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Planes: Fire & Rescue soars in an Atmos mix at Disney Digital Studios
Planes: Fire & Rescue, which opens in theatres on July 18, is the latest installment in the Planes story. In the 2013 feature – Planes, audiences were introduced to Dusty Crophopper, the spunky plane that conquers his fear of heights by competing in an around-the-world aerial race. In Planes: Fire & Rescue, Dusty enters the world of aerial firefighting, with veteran fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger and The Smokejumpers, a team of all-terrain vehicles.
“The heart and scope of the movie is pretty big,” says Brent Hall, DisneyToon Studios director of post production. “Production has been going on for about two years.”
From the beginning, Digital Disney Studios’ creative sound department began conversations about how the newly added Atmos mixing capabilities could enhance a film’s storytelling. Dolby Atmos supports up to 128 discrete audio tracks and up to 64 unique speaker feeds in the front, surround and ceiling. Each loudspeaker can get its own feed, enabling precise panning of select sounds and creating a never-before-heard level of audio immersion. “Atmos is a 3D sonic immersive sound experience,” says David Fluhr, who is the dialog and music re-recording mixer, along with sound effects re-recording mixer Dean Zupancic on Planes: Fire & Rescue. “We can bring sounds off the screen and immerse an audience, not just in a wall of sound, but we can place objects in individual locations around the room. We can also blanket areas of the theatre in sound. We have more options than we’ve ever had before.
“Dolby Atmos is an important upgrade to the theatrical sound experience that we haven’t seen for 30 to 35 years, especially in the surround or immersive part of the auditorium,” adds Brian Saunders, VP, Sound Services at Disney Digital Studios. “Atmos allows us to place sound 360 degrees around the circumference of the auditorium as well as overhead. It’s a new tool in our creative palette.”
Since planes and all-terrain vehicles are the main characters, Saunders and the Sound Services team knew that early collaboration with storytellers would be fruitful. “The sound department went to DisneyToon Studios on the original 2013 Planes feature when Atmos was very new, and suggested to the filmmakers that their show lent itself perfectly to the format. DisneyToon Studios moved forward with Atmos on Fire and Rescue because of the success of it on Planes and John Lasseter’s enthusiasm for the format.” Saunders says. “Atmos offers a lot of possibilities and we’re really excited about it.”
Hall notes how important the audio is in Planes: Fire & Rescue. “This movie has probably the biggest sound design I’ve ever worked on,” he says, noting that sound designer Todd Toon began in January 2014, and recorded numerous authentic aircraft and vehicle sounds specifically for the sound design of this film. “In a movie with human characters, everyone can pretty much sound the same when they move, versus an animated film like ours where the characters are all specific vehicles with specific sounds.” Hall continues, “In Fire and Rescue, each vehicle – and there’s a good dozen of them – has its own unique sound that we made sure was accurate.”
“Having this level of realism in the sound design is important to our filmmakers. It’s definitely important to [executive producer] John Lasseter,” says Hall. “To John, it’s important that when you tell the story that everything is sonically authentic.” Read more>>