Phillip Bladh won his first Academy Award for Best Sound as the production mixer on Darius Marder’s film “Sound of Metal“.
Bladh did this by turning the very technical job of production mixing into a creative one. “Sound of Metal” takes the viewer along professional drummer Ruben’s devastating journey as he begins to go deaf. Throughout the film, the audience hears exactly what Ruben is hearing (or not hearing) while he tries to find a new direction for his life.
Bladh’s job as production mixer was to capture the muffled ambient noises mixed with normal sound levels that Ruben was experiencing dealing with hearing loss. Actor Riz Ahmed wore two microphones on set to accomplish the different sounds. He had one lavalier mic to record high-quality sound and then another mic strapped to his body to record under-the-clothes audio for low-quality sound.
Supervising sound editor Nicolas Becker led a team of sound engineers to create the piercing silence and high-frequency noises experienced once Ruben transitions to a cochlear implant. “’Sound of Metal’ is very much first-person perspective audio recording,” said Phillip Bladh in an interview with his alma mater, The Los Angeles Film School. “Recording audio live on set to get the necessary contact sound was how we made this film’s sound production work so well.”
The sound production worked well indeed. The film received two Oscar wins, a BAFTA for Best Sound, and was nominated for countless other film critic awards.