Friday, December 14, 2012

Frank Kruse on "Cloud Atlas"

Here's some info about the work of Frank Kruse, supervising sound designer on Cloud Atlas, in his own words [via].

"I started on CA in November 2011 about 6 weeks before the ending of the principal shoot. Tom Tykwer hates to work with temp sound effects and it really made sense to start early on this film because we had a pretty early first temp mix to cater about 10 weeks after the last day of shooting which was quite tough for such a long film.
So I could spend some very valuable time creating some base sound fx and B/Gs for the different stories. Tom usually has most of the music done before the shoot starts so on his films we almost never encounter temp-music. So we can closely work with the composer team. I physically moved my studio into the same space as the cutting rooms and the VFX production dpt. which also enabled very close work with VFX updates and the editor Alex Berner.
I provided effects stems to Alex who would then cut with those in the AVID so the directors could make notes while cutting the picture and also adjust edits to make room for some sound ideas. I spread the info the rest of the sound crew from there.
Quite a few things wouldn't have been in the film hadn't we had this close connection during the editing both in terms of the picture cut and sounds.
This gives the sound team the chance to go into wrong directions and try things out early on instead of piling up a lot of redundant tracks for the mix and build the sound track in the theater.
We talked about transitions and that we wanted the film to feel like one story and not 6 episodes. tied together so quite some time was spent to create seamless transitions that should never be on the nose. For example there are some cool yet subtile transitions from the bridge where Zachry and Meronym hide from the Koona warriors ("bridge are broken hide below") the horse that gallops away turns into the rhythm of the rails of the train with Cavendish and then when he sees himself sitting in the opposite seat in the past the trans "morphs" from a modern train to a steam train and back. So horse to train to steam-train and back. I think most people won't recognize it at first "glance" but we thought these kind of transitions were the ones that would help glue the story together. Markus Stemler the second sound designer came up with some great things like that.
Many transitions are at the edge between music and effects. We tried to blur the differences a bit from the "waking up" of Papa Song's restaurant to the flare gun when Zachry and Meronym discover the huge Sonmi-statue. All those things we tried to treat as half way between musical and sound effects.
The scene where Chang shows Sonmi the safe-house with the animated cherry blossoms on the walls for example: The ambience there is made with quite musical drones and some percussive sound effects played in asian scales. I found S-Layer for Reaktor really useful on CA for these things.
The close proximity to the cutting room (literally next door) enabled us to keep a very close connection to the changes in the picture cut.
One other thing we discussed with the directors was the thing with the gender changing actors in film. In the beginning they were concerned that the men playing female characters would show their true identity through their voice so I went on set to capture some test recordings with Weaving and Whishaw and then experiment with some voice treatments to disguise their voice or make them more female. So I had a channel-strip prepped to treat these voices.

We tracklayed all the FX in a session prepped with EQs and Reverbs so it was pretty easy to output a stem with reverbs etc. for the AVID and the temp mixes were more or less based on these sessions which Matthias Lempert and Lars Ginzel mainly mixed in the box.

Some things for the tech-interested: We recorded a prototype electric car that a big German car mfg kindly let us use that served as the base sound for the skiff (the floating "motorcycles"). We also recorded lots of magnetic field effects with guitar pickups that foley supervisor Hanse Warns built. A device we called the iHum was used to capture fields of power tools, TFT screens etc. etc.
The main sound for the busted delivery truck that Chang uses to free Sonmi from the prison is actually the electric field of our studio's vacuum cleaner with further treatment.
Some of the gunship elements were created with iPad based synths that I liked to use for the great touch interface that I could then modulate to picture."


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