Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Familiar Ground

27th August 2011
L-R: Orchestrator Bruce Fowler, additional composer Tom Gire, and composer Hans Zimmer at the Sony Scoring stage recording music for Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Photo by Dan Goldwasser/ScoringSessions.com

There’s more to recording a convincing film score than simply putting a great composer, a superb orchestra and a crack technical team into an A-list studio. The performance itself will be influenced by the characteristics of the room, and that will often determine how the engineers and mixers interpret it. That’s one reason that many composers have favourite rooms.

Hans Zimmer, for instance, likes large concert halls such as AIR Lyndhurst and Abbey Road with long mid-frequency reverberation times. And indeed, Abbey Road Studio One was where he recorded the choral mermaid theme forPirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, written in collaboration with Eric Whitacre.

The orchestral sessions for the movie, however, were booked into the much less reverberant Sony Scoring Stage (and rewriting the schedule and shipping a hundred musicians to London to record the score wasn’t an option). But by digitally adjusting the apparent ambience using Sony’s Meyer Constellation system (which Sony had first used to mimic Abbey Road’s Studio One), Zimmer and his scoring mixer, Alan Meyerson, were able to get close to that concert hall sound and produce a concert hall performance from the musicians.

Getting the sound right in the control room was much less difficult. Sony, AIR and Abbey Road (and every other major film score recording facility) all feature the world’s top scoring console, the Neve 88R. And, ensuring that the hands at the controls were familiar not just with the desk but with that concert hall ambience, Zimmer also brought over AIR’s Geoff Foster as score engineer.

Proof of the pudding? On Stranger Tides broke the international record for opening sales tickets, while the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise has now taken more than $3 billion in global box office receipts.