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Inception realizing the dream

Getting the perfect sound to match the mind-warping action of Inception required the perfect creative and technical team.



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ithin moments of its release people had started taking in terms of Academy Awards for Inception, and not just for its direction and acting. The movie is viewed as a strong contender for ‘craft’ Oscars, both for visuals and for the sound that accompanies them. There’s little surprise in that for those who follow the backroom boys and girls as keenly as stargazers follow the twitterati. The director, Christopher Nolan, assembled a constellation of technical stars to match his A-list cast, including the composer Hans Zimmer, Richard King as sound designer and – naturally – AMS Neve consoles.

The entire soundscape  has to evoke the stuck-in-a-dream – or, rather, nightmare – concept of the movie itself. So Hans Zimmer’s score – recorded at Air Lyndhurst on the Neve 88RS with SP2 scoring panel, and engineered by Geoff Foster – had to be reminiscent of film noir. To get the mix of reference and nostalgia as well as science fiction, the score’s main themes are based on elements of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, the movie’s ‘trigger song’, but also incorporate guitar playing from Johnny Marr along with orchestra.

For the sound effects, Richard King – a sound editing Oscar-winner for The Dark Knight and Master and Commander – wanted subtly to convey the multiple perception levels that people experience when dreaming. To achieve that complexity, he designed a layered soundtrack, often melding several elements or even recordings of the same sound as heard from different perception points. The mix took place at Warner Bros Post’s Stage 9 on the AMS Neve DFC Gemini. Nolan and King specified the same team as they’d worked with for The Dark Knight, with Gary Rizzo and Lora Hirschberg on secondment from Skywalker Sound as re-recording mixers.

Regardless of how Inception fares at the 2011 Academy Awards, it – and its sound team – have already won the accolades that really count, taking well over $½bn at the box office. And demonstrating the successful realization of the story’s multi-layered complexity, there’s a significant rate of multiple viewings from fans seeking a deeper understanding of the movie.

By our press release coordinator Sunday January 2, 2011

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