Sound engineers working on the 2021 film adaptation of the novel Dune created sandworm sounds in an unconventional way: by swallowing the mic.
Mark Mangini and Theo Green, audio engineers for the film, sat down with Wired Magazine to talk about creating the film’s soundscape. In one particular scene a sandworm is seen swallowing an entire structure. To produce the sound, Mangini put a microphone in his mouth and sucked in wind.
The microphone idea stemmed from the production’s overall philosophy, which they call “fake documentary realism.” In short, they wanted the film to look and sound like they actually sent a documentary crew to Arrakis (the fictional planet on which it takes place).
To create this feeling, Green and Mangini used a sparse, “less is more” approach. For example, the pair took hydrophones (underwater microphones) out to Death Valley and recorded shifting sand. This subtle, “fluttery” sound was used in the film when sandworms were approaching from a distance. They also used the sound of creaking tree bark and twisting vines to represent a moving sandworm.
More complex sounds, such as when a worm opened its mouth, were made by layering human and animal sounds together.
The film, scored by Hans Zimmer, is Warner Bros’ biggest box office performer of the year boasting a $40 million opening weekend. Thanks to its success, a second film has been announced.
Zimmer took to Twitter to celebrate. “The world of Dune continues. Dune: Part Two is moving forward!” he wrote.