Top 12 Answers from Richard King's Discord AMA

6 min read

You asked, he answered: Read some of the best responses from Richard King's Ask Me Anything on the PSE Discord.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our AMA discussion on the PSE Discord with Academy Award-winning® sound editor Richard King (Dune: Part Two, Oppenheimer). There were lots of great questions, and King had tons of insightful and inspiring answers. Check out some of our favorite answers below, and join our Discord to see the full conversation.


1. In your films like Dune 2 or Oppenheimer, the most expressive moments are often very quiet. Please, tell us about silence as a means of expression and how you use it.

Silence can give the audience a moment to pause and consider – it provides an opp for dynamics in the mix because you can precede a very loud sound with a quiet moment which makes the loud sound ever more impactful. There’s almost never absolute silence in a film, but it’s the scale of the sounds that can draw you in.

In Dune: Part Two when Feyd-Rautha is being presented with the blades for his gladiatorial contest he sensually rubs his finger across the metal, it’s a chilling sound because it helps convey the lethalness of the blade. It makes the interaction much more shocking when he subsequently slashes the throat of one of his attendants.



2. What is your experience and relationship with listening and sound in everyday life?

Great question. I love hearing the sounds of the world, I find it very inspiring just to keep my ears open all the time. How else can you realistically and creatively create the sound of the world in a film. Listening to the sounds around you is the starting point for it all.


3. I am a huge fan of your work and you have a massive inspiration in mine. My question is, What specific sound design techniques would you employ to immerse the audience in the emotional and historical context of these events?

Thank you! I work from the gut and let my feelings be the guide. That’s the reason I try not to get too bogged down in complicated technical approaches to solving problems. I try to find the right sounds and use them based upon my emotional reactions to the film. I think it’s important to stay grounded in your immediate reactions.


4. Just saw Dune: Part Two and dying to know how the intense sandworm thumping sound came about.

We did a lot of recording in the desert. We buried mics and dragged large objects over them. Thumped large heavy objects into the sand near the mics. We wanted to make that scene as scary and chaotic as we possibly could.



5. Considering how fast the turnaround is with audio on pretty much any project, how often do you get to try out new recording techniques (vs. perhaps a reliable method you've used in the past)?

The fun of the job is trying new techniques for recording and for manipulating those recordings. It’s boring to repeat yourself. Each film is a new world to explore and, while time is limited (time is always limited), enough time needs to be designed into the schedule to provide the raw material that you’re going to need. Even if it means going out on your own time to record sounds.


6. In the Harkonnen arena scene in Dune 2, were the explosions hitting the arena water droplets or was my mind making that up?

Yeah, the Harkonnen fireworks had a liquid component to them to match the liquidy appearance of the fireworks.


7. What kind of microphone did you use that can be buried in the sand?

Any mic as long as you protect it with a prophylactic or a good windjammer.


8. As technology advances, how has your approach to sound design evolved over the years? Are there any new techniques or tools you employed in your recent projects that you found particularly exciting?

Again, I try not to get too bogged down in technology and try to stay in touch with my immediate gut reactions. We’re at a point now where the tools are available to do practically anything that you can imagine with sound, which is fantastic and exciting, but it’s very easy to lose sight of the goal, which is to convey a feeling to the audience through your work.


9. What is your take on generative artificial intelligence in SFX editing? There are many tools that make our lives easier, but do you believe that someday it will be able to replace and do away with human work?

I think it’s irrelevant frankly. I think it’s gonna affect us but AI is never going to have a gut reaction to anything. It’s mechanics, but it can and certainly will be used to speed some part of our job up.


10. How important can knowledge of psychoacoustics be in the sound design of a film?

It’s all about psychoacoustics. Therein lies my emphasis on working from the gut, from the emotions. In the last few years there’s been a lot of academic research into how sound affects people and there are a lot of interesting papers written on the subject. But I think what those papers confirm is the experience that you have in hearing sounds is somewhat universal.


11. On your IMDb page, some of your earliest credits are supervising sound editor, which you still do to this day. What did you do before then that made you be able to get to that point?

I had cut sound on (very) low budget films I’d picture edited, but I pretty much talked my way into a supervising job and never looked back.



12. Could you please explain your work style, including how you approach tasks from start to finish, ensuring efficiency and quality?

For the creative part, the fun of it is figuring it out for yourself, finding your own style. The nuts and bolts knowledge comes from experience.



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