The sound of dragons – Game of Throne’s audio work

The US-American TV-series “Game of Thrones” which is based on the books “A song of Ice and Fire” by Georg R.R. Martin has fascinated a significant amount of people worldwide. The scenery, the editing and the enormous amount of actors taking part in the eight season long work have won more than 300 awards. However, it is undeniable that the audio work has to be highlighted to an especial extend – throughout the years more than 70 people have solely worked on the sound of GOT.

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Whiplash: a film about music

Whiplash is a film about music released in 2014 and has a duration of 106 minutes. In that same year (2014), the film won more than a dozen awards. Among them we could highlight that it won an Oscar for best sound. It also won the award in the category of best sound at the BAFTA and Satellite Awards. Whiplash was directed and written by Damien Chazelle and starring by Miles Teller (as Andrew) and J.K. Simmons (as Fletcher). 

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The silence in Roma: a tool used to confront us with the truths

We are very used to go to the cinema and listen to sound effects and music in all the scenes of the film we are watching. But, if we think about it, in reality, those sounds don’t exist: swords don’t make that exciting sound, our most tense moments aren’t accompanied by instrumental music and computers don’t make noise when someone tries to hack them.

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The sound of The Arrival (2016)

Let’s talk a little about The Arrival (2016), a film with a double nomination to the Oscars 2017: a better edition and better mix. I have chosen this film because there is an extra component in the audio of the movie because of its impecable design and the way sound is placed within the psychological values of the film. Continue reading

Music and sound design in The Last Of Us: Part 2

In 2013 a videogame that changed the industry was released. The Last Of Us broke the guidelines of video games story so far.

The Last Of Us Part 2, has been a very controversial video game but even more ambitious and spectacular taking the player to the limit with its story and its development.

The game posed a narrative more typical of cinema than video games. I think it is something to be valued given the technological limitations of 9 years ago. Two years ago (in 2020) came to light the expected second part of The Last Of Us. A video game that swept sales and surely left no one indifferent.

Let’s recap. We are in a post apocalyptic world since about 25 years ago. Our protagonists, Joel and Ellie managed to cross the United States from east to west to reach Jackson, a settlement where thousands of people seem to have regained hope to continue living in what remains of the continent.

In this second installment of The Last Of Us, Ellie must face a terrible event i enter a path of revenge and suffering that will lead to Seattle, a city devastated by nature and weather where many dangers are enclosed.

Speaking a little about the synopsis of the story, I want to go into a fundamental pillar of the game, both the first part and the second. It is about the music and the sound design.

“If in the first game the theme was love between these two characters… this story is the opposite of that. It’s a story of hate.”

Neil Druckmann


If the first game seemed crude to us, we imagine where this second part will go. It will be a road full of horror, evil, and death. But there will be an element that will abstract us from this reality. The music

It is composed mostly by Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle and has a very important role in this game, as it did in the first one.

The importance is such that we even have the opportunity to play the guitar at various points in the game, without any specific objective, we can combine different chords in addition to playing that which is pautated in the story.

Many times through music we can remember good and bad moments, or loved ones. Well, in this game it is exactly the same. Ellie remembers better moments through her guitar.

It is clear that the music in the game has a narrative use, as if it were a movie. It is as if the music in this game, more specifically the guitar, acts as a flashback in the story.

Here are some examples (may contain spoliers of the story)

Track #03 – Longing / Gustavo Santaolalla:

Plays when Abby walks away from the trailer where she set Yara’s arm.

Plays when Abby wakes up from her nightmare in which she saw Yara and Lev hung.

Plays when Abby takes Yara and Lev to the aquarium to ask Owen and Mel for help.

Track #02 – Unbound / Gustavo Santaolalla:

Plays when Abby supports her dad with his decision to sacrifice Ellie’s life for science.

Plays when Abby finds her dad’s body.

Plays when Abby and Owen make out in the aquarium but Abby wants to go back to training.


In the most dramatic sense of the story we also find music that accompanies us in the most difficult and terrifying moments. When we face enemies or we must go into dark passages we hear different themes of the soundtrack, this time composed by Mac Quayle.

It is interesting to hear the growth of the music through the fight.

(may contain spoliers of the story)


Finally I would like to highlight the attention to detail that has this game. Everything is taken care of in detail, and with each new gameplay we can discover things that we had previously ignored. For example, the characters have a very precise breathing system depending on whether our protagonist gets tired. The bullet impacts are marked on the objects and the weather changes as we advance in the story. This also translates into the sound design for the game:

In short, I think that as was the first part, The Last Of Us: Part 2 again set the standard for video games of history and survival.


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JAWS

Jaws is an American film directed by the great film director Steven Spielberg in 1975. A horror, suspense and adventure film based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. With this film the great Spielberg managed to make a big leap in his career becoming a box office king, and to this day, Jaws is considered one of the best films in the history of cinema. The film won a lot of awards, including three Oscars: best editing, best soundtrack and best sound.

