While “First Man” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” benefited from the thunderous IMAX experience, the other three nominees — “A Star Is Born, “Roma,” and “Black Panther” — showcased the continuing versatility of Dolby Atmos.
Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” centered on Neil Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) journey to the moon, and required both historical accuracy and subjective intensity in the soundscape from the sound mixing team (which included “La La Land” Oscar nominee Ai-Ling Lee).
Fortunately, they got the full cooperation of NASA to depict the Apollo mission to the moon, capturing authentic sounds of spacecraft and Mission Control. The idea was to immerse the viewer in the experience of the astronauts in the fragile, metal spacecrafts, and build up the sound in various stages to increase the intensity,
With “Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white childhood remembrance of things past set in early 1970s Mexico City, the challenge was to recreate every sound in its own geographical environment while, at the same time, removing the city’s modern cacophony.
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When it came to mixing, “Gravity” Oscar winner Skip Lievsay was tasked with making an extremely detailed environment for the actors to inhabit, including accurately panning all dialogue and associated foley for all actions occurring on and off screen.
For “A Star Is Born, rookie director Bradley Cooper created total intimacy for his performances with Lady Gaga. They not only filmed their performances live at Coachella, the Stagecoach Music Festival, and larger venues in L.A., but also from a back-to-center stage perspective. Sound was integral in keeping us contained inside the world of Cooper’s Jack and Gaga’s Ally. And sound designer-mixer Steve Morrow provided seamless transitions without audible breaks, and achieved greater sonic spacing between performers from Atmos.
The contenders are ranked by their likelihood of winning:
“A Star Is Born”