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Issue: December 1, 2009

SOUNDS OF THE APOCALYPSE: FOLEY FOR '2012'

HOLLYWOOD - Thanks to Gary Hecker, the world ends with a bang, not a whimper. Hecker recently served as supervising Foley artist on the new Roland Emmerich film 2012 and, as such, it largely fell to him to create the ear-splitting sounds of the apocalypse.

Called by Roger Ebert the “mother of all disaster movies,” 2012 tells the story of the end of the planet as predicted in Mayan legend, and it is brimming with mayhem on a gargantuan scale. Audiences witness the destruction of the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and St. Peter’s Basillica. The giant aircraft carrier the John F. Kennedy is swamped by a tsunami; the earth’s tectonic plates crash like bumper cars.

Hecker, who has more than 200 films under his belt, said that 2012 forced him to dig deep into his bag of tricks to come up with the huge diversity of sounds that were required by the film. “It was a massive amount of work; the whole world is exploding,” he recalls. “We did a lot of demolition Foley. We brought in pallets of rocks that we destroyed, as well as tons of dirt and glass. We also created a lot of water effects as people try to escape the devastation in huge boats. We had to produce underwater effects, people in water, boats creaking and breaking apart.”

Hecker says that one particularly challenging scene involved a cargo plane that is struggling to stay in the air. “It was shot on a set, so we had to come up with everything, including big creaking and rattling sounds to show that the plane was going through a lot of stress,” he says. “They wanted it to feel as though the plane is starting to come apart. In the climactic scene, the plane lands in snow, and we created the big, beefy sounds of the plane sliding on snow and going down a cliff. It involved a combination of sound effects and Foley, and it’s the Foley that grounds the sound to the scene, because it is a custom made element.”

Hecker worked closely with supervising sound  editor Paul Ottosson, and described 2012 as one of the most challenging projects of his career “Everything I’ve learned through all my years in Foley were applied to that film,” he notes. “The types of destruction were incredibly diverse and involved every imaginable type of sound. Paul and I worked hand in hand to make sure that Roland Emmerich got all of the sound elements he needed.”