The mission for the sound team on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was to top the work done on the first Transformers film, nominated for an Oscar in 2007 for best sound mixing. Both films were directed by Michael Bay, known for his spectacular action-and-effects movies. “I’ve been on board with Michael for eight films since The Rock in 1996,” says supervising re-recording mixer Greg Russell. “Each and every film is more ambitious and bolder than the last and this one was no exception.”
On T2, Russell shared the mix work with Gary Summers. It was a first-time pairing for two of Hollywood’s most in-demand re-recording mixers. Russell has been nominated for 12 Best Sound Oscars (recently renamed “Best Sound-Mixing Oscar”) for his work on such films as Pearl Harbor and Spider-Man. Summers won four Oscars in the category, including Saving Private Ryan and Titanic, and has been nominated for three others. Also on the team was production mixer Geoffrey Patterson, who was nominated for an Oscar for Twister.
Russell also has high praise the work of the film’s sound editing and design team: supervising sound editors Ethan van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl, and dialogue supervisor Michael Hopkins.
“T2 was probably the most challenging mix I’ve ever done, just in terms of sheer size,” says Russell. In the sequel, where the menacing Decepticons return once more to battle the human-friendly Autobots, there are double the number of action sequences, and far more robots–some 250, each with a unique sound “voice.”
“The palette of sounds on the film was so huge,” says Russell. “But the goal was to end up with a well-defined, well-articulated mix that above all emphasized clarity.” To reduce the mud factor, a lot of time was spent in the pre-dubbing process to eliminate unneeded sound elements.
While there are a lot of attention-grabbing big sound sequences, there was a concerted effort to make the most of smaller moments. “It’s not big sound all the time,” he notes. “In a film with a lot of action, we do all we can to strip away the soundtrack at times to provide relief and cleanse the palette, so you can have a place to go in the next big dynamic run in the film.”
Composer Steve Jablonsky’s high-impact score also has its dreamier interludes that served as bridges. Integrating the music was aided by his frequent presence during the mix. “Steve knew how all the elements worked internally and he could tells us what could be taken out of the score so the other sounds could live and not conflict with the music,” says Russell.
Bay is also fully in synch with the sound team’s exertions. “It’s fun to work with a director who is such a huge proponent of sound,” notes Russell. “He considers it to be as much as 50 percent of the audience experience of his films.”
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