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Why did "Gravity" win Oscars for Sound? Indie expert James Alire explains

Award Winning Sound Engineer James Alire
Award Winning Sound Engineer James Alire
photo courtesy of James Alire

As we all know, the film Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, recently won several Oscar awards. Of those awards, three were based on the sound and score: Best Music–Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. That’s a lot of awards for a category that moviegoers take for granted. In fact, most people don’t notice how key the sound is to the film unless it’s done poorly. Local sound professional James Alire (5J Media) reviewed Gravity back in October, and pretty much predicted its success.

In his article, Alire discusses how the landscape of sound truly sets the tone for a film. Cuarón made things tough for himself by setting a goal of ultra-realism for the film. Since there is no sound in space (sound can’t transfer in a vacuum), the job of Sound Designer Glenn Freemantle and the Re-Recording Mixer Skip Lievsay was difficult to say the least. Let’s just say that since NASA was involved in some of the sound effects, this film actually IS rocket science!

Music historians will love to learn that the score of the film, composed by Steven Price, was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. Alire claims that the film is best seen not in 3D as most would assume, but in a theatre with Dolby Atmos©. He states that the film is a “great advertisement for what Dolby Atmos© can do for a film – even a film primarily using silence.”

James Alire is 5J Media, a local sound shop specializing in indie films. He does everything from sound mixing, sound designing, and audio editing for film and video – with web design thrown in for good measure. Check out his full sound-focused review of Gravity here.