Discover how The Hobbit sound recording team used music, sound effects and even silence to bring emotion and depth to the characters and storytelling in this iconic trilogy of blockbuster feature films.
The Hobbit sound recording team worked for several years on blockbuster films The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). They were doing interesting and groundbreaking sound work that still deserves attention today.
In this video titled SoundWorks Collection – The Sound of The Hobbit from YouTube channel SoundWorks Collection, the sound team talk about their work on this famous trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson.
Interviews With The Hobbit Sound Team
The interviews take place at Park Road Post Studios in Wellington, New Zealand, with
- Re-recording Mixer Michael Hedges
- Re-recording Mixer Chris Boyes
- Re-recording Mixer Michael Semanick
- Co-Supervising Sound Editor Brent Burge
- Co-Supervising Sound Editor Chris Ward
- Dolby Atmos Re-recording Mixer Gilbert Lake
There’s also an interview with the feature film’s composer Howard Shore.
The team explains how music and sound affects emotion and storytelling. It’s important that sound adds depth to the character on screen. Sound teams watch the big screen all the time as they work, because everything you hear is carefully designed to complement the storytelling on screen.
The Hobbit Sound Effects
Sometimes, silence is just as important as music and sound effects. Inside the halls of Erebor, adding the subtle audio atmosphere of heavy air added to the atmosphere of the seemingly never ending marble hallways.
The quietness was important, and contrasted dramatically with the multiple layers of noise from the awakened dragon, Smaug.
“The FIRST thing I wanted was for the beast part of Smaug to be an alligator. I love the sound of an alligator growl, but have never heard it featured anywhere for a film beast. I didn’t want him to just be a lion or tiger, or some pitched version of those and the alligator fit the bill. I’d heard alligators before but never had the chance to record them. I want to thanks Colin Hart for sharing his knowledge of Alligators which led me to get several days worth of recordings.”David Farmer, sound designer, talking to sound.stackexchange.com
Chris Boyes, sound re-recording mixer, describes how he added the rumbles, growls and fire breathing overlapping Smaug’s words. Meanwhile re-recording mixer Mike Hedges handled the dialogue provided by Benedict Cumberbatch. The dialogue and sound effects had to complement each other with careful timing, so the sound effects only came forward as the dialogue receded.
The dialogue always takes precedence. The music provides emotion. So sound effects step back as needed.
The Hobbit Music By Howard Shore
Howard Shore composed the music for The Hobbit movies, recorded with a large orchestra.
Experimenting with Dolby Atmos
In 2012, Dolby Atmos was a new audio platform that revolutionized the experience of sound in entertainment. There was a hurried rollout to cinemas through the launch years of The Hobbit trilogy, so audiences could enjoy the reference-quality Dolby Atmos track.
Dolby Atmos allowed some new ways for sound to enhance the story telling. The sound of a giant spider walking overhead reflected what was happening on screen to Bilbo. The sound was panned overhead instead of going around the sides.
With Dolby Atmos sound can be positioned front, centre, at the back and on the ceiling. It could be the whole of the ceiling, or instead just one or more specified points on the ceiling.
For The Hobbit sound effects team, it meant sound design became more complicated and more challenging. But it’s also a great way to do more interesting and remarkable sound work which adds to the storytelling.
The Hobbit Sound Clips
Discover a range of sound clips from The Hobbit on the Movie Sound Clips website.
More Filmmaking Topics
- Following & breaking the 180 degree rule in film
- Colour Temperature & White Balance in Film
- The Filmmaking Process Used by Pixar to Create Great Animated Films