Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a technical masterpiece. From the costumes to the visual effects and the intricate sound design, there’s no shortage of absolutely show-stopping sequences crafted with meticulous attention to detail. Those who have seen the show will not be surprised that it was nominated for several Creative Arts Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour).
Speaking to Awards Radar on Zoom, sound editors Damian Del Borrello and Robby Stambler expressed how happy they were to get recognized after more than two and a half years of hard work. Stambler stated, “It’s just an honor to be considered and noticed amongst the best of the craft. You never plan on it. But when it happens, it’s great. We’re very happy.”
On the other hand, Del Borrello added that the recognition was certainly exciting, “but also the reception for the actual show from the fans and the joy it brings to people. It’s a real payoff for us.”
In crafting the soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Stambler explained that “there was nothing “television series” about this [production], except that it played on Amazon Prime. The production, budget, and schedule resembled the one of a film. The biggest challenge in the process was to create something not only huge and cinematic but it could also play at home and on other devices. We had to create a cool and immersive Dolby Atmos mix that can play in a theater, or someone’s very sophisticated home theater with all of the dynamic range you would expect from a film. But we also had to create a stereo version that could play off an iPad while somebody’s cooking dinner, and they’ll still hear every dialogue. We achieved that by making the louder things a little quieter and the quieter things a little louder. We would build into the scheduled time to do another mix pass for it to exist in that TV world alongside the big cinema world. We always thought of that but approached the soundtrack like a film.”
Del Borrello explained that the first two episodes “would play to a test audience, like a feature film. We took that sort of thinking and said, “Ok, so we’re working on four feature films instead of eight individual episodes.” We would structure our work that way. I think that is a big part of why it’s been so well received, because of all of the different playback forms, phones, iPads, laptops, and TV speakers, all the way up to the IMAX mix, which was done after the fact. It sounds great in every single format.”
You’ve read this correctly; an IMAX mix was done “for premiere purposes,” as explained by Robby Stambler.
“It was such a joy listening to it in that format. IMAX is incredible. It’s just such an impressive sound format. You hear details that you don’t hear anywhere else. I’d love to mix every episode for IMAX and be able to watch it in that format. What’s amazing about this show is that the visuals held up beautifully. This thing meant for the smallest screens also exists on the largest screens and is just a blast.”
During our audio conversation, seen below, we also discussed the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the sound editing process, their approach to some of the most extensive battle sequences of the show, and capturing the worlds that weren’t previously explored on-screen through sound.