Some of you might not know who Greg Russell is, but I guarantee you’ve heard his work.
Greg has been working with Bay since ‘The Rock.’ He’s been nominated a whopping fourteen times for an Oscar. You can read a cover story of him in this month’s Editors Guild magazine.
Recently, the Motion Picture Editors Guild magazine interviewed Greg and Michael Bay.
Editors Guild Magazine: Greg, how do you set up for a mix on an effects-heavy movie like Transformers: Dark of the Moon?
Greg Russell: Having worked with the same basic crew, including supervising sound editors Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl, on two previous Transformers films, we have developed a formula for the effects food groups that would come to the stage as well as how the elements would be broken out. I worked toward a total of eight robot pre-dubs and 14 hard effects pre-dubs, plus four background and four Foley pre-dubs.
For robots, I first started with the feet, literally building the mix from the ground up. Then I moved onto bigger metal movements and the medium metal movements, right on down to the eyelash clicks. The other food groups included vocalizations––the robot language and tonalities are in the effects, not part of dialogue. The hard effects included vehicles, skids, cars, jets, trucks, helicopters, human artillery, and fire and explosions, plus some props and Foley elements, as well as touchy-feely stuff like paper downs and so on. Since I prefer to do all the panning, these mono elements comprise maybe 20 or 25 tracks for each food group.
EGM: How do you work with the sound editorial crew?
GR: The sound editors are pretty disciplined by now; they are more concise in what they bring to the stage and they don’t over-cut. If necessary, ProTools sessions can be opened and an element refined without the need to re-cut the track. In the old days of 35mm mag, editors didn’t want to commit and would over-cut, meaning that I spent my time weeding out things I didn’t need.
EGM: Michael, how important is sound to your movies?
Michael Bay: Sound is 50 percent of the movie; it is critical. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an effects-heavy movie, stylized and beautiful. Greg Russell is a key to its success.
We consistently try and make my movies the best sounding we’ve ever done. As James Cameron told me the other day when I played him an in-progress mix: “It’s f*cking epic!” We were in the middle of mixing the wall-to-wall sound in Act 3, as we’re preparing for the Battle of Chicago with a few characters in the middle of the city. It is all too easy for the mix to become too overwhelming. I rely on Greg to keep me grounded. You can make it totally loud, but then you have nowhere to go in terms of dynamics. Less, quite often, can be more for a movie soundtrack.
EGM: What does Greg Russell bring to your productions?
MB: I’ve been working with Greg since 1996; he is fantastic at his job. I prefer to weave the sound so that audiences can hear important cues and I can focus their attention on specific elements. A director basically manipulates audiences in terms of guiding where he wants their eyes to go from shot to shot. It is exactly the same with sound; we use it as a tool to have the audience hear exactly what is important in the film. It is how you focus the audience with sound effects, which can all too often dominate the action.
EGM: Greg, what did Dolby 7.1 Surround bring to the production?
GR: This was my first 7.1-channel mix, with Gary Summers handling dialogue and Jeff Haboush the music; we had a great time! The four surround channels—left-wall, left-back, right-wall and right-back—offer a full-field quad scenario. If I have a machine gun going “rat-tat-tat” in the right-side surround, a separate “kaboom” in the right-rear adds impact and interest; 7.1 offers creative opportunities to move sounds around the room with much more defined rear-field panning.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon was a very busy mix. I was out to around 256 faders on the Harrison MC-4D at Sony’s Kim Novak Stage, with 32 open-channel sweeteners for things that changed or where we wanted a different sound. We often received new or revised visuals for which I might need to add new material. We just muted tracks in the pre-dub and added the new sweetener tracks.
EGM: Michael, what was the standout for you, sound-wise?
MB: Act 3, which focuses on an all-out attack on Chicago, is ridiculously complex. The sound weaves around the action; it is just staggering what a good mix these talented people can produce. I look for creativity in my re-recording crew—people who come up with something fresh and new for me. Ingenuity is the key; people who think outside the box and constantly have a varied approach to the movie’s soundtrack. During pre-production, I get involved with the mixers early; I’m constantly demanding the very best of people.
Source: MPEG Magazine
Michael Bay must have zombie-raising powers, because 3D is back from the dead with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which pulled in about 60% 3D ticket sales in its opening weekend.
There’s an artistry in his filmmaking that far too few people seem to appreciate, and it’s become a cliche to make jokes about Bay’s films being just a series of explosions. But that demonstrates a gross misunderstanding for what Michael Bay can do as a filmmaker, and ignores some great films on his resume, including those noted above.
We wish you a happy and safe 4th of July!
To everyone else, we thank you for visiting Michael Bay Dot Com!
