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January 2016

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THE FORCE AWAKENS AT SKYWALKER SOUND 41 POST JANUARY 2016 the elements from nearly every officially sanctioned Star Wars source. The keep- ers of the Holocron, Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo, were consulted on The Force Awakens to make sure the proper Star Wars vernacular and recording techniques were adhered to for partic- ular aliens, like character Tasu Leech, whom Han Solo encounters in The Force Awakens. For Leech's sound, established in a prequel project, Woods explains that they record the actor speaking his lines in a gibberish language invented by Sara Forsberg. Then, they reverse those re- cordings. The actor learns the lines back- wards, and then performs them that way. They take those recordings, and reverse them again to fit in the mouth of the character. "It gives a nice, weird effect that is achieved purely through perfor- mance and an analog-type approach to the processing. That's fun when sound design can work with dialogue like that," says Wood. Another interesting alien is Teedo, a small scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku. Acord, who was preparing for a trip to Thailand, says Teedo's language is a mish-mash of poorly pronounced Thai phrases with a few names of his friends thrown in for fun. Teedo's lines also include a hidden Easter egg of dialogue, the words "jub-jub," as per Abrams's request. For those familiar with The Simpsons, "jub-jub" is the name of Selma's pet iguana, a name bestowed by then-writer on the series, Conan O'Brien. During director Abrams's appearance on the talk show Conan in 2013, he promised O'Brien he'd work "jub-jub" into the up- coming Star Wars film. "Teedo says it as he is walking away from BB-8 and Rey," reveals Acord. Re-recording mixers Scarabosio (on effects/Foley/backgrounds) and Andy Nelson (on dialogue and music) mixed Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the Howard Hawks stage at Fox Studios in Los Angeles using an AMS Neve DFC console. After completing the native Dolby Atmos mix, they translated that to the Imax 12.0, Imax, 7.1 and 5.1 formats. Scarabosio says the biggest challenge for the mix was to balance the energy of the effects with the magic of the music while keeping the charm and nostalgia of the Star Wars legacy. "The sound of Star Wars is probably as much John Williams score as it is about all the phenomenal sound effects that have been created over the years," Scarabosio says. "It all came together to create a harmonious track that makes people so excited and helps tell the story." The immersive Atmos surround field offered Scarabosio the opportunity to create an interesting atmosphere, particularly on the aerial attacks where starfighters and lasers abound, all while using sound to pull the focus onto im- portant story points. "Part of mixing is thinning sounds out because if you put too much in, then it all starts to get mud- dy and you lose focus. We often referred to 'using sound to pull the focus,' so that we could find amongst all this chaos, what the audience is supposed to be focusing on in any one given moment," he says. Their goal for the mix was all about keeping the charm. Parts of the film har- ken back to the original film of the '70's, and parts feel very modern with fast pac- ing, but ultimately director Abrams didn't want the audience to feel overwhelmed. "There's just this charm to it that the Star Wars movies have always had that makes it fun," says Scarabosio. "Star Wars is such a special thing. When you're working on it, you know it's not your average film," says Wood, who notes that nearly all of the 'additional voices' listed in the credits of The Force Awakens have a Star Wars history, either from the original films, the prequels or the Clone Wars. "That was fun to have everyone back in the studio and contrib- uting their part for this movie." From the cast and crew to director Abrams, Wood feels that everything just came together for The Force Awakens. He concludes, "Kind of like the way Star Wars the story does, where these groups come together out of seemingly random occurrences and they are all brought together to help this amazing story. For us to be part of that, it all felt right. That we were all on the stage there bringing it together. We were working on something that is special. JJ certainly delivered a picture that is very special so we hope we complemented it with our sound" TIE Fighters now have more low-end, while the Millennium Falcon's guns are more percussive. New vehicles were also enhanced via sound design.

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