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Saturday
Oct122013

THE SOUNDS OF GRAVITY 

Image via TheVergeThe movie Alien isn’t really known for its realistic scenes of outer space. Chest-bursting monsters and a kickbutt Sigourney Weaver might not actually be found in zero gravity, but Alien was right about one thing: In space, no one can hear you scream.  In fact, no one can hear you do anything! So how did Gravity Director Alfonso Cuarόn and Recording Mixer Skip Lievsay deal with this soundless vacuum in their more true-to-life film?

If you’ve seen Gravity, you know that what you hear is a huge part of what makes the film so moving.  Cuarόn has managed to create a beautiful story on an epic scale thanks to some amazing sounds, from the breathless desperate calls of Bullock’s Dr. Stone to the terrifying, lonely silence of space (silence as a sound? Oh yes!).  If you haven’t seen Gravity, take our word for it and hit up the theater this weekend (tonight maybe?). And after you do, come back and check out this awesome SoundWorks collection documentary on how Cuarόn and friends attempted to create a realistic sonic depiction of space. 

Before watching this documentary, we had no idea that astronauts could “hear” impact vibrations through their suits and into their ears.  We thought it was really interesting that Lievsay recorded some of the movie’s sounds through transducer mics, which record vibrations through an object, not through the air, so what we hear is in the film is as close as possible to what real astronauts hear. Even the legendary Buzz Aldrin said he was “extravagantly impressed” with Gravity’s portrayal of astronaut life.

It was also interesting to learn about the panning or ‘the spread of a sound signal into a new stereo or multi-channel sound field’ of the actor’s voices, object sounds, and musical score. “We basically untethered everybody and unclipped everyone and let everything, sort of, float around,” Lievsay says. Surround sound is definitely the way to go if you want to fully experience this film. Cuarόn explains, “When you have the possibility of having sound coming out from every single different place, it replicates the experience of being alive.” 

Image via DigitalTrendsScientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson have been strong critics to the film – pointing out tiny flaws in Cuaron’s vision – but no movie set in outer space can be without its limitations. We think Cuaron and his team have made one of the best space films of all time, and as Buzz pointed out, “We're in a very precarious position of losing all the advancements we've made in space that we did 40 years ago, 50 years ago.” According to Aldrin, Gravity “couldn’t have come at a better time to really stimulate the public.”

(Story & Video via Gizmodo)

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