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combined sounds from different sources that often begin organically but are processed digitally. Kirchberger reports that he created the roar of the Komodo Dragon in The Freshman by starting with tapes of vultures recorded for Ishtar. The sound was processed, added to other sounds including a pig, and then vocalized through digital sampling. "I knew we had something that was vaguely reptilian. What made it 'talk' was altering the pitch as we played back the stacked sample. That gave it the vocalization we needed, as opposed to its being just a screech or a caw."

Much of the freedom in sound design comes when making horror or science fiction films, where stylization is the norm. Most sonic sources are hard to identify unless we see them--and films of the fantastic have sources we have never heard in real life. So there is great latitude in deciding how something should sound.

However technically sophisticated the equipment that processes sound, the original source can be quite mundane. Gary Rydstrom, the lead sound designer at Skywalker, likes to challenge listeners to a game of "name that sound," that is, to guess the sources of his sounds- -exotic noises he created from prosaic origins. One favorite tool, he says, is air compressed in a can. The source of the "sliming" noise in Ghostbusters, for example, is Dust-Off sprayed into Silly Putty. He is also proud of the sound of the mercury-like character (T-1000) passing through steel bars in Terminator II. Seeking a sound that was part liquid, part solid, Rydstrom came up with the sound of dog food being extruded from a can.

The majority of the sound crew are not brought onto a picture until it is "locked," that is, the image is finalized. On films where sound is considered a major creative element, directors may hire a sound designer like Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The Godfather) or Skip Lievsay (who creates sound for the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, and David Lynch). "Sound designer" is an elusive term which can refer to a person brought on to create just one kind of effect (for example, Bochar was hired late in the postproduction of Wolf just to create the effects that accompanied Nicholson turning into a beast). In some cases, however, sound designers are thought of as artists who are brought on staff during the planning stages of a film, along with the set and costume designers, and who do their own mixing. In these instances, the sound designer works with the director to shape an overall, consistent soundtrack that exploits the expressive possibilities of the sound medium, is organically related to the narrative and thematic needs of the film, and has an integrity not possible if sound is divided among an entire bureaucracy. A case in point would be Jurassic Park, where Gary Rydstrom first designed the sounds of the dinosaurs and then models were built to match those roars.

6/24/04 7:55 PM

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