Post Magazine

November 2012

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 37 of 51

Mic'd Up He re-recorded the sound using the 7.0 type set-up he used to record the other effects. "I could put those mics down the hall, or around the corner in the bedroom if the sound was playing in the living room. You get a very natural, off-screen effect that way because you get the sound of the ticking as it would sound in a place, where it's reflecting off the walls and so on." For many of the military sounds, like can- Lincoln: Skywalker's Ben Burtt travelled to Kentucky to record the sound of Lincoln's actual pocket watch, using a Sanken CMS-7. life. The subtle yet meticulous details of the soundtrack are what make it so remark- able. From the watch in Lincoln's pocket to the church bells he'd hear while in his office, Burtt created a world of sound that is as close to 1865 as you can get. Burtt went to a museum in Kentucky to record the sound of Lincoln's pocket watch, using a Sanken CMS-7. While Burtt could have recorded any Civil War-era pocket watch, including one that belonged to Burtt's own great grandfather, he chose to find an actual watch that Lincoln owned. "Nobody had ever wound it up before, but we asked and they let us do it. So we recorded the actual ticking of his watch." Burtt also sent a recordist to the Stude- baker National Museum in South Bend, IN, to record the doors on the carriage that Lincoln used to take to Ford's theater. "It's still in the museum there and they gra- ciously let us record it. We did a lot of things like that. We could have pulled many similar sounds from a sound library, but in this case, we were following the path of authenticity in the hopes that we would discover things that we wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Just using our imagi- nations, we may not have followed the right path. By looking at the real things, it gave us a motive for what we were doing." Using the Sanken CMS-7, Burtt record- ed two church bells in Washington, DC. These bells, built by the Paul Revere family, are the same bells that were there in 1865. One bell is at St. John's church, located across the street from Lincoln's office at the White House. "That's a bell that Lin- coln would have heard many times in his office. We recorded the bell up-close in the belfry to get away from traffic sounds. Then we used those bells as off-screen ambience in the movie." Often when recording, Burtt used a set-up that included the Sanken CMS-7, a Sennheiser MKH-416 and a Zoom H2 36 Post฀•฀November฀2012฀ recorder. He used this collection of mics to fabricate a 7.0 configuration for the sound effects, with the Sennheiser MKH- 416 for the center channel, the stereo Sanken CMS-7 as the L and R, and the Zoom H2, in four-track mode, set up to capture a distant perspective for the sur- rounds. "We took all those recordings and synced them up, so essentially there were seven channels; it was a way of fabricating a live 7.0 recording. Those tracks went right into the movie, giving a realistic feel of being in a place and it mixed in well with the production track." There are many scenes in the film that have a small, crackling fire in the fireplace. Burtt used the aforementioned mic set-up in his house, late at night, to record a fire in his fireplace. "Recording some of the crackling fires that way really produced a wonderful 7.0 sense. I found that it was kind of hard to record a decent fire crackling, that's not distracting but gives you the right feeling." Burtt also used that mic config- uration to record artifacts in the White House, such as the doors and clocks from the time of Lin- coln's presidency. To record the clocks, Burtt used a Barcus Berry 4000 contact mic to isolate the ticking since the White House environment was so noisy. "They wouldn't let us touch the clocks, so we actually had to put a thin piece of Mylar between the pick-up and the clock itself. We weren't physi- cally in contact with the clock, but we were able to get a good recording that way." Using a contact mic to record the clock ticks meant the sound was at a very close perspective. To make the sound more natu- ral, Burtt "worldized" the effect. First he made a ten-minute long track of the ticking. He took the track to an old, empty, wooden mansion and played the sound over speakers. nons, men marching and cavalry, Burtt pulled sounds from a library of Civil War-era sounds he had recorded for past projects. The editing and pre-mix was done at Skywalker Ranch. "My job was essentially to create the raw material for the film. After the pre-mix, it was passed on to Gary Rydstrom, one of our top re-recording mixers, who completed the final mix in Los Angeles along with Andy Nelson at Fox Studios, where the final mix was done. For Burtt, dealing with very quiet sounds " on Lincoln was a challenge. Burtt, whose past work includes Red Tails, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and, of course, Star Wars, is used to soundtracks where subtlety can get lost. Lincoln was the exact opposite. It was vital to capture noise- free recordings because every detail would be heard. While recording footsteps on location in old slave quarters in Maryland, Burtt often had to wait for the right moment, when everything was quiet, to record. "There were a lot of old buildings filled with old floor boards and staircases. We did a lot of the walking around to get the creaky floorboards and people going up and down stairs — each step has a different creak and a pitch. Getting those quiet enough was a chal- Parabolic's Tom Ryan and Lew Goldstein (L-R) recorded ADR for Moonrise Kingdom using the Sennheiser MKH-60. lenge because of off-screen cows or things of that sort. So a lot of it was just being very patient and waiting for the right moment and using directional mics when necessary to try and isolate sounds." The focus for Lincoln was to create an authentic sound that was rich in subtle detail. "It's not an overly-magnified, artificial world of sound, but rather something that seems

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - November 2012