The swallowing sound of Dune’s sandworm was a sound editor sticking a microphone in his mouth

The sound designers of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune have discussed some of the methods they applied to bring the deserts of Arrakis – and the iconic sandworms that inhabit it – to life on the silver screen. READ MORE: How DJ and film composer Hannah Holland made her debut album in a shipping container Mark […]

Dune Sandworm Movie Still

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The sound designers of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune have discussed some of the methods they applied to bring the deserts of Arrakis – and the iconic sandworms that inhabit it – to life on the silver screen.

Mark Mangini and Theo Green, who also designed the sounds of Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, spoke to Wired about the approach they took with Dune.

Their core philosophy, Mangini explained, was that all the sounds in the movie had to “feel like they live in a universe we recognise” – and the pair observed this in a concept they called Fake Documentary Realism, or FDR.

To stay in line with director Villeneuve’s vision for the sandworms to be “more god than Godzilla” – meaning to inspire reverence rather than fear in the audience – the duo opted to create a fluttering sound, rather than a monstrous one to signal the sandworm’s arrival.

To do this, they brought underwater microphones (hydrophones) to California’s Death Valley to capture the sound of sand moving and also used creaking tree bark and twisting vines for the foley of the sandworm’s movements.

And in a show of true sound designer dedication, Mangini created the noise the sandworm makes when it swallows a spice harvester – a massive mobile factory – whole by sticking a mic in his mouth and sucking in a lot of air.