I flip-flopped as to whether I’d do a soundtrack with only diegetic sound design or music, but in the end I decided to do both.
The score was created with a single Eurorack-format modular synthesizer module, the Make Noise Erbe Verb, feeding back on itself, played improvisational by hand, and then edited to picture in post. The technique of self-patching and feedback was a key part of the themes that the visuals represented.
The sound effects almost entirely came from my own library of recordings and fresh recordings for the piece, except for some burlap rustling from Dynamic Interference, rotten wood sounds from The Recordist, and lion vocalizations from Boom Library. Some notable recordings of my own that made the final cut include subways, metal chains over ceramic tile, bilge pumps, a bicycle wheel, hits against a wheelbarrow, a vintage adding machine, rusty hinges, a horse bridle, human breath, and manipulated wads of cooked pig fat.
My usual sound recording kit is either a PCM-D50, for recording on the go every day, or a Sound Devices 702 field recorder with a mid-side mic setup using a Sennheiser MKH50 and MKH30 pair. Most people use the MKH40 cardioid, but the MKH50 hypercardioid, for me, provides a more focused center when desired, and more sound isolation if I’m recording mono.
My early attempts at a sound effects mix were beset by scale problems: I used sounds that felt too heavy for the objects on screen, even though I wanted to make them feel heavier and weightier. I went with more layers of smaller sounds, which were far more effective. I also had a purely tonal score that did nothing but set the mood, but it lacked tension and release, and it sent the wrong cues to the audience too early, so a thorough edit helped address that. Doing actual foley – performing audio actions to picture – was instrumental in “gluing” the sound and picture together.
The sound process started with the image first, then a series of live improvised score performances. These were edited into a loose score. Sound editing and mixing was done in Apple Logic Pro X, as opposed to the more industry standard Pro Tools; this is only because it’s the devil I know, and I’m extremely fast in its use. The film was re-cut subtly to fit. The sound effects were all added, which resulted in a score re-mix, which also resulted in two re-edits of the picture. This tug of war between image and sound continued for about four iterations until it solidified into its final form.
If you’ve read this far, then here’s bonus trivia: The sound playing on this website (controllable in the lower left corner) is the full nine minute version of the improvisation that led to this film’s score. You can only hear it here.