Dune's sound designers reveal how they created the sound of the sandworms

dune sandworm
(Image credit: Press / Warner Bros. Pictures)

The sci-fi blockbuster Dune has been making headlines this week thanks to the ambitious world-building of its sound and VFX teams, who were tasked with creating a whole new planet by director Denis Villeneuve.

In an interview with WIRED, members of Dune's sound team Mark Mangini and Theo Green discussed their approach to creating the sounds of Arrakis, the fictional planet on which Dune takes place, and the creatures that inhabit it. To create the sound of a 100-foot sandworm devouring a gigantic alien vehicle, they poked a mic inside Mangini's mouth and recorded the sound of him inhaling vigorously.

Aiming for a "organic" and "acoustic" sound that wasn't overly "sound design-y", the team layered a number of processed sounds from humans and animals to create the sound of the sandworm's gargantuan mouth opening up. To produce the sound of the worm's movement, they recorded and manipulated "creaking tree bark and twisting vines."

Speaking to Popular Mechanics, Foley artist Sandra Fox said that the team working on the sound effects for the desert's shifting sands recorded 15 different household materials before settling on a mixture of chia seeds and rice. Fox declared that the sound produced to recreate the sandwalk (a hopscotch-esque walk the characters use to quietly cross the desert without alerting the sandworm to their presence) was the "trickiest sound" she's ever had to make. 

“It takes a long time to learn how to ‘walk in place,’ as it’s called. When we perform footsteps for a character on screen, the microphone stays in one spot, so we have to walk in one spot in front of the microphone and make our footsteps sound like they're moving like the characters on screen." Fox said. "It’s actually the Foley Mixer (the recording engineer) who moves the sound around in space as we’re performing.”

Denis Villeneuve's Dune is in cinemas now. 

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects… image
Get over 70 FREE plugin instruments and effects…
…with the latest issue of Computer Music magazine