Inspired by the lion’s roar within the New 308 GTi by PEUGEOT SPORT, Pauric Barrett delved into the backgrounds of the most iconic sounds in cinema, and found some interesting facts hidden in the mix….
Sound can be deceptive when watching a film. We often take it for granted; only noticing when things don’t sound quite as we would expect. Behind the scenes, sound designers operate on this understanding of the subtle relationship that exists between the visible and the audible.
To increase the realism of a film, sound design is often created after the footage has been shot, then synchronised to picture. Sometimes these sound effects will be simple recreations of reality: the sound of footsteps, a door creaking, or a telephone ringing. These are easy to reproduce. At other times though, sound designers have to get creative.
The sound of punching in films is often produced by beating cabbages, or hitting slabs of meat with wood (and occasionally cracking a walnut inside of them). Footsteps in the snow can be recreated by squeezing a bag of cornstarch. How many times have you listened to a champagne bottle being opened, when in fact it was just a balloon being popped?
For truly unusual sounds, these professionals must think even more laterally. One of the most iconic sound effects in film belongs to the lightsaber from the Star Wars series of films. Despite only existing in the imagination of director George Lucas, legendary sound designer Ben Burtt felt that “somewhere in my subconscious I had [heard] a lightsaber before”. He produced its sound by recording the whirring motor of an old film projector, mixed with microphone interference created by a television. Then, to give the noise dynamism, he played the mix through speakers and brandished his microphone at them. This created a Doppler effect of the sound in motion.
Other examples of famous sound design have similarly surprising explanations. The sound of Regan’s neck turning 360 degrees in The Exorcist was created by an old leather wallet containing some credit cards being twisted against a microphone. Whereas, in Jurassic Park, the sound of the T-Rex roar was made by slowing down a baby elephant’s trumpet and mixing it with an alligator and a tiger.
There’s a vast range of techniques used to produce sound in films, most of which involve blending different sounds together. If there’s one thing to be learnt from these examples, it’s that when a sound matches an image perfectly, you don’t even question it. With that in mind, next time you hear the sound created by the new Peugeot 308 GTi by PEUGEOT SPORT’s twin tailpipes, listen for the lion’s roar in the mix.