Have you ever wondered how those iconic film sounds were made or how they came about? Well Vulture.com had a chat recently with Gary Rydstrom, sound designer on Jurassic Park, about just this and you may just be surprised at what went into creating that classic dino roar.
Gary Rystrom won two Academy Awards for his work on Jurassic Park (sound design and mixing) and while it was a fantastic experience, it was at times extremely challenging. As you can’t just go down to your local zoo and collect some dino sound samples, Gary and his crew had to create distinct dinosaur noises for a number of different breeds from scratch. It was both a blessing and curse that these beasts have been dead for millennia as that meant no one knew what they would have sounded like, but there was also no point of reference to work from. So instead he spent months recording different animal sounds then mixed them together, added some tweaking and ended up creating something “otherworldly but still organic”.
So what actually went into each unique dino sound? Read on to find out but be warned, Gary stresses that “If people knew where the sounds in Jurassic Park came from, it’d be rated R!”
For these cunning, intelligent creatures, language was an important way of staying in contact and outwitting their prey. However, the sounds used to create this couldn’t be further from that objective. “When the raptors bark at each other to communicate, it’s a tortoise having sex… I recorded that at Marine World”. Will you ever be able to look at a raptor the same again?
However, that’s not the only animal that was used for the raptor. A key moment of tension is when the raptor shows up at the door trying to look in the window into the kitchen at where the kids are hiding. The breathing noise? It’s actually a horse and Gary confesses that they used horse sounds for about three to four different dinosaurs. There’s also that terrifying hiss sounds that you hear when game warden Muldoon is ambushed – it’s a mad goose. “You’ve got to get a goose mad at you and then they hiss at you… get close to one and stick a mike near its beak and you’ll get that hiss”.
One of the most beautiful scenes from the film is the stampede of the flock of Gallimimus. It resembles and sounds like wild horses for a good reason – the squeal they make as they rush past (or get eaten by a hungry T-Rex) is that of a female horse in heat. “I remember recording a female horse, and the male horse came right by her and she squealed because she was in heat… he got a little too close and she was excited about the male I assume”, Gary says with a laugh.
The most feared of dinosaur species and one whose roar can make your blood run cold. So where did this ferocious sound come from? Well some of the key noises came from Gary’s very scary tiny Jack Russell Terrier. In explaining the use of his dog, Buster, Gary says “Every day I would see my dog playing with the rope toy and doing exactly that [shaking the toy], pretending like he’s killing his prey”. But for that iconic T-Rex roar – the key element is a baby elephant. “A small animal making a small sound slowed down a little bit has more interest to us than what a big animal might do”. After watching the film, you would be hard pressed to find anyone to disagree.
The beautiful brachiosaurus and their singing allows the audience a moment of peace before the fight for survival begins. It provides you with a sense of wonderment at these majestic creatures, but is made from a most unlikely source – donkeys. “You think of donkeys, and they kind of yodel… there’s this pitch shift… if you slow them way down, you get almost a hooting, songlike quality”. And what does it sound like when a brachiosaur sneezes all over you? That would be a whale blowhole and a fire hydrant.
The main sound for the triceratops is the humble cow. However, the most memorable scene with these creatures is of the sick triceratops and that sound was created by mixing a number of different elements and is “one of the only elements in the movie that isn’t an organic sound”. It is actually a long cardboard tube with a spring in it that was stretched out. While there is a lot of cow mixed in, what you’re really hearing is Gary breathing into the tube.
Gary needed to find a sound as cute as these little critters on being newly hatched so naturally turned to a lot of different types of baby animals. The final mix includes baby owls, foxes and other similar sounding babies. However, the sound changes as Dr Alan Grant discovers that the adorable babies are not that cute. The raptors start taking on a raspier baby owl quality, which was chosen to match the screechy, raspy sound of the adult raptors.
We first see these when Dennis Nedry is attempting to free his car from the mud to make it to the ferry on time. At first, the dilophosaurus is all sweetness and light, letting out an appealing trill in greeting (made from a swan). However, then they turn all frilled neck lizard angry (Aussies will agree with me) and spits all over Nedry. The spitting predator has a rattlesnake sound as it opens its cowl and the hawk for the raspy quality of its voice.
From the types of animals they use to get sound mixes from, it would seem to not be the safest profession to enter. Gary appears to agree as he happily recounts one of the best things about moving up the ladder – you get your assistant to do it. He describes how during Jurassic Park, he had Chris Boyd as an assistant (thankfully he lets us know he is still alive) and that “if we needed a rattlesnake, I’d say, ‘Chris, please record the rattlesnake’. And I’d record the dogs and the kittens!” There are certainly perks of being the boss in any profession.
Jurassic Park has been re-released in 3D and is in cinemas now. Head along and see whether you can pick out any of these sounds when watching.
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