Played by actors like, Robert ShawRoy ScheiderRichard Dreyfuss y Lorraine Gary.

Below I leave a brief synopsis of the film extracted from IMDb and the trailer of 4 minutes.

When a killer shark wreaks havoc on a Long Island beach community, the local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old sailor must hunt down the beast.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is not just noise and special effects

Mad Max is one of the best post-apocalyptic action and cinema sagas in history. Very abrupt movements, pointed editing (but very fluid in this film), adrenaline, cars, gas, blood and as much chaos as you could think, define this action film. Set it up in a future where the society is totally collapsed and Earth is devastated, there is a need of basic resources and something like a pseudo-feudalism where the cities are organized hierarchically under the figure of a governor (evil, really evil, and god I really appreciate how evil he is) and people are controlled by power with the ambition to climb social positions based on military efforts.

Here is the tracklist of the Film, composed by Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL

1. Survive

2. Escape

3. Immortan’s Citadel

4. Blood Bag

5. Spikey Cars

6. Storm Is Coming

7. We Are Not Things

8. Water

9. The Rig

10. Brothers In Arms

11. The Bog

12. Redemption

13. Many Mothers

14. Claw Trucks

15. Chapter Doof (Extended Version)

16. My Name Is Max (Extended Version)

17. Let Them Up

Mad Max: Fury Road might be one of my favorite action films which has a really powerful relation between image and sound. Every time I watch this movie again I see details that went unnoticed. 

I really like to compare two key aspects of this film, color and  sound design. 

On the one hand we have color which in this film looks to be almost monochromatic, very sad and dry. That’s just what we see on our first look. If we pay attention closely it presents a huge color palette with many small nuances that add meaning to the entire film. On the other hand we have sound design. The same thing happens with music. We could think it’s just “another typical action soundtrack full of noise”. It is energetic and powerful, chaotic, just like the image. That’s why the sound blends so well that it becomes one same thing. But when we listen carefully, paying extra attention to the relation between image and sound we have an extraordinary mix of sound that goes way deeper than just action sound design. As a good audio-visual piece, sound has nearly 50% of the importance. It has hidden gems between crazy chaotic scenes. Dig into it. Do not be prejudiced!

Mad Max: Fury Road – Official Main Trailer

As an introduction to “what is going to be this film”, we have a really defining scene with deafening sound effects which works as an argumental script. It is the base of the film. A chase. We already have an established type of sounds, music and tension brought up by what we mentioned (obviously expected as we already knew about this saga). 

Opening scene

As we keep going through the film, we can distinguish two parts of the soundtrack, the one that is chaotic, dense, loud and stinging describes the superficial side of the film and the other (which builds slowly the conclusion of the film) that is calm (but not quiet), sensitive and “human” made to describe the characters, a plot, thus create stories and connections between them. 

Aside, it conveys feelings of hope to the viewer, in contrast to the entire course of the film.

CARS
CHARACTERS

The interesting thing about this soundtrack is that it gives it the life and dimension it needs to not be another action movie. The image and the sound are so intimately linked, in a harmoniously chaotic way that they are essential to each other throughout the film. Holkenborg provides the necessary rhythm for tireless pursuits so as not to be left in simple cars one after the other with special effects and also brings intimacy in the relationships between characters, necessary calm and well applied in musical form. A perfect sound design of the two most marked motifs of the film, dynamism in the escapes, for example: “Escape” (main theme of these scenes) with an obvious contextual and dramatic motif and on the other hand, pauses to breathe with songs more sensitive, adding drama, for example: “My name is Max”, in a way poetic due to the emotional charge and everything that is the phrase “My name is Max” in that scene.

“Escape” marks the rhythm of the film, the soundtrack and the script in general, serving as a reference and (as a leitmotif) the high point of the film and sound-guiding the scene of the moment, fleeing to Green Place or back to the Citadel. This theme also defines Imperator Furiosa, from my point of view, the main character of the film. 

Once we reach the last scenes, the themes slow down without loosing interest or drama. This makes the viewer go deeper in feelings and forget about that extreme action we have been through.

For example:

with the  hopeful and musically heroic conclusion which was already kindly introduced in other frames of the film.

The driver of the Fury Road Symphony Orchestra is Coma-Doof Warrior, the red-clad guitarist who sits on top of the Doof Wagon. He takes the baton to such a level of perfection that he became one of the favorite characters of users and on social media. Together with the war children playing the drums, they integrate the soundtrack of the film, a priori presented as music not integrated into the film, then integrated as part of the narrative script. It establishes direct connections with the action and gives us the impression that this generated musical atmosphere is also part of the scenes. Brilliant, one of the details that caught my eye the most and that I enjoyed the most.

After analyzing the soundtrack of this film and especially focusing on some key scenes we are safe to say that music talks and explains things that image can’t do or at least if they do it is not as elegant as how music does. First impression of the soundtrack is the same as the whole film, we prejudice by its cover but when we let it flow and we dig into it we discover a blockbuster scheme but with a masterpiece execution.

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