Oscars: Nominated Production Sound Mixers Reveal Tricks of Their Trade

Mad Max Stunt - H 2016
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Capturing the sounds of a movie while shooting on location — whether the hot Namibia deserts where Mad Max: Fury Road or the cold snowy expanses of Alberta, Canada, where The Revenant was filmed — can present unique sets of challenges, depending on the setting. Here, the production sound mixers of this year's five Oscar-nominated films in the sound mixing category discuss their location challenges and how they overcame them.

Bridge of Spies

Nominees: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin

"It’s got lots and lots of dialogue, which presents a big challenge because we shot in all practical locations," said production sound mixer Kunin. "So we dealt with a lot of logistics, [to keep out] the [modern] noises of New York City and traffic in a period film. The same challenges of working around modern sounds followed while shooting in Berlin and Poland." 

Mad Max: Fury Road

Nominees: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo

“Our mission was to record the dialogue of multiple cast members performing in various vehicles whilst constantly in motion and at speed in the Namibian desert, and at the same time capture as many vehicle sound effects as possible, using hidden microphones," related production sound mixer Osmo. "We designed and set up three multiplex radio microphone transmission systems to give me a range of about two miles." 

The Martian

Nominees: Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth

“Ridley Scott wanted the actors to feel that they were utilizing [communication] technology, so they could act off of the others’ performances," said production sound mixer Ruth. "When they were making those calls, they were actually making a teleconference call to another set, to another actor. We not only had to work in two different locations [simultaneously], but it was the sound departments’ responsibility to facilitate the communication."

The Revenant

Nominees: Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek

“We tried a lot of cool things including a 7.1 surround sound mic for ambience and what not. A fair bit of MS Stereo mic recording, plants and creative placements including up in the trees and under sheets of ice in air pockets between the ice and flowing rivers," related production sound mixer Dusterdiek. "My boom operator Charlie O'Shea had to dance with the moving camera.” 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Nominees: Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

"The desert locations in Abu Dhabi were close to 120 degrees," said production sound mixer Wilson. "I had to pack my equipment with bottles of water, swapped out through the day, to keep it operational in the heat. It was wonderfully remote and far from traffic or industrial noise, so we could get clean recordings that were appropriate for Rey's solitude and isolation before she sets off to help the rebellion."