Meeting Topic: Exploring Sound for Amazon Series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
Moderator Name: Mark A. Lanza MPSE
Speaker Name: Michael Dinner, Ryne Gierke, Harry Snodgrass, Brittany DuBay
Other business or activities at the meeting: Joint Meeting with SMPTE
Meeting Location: Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, California
As has become traditional in recent years, the January 30 meeting of the AES Los Angeles Section was held in cooperation with the SMPTE Hollywood Section, and featured a sound-for-picture theme appropriate to the dual audiences. The organizers had arranged a panel discussion between members of the sound-editorial team involved in preparation of the first 10 episodes of Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, a sci-fi anthology series with stand-alone episodes based on stories from the world-famous sci-fi writer produced by Sony Pictures Television in a joint venture with Channel 4 in the UK and Amazon Studios. The series is currently being streamed via Amazon Prime Video.
Co-organized by the AES-LA Section's Richard Wollrich and SMPTE's Linda Rosner, the February meeting opened with a screening at Sony Pictures Studios' Kim Novak Theater of Autofac, the eighth episode of the series, and which is set in a future dystopian world where a large automatic factory is operating according to the principles of consumerism. As executive producer Michael Dinner revealed, "Our idea originated five years ago as an anthology series of the author's short stories with diverse points of view," using an overall theme of 'What does it mean to be human?' The current series uses different casts, characters and locations, with episodes being shot by different directors.
The discussion panel was moderated by the series' supervising sound editor Mark A. Lanza MPSE, with contributions from dialog editor Ryne Gierke, sound-effects editor Harry Snodgrass and music editor Brittany DuBay. The show was re-recorded at the Sony Pictures Studios by Elmo Ponsdomenech, Todd Beckett, Nick Offord and Ryan Collins. With all 10 episodes being released at one time, "we made each episode sound as good as we could, with a seamless sound design," Lanza explained. "Every episode created new worlds that might be set many years apart from one another," Snodgrass added. "So we used sound effects unique to that particular world, using tonal differences. I created libraries of dedicated sounds for each episode and time period, making sure these sounds did not get used in any other episode."
"We also needed to establish whether or not we would hear cricket and bird sounds, for example, in these futuristic, dystopian worlds," Lanza stressed. "When the showrunners decided they had been killed off," by nuclear events, or natural catastrophes, "we had to re-move them from the production tracks."
To offer a sense of musical cohesion, but with unique points of view, the series utilized five different composers. "With so many composers," DuBay stressed, "we had to approach music editorial carefully to retain [their] unique viewpoints." Each composer also had a very different workflow. "One would send us stereo files," the music editor stated, "while another would send us cues that were fully stemmed-out," offering creative options on the dub stage.
Dialog editing presented its own unique challenges. "With so many changing environments, and both quiet and noisy locations, we tried to maintain a consistency across each episode," considered Gierke, who edited all 10 episodes of the current series. "There was no ADR on Autofac, "other than some off-screen dialog that we added for our female robot," he recalled. The dialog editor used a number of plug-ins, including iZotope RX-6, to remove artifacts from production tracks.
For sound effects, "I began by cutting backgrounds to set an overall tone," Snodgrass explained. "We had several rooms within Autofac, all of which needed to sound different from one another. We had a number of different-sized drones that required different sound signatures — there was a lot to do!" Organization was the key to success, the sound-effects editor considered. "I color-coded each group of like elements [in the Pro Tools session] to make life a little easier for the mixers."
A longer version of this meeting re-port, including details of the subsequent Q&A session, appears online at http://cinemontage.org/2018/02/electric-dreams-sound-like/.
Written By: Mel Lambert