Social Media

#‘Oppenheimer’ Sound Editor Richard King on Going “Down the Rabbit Hole With Quantum Physics” In His Research

For sound editor Richard King, it wasn’t the explosion scene in Universal’s Oppenheimer — nominated for 13 Oscars, including best sound — that was most challenging to work on. Instead, it was the smaller quantum particle and wave sequence scenes inside J. Robert Oppenheimer’s head that were most demanding.

“They couldn’t sound small, even though [director] Chris [Nolan] was depicting very small objects and very small events,” King tells THR. “These small objects and these small events contained enormous latent power that we wanted to express. There’s the particle stuff and then there are the shimmering light-wave images, which I think are the idea that light is both a particle and a wave, the paradox that Oppenheimer talks about. It sounds appropriately impressive, because these little tiny events represent what’s going to happen when they detonate the bomb. I really went down the rabbit hole with quantum physics.” 

King did a lot of research to prepare for his work on the film, which stars Cillian Murphy as the physicist dubbed “the father of the atomic bomb.” While Nolan’s film is not a documentary, he says, it stays “factually accurate.” King read the book American Prometheus, by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, on which Nolan based his screenplay, and also read every book he could find on Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project for firsthand accounts from people who witnessed the Trinity Test, which he used as fodder for his work on the explosion scene. 

“They didn’t just say it was a ‘big loud noise,’ ” explains King. “It was an unusual experience. The actual physical explosion was different than a chemical explosion would be, so [their descriptions] were great food for my work, to give me ideas to really make it unique and not just think, ‘Oh, it’s a big bomb going off, so I’ll just use a big bomb sound.’ Rather, I found some unique quality that I might not have come up with on my own.”

A replica of the atomic bomb detonated in the 1945 Trinity Test; Quantum particles as seen in Oppenheimer’s imagination.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

All the movement and breathing sounds in the Trinity Test scenes were captured during production, says King. The only element added in post was the slight sound of wind for the three locations in the scene: the bunker and two spectator viewpoints.

“The buildup is very nervous, exciting, nerve-racking,” says King. “All the equipment is running, the timers are running, everyone’s preparing, flares are going up indicating how soon the detonation is going to happen. And then Ludwig [Göransson’s] brilliant score happens, and then everything goes silent when the actual light goes off. It takes 30 or 40 seconds for the sound to reach the bunker from the tower, but it’s surprising in that it’s counterintuitive that you expect the big loud noise to happen when the big white light happens. It puts all the spectators in shock and in awe of this spectacle, and it gives a beat for the audience to appreciate that, too.”

The film itself clocks in at three hours, but King says the extended runtime didn’t prove to be a challenge for the sound editor. “It’s a long movie, but it never felt long to me because there are no particularly long scenes,” he says. “I think the pace, and also Ludwig’s score, propels the film in a really exciting way.” 

This story first appeared in a February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

If you liked the article, do not forget to share it with your friends. Follow us on Google News too, click on the star and choose us from your favorites.

If you want to read more Like this articles, you can visit our Social Media category.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Please allow ads on our site

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker!