Sound design of Transformers 2

Erik Aadahl, the sound designer for the Transformer movies, pointed me to this video about the sound effects for Transformers 2. He says: "With one single homage exception, all of the sounds we used for both Transformer films were done from scratch, recorded and designed from the ground up without the help of library or stock sound effects." Sound design of Transformers 2


    1. This would go much better for them if they still used celluloid – it would make them regular, at least…

  1. “How is Micahel Bay gonna top himself?” – I thought the exact same thing after seeing the second film. ;)

  2. Y’know, there really is a lot of craftsmanship that goes into even a bad film, and it does deserve respect. Give a good orchestra a bad score, or put a few clunkers into it, and a magnificent woodwind section can’t save it… but they still deserve credit for doing their part well.

    I haven’t heard any knocks against the sound crew on this film — just script, direction, and acting. Let’s give the sound engineers the respect they deserve.

    Sean Connory famously told his fans that the fact that he’s in a film should not be considered an endorsement of the film, it just means they were willing to hire him as a professional actor, and he would do the best he could with what they gave him. The sound engineers, and indeed most of the folks on the film from costuming to catering, are very much in that position, and unlike the stars really don’t have much opportunity to turn down a paying gig. If you want to critique them, do so on terms that address their contribution to the whole, not on whether the project failed.

    You wouldn’t blame a bad actor for bad sound. The same argument goes the other way.

  3. One of my fave parts of TF2 was that cranky ol’ plane, Jetfire. Really infused him with personality. In a similar tone, the sound design really spoke to me with a unique voice, and I’m glad to hear the creativity they came up with — as technogeek so excellently expressed.

    I hope, like the great Frank Serafine, that the TF2 sound team can release their creations as a collection for others to use, so that the sounds can live on in other projects beyond the source, and inspire up-and-coming sound designers.

  4. I found the making of sound for the later Star Wars movies was more interesting; recording guns just because you didn’t want to use the stock-recorded guns is.. well, reinventing the wheel.

    Turn the sounds of a washing mashine or butterfly wings into the voice of a robot, and then we have something interesting to talk about.

    1. You’re absolutely right, the video doesn’t go into most of the abstract approaches we took to make the robotic sounds.

      You put your finger on it though with the washing machine comment; that was a central sound for designing Devastator.

      I could go on and on, but off the top of my head, we made Bumblebee vocals out of a garden hose tube, a train whistle, a cow, and some sound editor whimpers. We made Docbot out of horses and cabinet squeak squeals. The Fallen was made of ice, crunching food, an asthmatic crew member and a modified theremin built from parts on eBay. Every robot has a weird sonic backstory.

      We wish we could have talked more about these things in the video, but because of the short format I think they had to make some editorial choices.

      Cheers, Erik

  5. The artistry of bad films does not deserve my respect. Why? Because the result of your hard work is not worth my time. Maybe if I was another sound designer, I would respect it. That’s like saying this house that has a bunch of mold in it due to shoddy construction has some of the best copper plumbing I’ve ever seen! Respect the plumber!

  6. Hmmmm…the video didn’t mention what that “one single homage exception” was, but I think I can guess. (Didn’t see TF2 and don’t plan to…)

  7. “How is Michael Bay gonna top himself?” HaHa, good one.

    Anyone here actually like these Transformers movies? What did you like (other than the sound)?

  8. Transformers 2 is not a bad film.

    It’s a huge romp done by a director who specializes in huge romps. If you go in expecting Tilda Swinton and Liam Neeson playing cribbage in “A Room with a View of a Staircase”* then you are going to be disappointed. But if you want loud and smashy and air-conditioned summertime robot death fighting, then the film delivers. Michael Bay is about as pretentious as a hamburger, the guy knows he’s not making art films here.

    I love seeing the mad attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into creating sound. Some really great sound stuff going on these days. Wes Anderson did “wild” sound recording for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” where he went and recorded the actors in locations similar to the puppet locations and I cannot wait to see what Edgar Wright plugs into “Scott Pilgrim”.

  9. How is Michael Bay gonna top himself?

    Split screen and CG. Hopefully that scene will be in the unrated DVD version and it can go in my collection next to Kurosawa Gang Bang and Hitchcock Gone Wild.

  10. farrelly, I’ve heard this argument before. In fact, the sound guys in the movie (and apologists) often use the “big robots = cool” argument. I don’t think it holds up.

    Transformers is filled with smashing and nice CGI, but it’s completely vapid and dumb. I’ve seen action movies with no illusions as to their sillyness (Hellboy II, even the recent G.I. Joe flick), but some sort of internal logic and coherency is important for a movie. Dozens of interchangeable characters fighting each other in barely followable, badly-choreographed fight scenes don’t do it for me.

  11. You can lead a hack to a Hollywood studio, give him the best resources, the best crew and an astounding budget, but you can’t make him think.

    What’s so sad is that promising directors like J.J. Abrams are copying him (Star Trek-the Badass Braindead Picture).

    Success at all costs right?

  12. The sound in this film is purely amazing.. Transformers 2 and Tron have the most complex and sophisticated sound production ive ever heard.

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