I recently was invited by Dolby to attend a screening and discussion with Erik Aadahl Sound Designer on films like I, Robot, Transformers, Fantastic Four. He has also been the Supervising Sound Editor for films like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Monsters vs. Aliens and most recently Megamind.
Prior to the discussion I erroneously assumed that just about every possible sound had been already captured and all sound designers did was pull up track 58, mix in a little of track 72 and wallah, they now had the angry robot from scene 22. Imagine my surprise when the first thing I saw walking into the theater at Dolby's Burbank facility was a gentleman standing next to a homemade Van de Graaf generator.
The gentleman was Erik Aadahl and he proceeded to explain how is job is to try to tell the story with sound. The process is a lot more artistic and creative than I assumed. Erik's method is to start by creating a unique sound pallet for each film, not only making all the sounds but making them signature to the movie. For Megamind Erik had a new tool: Dolby Surround 7.1
Dolby Surround 7.1 adds two discrete channels to the typical 5.1 theatrical experience. Currently there are 1300 theaters worldwide that support it with more coming on every week. Megamind was one of the first films released theatrically in 7.1 and is the first Blu-ray encoded with a theatrical 7.1 mix. While there have been other Blu-rays with 7.1 mixes, they are based on 5.1 theatrical mixes. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix on the Megamind Blu-ray is the same Dolby Surround 7.1 theatrical mix that Erik Aadahl created for the film's theatrical release, so you have the full dynamic range of the theatrical release at home.
Neil Middlemiss gave the sound 5 stars in his recent review of the Blu-ray saying "This rumbling, vigorous, and spectacularly crisp audio is brilliantly energetic, and it is clear that a great deal of care and skill was poured into the mixing for this release." I couldn't agree more.
VIDEO: Erik explains his creative process when working on a film (3:27)
VIDEO: Erik tries not to burn down the theater while demonstrating sound creation (3:00)
NOTE: The scene referenced in the clip can be found in chapter 3 from 00:12:12 to 00:14:21