740 Sound Design: Breaking the barriers to believability one boing at a time.

By Published on .

You'll have to excuse Dane Davis for speaking with his mouth full of Jell-O. That was just part of the job when it came to sculpting the gloppy voice for Morph, a chameleonesque blob who appears in the upcoming Disney animated film Treasure Planet. The feature is just one of the hundred-plus films the seasoned sound designer has worked on, including Drugstore Cowboy, Swordfish, and The Matrix, which landed him an Oscar. Despite his packed film schedule, last year he found time to team up with Scott Ganary, a 25-year veteran of sound mixing and production, to launch West Hollywood's 740 Sound Design, where the two hope to bring a motion picture mindset to commercials sound design.

"We'd seen a lot of missed opportunities," explains Davis of launching 740, named after the speed of sound. "This is a way to bring to commercials the kind of creative ambition that we apply to the sound world of movies." In addition to Davis and Ganary, 740 hosts the talents of Mike Johnson, formerly of MachineHead, as well as sound artists from Danetracks, Davis' shop for feature film. The commercial offshoot also benefits from the mothership's library of more than 125,000 cataloged sounds, collected over 15 years.

When a sound doesn't turn up in the shop's current stash, the 740 team take to the streets, a Foley stage, or as in the case of the AICP-honored Pirelli tire commercial - to the desert. The spot is devoid of music, featuring only the rumbles and splashes from an army of disembodied tires rolling across various terrains. "We went out to the desert and constructed sound sets with gravel, water and sand," says Davis. "We also went into the studio and built different kinds of apparatuses where we could spin them fast and scrape them against chunks of asphalt. We put things like shot puts inside the tires and spun them really fast, which got some outrageous rumbling tire sounds."

Davis and company also created the comically-tinged "boings" for a pair of Nike Shox spots that sonically illustrate the bounciness of the shoes, which have exposed rubber springs in the heels. The spectrum of springy noises required everything from mouth harps to metal rulers duct-taped to the shoes. "It was obviously very goofy, but I really pushed to make it a plausible, physical sound," he recalls. "The challenge was to articulate every one of the boings on every footstep, so it would obey the laws of physics." Most recently, 740 worked on spots for Hallmark and Long John Silver, out of Fallon/Minneapolis. The company also designed the sounds on an athlete-studded Winter Olympics Home Depot spot, from The Richards Group.

On the features end, Davis is continuing work on the Disney film and prepping for the sequel to The Matrix. But the key to sound design remains the same, no matter the format. "I always speak to my people about the sculptural qualities of sound," Davis says. "If sounds don't hit the audience in a physical way, then they're not truly believable. It really has to feel like it's coming from within that object."

Most Popular
In this article: