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HomeAwardsContender-Randy Thom-sound mixing/editing- Ratatouille

Contender-Randy Thom-sound mixing/editing- Ratatouille

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2007 was a busy year for Randy Thom. He did double duty as sounddesigner and rerecording mixer on Ratatouille (with supervising soundeditor Michael Silvers and fellow mixers Michael Semanick and DocKane), Enchanted and Beowulf (with supervising sound editor DennisLeonard), as well as co-sound designing The Simpsons Movie. With thoseodds, and a resume that boasts two Oscar wins (The Incredibles and TheRight Stuff) and 10 more nominations, it’s no surprise to find Thomamong the sound nominees again this year.
It was his work onRatatouille that most impressed his peers in the sound editing andsound mixing branches of the Academy, resulting in Oscar nominationsfor both (He’s not the only sound guy nominated in both categories thisyear; Skip Lievsay is also nominated twice, for editing and mixing NoCountry For Old Men). Thom is also nominationed for a pair of MotionPicture Sound Editors Golden Reel awards for Ratatouille and TheSimpsons Movie.
Ratatouille was Thom’s third collaboration withdirector Brad Bird. “He and I have a common language now, which makesthings easier. I know automatically what he wants and can glean it fromjust a few words,” says Thom. “He thinks carefully about the sound inhis films from moment to moment. Every single thing I do is scrutinizedclosely, and he pushes me into places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.”
Afield trip to real Parisian restaurant kitchens provided the backgroundsounds and chit-chat between the chefs for the movie. “It also gave usideas about what kinds of sound effects to use in the kitchen. Throughin a tip of the hat to movie reality, as opposed to actual reality, wesee and hear soup boiling in the pot. A shot of a pot of soup is waymore interesting visually and sonically if it’s at least slightlyboiling,” says Thom, “but any chef will tell you boiling soup is ano-no.”
Designing sounds for a rat stampede was a career first,according to Thom, but one of the movie’s biggest sound designchallenges, he says, was the collapse of the farmhouse ceiling. “Thelittle old lady has blasted the ceiling with a shotgun several timestrying to eliminate our little hero Remy the rat. The weight of two orthree hundred rats in the attic stress the ceiling even more, andcracks begin to form, slowly at first, then faster and faster leadingeventually to the whole thing caving in. The sound choreography ofthose developing cracks was something we tinkered with for a long timebefore we were satisfied.”
The pivotal sewer scene where the ratsare trying to escape from the sewer before the rain washes them awaywas another big challenge. “That was a tough bit of design,” says Thom.”Brad had suggested there would probably be no music in that actionsequence, so the weight lay heavily on our shoulders to make thatsequence sound as scary and interesting as possible. We used everyconceivable kind of water turbulence sound, including a microphonefloating in a washing machine during the maximum agitation cycle.”
Whenthe sound design was complete, Thom switched chairs, moved to adifferent room and put on a new hat in order to pull everythingtogether into a great mix. Performing both tasks, he says, has itsstressful moments.
“When you’re just mixing you can turn from themixing console and ask the sound editor or sound designer to alter thesound a little. But I have to turn to myself and ask myself thatquestion. So I have to dart out of the mixing room and ask the music ordialog mixer to take over a while.”
Thom describes his job as aconstant juggling act, but never boring. “It’s a skill I’ve had to getbetter at over the last few years. It’s nice to be able to spend oneday on one movie, the next on another when I’m sound designing. Butwhen I’m mixing, I’m in jail. I’m locked in a room for an extendedperiod of time and only able to concentrate on that film. When I’mlucky the stars all align.”
Thom is currently juggling two verydifferent projects: an animated version of the Dr. Seuss classic HortonHears A Who and a documentary by Errol Morris about Abu Ghraib.
– Sam Molineaux
2008 Nominations
Oscar, Best Achievement in Sound, Ratatouille
Oscar, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Ratatouille
MPSE, Golden Reel Award, Best Sound Editing in Feature Film: Animated, Ratatouille
MPSE, Golden Reel Award, Best Sound Editing in Feature Film: Animated, The Simpsons Movie
2007 Nomination
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR for Feature Film Animation, Ice Age: The Meltdown
2006 Win
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Foreign, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2005 Wins
Oscar, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, The Incredibles
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Animated, The Incredibles
2005 Nominationss
Oscar, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, The Incredibles
Oscar, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, The Polar Express
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Animated, The Polar Express
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Animated, Shrek 2
2003 Nominations
BAFTA, Best Sound, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing in Foreign Features, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2002 Nomination
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing – Animated Feature Film, Domestic and Foreign, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
2001 Nominationss
Oscar, Best Sound, Cast Away
CAS Award, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature Film, Cast Away
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects & Foley, Domestic Feature Film, Cast Away
2000 Wins
MPSE Golden Reel, Best Sound Editing – Animated Feature, The Iron Giant
1998 Nomination
Oscar, Best Sound, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature Film, Contact
1996 Nomination
CAS Award, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature Film, Jumanji
1995 Win
CAS Award, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature Film, Forrest Gump
1995 Nominations
Oscar, Best Sound, Forrest Gump
Oscar, Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Forrest Gump
1992 Nomination
Oscar, Best Sound, Backdraft
1991 Nomination
BAFTA, Best Sound, Wild at Heart
1986 Nomination
Emmy, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Special, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
1984 Win
Oscar, Best Sound, The Right Stuff
1984 Nomination
Oscar, Best Sound, Never Cry Wolf Oscar, Best Sound, Star Wars: Episode IV – Return of the Jedi

Written by Sam Molineaux

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