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Soundelux’s Mark Stoeckinger Works On ‘Unstoppable’ Movie

Soundelux in Hollywood, Calif., announces that Supervising Sound Editor Mark Stoeckinger recently completed work on Unstoppable, the new film from 20th Century Fox and director Tony Scott that opens worldwide this week. The facility says that Stoeckinger, a two-time Academy Award nominee, and his crew went to extraordinary lengths to create realistic sound elements for Scott’s thrilling story of a massive, out of control freight train, including traveling to points across the Southwestern U.S. to capture authentic railroad sounds.

“Tony Scott has created an amazing, dynamic, dramatic film,” says Stoeckinger, “and he makes exceptional use of sound to support and enhance the story. The whole film has a visceral edge. It was important that we do everything we could to accentuate that.”

Stoeckinger says that Unstoppable is a “sound editor’s dream,” but also a formidable challenge. Because much of the film takes place on trains racing at high speed, the sounds of straining engines and thundering cars is virtually ever present. “The challenge is to always keep it interesting and dramatic, and never let it become monotonous,” Stoeckinger observes. “The picture editors did an amazing job in cutting the film in a dynamic way, and that created a lot of opportunities for us to develop and creatively apply sound.”

Stoeckinger noted that Scott was intimately involved in the development of the sound effects and had very specific ideas about how to use sound to help tell the story. “Tony gave us input from the earliest stages of the project,” Stoeckinger recalls. “He likes to choose the music and the sound effects, and to determine how we are going to play it, how we are going to get into and get out of cuts.”

Stoeckinger and his crew traveled to a variety of train yards in California and New Mexico to make field recordings. Using rented trains, they positioned microphones between cars and between rails to record specific parts of engines and cars, and aspects of their movement. They recorded trains moving at full speed from cars traveling alongside them, to capture both the rail sounds and the sound of dynamic braking that serves as a signature sound for the film’s “villain” train.

As a way of adding subtly to the dramatic tension, Scott suggested that the trains be portrayed as traveling along bolted track where the rails are bolted (rather than welded) together, so that the cars produce a distinctive clacking sound. To accommodate this, Stoeckinger’s recordist Ken Johnson traveled to New Mexico to record a train rocketing at 80 mph along a now rarely used stretch of bolted track.

“It is a very dangerous sounding track,” says Stoeckinger. “Throughout this process, we developed a deep appreciation for how trains sound and feel.”

Trains aren’t the only things that produce sounds in Unstoppable. “There is a lot of communications gear—people talking on walkie-talkies,” Stoeckinger notes. “And sometimes there are as many as three helicopters overhead, and we wanted to capture those sounds in a way that is attention-grabbing and exciting.”

Stoeckinger’s sound team included lead sound effects designers Alan Rankin and Ann Scibellil; supervising dialog editor Teri Dorman; ADR supervisor Juno Ellis; and recordist Ken Johnson.

Re-Recording Mixers Kevin O’Connell and Beau Borders mixed Unstoppable at Todd-AO, while Robert Duffy and Chris Lebenson edited the film.

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