Sunday evening the Motion Picture Sound Editors presented the 61st Golden Reel Awards at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. The show began with an opening address from MPSE president Frank Morrone. George Lucas was in attendance to present the Career Achievement Award to Randy Thom. One of the more touching moments of the evening came when a special tribute was made to sound industry pioneer Ray Dolby by Walter Murch.
In all, 24 statutes were passed out in television, film, doc and interactive media categories. Among the television honorees were Deadliest Catch,Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy. The feature film winners included The Great Gatsby, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Frozen, and Epic.
A complete list of winners is below:
Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Sound Effects & Foley Gravity
Supervising Sound Editor: Glenn Freemantle
Sound Designer: Glenn Freemantle
Foley Artist: Nicolas Becker
Sound Design Editors: Niv Adiri, Ben Barker, Eilam Hoffman
Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Dialogue And ADR Captain Phillips
Supervising Sound Editor: Oliver Tarney, MPSE
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Bjørn Schroeder
Supervising ADR Editor: Simon Chase
Dialogue Editor: Rob Killick
Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Music The Great Gatsby
Supervising Music Editors: Jason Ruder, Tim Ryan
Music Editor: Craig Beckett
Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Music, Musical Feature Frozen
Music Editors: Earl Ghaffari, Fernand Bos, MPSE
Best Sound & Music Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue & ADR in an Animation Feature Film Epic
Supervising Sound Editors: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, MPSE, Randy Thom
Sound Designers: Randy Thom, Jeremy Bowker
Supervising Foley Editor: Luke Dunn Gielmuda
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Brad Semenoff
Foley Artists: Denise Thorpe, Jana Vance
Foley Editors: Benny Burtt, Jim Likowski
Dialogue Editor: Michael Silvers
Sound Effects Editors: Leff Lefferts, Andre Fenley, Kyrsten Mate, Kent Sparling
Music Editors: Lisa Jaime, Bill Abbott
Director Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravitywon six of their eleven nominated categories at 62nd BAFTA Film Awards. The sound team of Glenn Freemantle, Skip Lievsay, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri, and production mixer Chris Munro were acknowledged along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and the visual effects teams rep’d by Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould and Nikki Penn. 12 Years a Slave nabbed the evening’s Best Film award and Dan Hanley and Mike Hill won in Editing for Rush.
The complete list of winners follows:
Best Sound Gravity – Glenn Freemantle, Skip Lievsay, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri & Chris Munro
Best Cinematography Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Visual Effects Gravity – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould & Nikki Penny
Best Editing Rush- Dan Hanley and Mike Hill
Best Music Gravity – Steven Price
Best Director Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity Best Film 12 Years a Slave Best Animated Film Frozen – Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Best Foreign Language Film The Great Beauty – Paolo SorrentinoBest British Short Room 8
Best British Animated Short Sleeping With the Fishes – James Walker, Sarah Woolner & Yousif Al-Khalifa
Best Documentary The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin and Beverly Dunn
Best Makeup and Hair American Hustle – Evelyne Noraz, Lori McCoy-Bell & Kathrine Gordon
Best Costume Design The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin
Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave Best Actress Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine Best Supporting Actor Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema
Best Original Screenplay American Hustle – David O. Russell & Eric Warren Singer
Best Adapted Screenplay Philomena – Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope
What do you remember most about college? Maybe it was the parties, the procrastination, or the joy of eating Ramen for every meal? In the upcoming horror/thriller film The Quiet Ones, a group of students will have slightly more terrifying memories of dorm life.
Spun in the magical world of 1974, Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) decides to conduct a secret experiment. Although Bill Nye the Science Guy would likely disagree, Coupland believes he can use his knowledge of physics to create poltergeists. You know, the paranormal forces that supposedly hide your car keys and make weird noises in your apartment at 4:00am. I would blame my cats, but hey, let’s not rule ghosts out just yet.
Coupland recruits the best and the brightest of his Ph.D students, including Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin), to assist and film the project. The plan is simple. Step One: find an alluringly disturbed young woman (Olivia Cooke). Step Two: put her in a situation that will release the dark energy in her psyche. Step Three: create a poltergeist. Step Four: allow things to go horribly awry. The group is confronted by a force more devastatingly evil than they ever could have imagined… act break. And did we mention this is inspired by true events?
