There is no question that Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) ranks among the top films of all time in terms of its sonic impact and creative use of audio elements. Creating the sounds for Apocalypse wasn’t easy, given the conditions and length of the production schedule-month after month on location, with cast and crew enduring the very real hardships of the Philippine jungle exteriors. But the resulting film, released in 70mm 6-channel Dolby Stereo, was nothing short of a masterpiece, and nearly 20 years later, it’s lost none of its power.
Now, The Hollywood Edge, working with American Zoetrope, has compiled the definitive collection of original sound effects from Apocalypse Now. Available as a set of five compact discs priced at $395, “Apocalypse Now: The American Zoetrope Sound Effects Collection” features 621 sounds recorded/created by the original post-production sound team of Andrew Aaron, Richard Beggs, Mark Berger, Richard Cirincione, Michael Jacobi, Walter Murch, Dale Strumpell and Randy Thom.
The CDs are packed in a storage box along with an 85-page index listing all the tracks, both in a numerical index and an alphabetical cross-reference. Additionally, each disc’s CD book has a track listing. The effects are broken down with disc titles dedicated to Aircraft; Military Vehicles and Radio; Patrol Boats and Machinery; Weaponry; and Backgrounds, Walla, Humans, Animals and Foley. Generally, the effects stick to these classifications, but certain effects, such as troop activity and some crowd reactions, are found on both the Weapons and Backgrounds discs. In any case, the reference index book is accurate and complete.
The effects were recorded on Nagra mono or stereo decks and are reproduced on CD as stereo, mono or dual-mono tracks-generally presented exactly as they were recorded. The stereo and mono recordings are self-explanatory, but the dual-mono tracks were recorded with two microphones to capture different aspects of the same sound source and were not intended as stereo tracks, per se. Having said that, rules were always meant to be broken, and in some cases the dual-mono tracks can be used as stereo, either as-is or with a bit of post-manipulation, such as panning, delaying one side or adding reverb or an LF boost to one channel. Also, it should be noted that most of the effects in this collection were recorded dry, offering users the freedom to tweak ambience/perspectives to taste.
One of the more interesting aspects of this library is how effects that may seem very specialized can work in general settings. For example, some of the patrol boat sounds could double as an industrial drone effect, while the “Futz Radio Interference” would be right at home in any sci-fi scene where the radio static inevitably leads to a UFO encounter. Some of the other effects in the collection-tarmac and rowdy USO crowd ambiences, electric saws, grinders, sirens, ice cube clinks, baby cries, crickets, frogs, tigers, pigs, streams and waterfalls-fall into the all-purpose category, while the “Gibbon Monkeys” have an eerie, otherworldly sound. The set also includes a fair number of Armed Forces Vietnam radio spots, which are of less general use but are entertaining nonetheless. Note: Richard Beggs’ famous synthesized Ghost helicopter sound that opens the movie is not included.
Of course, “Apocalypse Now” is intended as a collection of war sounds, and it certainly does not disappoint in this regard. Recorded on location in the Philippines, Camp Wilson, Camp Pendelton and Bellingham, there is no shortage of military aircraft (Hueys, Loaches and Phantoms), vehicles (tanks, APCs, Amtracs, patrol boats), weapons (shotguns, pistols, M-16s, M-60s, Russian SKS, AK-47s, Howitzers, mortars, napalm, flare guns, cannon and explosions of every magnitude), along with troop activity, backgrounds, walla and Foley effects. Curiously, there is only one track of Jeep sounds, but I suppose this effect is a little easier to create from existing auto sounds than, say, the sound of a Vulcan cannon.
If your next project requires creating some aural mayhem, whether for a shoot-em-up video game, urban streetfighter epic or ultimate battle scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find a library that outdoes “Apocalypse Now: The American Zoetrope Sound Effects Collection.” And at $395, it’s cheaper than spending months on location recording your own private army.
The Hollywood Edge, 7080 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 519, Hollywood, CA 90028; 323/603-3252; fax 323/603-3298; www.hollywoodedge.com.