In March 2010, Kosinski started spotting the film with Teague, Boyes and Whittle. “Kosinski is very hands on and loved to play and experiment with sound. Since we were brought in from the beginning, Boeddeker already had a library of sound effects in place that normally represents what a film ends with, instead of what you begin with,” mentions Teague. Working with Kosinski early, they got a feel how he wanted to do things – lots of experimentation, and try to save as much production dialogue as possible. During this phase of the editing, Joe would work with Addison, changing some sounds, enhancing others, honing in on the sound design of the film.
It was unusual that the music score was available to work against from the beginning; there were no temp music placeholders. “Daft Punk had the music done before the script was locked — usually it’s last,” mentions Whittle. Teague and Whittle explained how helpful it was to have the final score of the movie to work against. Since the music wasn’t going to change, they knew what timbre of sound effects and dialogue would flow with the mood set by Daft Punk. “If there was a thing called music casting, Daft Punk was perfectly cast. I can’t imagine anything else in this film,” says Whittle.
Certainly, there was no shortage of sound challenges in this film, between the abundance of action sequences and the contrast between the Tron world and the real world. Kosinksi wanted the sound effects in the Tron world to be reality based, not too Sci-fi. He wanted the audience to feel grounded in the unreal world with the help of real world sounds.
For instance, the life cycle visually resembles a motorcycle, so the sound effect is based on a Ducati. Once Joe was happy with the base effect, the team would then process and manipulate the sound. In one scene, they needed to create a vintage arcade environment, so Addison went out to an old arcade in Glendale, CA and recorded the sounds they wanted instead of relying on an effects library. “It’s all about creating a world that sounds real,” says Teague.
Dialogue presented another set of obstacles. The suits in the movie had real lights on them during filming. The lights created a whine which changed as the actors got closer to one another. At first listen, this made the production dialogue seem unusable. Marie Ebbing was brought in to surgically remove all the whines without affecting the quality of the voice, in a process called Nova. Then Gary Rizzo, the dialogue mixer, did another EQ and clean up pass during the pre-mix and again during the final. “In the dinner scene, it was a miracle the production audio was usable at all,” says Whittle. There are scenes that portray huge crowds of people in a stadium, so the team came up with the idea to record the Tron fans at Comic Con. They set up a multitude of mics and had recordists in catwalks while Kosinksi directed the crowd to chant and react in specific ways— “Comic Con Crowd — Hall H” is even credited in the movie.
The 7.1 mix allowed them an extra set of speakers to move around in, but the Tron world itself gave them the opportunity to try effects they normally wouldn’t even think about doing. When playing with the processing of the audio, there is a point during the deconstructing of a sound where it begins to fall apart and create digital artifacts. Since the Tron world is computerized, they found these artifacts and characteristics appropriate, and tried to push to find even more ways of producing the most interesting sounds possible.
Through all the editing, pre-mixes, and final mix the entire sound team at Skywalker was very supportive of each other, a very united front, which made working the intense hours possible. They kept each other sane. Whittle says, “Joe put in a lot of hours, but we were right there with him, striving to give him every option and nuance he asked for.”