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Essa Hansen @EssaHansen
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Some people enjoyed my #sounddesign craft thread the other day + they’re fun for me, so let’s try another! This time I want to talk about hard-to-describe sound concepts. e.g. Vormir in #InfinityWar

#filmsound #soundeffects #filmmaking #fieldrecording #audiopost #postproduction
Sometimes the hardest part is translating clients’ explanations & descriptions into a sonic experience. Esp. true for surreality, ambiguous objects/powers, magic, etc. Often deciphering comes down to “just make it really cool”—which is all all about drumming up creative ideas.
The Vormir plateau was more or less pitched as giant stone/magnetic tuning forks vibrating to create tiny vacuums in spacetime… I can’t go out and record giant vibrating stones or spacetime vacuums or mini black holes. So, where to start?
I also often hear that something needs to sound “weirder”—everyone wants utterly unique sounds for their film. What they’re really saying is they want a certain emotion. The audience member is wowed, at the edge of their seat, or feeling something alien or magical.
The Vormir monolith isn’t visibly moving. For sound, a lack of visuals can be both helpful (we can put whatever we want there!) and difficult (there is nothing to help the sound “stick” to picture). Since these sounds were atmospheric, that wasn’t such a big issue.
Sidebar: #DoctorStrange also had a lot of these hard-to-describe concepts. The sound of magic is so subjective & often not dependent on visuals. The Zealots’ “time shard’ spears/swords were the hardest concept/emotion to tackle, described as actual rips in spacetime.
For Vormir, I started w/ unused material from previous movies. On Strange, I'd made deep stone rhythms, grinding, moans, etc. for the “mandelbrot” powers. Also, super pitched-down processed big cat purr vibrations for Dormmamu’s gel-like face. A lot of these could be reworked.
In the end, music dominated much of the Vormir scene since it’s a moment of high emotion, & music is usually tasked with the emotional heavy lifting. Filmmakers aren’t always well educated about what sound can achieve emotionally, esp. in terms of tension.
But I’m always thrilled to work on rare scenes where the music is left out to allow sound to tell story. Such as the Q-Ship arrival in NY. Inside the Sanctum, our heroes hear something strange, unidentifiable. A wind whistles in. Details: paper blowing, ceiling dust, rattling.
It’s not until Tony opens the front door that we’re hit with the full chaos, and not until he rounds the corner that we see the Q-Ship, the source of the strange tonal sound. In this scene, sound was able to build mystique & tension from silence to the final loud reveal.
We were also able to play w/ the sound to transform emotions thru that scene. Intrigue, anxiety, fear, shock, awe. Storytelling is about stirring emotion in an audience. Done right, viewers will be engaged & probably not even notice it's the sound making them feel a certain way!
Oh! And if anyone's confused by the pen name, I design as Nia. 😉 Thanks for reading!
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