'War Horse'

Jan 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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More From Gary Rydstrom About Sound for War Horse

On the gripping scene in which two soldiers attempt to extricate Joey from a tangle of barbed wire: “We recorded real barbed-wire, taut barbed-wire, but also wire twangs. It’s the kind of stuff Ben Burtt used to make laser sounds for Star Wars: You pluck a wire and get those great twangs. Krysten Mate was our lead effects editor; she cut that scene. The detail of the movement of the barbed-wire being cut is the kind of sound-cutting that’s very impressive because there’s nothing for it to hide in. It’s a very spare scene; there’s no music in it. I made various no man’s land ambiences, which were an attempt at making the sound of nothing—just a sort of hollow roar so you hear everything. The barbed-wire was one element and then there were the vocals that Joey made. A lot of that is off-screen—pained vocals from the horse.”

On co-supervising with Richard Hymns: “One of Richard’s main jobs on the movie was cutting the ambiences, so he was able to draw on his memories. It takes place in England and he comes from England. He would think about the birds and the sounds he remembered growing up in England—what certain areas sounded like to him. He didn’t live in Devon [where some of the film takes place], but he knows the area and he knows what that rolling farm country is like. At one point, Richard went to England to visit family but he also took a recorder and recorded a lot of ambiences. And he has a lot of contacts in England so we got a lot beautiful recordings from other people through Richard, and we had a massive library of ambiences of birds and insects and winds—things that were true to England and France. We even used some older recordings from the BBC and other places.”

On working with a big John Williams score: “I have done so many mixes with his music. They’re not hard to work with because they’re always beautiful. In the case of War Horse, it defines the sound of the movie more than anything else. It’s a beautiful score, and he scored it in a way that it’s not scoring action, it’s scoring emotion, and that’s wonderful for us because in a traditional action-movie score, they might be pacing it off the action, but John’s doing this over-arching thing that holds the movie together, so various themes really build over the course of the movie and are less specific to the action you’re seeing.

“Technologically, with Pro Tools on the stage, you can move a bird tweet around and choose your sounds to work best with the music, when there is music. There are also long stretches with no music—both John and Steven are good at saying, 'This part is going to be carried by dialog and FX.'”

A final thought on Spielberg: “Very few filmmakers could pull off this movie. It’s a movie movie. It’s definitely one of those movies you have to see on the big screen to really appreciate. It feels big in all the right ways. It’s very earnest, very sincere. It was a good movie for me to come back to the fold for.”

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