'Cars 2'

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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Rather than just being a formulaic re-tread (sorry) of the mega-successful 2006 Cars, Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 ups the ante by being much more than a racing movie.

“It’s an action and adventure, a spy movie, it’s a comedy and it’s racing all folded into one, so it’s much more intricate than the first one,” comments Michael Silvers, the film’s co-supervising sound editor, along with Tom Myers (also lead sound designer and FX re-recording mixer). Myers adds, “The opening is completely disconnected from what your expectation is. You start with this set piece that’s like something out of a Bond movie or the Bourne films.” That opening segment, which takes place out on the ocean, at night, is one of several exotic locales that required imaginative thinking from the sound crew; there are also race scenes in Japan, Italy, France and England, and a chase through a market in France. Another wrinkle: Cars 2 joins Toy Story 3—also supervised by Myers and Silvers, with Michael Semanick mixing music and dialog—as the second animated feature from Pixar to be mixed in the Dolby 7.1 Surround format (as well as conventional 5.1 theatrical and home surround).

“We were much more aggressive with the 7.1 this time and were really encouraged to use it by [director] John Lasseter, who’s a big surround fan,” Myers comments of the format, which adds two additional rear speakers to a standard 5.1 setup. “We were cautious not to put any super-important dialog or anything we didn’t want to lose as a story point solely back there. But in terms of effects, we tried to go whole-hog and use it as much as possible and create as much space, and also use discrete side and back stuff.

“There’s a scene in a casino where we wanted to create this active space,” he continues, “so there are all these different sound effects back there and we moved a lot of things around. In the races, as well: There are all sorts of interesting car-bys—we designed it so we have things flying by, coming out of the surrounds onto the screen to off the screen into the surrounds.”

Myers says that because Cars 2 is also being released in 3-D, this affected his and Semanick’s surround mixing decisions, and that the 7.1 provided more sonic real estate with which to work. “Because of where they were with picture, the 3-D was not completed until fairly late,” he notes. “Originally, we wondered if we would want to do a separate mix [for the 3-D prints], but we decided that we did enough aggressive surround stuff to begin with and we were conscious of trying to anticipate it—‘Oh, that’s going to be a big 3-D effect so let’s pull that off the screen into the surrounds.’”

Did the 7.1 mix pose any technical challenges? “It was more on the creative level,” Myers says. “It’s two more speakers, another region to work with, but you also have to think about how you get there. Sometimes, console panning is not as facile as it could be, so you have to think, ‘I want it to go from here to here. How do I make it do that?’ You can often sort of ride it through, but sometimes splitting it between the front and the back is difficult, or you have to set up another aux send to do that.” The film was posted at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, Calif., and mixed on a Neve DFC.

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