Oscar Preview: Sound Editing

A category-by-category look at the Oscar crafts shoot

If history is any indication, "WALL-E" (Ben Burtt/Matthew Wood) will be unfairly shut out of other crafts categories, but this one, it owns. First of all, Oscar voters seem to recognize that sound carries a greater burden in animated films, selling the reality of a completely artificial world to an audience. Secondly, four-time Oscar winner Burtt -- the man who created the iconic sounds for "Star Wars" (1977), from the hum of the lightsabers to the voices of R2-D2 and Chewbacca -- isn't just the film's sound designer and supervising sound editor. For all intents and purposes, he's also its lead actor (in concert with the animators), providing every beep, squeak, creak and vocalization of its title character, a trash-compacting robot.

Another animated hit, DreamWorks/Paramount's "Kung Fu Panda" (Erik Aadahl), could wind up on the list of nominees, but the shortlist will more likely be filled out a by a collection of action blockbusters. First in line is this year's boxoffice king, "The Dark Knight" (Richard King), which boasts a wealth of unique vehicles for sonic exhibitionism, including the Batcycle. "Iron Man" (Chris Boyes/Frank Eulner) impresses with a pair of giant clanging metal robots locked in mortal combat, while the high-decibel action in "Quantum of Solace" (Eddy Joseph) could provide the Bond franchise with its first Oscar nomination for sound since 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever."

On the basis of the audience's aural experience, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (Ben Burtt/Richard Hymns) should be considered a top contender, but voters may feel it's a case of been there, done that, especially if they know that whip cracks and other vintage sounds were pulled from the Skywalker Sound libraries, digitized, and reused in a conscious effort to sonically evoke the earlier "Indys."

Next: Sound Mixing