There’s no better way to experience gigantic battles in space than in the movie theater. But just in case you need some convincing, Solo: A Star Wars Story’s supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, at Skywalker Sound (www.skysound.com), shares his opinions on the topic. “I absolutely feel that people should see these summer blockbuster movies in the theater. They are built for wide-screen and Atmos sound. It’s just a much more immersive experience in the theater. You can relax your eyes and let the giant image come to you. You don’t have to strain to look at anything. The light-to-dark ratio is much easier to look at in a theater. And the sound is built for the theater. We built all of these Star Wars films in Atmos natively and if you can hear it in Atmos, then I highly recommend that. I think it’s really going to enhance your experience.”
Wood has pretty much worked on every Star Wars project ever — films, games and series, and even the original trilogy because of their theatrical re-release. If he recommends seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story in the theater, then that’s a pretty strong recommendation.
So what can you expect to hear in Solo? One action scene after another. “It’s funny because some people might look at Episodes VII, VIII and IX as the major tentpoles, and at these ‘Star Wars Stories’ like Rogue One and Solo as ‘smaller ones.’ But it always turns out to not be that way. This was the first Star Wars film for Tim Nielsen (co-supervising sound editor/sound designer/re-recording mixer) and he was surprised and really exhilarated as we were going through all these major sequences of the movie,” shares Wood.
The first sequence they looked at was the train heist in reel two, which features intense yet fun sound design of the speeding train and the ensuing scuffle with the Cloud-Rides. There’s also composer John Powell’s “Train Heist” track, with big, pounding drums and blasts from the brass section. Here, re-recording mixer Chris Scarabosio was able to take advantage of the Atmos surround field by sending elements of the score into the top speakers, so that the effects and score weren’t fighting for the same space. “Scoring mixer Shawn Murphy at Abbey Road set up the stems so that some elements were assigned to Atmos channels. For example, we can put the natural reverb of what was recorded at Abbey Road up in the top speakers and re-create that environment in Atmos. It adds this extra reality to the music,” says Wood.
Another big moment was the Kessel Run sequence that happens in the Millennium Falcon, which Han Solo, of course, accomplishes in less than 12 parsecs. “It’s a particularly hard place to get through, navigation-wise, and they have a finite amount of time to get through there. It was a very intense sequence, really fun to cut sound for,” says Wood.
Aside from putting together the sound crew on Solo: A Star Wars Story, Wood’s other major focus was on the dialogue. “Our production sound mixer Stuart Wilson has been on a fair amount of these Star Wars films with us now. He’s a fantastic sound mixer,” mentions Wood, who also worked closely with dialogue/ADR supervisor Richard Quinn to create the best possible dialogue track for re-recording mixer David Parker. Wood and Quinn relied mainly on the iZotope RX 6 for cleanup and EQ matching. “We had digital characters, like Lady Proxima and the side-kick Rio Durant, so we had to loop their lines. I wanted their lines to match the actors’ lines on-set, to fit into the same space that the actors are in. When we have line changes and add-ins, we want those to match too. The RX tools were hugely useful here,” explains Wood.
They also had some fun with character voice processing, like for the L3-37 droid played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “She’s a fantastic actress who was on-set doing the part in a green leotard with some droid attachments on her. Then in post, ILM fully fleshed out the character. We processed her voice in Pro Tools using several plug-ins. Also, I used Dehumaniser (by Krotos, Ltd.) for some of the droid boss’s henchmen, to give them a deep animalistic quality,” concludes Wood.