell said reel seven [the destruction of Chicago, including The Driller] was the hardest of his career. He said it had 30,000 fades [audio files], and the entire [Pro Tools audio postproduction system] locked up.

They had to call the engineers who developed the program to fix it. They had never heard of a reel having 30,000 fades.

THR: Didn't the movie also crash ILM's computer system?

Bay: It was the scene where The Driller destroys Chicago. It was single-handedly the most complex shot ILM has ever done in its history. They had to hijack the entire computer system over the weekends to get the shots finished.

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