Sony Pictures Post Production Services Weaves an Intricate Web of Sound for “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
In Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, the movie’s colorful cast of characters, impressive gadgetry and thrilling action created plenty of opportunities for its veteran sound team to flex their creative muscles. Sony Pictures Post Production Services assembled an all-star lineup of sound talent for the project led by Supervising Sound Editors Eric Norris (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Man of Steel) and Steven Ticknor (Spider-Man, The Lincoln Lawyer), Academy Award-winning Re-Recording Mixer Kevin O’Connell (Hacksaw Ridge, Transformers), Sound Designer/Re-Recording Mixer Tony Lamberti (Ghostbusters, Inglourious Basterds) and Foley Artist Gary Hecker (Justice League, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3).
“It was a high-octane crew,” says Ticknor. “As a team, we blended well, everyone contributed and the ideas flowed seamlessly.”
The Dolby Atmos mix was completed on Sony Pictures’ William Holden Stage.
Although Spider-Man is well known to movie fans around the globe, Homecoming introduces several new elements to the character. Notably, Spidey gets a new suit, designed by Tony Stark, that is outfitted with a variety of sophisticated tech including a detachable drone. “It was an interesting challenge to create the sound for the drone,” recalls Norris. “Steve came up with the idea of using a toy noisemaker that produces a high-pitched whistle. We used that and a palette of other effects to give the drone its personality.”
Later in the movie, Peter dons an older Spider-Man suit that he had created himself. It required a slightly different sound treatment. “Jon Watts wanted the web coming from the old suit to sound a little less modern than the web that shoots from the new Stark suit, which is hot and cool,” notes Ticknor. “We ordered a couple of 5,000-foot rolls of magnetic tape and let them unravel. They created a whooshing sound that became our old-school web.”
One of the most intricate blend of sound effects was applied to the winged suit worn by supervillain Vulture. The massive device changes over the course of the film acquiring new features and becoming more menacing. The team employed a mix of mechanical sounds for its metal feathers and wings, and jet turbines for the roar of its engine. “We used samplers to stack sounds together, and shape them to create a sense of movement that mirrored the action on the screen,” explains Lamberti. “It was a lot of fun!”
Hecker spent much of his time recording Spider-Man’s signature foot, body and suit movements, featured throughout the film. His task was anything but routine. “Jon Watts wanted Spider-Man to be stealthy, ninja-like,” Hecker notes. “He’s light on his feet, acrobatic. In one scene, he climbs up the side of a building, opens a window and enters a house. He’s upside down on the ceiling, crawling on his hands and feet. That’s all Foley.”
Hecker used a special neoprene shoe to recreate Spider-Man’s light footfall. “I wanted to capture his character through his footsteps and body movements,” he explains. “He’s sometimes moving very fast, sometimes fighting, sometimes sneaking. It’s important to convey the emotion of the scene through movement.”
Hecker also worked with Norris, Ticknor, O’Connell and Lamberti on custom sounds for Vulture’s winged suit.
During mix sessions, O’Connell and Lamberti blended thousands of custom sounds with dialogue and music to produce the finished soundtrack. “The sound editorial team was very well organized and that made it easy to swap things out and get it to picture,” says Lamberti. “The mix went very smoothly. Kevin, who’s a legend in the business, had a great overview of the entire soundscape and kept an eye on the big picture. The finished mix is clean and articulate. You can hear everything; nothing is overwhelming or underdone.”
O’Connell credited Norris, Ticknor, Lamberti and Hecker with providing an abundance of technical and organic sounds that help bring the world of Spider-Man to life. He also offered high praise for Composer Michael Giacchino. “He did a fantastic job with the score; it was well-balanced and right on the money,” O’Connell says. “It was a dream come true for a mixer.”
“With so much great visual material to work with, we could focus on Jon Watts’ vision in delivering an experience that audiences will remember for a long time,” O’Connell adds. “Spider-Man: Homecoming is more than an action film. There were scenes where we could have gone crazy with sound effects and music, but, instead, we did our best to stay true to the story and keep the focus on Peter with respect to the world around him.”