Last night the Visual Effects Society handed out it’s 12th Annual Awards in support of all things visually awesome in the post realm. Gravitywon in 6 of its 7 categories including the night’s big prize Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture. The film’s director, Alfonso Cuaron, capped off the evening with the VES Visionary Award while Frozenmanaged to sweep all four categories. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaugsnagged a win for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture, and Game of Thrones picked up three in the television categories.
The complete list of winners are as follows:
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture Gravity
Tim Webber, Nikki Penny, Neil Corbould, Richard McBride
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Frozen
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho, Lino Di Salvo
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program Game of Thrones: Valar Dohaeris
Steve Kullback, Joe Bauer, Jörn Großhans, Sven Martin
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture The Lone Ranger
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Shari Hanson, Kevin Martel
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program Banshee: Pilot
Armen Kevorkian, Mark Skowronski, Jeremy Jozwik, Ricardo Ramirez
Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game Call of Duty: Ghosts
Mark Rubin, Richard Kriegler, David Johnson, Alessandro Nardini
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial Call of Duty: Epic Night Out
Chris Knight, Daniel Thuresson. Nick Tayler. Dag Ivarsory
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project Space Shuttle Atlantis
Daren Ulmer, John Gross, Cedar Connor, Christian Bloch
Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Smaug
Eric Reynolds, David Clayton, Myriam Catrin, Guillaume Francois
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Frozen: Bringing the Snow Queen to Life
Alexander Alvarado, Joy Johnson, Chad Stubblefield, Wayne Unten
Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial or Broadcast Program PETA: 98% Human
Vince Baertsoen, Jimmy Gass, Dave Barosin
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Gravity: Exterior
Paul Beilby, Kyle Mcculloch, Stuart Penn, Ian Comley
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Frozen: Elsa’s Ice Palace
Virgilio John Aquino, Alessandro Jacomini, Lance Summers, David Womersley
Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial or Broadcast Program Game of Thrones: The Climb
Patrick Zentis, Mayur Patel, Nitin Singh, Tim Alexander
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Gravity
Tim Webber, Emmanuel Lubezki, Richard McBride, Dale Newton
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Commercial or Broadcast Program The Crew
Dominique Boidin, Rémi Kozyra, Léon Bérelle, Maxime Luère
Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture Gravity: ISS Exterior
Ben Lambert, Paul Beilby, Chris Lawrence, Andy Nicholson
Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Gravity: Parachute and ISS Destruction
Alexis Wajsbrot, Sylvain Degrotte, Horacio Mendoza, Juan-Luis Sanchez
Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Frozen: Elsa’s Blizzard
Eric W. Araujo, Marc Bryant, Dong Joo Byun. Tim Molinder
Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Commercial or Broadcast Program PETA: 98% Human
Vince Baertsoen, Jimmy Gass, Dave Barosin
Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture Gravity
Mark Bakowski, Anthony Smith, Theodor Groeneboom, Adrian Metzelaar
Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program Game of Thrones: The Climb
Kirk Brillon, Steve Gordon, Geoff Sayer, Winston Lee
Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial Call of Duty: Epic Night Out
Chris Knight, Daniel Thuresson. Nick Tayler. Dag Ivarsory
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project Rugbybugs
Matthias Baeuerle, Carl Schroeter, Martin Lapp. Emanuel Fuchs
“Captain Phillips” (edited by Christopher Rouse, A.C.E.) and “American Hustle” (edited by Jay Cassidy, A.C.E., Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten, A.C.E.) won Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic) and Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy/Musical) respectively at the 64th Annual ACE Eddie Awards where trophies were handed out in ten categories of film, television and documentaries.
The black-tie ceremony was held in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel with over 1,000 in attendance to celebrate the year’s best editing.
“Frozen” (edited by Jeff Draheim) won Best Edited Animated Feature Film and “20 Feet From Stardom” (edited by Douglas Blush, Kevin Klauber & Jason Zeldes) won Best Edited Documentary (Feature).
