So I went down to the IMAX last week to check out Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Like most films, before even getting into the movie theatre I suspected that I may spoilt the film for myself! I always spend far too much time reading about the post-production process and the production of the soundtrack that I usually know far too much about the film. I sometimes feel I should ban myself from the internet for a few weeks before a movie release but I digress.
“The 90-minute picture — unusually short in today’s world — is cited as having just 156 shots in total, with several that are six, eight and ten minutes long”
- Arri Media
What can I say? I thought Gravity was nothing short of awesome! Emmanuel Lubezki’s shots and his editorial team have in my opinion utilised every possible frame of the 70mm IMAX film stock to deliver some truly mesmerising visuals. From the very beginning we have an opening continual 17-minute shot where the camera maneuvers around the characters in space and none of the videos and interviews I had seen with Gravity’s re-recording mixer Skip Lievsay or composer Steven price could prepare me for what the film had in store sonically.
“One of the first things Alfonso was really clear about was the fact that we were operating in a vacuum. The stuff we’re gonna be dealing with – vibrations and those sorts of sounds and low frequency kind of rumbles you might hear within a space suit – all of a sudden, this world opened up, and what could music be in that environment?”
- Steven Price
As we all know, there is no sound is space…Many composers (myself included with my video Roving The Cosmos) seem fascinated with space and synchronising rich textural sound design to spacey videos, but in reality, with no air to transmit sound waves, space just does not sound of anything. It is clear that the Gravity sound team have been very aware of this fact, and have engineered the sound in such as way that during the film’s space scenes only the musical score and sounds astronauts would hear in their suits or the space vehicles are audible. Skip’s ‘less-is-more’ approach to the mix has really worked for this film, for a little insight on this, check out Avid’s YouTube video interview with him below. You can also get inside the mind of film composer Steven Price via the following interview links by Film Music Network and Rolling Stone.
Gravity for me was the first film that I had seen in the cinema which contained scenes of total structured silence, and boy was is effective! What really interested me, was the reaction of the audience during this scene; it was as if the audience had all taken a deep breath and stopped moving or something had somehow vacuumed all possibility of sound from the auditorium. This was something that really resonated with me on a experiential level and it is something I will be looking for in future films.