Michael Bay is famously hands-on and a relentless worker and taskmaster. But after seven pictures, you must have a shorthand with him?
Michael gives us tremendous creative license from a sound-design and sound-mixing standpoint, gives us a lot of leeway. But he really does sign off on and approve what we do. And we certainly know when he’s not happy with something, and we make those changes for him. When he’s happy, he’s like a 14-year-old kid who’s absolutely thrilled and excited, and it's fun to see.
Sound is incredibly manipulative -- we can manipulate an audience to look at any given portion of the screen by where we place sound and what we do with it, and that’s a big part of the storytelling process—Michael has said it’s 50 percent of the experience of his movies.
So Optimus Prime, for instance, is sonically much more complex than any human character could be?
The robots consist of, say, nine 'pre-dubs,’ where the feet are separate from the big thigh sounds and the big, metallic motor sounds, as well as the medium-range integral movement sounds, that are in turn separate from kind of servo-sourced zipping noises. It goes right down to the eye blinks. All that material is prepared, and then I mix them and pan them across the screen. So if that robot is walking from right to left, those sounds have to be right behind the image.
The bitter truth:
All this artistry, and yet you feel ghettoized within the Academy voting process because these are action pictures?
What is tough is when we look for support from the general Academy—not just the sound branch but cinematographers and the rest. Actors play a big part in this because they’re some 1,800 of the 6,000 voting members of the Academy. [Ed. note: The number of actors is actually closer to 1,200.]
Are they apt to go for the more performance-driven films? Will they even look at a summer popcorn “Transformers”? All the nominated films have great sound, but I’ve been told there may be 50 to 60 percent of the Academy who never even see a “Transformers” movie. So that’s a little depressing. And maybe if they did and they looked at it for what it is they, might feel differently about what they’re voting on come that final ballot.