Photography lesson

Lesson of the Day: “The Secret Sounds of “Dune”: Rice Krispies and Marianne Faithfull”

Featured Article: “The secret sounds of “Dune”: Rice Krispies and Marianne Faithfull” by Kyle Buchanan, Photographs by Peter Fisher

Have you ever noticed the many sounds in movies that help enhance the mood, atmosphere, and tone? Do any films stand out for their use of audio?

In this lesson, you’ll learn how far director Denis Villeneuve and his Oscar-winning sound team went to achieve a powerful and memorable sound experience for the hit sci-fi movie “Dune.” In a Go Further activity, we invite you to act as a sound designer to create your own sounds for common activities like walking and running, as well as more fantastical activities like an alien spaceship flight and landing.

Part 1: Watch a scene from Dune.

Have you seen the new version of “Dune”? What did you think? Did you notice the sound design?

First, watch a scene from the movie above, “Sardaukar Eaten By Sandworm” – but MUTE the sound. Then write down your reactions:

  • What was the experience like without the sound? How engaged were you as a viewer?

  • Was it easy or difficult to follow the story told by the scene? Could you tell what was going on?

  • What emotions did you feel while watching? Was the scene full of suspense?

Then watch the scene again, this time with SOUND ON:

  • How was the second viewing experience different? What did you notice? Wonder?

  • What specific sounds did you hear? How have they enriched your experience?

  • Does watching the scene a second time with audio make you appreciate the role of sound in movies more?

Finally, room for guesswork: how do you think the filmmakers recorded the many sounds in this scene?

Part 2: Watch a video on the art of sound design.

Now, find out how filmmakers record the sounds used to help set the mood and feel of a scene by watching the seven-minute “The Magic of Making Sound” video, above, by Great Big Story. Then, share your responses to the following prompts in writing or by talking with a partner:

  • What two things have you learned about sound design?

  • What was the coolest or most surprising “foley” sound in the video?

  • What question do you have about sound design or the work of a sound designer?

Read featured articlethen answer the following questions:

1. What role did the Rice Krispies play in “Dune”? What does their use teach us about the profession of sound designer on a film?

2. Take a good look at the photos: What story do they tell about sound designers? Which image stands out and why? Do you think being a sound designer is a fun job?

3. What was Villeneuve’s vision for his film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel, according to the article? How does the sound design match this vision?

4. The article states that “Dune” offers 3200 “custom” sounds, but only four were created with electronic equipment. Why was it important for sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green to record real, natural sound and noise? Of the sound-gathering techniques described in the article, which were the most fascinating or memorable? Would you like to become a sound designer?

5. Review your guess from the warm-up activity about how the sounds in the movie were created. Have you imagined the real effort required to achieve the powerful soundscape? What is your reaction to the story of how the sound team created the sandworm’s movements and mouth?

6. What did you learn about filmmaking from the article? What surprised you the most? What was most fascinating? Did it make you appreciate the role and power of sound more? Do you think you will pay more attention to sound and sound design in movies in the future?

Now it’s your turn. Take on the role of sound designer and create and record Foley sounds for at least five of the following: (Feel free to add your own.)

  • Standby

  • Functioning

  • Water

  • Wind

  • thunder and lightning

  • Two people are fighting (punching, kicking or wrestling)

  • A futuristic weapon being used or fired

  • A flying or landing spacecraft

  • The first steps on a strange new planet

  • A sandworm (or other sci-fi creature)

Be creative. And remember, you can’t use real sound for this activity. Use what you’ve learned about creativity from the “Dune” sound team as inspiration. Also keep in mind Villeneuve’s words of why he brought in his sound team early in the filmmaking process: “I wanted Theo and Mark to have the time to investigate, explore and make mistakes. .”

Try to be as specific as they were for every sound you create. For example, for the sound of someone walking, think about who is walking, where and why? Is it a small child, who weighs very little and has a very particular gait? A teen? An adult? What type of surface are they going through: A hardwood floor? A cement playground, snowy ground or a sandy beach? Experiment with each sound and the placement of your microphone. Consider the mood or feeling you hope to evoke with the sound.

For tips on how to create your own Foley sounds: How to Create Your Own Foley Sound Effects with Peter Burgis

Excited about the sound? Fancy another challenge? Submit a podcast to our Fifth Annual Student Podcast Contest and creatively designing sounds to engage and excite the listening audience. The competition runs from April 6 to May 18.

Additional teaching and learning opportunities:


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