10 behind-the-scenes facts about music and sound design

The visual landscape of Gotham City, created by Matt Reeves in the recent the Batman, is filled with deep shadows, harsh red lighting, and gothic architecture like no other Dark Knight depiction before. This gritty, artistic visual take has to be equal to the sounds that fill this specific Gotham.

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Composer Michael Giacchino, supervising sound editors Will Files and Douglas Murray, and re-recording mixer Andy Nelson worked tirelessly to sculpt every sound throughout the nearly 3 hour film. This team worked together on previous Reeves films after 2007 Cloverfield and has a deep love for the cogs and bolts of how the movie soundscape got to where it is today.

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Catwoman Black Theme


Catwoman in costume and mask in The Batman

Reeve’s decision to embrace the detective nature of this Batman began to spark conversations with references to ’70s Neo-Noir movies in The Batman. For example, Reeves and Giacchino discussed finding a sound similar to Jerry Goldsmith’s. Chinese district score for the Catwoman theme. Adapting to his slinky nature, they wanted to evoke those smoky string sounds and singsong tones that often accompany black.

In one Variety interview, Reeves recounts how Giacchino had written a beautiful theme but it was leaning a little “too purple, with a sax and all. So he pulled that out”, and they arrived at the sliding-string-centric theme which still has its black roots.


Michael Giacchino did not know the song Nirvana


In film, the process of scoring and soundtrack are two separate entities. Although they often seem to overlap, in this case the addition of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” did not appear in the conversation between Reeves and composer Michael Giacchino.

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In one Dolby interview with the sound team, Giacchino is quick to say “Honestly…I didn’t know that” regarding the Nirvana song. Reeves is quick to laugh that it was never mentioned in their countless conversations about music and character leading up to filming. What’s so fascinating about it, however, is the fact that Giacchino’s “The Batman” theme is musically very similar to the backing track to “Something In The Way,” making it a natural inclusion. and useful. Again – great minds think alike.


“Multi Mysterious”


Batman standing in the rain in The Batman 2022 official banner

Before filming or even the casting of Robert Pattinson began, Michael Giacchino and Matt Reeves often discussed their love for the Caped Crusader and the vision for this iteration. After much discussion, Giacchino asked Reeves if he could write the musical sequel before seeing a rough cut of the film, which Reeves enthusiastically accepted.

A period of time passed, Giacchino secretly recorded his theme with an orchestra and sent an mp4 called “Multo Mysterioso” the night before Robert Pattinson’s screen test without context. Reeves said he immediately listened to it in his car outside the studio and cried. This first test ended up being used throughout the pre-production process, on set, and even incorporated into the film.


Too simple a theme for Batman?


The Batman Bruce Wayne

Trying to find the right theme for the film, composer Michael Giacchino stopped at his piano and played a repeated four-note musical phrase. He immediately thought, “Is this too simple? Am I going to get yelled at for this? as he says in the Dolby maintenance. But no matter how many other ideas he tried, adding more complexity or movement, he kept coming back to the simple phrase.

Giacchino’s rationale posed the question “what would I hear in my head if I were Batman?” He arrived at the obsession and grief that consumes Bruce, the simple but consistent phrase whispered over and over until it was too loud to stop. Giacchino’s specific “acting version of the method of composition”, as Reeves calls it, often results in some of Giacchino’s best film scores.


The Riddler himself, Michael Giacchino


Although Paul Dano delivers the Riddler’s best quotes with chilling perfection, it seems there was a different Riddler behind the scenes. Michael Giacchino is known for having fun titling his film scores. With The BatmanGiacchino’s additions were littered with riddles and puns like “Collar ID”, “Escaped Crusader” and “An Im-purr-fect Murder” to name a few.

Having worked with him for many years, Matt Reeves knew this was coming. In the Variety interview, he said they “still drive me crazy to this day” in reference to his insincere headlines. The music is all truth, but Michael Giacchino will take this small chance to include a joke.

The layered sound of the Batmobile


The Batman Batmobile so low tech

For the unique look of Robert Pattinson’s muscle-car batmobile, sound designers had to sculpt what this specific batmobile might sound like. The way Reeves directs the scene, the audience hears the menacing roar before he is seen. This tactic required the sound design to do the heavy lifting to make the scene compelling.

In the Doubly interview, supervising sound editor Will Files says the sound is a combination of “a layered, stretched bottle rocket that goes for the whine […]a 1972 Bronco and a 1980 Bronco for the engine and then a rocket explosion.” The layered sound adds a level of uncertainty to what it might be and means it’s something from the Batman’s own creation before immersing audiences in one of the best action sequences in The Batman.


Make the Batmobile a Beast


The-Batman-batmobile-chase-upside-down-shot-wide

The intention behind the batmobile is to intimidate. For this to work, the sound had to not only match the look of the hand-built car, but it had to sound like a beast. The trick used by sound editors here was the same trick used by sound editors jurassic parkthe T-Rex in 1993.

Although created entirely in post-production, the sound had to be real. To achieve this, the sound editors treated the sound as if a real microphone was being used and the sound was so intrusive that it clipped the audio, distorting it. This is the same tactic used for the T-Rex to make it look like it was actually roaring at the viewer.

The orchestra was recorded separately


Production was underway well after the pandemic, which required the creative team to make adjustments at every stage. One, in particular, was the recording of the score at Abbey Road Studios in London. Musicians were not allowed to be in the same room, which proved to be a challenge. The solution was to split the orchestra “between Studio 1 and Studio 2 at Abbey Road, recording simultaneously with two conductors under COVID protocols” which allowed the musicians to hear each other as stated in the Variety maintenance.

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While not ideal, it did, however, present an interesting opportunity for re-recording mixer Andy Nelson while mixing the film. He says “[Michael] had the advantage of [the musicians] play together, but I had the advantage of having the sounds separately” to place around the speaker mix. This allowed the music to flow through the theater in a way that you don’t find necessarily in the tradition, the full orchestra, the recording.

A late night “accident”


The Batman Robert Pattinson

Sound mixing is a long and tiring process that results in many late nights. For supervising sound editor Will Files, one of those long nights resulted in a mixing decision that composer Michael Giacchino calls “madness. It drove me crazy in a good way.”

The VFX shot where Batman reaches a cage for the Riddler’s note as a bat rips around his hand was delivered late after a full day of mixing and Files decided to test out the correct sound placement. “What if I took all these bat sounds […] and literally had them flying around the room,” he recalled in the Dolby maintenance. The late-night experience worked because the camera was placed inside the cage, projecting the sound of the bat into the audience, swirling in terrifying chaos.


Riddler Microphone Placement


The Riddler of Paul Dano in Batman

Another recording decision was to place the Riddler’s microphone inside his mask. This close placement allowed Paul Dano’s performance to sound like the sound was too close, adding to the creepiness.

Supervising sound editor Douglas Murray explains in the Dolby interview that “you get all that spitting and breathing sound that overloads the microphone” when you put it inside the mask. It just adds to Dano’s already amazing performance, just sonically.

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