How Hearing Loss Looks Like ‘Metal Sound’

Creating an audioscope for a film about a musician is more complicated than it may seem to lose hearing. The filmmaker behind the new drama “Sound of metal” Reuben (Riz Ahmed), his main character, wanted to bring the experience of a punk-metal drummer to the audience, who is forced to look at his life differently when he is deaf.

looking at Highly positive reviewsThe filmmakers pulled off that tricky feat. In the new york times, Jeanette Catsolis said of the “exceptionally complex sound design, which allows us to borrow Reuben’s ears.”

movie (Streaming on amazon) Often places us in Ruben’s sinister perspective as he navigates his new reality. (It’s worth watching with headphones or a good sound system.) “I’ve had conversations with many people who have lost their hearing and the experience of two people is not the same,” said the film’s co-writer and director Darius Murder said. “But one thing that is very true for deaf people is that they do not completely lose their sound. It is not silent. “

Instead, Murder and his sound designer, Nicholas Baker, wanted to capture those low-frequency vibrations and other tones. The approach was adjusted for different moments in Ruben’s experience. In separate zoom interviews, Murder and Baker focused on three scenes as they talked about some techniques and ideas in which they tap into Rubel’s aural experience, including the microphone inside the skull and mouth .

Reuben’s hearing marks a notable change for the first time, as he is setting up a trading table with his bandmate and girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cook). At one point, he experiences a loud ringing, then the voices are buzzing.

Ahmed’s reaction at that moment is not just acting. The filmmakers had custom-fitted earpieces designed for the actor to feed him the high-frequency sound he created.

“He’s reacting to a very physical process,” Marder said. “And this process gives way to a white noise in Rizz’s ears in real time that doesn’t allow him to hear his own voice, which is a very specific experience, not being able to hear your own voice is. This leads to loss of balance and real loss of control. “

This moment signals to the viewer that the film will take a very first-person viewpoint, which we will often hear through Ruben’s ears. The sequence continues with the band performing, as Ruben is seated at the drum kit, loud beats slowly fading into the low, distant leaves.

In the next sequence, Ruben wakes up in the morning and realizes that his hearing has decreased. Here the sound is low and hoarse, somewhat cautious and very internal.

This inner feeling is a feature for Baker, who has created immersive, personal sound experiences on many projects. From the astronaut drama “Gravity” For which he put a spacesuit into the deep sea to understand the sound inside Disaster film “Command,” For which he spent two weeks recording underwater in a submarine.

“If I can put people in a real-world environment, I can create something specific,” he explained. “It’s about how you relate the sound to your body memory.”

Baker said that a year before filming “The Sound of Metal”, he invited Marder to visit an anchoroque chamber in Paris. This room is designed to get rid of sound and rebirth.

“After 10 minutes, you can hear your blood pressure,” Baker said. “Reach you Physical limits of your hearing system. “

Murder called this “a real use of muffledness” while delving deeper into this body-sound connection and incorporating Ruben’s frightening experience. Baker achieves the feeling of safely covering the skull and the helmet’s innards. They also used stethoscope-style microphones, as well as go inside an artist’s mouth to create a mix of audio that showed how Reuben experienced the sound from inside.

Later in the film, Reuben received cochlear implants. In this scene, he meets an audiologist, who helps tune the instruments. He adjusts them in different ways, with each result being more pronounced, but still with a hiccup distortion, like a radio dial that does not reach the correct frequency. The audiologist explains to Reuben that it does not sound the way he remembers it; Rather, the implant is tricking his brain into thinking that he is listening.

Narratively, the film draws a link between the sounds made by Reuben as a drummer, which some listeners may find unpleasant, and the sound coming from implants, which Reuben now finds unpleasant.

“It required riding the line to be inconvenient, but not unbearable,” Marder said of the audio in that scene. To do this, the sounds were heavily processed; Each layer of sound also had to be handled individually, with filters on each element. Those layers were then scattered around the channels in the mixture Experience the loss of balance, ”said Marder. “Because a fascinating aspect of that listening experience is not that the sound sounds different, but also that our brain doesn’t understand directionality. So suddenly, that sound surrounds, you’re missing it.”

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