Sound Design Inception-Wallpaper-inception-2010-12396931-1440-900

Published on August 2nd, 2010 | by PSE

The Sound Design of Nolan’s “Inception”

It’s always going to be dif­fi­cult design­ing sound for a film that delves deep into the sur­real and biz­zare. Throw an unhealthy amount of slow-motion into the mix and you have some­thing of a sound design night­mare. With the right sound effects in the right places, how­ever, you can ensure that dreams stay dreams and real­ity a real­ity. Mix Mag­a­zine offers an inter­est­ing look into how Richard King – super­vis­ing sound edi­tor and sound designer – did just that, tack­ling the chal­lenges that this summer’s Incep­tion pre­sented him with:

In one very unusual scene, an entire neigh­bor­hood in Paris appears to rise up and curl onto itself as if it’s being peeled off the earth’s surface—something we’ve def­i­nitely never seen or heard before. “That sequence could sound like any­thing,” King offers. “It could be a very sci-fi, synth-y, smooth sound. The shot could totally rely upon music. It could be very fright­en­ing or awe-inspiring. Chris’ direc­tion was that he wanted it to sound like mas­sive machin­ery, like a huge watch mechanism—again, using a relat­able sound for an image we’ve never seen. Imag­ine a machine that would be mas­sive enough to move a city like that. That’s the sound that I tried to make. What you hear in the film is com­posed of all kinds of dif­fer­ent sounds: It’s big metal groans and giant, heavy machin­ery mov­ing, piv­ot­ing, clat­ter­ing. I tried to cre­ate a lit­tle [sound] suite that would progress as the city rises and folds over.”

King and his team also had to get cre­ative when it came to sculpt­ing the sound of the tran­si­tions from sleep to dreams—“a lit­tle bit of an audi­ble cue that we’re tran­si­tion­ing some­where,” King says. “We hooked two oscil­la­tors to a cou­ple of giant sub­woofers in a few dif­fer­ent loca­tions and recorded the result. We used Hen­nessy Street, which is a [Warner Bros.] back-lot street, to get a sense of an urban locale; inside one of the big WB sound­stages; and also in a canyon in the moun­tains north of L.A. Then, using the oscil­la­tor, we dialed it from 10 or 12 Hz up into the audi­ble hear­ing range—and not only does it start to acti­vate and shake and rat­tle things in the inte­rior spaces, but you hear this wave of sound that comes from nowhere that becomes quite mas­sive as the sound comes up into 18, 20, 25Hz range.”

Read the whole arti­cle here. There are no spoil­ers, if for some rea­son you haven’t yet seen it.

If you’re search­ing for sur­real sounds, dream sequence sounds, or just weird ambi­ent noises, check out Sounds of a Dif­fer­ent Realm.

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