Television winners included ”The Office – Finale” (edited by David Rogers & Claire Scanlon) for Best Edited Half-Hour Series for Television, “Breaking Bad – Felina” (edited by Skip MacDonald, A.C.E.) for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Commercial television, “Homeland – Big Man in Tehran” (edited by Terry Kelley, A.C.E.) for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Non-Commercial Television, “Behind The Candelabra” (edited by Mary Ann Bernard)for Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television, and “Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown: Tokyo” (edited by Nick Brigden) for Best Edited Non-Scripted Series. In the Best Edited Documentary (Television) category, which was newly created last year, “The Assasination of President Kennedy” (edited by Chris A. Peterson) took top honors.
The Student Editing Competition winner was Ambar Salinas of Video Symphony who beat out hundreds of competitors from film schools and universities around the country. Oscar® winning film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, A.C.E. presented the ACE Eddie Award to the Salinas.
Award-winning director Paul Greengrass received the ACE Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year honor presented to him by his “Captain Phillips” star Tom Hanks. Greengrass joins an impressive list of filmmakers who have received ACE’s highest honor, including Norman Jewison, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, Alexander Payne, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner, among others.
Lifetime Career Achievement Awards went to industry veterans Richard Halsey, A.C.E. and Robert C. Jones with the Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television Teri Schwartz presenting to Halsey and Warren Beatty presenting to Jones. The very special Heritage Award, which has only been presented a few times in the organizations history, was presented by ACE President Alan Heim, A.C.E. to Randy Roberts, A.C.E. for his lengthy and unwavering commitment to the organization. The Heritage Award is not presented every year, only when warranted by an outstanding individual.
Among the evening’s presenters were Warren Beatty, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Will Forte, June Squibb, Peter Krause, Hamish Linklater, Sarah Paulson, James Wolk, Walter Murch, Michiel Huisman and Steve Coogan. Serving as Master of Ceremonies was actor Bob Odenkirk.
The complete list of winners:
Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic): Captain Phillips
Christopher Rouse, A.C.E.
Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy Or Musical): American Hustle
Jay Cassidy, A.C.E., Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten, A.C.E.
Best Edited Animated Feature Film: Frozen
Best Edited Documentary (Feature): 20 Feet From Stardom
Douglas Blush, Kevin Klauber & Jason Zeldes
Best Edited Documentary (Television): The Assassination Of President Kennedy
Chris A. Peterson
Best Edited Half-Hour Series For Television: The Office: “Finale”
David Rogers & Claire Scanlon
Best Edited One-Hour Series For Commercial Television: Breaking Bad: “Felina”
Skip Macdonald A.C.E.
Best Edited One-Hour Series For Non-Commercial Television: Homeland: “Big Man In Tehran”
Terry Kelley, A.C.E.
Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture For Television: Behind The Candelabra
Mary Ann Bernard
Best Edited Non-Scripted Series: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Tokyo
Best Student Editing
Ambar Salinas, Video Symphony
Director Alfonso Cuarón with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
“We wanted to do something different that pushed boundaries,” explains Glenn Freemantle, the sound designer for Gravity. “Director Alfonso Cuarón wanted to make the kind of film with the biggest picture and the best sound – a true cinema experience you can watch over and over again.” Different? Check. Pushed boundaries? Check. Something I would watch again nearly immediately? Check.
From the film’s opening sound treatment that’s layered over the Warner Bros. logo, to its final fade, moviegoers are inundated with innovative sound design and imaginative visuals. “Gravity is a huge emotional journey. That’s how Alfonso imagined it, and we were lucky enough to have the support from the studio and producers,” notes Freemantle.
Glenn was tapped in December 2010 when he was asked to design sound for a 45-minute pre-visualization that would be screened to Warner Bros. “It was before anything. Before they shot any Sandra or George, Alfonso wanted to design a sequence to show the studio,” says Freemantle. It was here Glenn created a 5.1 mix with Cuarón that helped establish the film’s sound design rules and principles. “In our very first meeting, we came out of it with the concept to create sounds through touch and vibrations. At the heart of it, Gravity is a survival story, and the sound had to be as big as what you’re seeing on screen. We wanted to portray it emotionally instead of action-packed. It was a great idea, but I thought to myself; ‘How are we going to do it?,’” admits Freemantle.
Creating sound for a 7.1 mix was always the initial concept for Glenn and his team, which consisted of Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Nina Hartstone and others, but it was up until the advancement of the new Dolby Atmos technology that pushed the film to a new level. “I was under an NDA at the time, and I reached out to Dolby and I told them I have the perfect film for this medium,” says Freemantle. “With 7.1 you can constantly move, but only through the dimensions you have. In Atmos, you can mix smoothly while you move and a viewer can become even more a part of it. When Sandra turns her head from left to right, so did the sound. When the whitepaper came out on Atmos, Cuarón was all for taking the step further to accomplish something great.”
