Sound Effects for "RoboCop" page 1
Hollywood Lost and Found

Sound Effects Design for "RoboCop"

For their extraordinary sound effects editing for the film "RoboCop," Stephen Flick and John Pospisil were awarded a Special Achievement Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Creating the many layers of sound that went into the film was a monumental task. As part of the nomination process to help explain their work, Stephen Flick wrote the following letter to the Academy.

Dear Board of Governors:

It was important to us to create a sound track that strongly supported the future world and characters of "RoboCop." It took many thousands of elements to make this soundtrack: natural specific and ambient sounds recorded in the field, synthesizer sounds for graphics and sweetening, digital sound processing to add dimension to robot voices and movements, plus normal Foley. We made repeated tests for every single signature sound in the film. Some sounds like the Robo gun worked the first time around, while others required significant development.

The most difficult sound effects challenge in "RoboCop" was to create believable and unique character sounds for Robo and ED-209. As is the case with any "signature" sound effect, we recorded, edited, and mixed numerous tests for each character. Although Robo is a cyborg cop and had to sound massive and dangerous, there also had to be contrast in his sound as he changed from comic book superhero and rediscovered his lost human self. In the beginning, Robo was a precise, finely tooled machine. After his near destruction by ED-209 and his own police force, he became loose and rattley. We tested over 30 different combinations of movement and footsteps for Robo alone. We tested extremely clean sounding pneumatic movements with jointed footsteps. Because the shootout in the cocaine factory is staged like a spaghetti western, we tested a variety of metal taps fitted to cowboy and heavy motorcycle boots.

In another test we assembled an aluminum tube and solid plate that gave a resonate metal sound for his legs. For one reason or another, these efforts either were not "heroic" enough of they were too prominent and would be too distracting to have throughout the film. Finally, a large truck timing chain performed in Foley gave a metal linked tread sound that also was reminiscent of spurs worked. As Robo loosened, we changed our performance of the prop to reflect his disintegration. We also cut a synthesizer generated low frequency impact for every footstep.

Robo also had drones of varying pitches to reflect his "behavior mode." These were made on a combination of modern synthesizers. His arm, neck, and head movements were emphasized with VCR loading/unloading sounds. To lock his head into position, we would double cut VCR servo sounds with VCR clicks and lockup sounds. "Chop-saki" Martial Arts genre films have whoosh effects that match action. We made tonal synth whooshes for Robo's large combat moves. Robo evolved through the film. He became more human. Our mix of all these elements changed. He became less mechanical, more fluid. We cut him as more of a sketch to intrude less upon the story. When he became destroyed by gunfire, we added rattles and subtle gear changes to his leg movement.

Go to Page 2

Back to Film Sound

Home / Features / Film Sound / Movie Props / Locations
Trivia / Events / Tributes / Recommendations / Blog / About
Bibliography / Links / FAQs / Shop / Message Board / Disclaimers / Site Map

Please support our site by visiting our affiliates: