A profile of Skip Lievsay, one of the top movie sound designers in the world:
Consider the scene at the end of No Country For Old Men when Javier Bardem’s character has a car accident. After the crunch of impact, there are a few moments of what might be mistaken for stillness. The two cars rest smoking and crumpled in the middle of a suburban intersection. Nothing moves – but the soundscape is deceptively layered. There is the sound of engines hissing and crackling, which have been mixed to seem as near to the ear as the camera was to the cars; there is a mostly unnoticeable rustle of leaves in the trees; periodically, so faintly that almost no one would register it consciously, there is the sound of a car rolling through an intersection a block or two over, off camera; a dog barks somewhere far away. The faint sound of a breeze was taken from ambient sounds on a street like the one depicted in the scene. When Javier Bardem shoves open the car door, you hear the door handle stick for a moment before it releases. There are three distinct sounds of broken glass tinkling to the pavement from the shattered window, a small handful of thunks as he falls sideways to the ground, his laboured breathing, the chug of his boot heel finally connecting with the asphalt – even the pads of his fingers as they scrabble along the top of the window. None of these sounds are there because some microphone picked them up. They’re there because Lievsay chose them and put them there, as he did for every other sound in the film. The moment lasts about 20 seconds. No Country For Old Men is 123 minutes long.
Read Jordan Kisner's full profile of Lievsay here.