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Oscars 2015: How the sound of gravity was created in 'Interstellar'

Matthew McConaughey starred in the sci-fi epic,
Matthew McConaughey starred in the sci-fi epic, "Interstellar."
Melinda Sue Gordon

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As Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony nears, we're taking a closer look at one of the categories that often goes under-appreciated: sound editing. 

Richard King was the supervising sound editor and sound designer for Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar," and he says the sound that the team worked the hardest on was the sound to represent gravity.

"When [the characters are] in the vicinity of a black hole, there's an enormous, unbelievable amount of force drawing them in, and we needed some kind of sound to make the audience feel like they were in that situation," King said.

To get to that point, King had to use a little bit of imagination. The team began, he says, by, "thinking about those carnival rides that spin around, that pin you against the wall with centripetal force while the floor drops away from you. That feeling of heaviness, of having to really exert yourself to move, was something that I could see the actors doing in the film."

And bringing the audience into that kind of environment required something else, he said:

Something to build that sensation up and create some pressure that the audience could really appreciate. Chris [Nolan] really wanted to change the environment inside the movie theater and make you feel like you were in those situations. And one of the ways that we accomplished that was to fill the theater with this very carefully orchestrated, low-end information that seems to hang in the air. You can feel it in your body, and it's meant to be a little frightening, but it doesn't last long.

King didn't want to create a synthesized noise in a studio; he wanted to find a natural sound because, he says, "the audience can tell the difference between a fake sound and a real sound." Which led King to a surprisingly earthy sound: groaning sand. He explains: "If you slide a sheet of sand down the slope of a steep sand dune, it makes this tremendous groaning sound."

Looking back on "Interstellar," King remarks: "The feeling that we wanted to impart upon the audience was one of wonder and awe, that this must be an incredible experience to go through. So in our small part, we tried to make that a real, tangible, palpable, believable experience through sound."

Richard King is nominated for an Oscar for best sound editing for "Interstellar." 

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