In the hit film Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón faced an unusual question: How do you use sound to help tell a story that takes place in space, where there is no sound?
For Cuarón, the answer was not just to use music, but to use music in the particular way that Dolby® Atmos™ allows.
“We were very literal about sound in space. In space, sound is not transmitted because you’re in the vacuum,” Cuarón said. He used “music as a contrast of silence.”
Gravity depicts the disorientation and fear that can come from being in an environment with zero gravity. After an accident separates two astronauts (played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) from their space station, we see Bullock’s character tumbling over and over in space, unable to check her momentum and having difficulty determining where she is and where she’s going.
“You can witness the characters spinning and rolling,” Cuarón said. “In Dolby Atmos, you can feel the music rolling around you. … The use of the music is more psychologic[al] than descriptive.”
“The storytelling element of sound is very important also because it’s part of the immersive experience,” Cuarón said. “I was always asking for possibilities in the mixing room that were not achievable, and now finally with this system—that is, Dolby Atmos—you know, [it’s] this dream come true…. You really can explore the possibilities of depth and separation as never before.”