Oscar Sound 2013: ARGO

Argo film still

On working with the Farsi-speaking extras
One of the things that struck me from the whole experience was how emotional it was for some of the actors. Many of them had actually lived through the revolution and were ex-pats and they were telling me stories. There was one fellow who told me he was 8 years old when the protests were happening and he ran from his home to the gates of the U.S. embassy and was actually there. I asked him what it was like and he said, “It’s kind of blurry now," but what he really remembered was the energy of the crowd and roar; the din. He said it was like the largest musical instrument he’s ever heard. Listening to his story and listening to a lot of the documentary archival material that we had from the actual event, the power of those crowds was incredible.

On reproducing locations for the film
We wanted them to be right and some of that took a bit of research, too, finding out exactly where in town the Canadian ambassador’s residence [where some Americans hid out] was, and how much traffic we would hear. One thing we read was that there were constant patrols by the Revolutionary Guard up and down embassy lane, so that helped us get the sound of some of those scenes, where you’re hearing the voice of soldiers, or even gunshots not too far away, trucks going by and those sorts of flavors. We wanted every scene to be alive with sound and telling some sort of story.

On working with nominated re-recording mixers Gregg Rudloff and John Reitz
I had worked with them before on Superman Returns a few years ago. They’re fantastic; such artists. Real poets. One interesting thing about the workflow of how we worked was we had a string of temps through the schedule, so what we decided to do was work in a way where we could build our mix through all of those temps and then out to predubbing and our finagling. So it was one constant build of the track and not what happens oftentimes where you’ll temp and then throw it away. The picture cut was remarkably stable throughout. William Goldenburg was the picture editor and he had such a solid cut so early. We would see two weeks go by with maybe two frames changed on Reel 1, which is unheard of! In general, it was such a steady ship we could devote all our mix time to the aesthetic.

On the tense bazaar escape scene
A scene I loved is when the six "house guests" were driving to the bazaar. They go through this protest and it's such a great scene because you’re right there. It’s visceral and you’re feeling what they’re feeling. When they’re in the car and the crowd is banging on the car, you really feel it.

What we did there is I brought one of my cars in—a truck that I have, kind of an old beater truck—to the crowd recording sessions we were doing at Warner Bros. and I had all hundred people just start banging on the truck, with me, Ethan and our FX editor P.K. Hooker running six channels in the car. It really was a visceral experience. It was the end of the evening and these people [the Farsi-chanting extras] loved it! They got so into it.

I must say, there have only been a couple of moments I’ve had in my career where I’ve jumped at a sound. It’s never been a gun or a canon. The first time was a tiger roaring at me six inches away—through bars, but it still made me jump. And the second time was being in that truck when the crowd was banging. One guy got me right over my head on the roof and it made me jump. Then they started rocking the truck, and that was terrifying. We were all sweating. When we came back down off those two wheels I said, “I think we’ve got what we need, let’s cut.”

More from Argo FX rerecording mixer Gregg Rudloff
On the tension of quiet scenes Rudloff: Even in some of the quieter scenes, like when the house guests are nervously hiding out in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence, Ben wanted to always have the threat from outside apparent, so you subtly hear the outside world going by, this military presence. We had military trucks and helicopters, we had offstage gunshots. In a non-military fashion, we used call-to-prayer P.A.’s off in the distance. He wanted the feeling of isolation but also the never-ending presence of an outside threat. The use of dynamics really came into use there. In general, we tried not to continually assault the audience with sound, so the sounds that were used would be more effective.

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