Monday, November 17, 2008

Analysis - Terminator 2

Analysis - Terminator 2

Terminator 2 by James Cameron features a huge crew of sound people and Gary Rydstrom as sound designer and sound re-recording mixer. Three assistand sound designers credited are Scott Chandler, Tom Myers and David Slusser.

The sound during the credits and introduction is already very nice. Clear sounding, highly dynamic, with well-done music and dramatic voice-over. It is interesting to note that the surrounds channels are used sparingly. I imagine they will be more developed at the start of the feature.

Sure enough, when Schwarzenegger has appeared (06'30) the ambience and the sounds of the visual scanning process are presented in an enfolding manner. There is a slight change when he opens the door to the bar and an interesting phasing effect that more firmly established the character of the in-the-head mode.

The incidental music is faded out as the mechanical drone and orchestral score move to the foreground in waves. All very subtly done.

At 09'15 the now fully dressed Schwarzenegger leaves the bar to a rock-like tune. The ambient channels carry an extra large reverb that links back to the industrial feel of the drone. Some very nice foley work follows as the hero acquires the sun glasses.

The appearance of the T-1000, played by Robert Patrick, is also accompanied by a matching industrial soundscape, in which the backdrop of the score is composed out of effects. There is no "traditional" music for this robot.

The 1st scene with Edward Furlong as the young John Connor starts with a stereophonic spread that goes full depth when the camera approaches him in the garage. Moving back into the house limits the panorama, which widens again as the foster father tries to talk John into cleaning up his room.

The transition to the hospital is again very interesting. A bouncing reverb cuts to an enveloping ambience and then to the silence in Sarah Connor's cell. The editing intercuts quit scenes from within the cell with reverberant scenes of Dr. Silberman approaching. When he talks with her her breath can be heard on the rear channels.

Music comes back as two male nurses enter Sarah's cell, accompanied by a soft yet menacing electric buzz that has no visual origin as yet. After she has been forced to swallow a tranquilizer an acoustic effects cue, like the movement of a piston, kind of like a sonar probe, connects to the T-1000's last appearance. Then there was a much longer slap delay-like interval between the two beats, but now the robot is much closer to John's foster-home.

There is the drone from the T-1000's last scene, then the sole sound of the car approaching and a door opening expands into a peaceful urban soundscape, with a hint of thretening chords reappearing in the background. The once industrial soundscape assumes a more musical texture.

The cut to the boy's in action at an ATM reestablishes a by now known technique. The enveloping soundscape unfolds gradually at the scene changes. Contrasting to this the cut to the boy's on the way to "spend some money" jumps right into a full-depth fast-paced musical score. The soundtrack turns incidental during the cut to a street perpendicular to the passage of the motorcycle.

Then the rumble of the Terminator's motorcycle takes over. Industrial ambience has a brief appearance. The motorcycle leaves the screen but the rumble of it's passing in the distance prevails over the scene cut to Sarah's cell and merges into musical chords.

The dreamlike appearance of Kyle Reese is accompanied by a long musical backdrop, the end of which is signified by a piston-like sound overlaying the pads. Enveloping industrial rumble is opposed by the sound of naked feet running. A preview of Sarah's vision of the apocalypse follows, mainly in the frontal array, the creaks of playground-toys punctuae the strings of the soundtrack, a crescendoing chorus leads to the brief sound of destruction before a visually and sonically abrupt cut back to the cell.

This review covers the first 23 minutes of the (ultimate edition) DVD release.

Here is some information I researched on the web pertaining to Gary Rydstrom's involvement with the soundtrack on DVD:

Q: Typically, how involved do you get in the DVD release of a movie that you worked on theatrically?

Rydstrom:I've done a couple of DVD mixes. I did one for Terminator 2, and for Punch Drunk Love. I love to. It's a matter of time. Because there's things you want to do. There's things I want to do myself; I don't want someone else to do it. It's a different listening experience; I want to make the balance adjustments myself. Not as often as I'd like. [...] when I could do a DVD mix of a mix that I did I was very happy. There were always those things that I wish I'd done in the final mix anyway --do this little balance adjustment to make this cleaner, make this more punchy, make this more subwoofer.

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