By Amanda Coscarelli, Oct. 26, 2021

On Oct. 14, Academy Award-nominated sound designer Theo Green and Academy Award-winning sound designer Mark Mangini, from the upcoming motion picture “Dune,” joined the California State University Entertainment Alliance in an online panel to discuss the role sound plays in films.

The Zoom panel, hosted by the CSUEA and moderated by San Francisco State University Professor of Media Arts Jeff Jacoby, was available to all CSU students and faculty. Participants joined Green and Mangini in an open conversation about sound design, science fiction movies and the upcoming release of “Dune” with Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet.

“In its simplest form, sound design is telling stories with sound,” began Mangini. He explained that sound design compiles everything that an audience hears or doesn’t hear that is not the music, or score. “We as sound designers are charged with creating the universe,” Mangini continued.

According to Mangini, the duo created 3,200 individual sounds for the film. Of those, only one sound was developed synthetically for “Dune.” They explained the job of a sound designer is to create and compose sounds virtually or to gather existing sounds organically.

Both Green and Mangini have worked on numerous movies and created universes prior to collaborating on “Dune,” but this film presented new challenges for them.

“Dune” has been compared by to the “Star Wars” franchise, but according to Green, its approach to sound design could not be more different. Green explained that in “Star Wars,” the universe and all of its sounds were invented to be unfamiliar to an earthbound audience. According to Green, in “Dune,” director Denis Villeneuve wanted the sound designers to take a more “grounded, gritty, real, dirty sci-fi” approach. “(Villeneuve) tries very hard to show us a reality that we can relate to because it’s grounded in a lot of the things that we know,” Green said.

“Dune” takes place in the same universe that audiences live in, roughly 20,000 years in the future. Because it’s still in the same universe, the sound designers focused on making sounds that were somewhat familiar but just different enough to be fitting for sci-fi.

Jacoby led the panel discussion, asking questions he developed based on his experience as a sound and radio artist. As a professor, he bridged the gap between professional sound designers and students. “What would you say to people about listening?” he asked.

Jacoby continued a stimulating back and forth discussion with the sound designers. He played an essential role in the panel by also drawing from his experience as a professor and offering advice to students with guidance from the panelists.

In particular, Mangini explained the importance of listening to aspects of everyday life, giving advice to students who are interested in becoming better listeners of sound. “I can listen to a recording of traffic and get the same joy out of it as I do Beethoven’s ‘Ninth,’” he said.

Students chimed in by filling the Zoom chat with recommendations of recordings to listen to. Though the panelists offered professional advice, participants were able to learn by communicating with students from different universities who share similar interests.

A student representative from the CSUEA, Francesco Macayan, was present to read participants’ questions to the panelists. He encouraged participants to fill out a Google form to be entered into a raffle to win two tickets to the premiere of “Dune.”

The entertainment alliance comprises of CSU students who are interested in pursuing a degree in the entertainment industry. The CSUEA is available to all CSU students and makes many opportunities, such as the “Dune” panel, possible free of charge.

Students who are interested in learning more about Green and Mangini’s work can watch “Dune” in theaters. Mangini reminded participants in his closing statement, “Don’t just watch ‘Dune.’ Listen to ‘Dune.’”

Graphic courtesy of Justin Oo.

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