When Tim Kimmel, a 1998 graduate of the College of Arts and Media, heard “Game of Thrones” announced as the winner of an Emmy for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, he let out a deep breath of relief.
“It’s overwhelming,” Kimmel said. “It was not my first nomination, but it was my first win, so I know what it’s like to sit there nervously in that chair.”
For Kimmel, supervising sound editor for the show, receiving the award for their work on “Hardhome,” the climactic episode of the fifth season, was validation of his crew’s efforts to capture a dramatic turning point in the “Game of Thrones“ storyline. The team selected this particular episode as their Emmy submission even before it was completed.
“We had seen a cut of “Hardhome,” so we knew the massive scope of it,” Kimmel said. “Not that we don’t put extra care into every episode, but we knew to dial that one in since it was going to be our submission.”
Giving life to the dead
The episode features a spectacular battle between the Wildlings, who live north of the Wall, and a growing army of undead wights, controlled by the Night’s King. Kimmel and his crew generally have their work cut out for them, cleaning up dialogue, cutting sound effects and deciding what needs to be cut, but “Hardhome” presented its own special challenge. Kimmel and his team had to create the ambiance and atmosphere for a chaotic battle of fantastic creatures taking place in the frigid bastion of Hardhome.
“’Hardhome’ was one hell of a challenge,” Kimmel said. “We were trying to sell thousands of wights, without it sounding like a mushy wall of sound. We needed to find the right voice for them even though they technically don’t have vocal cords. But we wanted to give them some voice, since silence isn’t very dramatic.”
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Kimmel did give voice to the wights, literally. Many of the guttural groans and howls coming from the apparitions are warped versions of Kimmel’s own voice. In addition, Kimmel also is the voice behind the non-dialogue sounds of Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, the Wildling giant.
“Sometimes when you are looking for a specific sound but know exactly what you want to hear, you make it yourself and put it in the computer and start manipulating it to get what you want,” Kimmel said. “I’m a good percentage of those wights that are running around.”
“I won’t lie, my job is fun,” Kimmel added with a laugh.”
It begins at CU Denver
Kimmel originally began his studies as a civil engineering major. However the lifelong musician quickly realized that his real passions were in the music industry. Kimmel transferred into CU Denver’s audio engineering program and found himself right at home.
He quickly took advantage of opportunities offered by the program and created several of his own. One of his first assignments saw Kimmel interviewing local studios. At each interview he let the studios know that if they needed an intern, he was eager to learn. Finally, one decided to take him on.
“My education in that program was extremely helpful in giving me the tools to do the work,” Kimmel said. “It was nice to take the tools I learned in school and apply them to another place and challenge myself that way.”
Kimmel’s proactive approach to learning helped him to immediately land a gig cutting sound on low budget features at a studio in Los Angeles. During what was supposed to be a short trip to scout the area for a move he planned to make three months later, one of Kimmel’s contacts told him about the opportunity. He passed the interview with flying colors and moved out to California two weeks later— launching a career that would see him working on shows such as Rectify on SundanceTV, Bloodline on Netflix and SciFi’s upcoming series, 12 Monkeys.
“Knowing people is definitely the way to get in the door,” Kimmel said. “But once you get your foot in the door you need the skills and experience to make a career for yourself.”
Kimmel will begin work on the next season of “Game of Thrones” season 6 on November 30. As for what we can expect next season, Kimmel doesn’t even know…not yet at least.
“I’m still in contact with the producers, but by the time my team begins work, most of the season will already be shot,” Kimmel said. “As the show gets away from the books, they get more serious about the secrecy of the show. I have theories, but I don’t know anything for sure.”