"John Wick: Chapter 4" is a masterclass of an action film.
Created by famed stuntman and director Chad Stahelski, the latest film has been praised by action fans for its "buffet of bullet casings" and "masterful" dedication to the "action movie art form."
But for a franchise filled with fight scenes and guns, every shot heard by audiences wasn't actually fired in real life; it was instead created by a team of sound designers and editors.
"Chad is a proponent of never using real guns on the set," said Mark Stoeckinger, supervising sound editor. "So you'll never hear a gun sound from the set into the final mix because it doesn't sound anything like a gun, and it's something that's dramatically not interesting."
Stoeckinger is a three-time Oscar-nominated sound editor whose work includes the "John Wick" franchise, the 1997 sci-fi flick "Face/Off," the 2009 film adaptation of "Star Trek" and the 2010 disaster thriller "Unstoppable." He describes sound editing as not just choosing and layering in the sounds for a movie, but doing so in a way that furthers the storytelling and cinematic experience. The work is invisible to audiences, but important.
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"In almost every movie you see, everything is added," Stoeckinger said.
Working on "John Wick: Chapter Four," Stoeckinger and effects re-recording mixer Casey Genton said there's a precision to crafting the gun shots — combining multiple layers of sound and fine tuning them to take into account location and impact.
"Whether it's the inside of the club, which is this huge concrete building, or on a rooftop in a hotel, we try to make it as close to that environment, the way that it maybe would have sounded if it was shot on set," Genton said.
"There's the gunshots, and then there's also what the guns hit," Stoeckinger said. "Those shots always hit something. Even if it's not a big, noticeable sound, you would notice its absence."
Those shots as well as the sounds of other hits, collisions and explosions add to the rhythm and choreography of the film's stunt-driven sequences.
"It's a ballet, and it's very orchestrated visually," Stoeckinger said. "It's fantastic for us sound folk to take the sound to the next step, continue that orchestration, that timing, that sense of motion and ballet, and then sonically with dialogue, music and sound effects to keep it rolling."
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