Oscars: What 'Hobbit's' Sound Editors Used to Make Clashing Armies Sound Realistic

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Still 2 - H 2014
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Still 2 - H 2014

This story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

American Sniper
Alan Robert MurrayBub Asman

"We recorded every gun in the movie with live fire and blanks," says Murray, adding that the blanks were recorded on the Warner Bros. backlot. "We had to do it on a weekend between certain hours, and they sent notices to all the neighbors." Since the film doesn't have a full musical score, those gunshots and other military sounds are used to signal the turmoil felt by Bradley Cooper's Chris Kyle.

Martin Hernandez, Aaron Glascock 

Because Birdman was filmed as if it was one continuous shot, the sound team created ambient noise with buzzes, rumbles and closing doors. "As Michael Keaton would go into the corridor, it would have a different tonality. It was constantly rolling in and out of sound," says Glascock, adding that director Alejandro G. Inarritu "wanted to find the poetry at the heart of the story, and the sound had to carry that poetry."

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Brent Burge, Jason Canovas

Amid the din, different sounds were assigned to each army in the climactic battle. "We recorded all sorts of metal — brass, iron, steel," says Burge. "The dwarves did a lot of mining, so we incorporated the sounds of iron. For the Orcs, we used dirty metals — dull, rough metals — which was different from the elves, which had a steely sound."

Richard King

The movie's dust storm is designed as an apocalyptic event in which weather patterns get more extreme. "It's based on Dust Bowl dust storms in the '30s, and we used that information to design something that felt dangerous and frightening. We did a lot of wind recordings," says King. "Most people have experienced something like that, so we tried to make it more exaggerated."

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Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro

Director Angelina Jolie demanded authenticity. "So Becky and I tracked down an original B-24 — there may be only two that are still operational — through the Collings Foundation, which restores World War II planes," says DeCristofaro, adding that they recorded flipping the switches and closing the doors. "We also flew in it; it gave me a newfound respect for the bravery of the men."