'Salt' Sound

Jul 27, 2010 3:30 PM, By Tom Kenny

AUTHENTIC TRACKS PROPEL ACTION THRILLER

Polls


Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

There’s been no shortage of action movies over the past couple of decades, with dozens of subgenres proliferating to satisfy the audience’s appetite for war, worldwide destruction, comic books, videogames, legal procedure, historical epic, serial killers, mistaken identity or underdogs fighting the good fight against all odds. But it’s a relatively short list when looking through the legacy of intelligent, character-driven action-thrillers, in the vein of Three Days of the Condor, The French Connection, The Fugitive and the Bourne franchise.

Australian director Phillip Noyce entered the club with his smart, story-driven Jack Ryan films, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger from the early ’90s. Now he’s back, and he’s hurtling through modern-day spy territory—practically ripped from today’s Soviet spy exchange headlines—with Angelina Jolie on the run in Sony Pictures’ summer blockbuster Salt.

“My first reaction, on seeing an early cut, was, ‘Wow!’” recalls Greg P. Russell, effects re-recording mixer from the Kim Novak Theatre on the Sony lot in mid-July. “It’s exciting, well-paced, authentic and realistic. The action is believable, and it’s a solid story, really solid, with twists and turns that kept me guessing through to the end. And I loved the Salt character. Unique and clever, smart and bold. Angelina Jolie does such a great job with this role, and the film is filled front to back with incredible sound opportunities.”

From left: Igor Nikolic, first sound assistant; Scott Millan music mixer; Philip Stockton, supervising sound editor; Jeffrey J. Haboush, dialog mixer; Deborah Wallach, ADR supervisor; Phillip Noyce, Director; Greg P. Russell, effects mixer, Paul Hsu, supervising sound Editor; Joe E. Rand, music editor

From left: Igor Nikolic, first sound assistant; Scott Millan music mixer; Philip Stockton, supervising sound editor; Jeffrey J. Haboush, dialog mixer; Deborah Wallach, ADR supervisor; Phillip Noyce, Director; Greg P. Russell, effects mixer, Paul Hsu, supervising sound Editor; Joe E. Rand, music editor

Russell was joined at the Harrison MPC by Jeff Haboush on dialog, a mixer he’s teamed with on and off for nearly 27 years, and Scott Millan, a veteran of the Bourne films and a hit man brought in to handle music. In essence, it was a return to the three-person crew that was the norm not so long ago in Hollywood. Noyce called the track the most complex in his career, and his vision was established clearly from the beginning.

“On day one, Phillip laid out the game plan,” Russell recalls. “Story and character were key, and everything we did in the soundtrack had to support her story. She is a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy, and she’s on the run trying to clear her name. So all the tension that we feel, whether it’s coming from effects and high-octane car chases and bullet whiz-bys, or the group dialog with its precise, story-specific lines, or the music with its big brass and intense rhythms—we need to feel that threat she is experiencing throughout the film. He laid it out in a way that we were on the same page from the first temp dub.”

MUSIC AS CHARACTER
“The movie was sold by Sony Pictures using the tag, ‘Who is Salt?’ And that’s really what the movie is about,” says Noyce. “It’s an investigation into the character of Evelyn A. Salt. She may be what she claims to be: an American patriot, a clandestine operative, a spy working for the CIA in foreign countries. Or she may well be what she is accused of: a Soviet-era laboratory rat bred in a secret camp in the last dark days of the KGB. Music augments that speculation about the true nature of her character, suggesting sometimes that she is more of an American patriot than she really is, and at other times suggesting there might be a darker side to her history. The music, in a sense, is following its own script, which is sometimes on the screen and sometimes isn’t.”

The film is a tight 93 minutes of story, with 91 minutes of score from James Newton Howard, edited by longtime Noyce collaborator Joe E. Rand and delivered from his stage-side Pro Tools rig at 60 channels wide, with clear separation of orchestra elements and electronic supplements. The challenge, according to music re-recording mixer Millan, was to propel story, drive character, but never let the audience know it.

“James Newton Howard and Joe E. Rand did a fantastic job,” says Millan, who migrated to film from a music background. “You never feel overwhelmed; you just feel subliminally engaged without ever feeling manipulated or telegraphed. Philip and James choreographed it in such a way that it plays into a perpetual sense of moving forward and keeping the tension high. The rhythm of the score as a whole was imperative. You never feel like you’re stopping, or that there is a beat out of line.”

“In this particular film, music drives the soundtrack, and that’s quite unusual for an action film, where usually it’s the effects that drive the sound,” Noyce adds. “The reason music drives the film is because I’ve used James Newton Howard’s score as the unifying factor to combine what is on the one hand fantastical, escapist popcorn entertainment, and on the other hand, a fact-based thriller—two seemingly irreconcilable genres that are pulled together and held tight by James’ score. Everything, in a sense, was subordinated to the music.”






Acceptable Use Policy
blog comments powered by Disqus

Mix Books

Modern Recording and Mixing

This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95

Mastering Cubase 4

Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95

Newsletters

MixLine

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine takes you straight into the studio, with new product announcements, industry news, upcoming events, recent recording/post projects and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

MixLine Live

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine Live takes you on the road with today's hottest tours, new sound reinforcement professional products, recent installs, industry news and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the The Wire for the latest press postings.