Weekend Report: ‘Transformers’ Claims Independence Gross Record
This weekend, Transformers: Dark of the Moon dominated the box office with an estimated $97.4 million on approximately 9,300 screens at 4,013 locations. In the process, the robo-threequel rocked the Independence Day weekend gross record, eclipsing Spider-Man 2′s $88.2 million, and socked Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for the top-grossing weekend crown of 2011 so far. The Friday-to-Sunday opening salvos of Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were $70.5 million and $109 million, respectively.
Photo by Robert Zuckerman
Paramount’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon has transformed into the third best worldwide debut of all time, smashing records and grossing a whopping $372 million through Sunday.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince scored the best worldwide debut of all time in grossing $394 million, followed by Spider-Man 3 at $382 million.
With the actual July 4th holiday still to go, Michael Bay’s Dark of the Moon should finish Monday with a total opening gross of $405.8 million.
Domestically, Dark of the Moon’s gross through Sunday was $162 million. It’s expected to earn another $18.8 million Monday for a total domestic launch of $180.8 million.
Paramount’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon is doing monster business overseas, where it is pacing 38 percent ahead of the last film in the franchise.
Dark of the Moon posted an opening day gross of $32.5 million at the international box office. Including Tuesday previews, the 3D tentpole has raked in $36.6 million off shore.
In North America, Dark of the Moon has grossed $42.8 million, bringing the tentpole’s global cume to $79.4 million in just over a day.
A few articles on Michael Bay out this week.
Michael Bay, seriously
“…but in this film – you’re going to see a dynamic to his action that is nothing short of jaw-dropping. I say “Jaw-Dropping” not with any sense of hyperbole – in the last hour of this film you’re going to see shit go down that will physically cause your jaw to drop. Hang open and perhaps end with a smile.”
The Decepticons are way nastier in this one, and so when Optimus Prime and the Autobots unleash hell… AND THEY DO… it is so deserved and so worthy of one cheer after another that it almost becomes audience participation.
I’ve seen the film in a regular 3D theater, and in an IMAX presentation, and they are very different experiences. In the regular 3D theater, the FX work looks pretty much flawless, and you can take in the entire widescreen frame at once. In the IMAX theater, you can see every single seam in the work (there aren’t many), but you can also get totally lost in the frame. It’s a great way to really look at the details of what ILM and Digital Domain did, and I cant say I’ve ever really felt a sound mix more viscerally. But if you’re considering sitting this out for a 2D version, don’t. Really. This is a meticulously designed 3D experience, and Bay impresses often and in a real-world setting that makes this more surreal than “Avatar” in many ways. It’s so strange to see a city as recognizable as Chicago take this sort of beating, and it’s a reminder that many movies try to find cheap and generic solutions to their third acts, something you can’t accuse this one of doing.
The first movie was great but the sequel, with it’s ridiculous robot heaven, was not. A disappointing sequel? No surprise there. What was surprising was both star Shia LeBeouf and director Michael Bay admitting afterwards that they “dropped the ball” and promising to make amends with part 3. Well time heals all wounds – and two years on they’ve seriously made amends.
This is epic in every sense of the word. The scale, the action even the humor have been raised to a level that surpasses not just the sequel but the first film too, without doubt they saved the best till last.
An opening battle on the robots home planet of Cybertron shows off the most impressive 3D since Avatar – this was actually filmed in 3D, not another rip-off conversion – and brings back happy memories of Star Wars as a spaceship darts down tunnels of what is basically the Death Star.
Soon we’re back in the present day where Sam (LeBeouf – on funny form) is shacked up with new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley). It’s the stunning Victoria’s Secret model who replaces Megan Fox as the love interest after the star was famously fired for comparing Michael Bay to Hitler. Fox’s old character is referenced just once when a robot announces, “She was mean. I didn’t like her”.
If you like your action BIG, then this is the must see movie of the summer. While part 2 got caught up in mystical nonsense, here the plot is simple, Autobots vs. Decepticons for control of earth. With that in mind, Michael Bay returns to his favorite stomping ground of the freeway chase – and outdoes both his own Bad Boys 2 and The Island – before settling into the hour-long action-apocalypse of a climax.
As the robots – including a giant metal robo-snake that crushes skyscrapers- lay waste to Chicago, the film comes good on it’s promise of a human body count. Entire crowds of people are vaporized -War of the Worlds style – by killer flying machines, it’s basically what the last two Terminator movies should have been. Also adding to the darker tone is the fact that now the Transformers themselves ‘bleed’ when injured, shooting out a red liquid (Engine oil? Brake Fluid?). There’s no disguising it: this is spectacular.