“Know then that it is the year 10,191…”
Those words begin the epic sci-fi movie “Dune,” released in 1984. What follows is a valiant attempt to try and recreate the scale, scope and texture of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name. No mean feat, considering the galactic scale of the novel which includes no less than four completely different planets, their environments and inhabitants. Whether the movie was a success or not is for the critics to debate. For me, watching it again late last night, I couldn’t help but hear a little bit of Eventide magic in there somewhere. And I don’t just mean the haunting soundtrack provided by Toto and Brian Eno. No, I mean the sounds of the desert winds, the ping of the maula pistols, the hum of the body shields and the roar of the behemoth worms.
After a bit of research today it turns out that at least our Harmonizer®, Instant Flanger™ and delay effect units did indeed play a part in the movie. Here’s a lengthy, but pretty interesting, recounting of how the sound effects were created for the film.
American Cinematographer, December 1984
The article details the lengths to which Splet went to create the unique sound effects and soundscapes of the film.
A good example of how Splet builds an effect is the compilation of sounds that went into the “body shields,” an electrostatic aura that surrounds and protects warriors training in manual combat. On Caladan, Paul Atreides and Gurney Halleck, the former’s martial arts mentor, throw on the shields while fighting.
“The sound of the shields is made up of several different elements that I put together on the eight track to make a single effect,” Splet says. “On track one, there was a shrill hum. It’s a sound I’m not sure of what the original base was, but I put it through the harmonizer, which changes the pitch without changing the time base. I raised the pitch slightly. On track two is a heavy power leakage, an arcing and sparking sound. Then on another track is what I call a ‘shield proximity sound,’ a low roaring that came from an Ultra-sound machine, a cleaning mechanism, and I put that through the harmonizer. Then there’s a rapid buzzing, an industrial sound that I put through the flanger, which alters its harmonic structure.”
The flanger is basically a device that feeds back on itself, but slightly out of phase with the original sound. Manufactured by Eventide, like the harmonizer, Splet likes to adjust the phase differences to get cancellations and build-ups of certain frequencies. The common effect it produces is somewhat like a passing jet plane, a doppler. When the “rapid buzzing” was driven through the flanger, the sound rather resembled angry electronic bees.
It still gives me a thrill to find another classic song or movie in which our products were used. It’s almost as cool as finding out when our products are being used for new works. It’s the kind of feeling that makes you want to get back to work…