Thursday, June 08, 2006
The Wilhelm Scream
I'm about to let you in on a fun- yet sacred - sound editor tool. It's called the Wilhelm Scream. Basically, it's a distinct sounding scream, and if you've seen ANY adventure-type movies in the last 30 years, you've heard it multiple times.
(08-01-06, corrected per Steve Lee - Wilhelm scream authority)
The Wilhelm scream was recorded wild, on a sound stage (perhaps even a production stage). The only recorded slate was very laid back as well... "Man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams." It first was heard in the 1951 Warner Bros film called Distant Drums. It was directed by Raoul Walsh and starred Gary Cooper. (The above picture is actually from a 1953 movie entitled "The Charge at Feather River", in which the character's name is Wilhelm, thus the name of the scream. I guess the character's name in the 1951 film wasn't interesting enough?)
SInce then the scream has made it's way to several features, largely thanks to Ben Burtt. He has faithfully used the scream in all of the Star Wars movies, the Indiana Jones movies, and many more. Many other sound editors have used the scream as well. Ben Burtt has declared that he has finished his Wilhelm use and will let it rest.
I've have worked with many great re-recording mixers, including Gary Summers. He has mixed several Oscar winning films, and he has four Oscars of his own. His philosophy towards the Wilhelm scream is "that the character it's synced in for, MUST be airborne." (see the Lord of the Rings trilogy for examples)
To hear this most excellent scream, click HERE.
For a comprehensive history on the Wilhelm, click HERE. And here is a pretty thorough list of the movies the scream has been used in.
A lot of this info was stolen from Steve Lee and his Wilhelm page.