Posted on May 5, 2016
How Authentic Vehicle Sounds Are Created in Hollywood
The Powerful Sounds for Hollywood Car Movies Are Independently Created by Sound Engineers and Editors
When Vin Diesel wins multiple street races in the Fast & Furious movie series plus continually gets the girl, the whole audience is living it right along with him - and the feeling never ends. We are all in wonder at this guy, and we can’t help but marvel at his cool cars. But we never, imagine that it’s primarily the sounds of his furious cars racing forever that make the movies so convincing and gripping. Or that those sounds were independently created far, far away from the glamorous movie shoot. In fact, the realistic vehicle sounds are made to be extremely authentic by highly-trained audio professionals.
It’s not something we think about when we sit on the edge of our seats in movie theaters or watch great car movies at home on our devices, but those fantastic vehicle crashes, brakes screeching, tires squealing and engines revving did not actually come from a movie shoot. They were created by brilliant sound editors and sound engineers out in the Mojave Desert in a place called California City, which is where every sound a car makes in a Hollywood movie gets made.
Recording Vehicle Audio Independently Makes It More Authentic for the Movies
Located just outside of Los Angeles, a group of sound recording professionals has assembled in California City for a current production with a Porsche 911, a relatively new Nissan 370Z looking beat up, a Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport replica with a big V8 engine and side pipes, and a few muscle cars all ready to go. What the sound recording team strives for is to make the best car-related sound from the most powerful version of that featured car that’s available.
"These are all cars used on screen in the film," explains sound editor Peter Brown as his team tape microphones to various spots on the Mongoose Motorsports Grand Sport replica. "But we don't always use the same cars that are on screen. We figure out what engine the on-screen car has and then seek out the most powerful version of that engine we can find," he says. "Once found, it can be difficult convincing owners to bring their prized cars all the way out here for a day of hot-rodding, as we don't have a huge recording budget. Often my only effective sales tool is the idea that, if used, the sound of someone's car will be immortalized on film for all time. After all, almost everyone wants to be in the movies."
Brown put together every crack, whack, smack and crunch that you believe the cars in your favorite movies have experienced from being filmed. Making an audience feel the action powerfully is his job. He crafts the sounds and layers the audio tracks together so effectively that no matter what’s going on up on the screen, the audience is completely enthralled. The sound editor has worked on several movies including Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Spider-Man, and some of the Fast & Furious series.
Typical equipment for his audio recordings for famous car movies include half a dozen power cars whose exhaust systems and engines make the right noises, along with hefty Sennheiser microphones and precise recording equipment.