'Cars 2'

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

AROUND THE TRACK, AROUND THE WORLD IN 7.1

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Michael Silvers, the film’s co-supervising sound editor

Michael Silvers, the film’s co-supervising sound editor

Tom Myers

Tom Myers

Michael Semanick mixed music and dialog

Michael Semanick mixed music and dialog

“We did the 7.1 mix first,” Myers notes, “then a fold-down pass from our 7.1 stems and made 6.1 discrete stems and the 5.1 EX print master from that. A lot of that involved Michael [Semanick] trying to figure out how to do the music—putting a delay into the surrounds because you’re folding four surround channels into two and you want to avoid phasing. Most of my surround information was fairly discrete. I had some ambient stuff in the sides and the back, but mostly it was discrete information so I didn’t have to worry as much about phasing.”

Silvers, who specializes in dialog and ADR issues, found himself having to, in effect, follow the characters around the world, amassing crowd and other material in Japanese, French and Italian to make the film’s foreign settings come alive. Contracting with ADR studios in those countries (and in England), “We got French walla, Japanese walla, we got Italian walla, we got English walla,” Silvers says. “I’d ask the loop group, ‘What would be typical chanting at a sporting event in that country?’ And then they’d send it to me. We have announcements and scenes in restaurants and various wallas in these locales. They had to send me translations of everything, and they were very good about that.”

On the FX side, a plethora of new cars demanded “a ton of new recording,” Myers says, including a slew of Formula 1 race cars, a fabulous $200,000 Aston Martin V12 Vantage (which Myers got to drive around Skywalker Ranch to capture some engine sounds) and even some funky old Gremlins and Pacers. “Because there are so many different cars in this one,” Myers says, “the race sequences are more elaborate, so it was important to make the cars more unique-sounding, to have their own personalities.”

The sound designer/editors also liberally employed library engine FX they’ve accumulated over various projects, particularly handy for recurring lead characters Lightning McQueen and Mater, the dilapidated redneck tow truck. “We have a big library of Mater sounds,” says Myers, who also works on the Cars shorts. “John sees Mater as kind of like Goofy: You can put him in any situation and he’ll be funny, whether he’s a private eye or an astronaut.”

Lasseter has always been a sound-conscious director, but he was even more involved with the final mix. “I’ve worked on 10 Pixar films and this was the only time he’s ever been in the mix the whole time, though he’s certainly always paid attention before,” says Silvers. “We final mixed for about four weeks, screened it and then refined the mix for seven days. We made some major leaps.”

Lasseter would often sit at the console between Myers and Semanick as they worked out the balance of music, FX and dialog, an untold number of Pro Tools sessions at their disposal. There were new FX and vocalizations that came in during the final and, as Silvers mentions, the subtractive process was as important: “In all the races, Brent Musburger [“Brent Mustangburger” in the film] is doing the announcing, and we actually dropped lines in certain places because we realized we were losing some of the energy of the race. We also dropped score, and in other instances we dropped car effects in favor of score. We wanted to make sure we weren’t overwhelming people with too many things.”

“One of the things we learned starting with the first Cars,” Myers adds, “is that we want it to be more quality over quantity in terms of not trying to cover every last thing before we get to the stage, because then you spend half your mix trying to weed it all out. We talked to John early on, and said, ‘We’re going to try to cut the stuff we absolutely think we need, and then if there’s something you want that you don’t hear, we’ll cut it there.’ He’s a very smart filmmaker. I was reminded what a great grasp he has of the tools we’re using. He knew that there are certain things—like crowd and ambient wind and dirt or whatever; white noise-y, shush-y effects—that he might want, but once you put the music in, it’s taking up frequency range. So with each progressive film, we’ve tried to be more precise about what it is that we’re doing with the sound—in other words, trying to be selective and pick things more precisely.”


Blair Jackson is Mix’s senior editor.






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