‘First Man’ Sound Editors Ai-Ling Lee and Milly Iatrou: Interview – Hollywood Life

‘First Man’ Sound Editors Reveal How They Created Diverse & Authentic Sounds For Each Spacecraft

From working with Damien Chazelle on his musical film 'La La Land,' to creating the dramatic sounds of a rocket ship, the 'First Man' sound editors reveal how they mastered the sounds of space.

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Image Credit: Courtesy of Universal

Imagine going from the soft, soothing sounds of John Legend’s classical piano and jazzy voice, to the loud, cranking, vibrating noises of a rocket ship in distress. Ai-Ling Lee and Milly Iatrou did just that, as they went from working on Damien Chazelle‘s award-winning masterpiece La La Land, to his latest, Neil Armstrong biopic First ManIn this film, it was  times a hundred of what we had to do with La La Land, in terms of the details, in terms of meeting with him and talking with him, there was just so many details to go over,” Milly revealed in an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife.

“In La La Land, Damien spent a lot of time adjusting and tweaking the sound mix for the musical sequences. For First Man, during our final sound mix someone said that some of the scenes are like Damien’s version of a musical number, even though they are mainly sound driven,” Ai-Ling added. “He wanted the shape of the scene to hit the right cuts at precise moments, requiring complex layers of sound, or lack of, to amp up the danger or the emotional moment.” When it came to authentically recreating the sounds of each spacecraft, Ai-Ling and Milly had to get creative. “Especially for the Apollo 11 launch, we wanted to capture the sound of it as accurately as we could because the rocket is the world’s most powerful rocket, but it’s hard to find clean, great, high-quality recordings of it from when it took off,” Ai-Ling explained. 

To get the sound just right, Ai-Ling and Milly discovered that the next largest rocket in the world, Falcon Heavy, was set to launch in February 2018, and they were able to live-record the sound and use it in First Man. “We placed mini microphones on the launch pad, maybe about 200 to 400 yards away and at various other distances so that we could capture the fury and insanity of the ignition and all the different qualities of the launch,” Ai-Ling explained. It’s important to be as authentic as possible, as the sound “just wants to keep building up in energy and intensity and, also to show the danger of the mission and that these spacecrafts are so fragile that any little mistakes, like some of these shaking metal pieces could just come off and that’s be the end of their lives and the mission.”

Be sure to tune in to Oscar nominations tomorrow and fingers crossed that First Man, and Ai-Ling and Milly, are recognized for their amazing work!