Designing the elements for screen became a journey in itself. “We wanted it to be a powerful part of the film that you could immerse yourself in. Whenever Sandra was touching something or banging into an object, we wanted the viewer to feel it. When she stopped touching something or stopped using a tool, we dropped the sound and you don’t hear it,” explains Freemantle. Foley became an integral part of the process. With the help from Nicolas Becker, he and Glenn recorded some interesting sounds. One being a submerged acoustic guitar that they rubbed various items along the strings. They recorded the sounds with hydrophone and contact mics and manipulated them in post. Some of the recordings were used during the scene where Sandra is entangled with a parachute.
For the background radio chatter, Glenn turned to people who worked for NASA. “Our company was able to get a group of NASA guys together in Florida. Through Skype, we mic’d each one and walked them through scenarios without giving away any of the plot. We recorded about four hours of space talk and chatter and that became part of the track,” says Freemantle.
Other powerful parts to the design were Sandra’s breath and her heartbeat. “From the very start of the film, we wanted you to feel like you were going on a journey with her. The sound has tons of layers and everything we created aimed to be original. We wanted you to become attached to her right from the beginning. I remember watching one of the very first viewings and I saw people moving in their seat and holding their breath – I knew we made something great,” says Freemantle.
The production sound recordings were handled by Chris Munro and boom operator Steve Finn. “I’m sure Chris had many set challenges,” mentions Freemantle. “He was able to see the 45-minute concept video, so he knew what we were going for, but there was a lot going on. Sandra and George were in these boxes for most of the filming and there were these massive robots and things making noise. He was able to get great quality dialogue for us by micing inside the helmets and with an overhead microphone. Because most of the visual effects were done, they would have to trigger dialogue lines so the visual effects would match perfectly. His team did a really good job.”
Score from Steven Price played to the emotion with unique tones as well. “Alfonso and Steve worked together relentlessly to come up with ideas,” says Freemantle. “Those two were brilliant and conceptualized towards creating an amazing cinema experience. Steve would record an instrument and treat them in a way that wasn’t recognizable. When sound wasn’t used traditionally, like an explosion, he would let the music become more like a ballet.” The score received the same type of panning as the dialogue and sound effects so everything moved together.
“We also used the score to help focus on things we weren’t describing with sound design. Even underneath the design and score, we had a subsonic layer of sound so the screen had a presence. The screen has to have weight. The picture has to have something to attach to. You don’t necessarily hear it but you feel it in your stomach. It’s like if you went to a desert or a massive empty stadium, it’s quiet, but you still feel something,” adds Freemantle.
In their final mix, for Glenn, it was the sum of all parts created. “We were a team. And this team was great. Everything was made for the good of the film instead of one single person trying to be great. We all worked together to create the best immersive sound experience we could. It was a true collaboration from start to finish.”
Besides receiving an Oscar nom for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, Gravity has been nominated in eight other categories.
Even with four Oscar noms, a handful of Cinema Audio Society Award wins, and being recognized by BAFTA for his work, production sound mixer Peter F. Kurland is as cool as the other side of the pillow. I don’t know what it is about sound guys, but they are just fantastic people to talk to – there’s never a harsh edge or doubts – they’re just determined storytellers who want to perform their best job.
It’s the same for Kurland when he teams up with the Coen brothers. His latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing alongside other creatives from Gravity, Captain Phillips, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Lone Survivor.
“With Joel and Ethan, we’ve known each other for most of our lives. It very much feels like a family situation,” admits Kurland. “Skip Lievsay (nominated re-recording mixer) and I have done all their movies. We’ve done many with 1st AD Betsy Magruder and script supervisor Thomas Johnston, he’s been on since Raising Arizona. It’s like a big reunion to work with them. The shooting schedule is brief and they only make one film every year or two, so it’s easy to say yes.”
The film shuffles us back to 1961 and follows Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as a young Greenwich Village folk singer struggling to make it as a musician. The first frame finds us on a stage and we are immersed in the tranquility of Davis’ voice and presence. As the story unfolds, we travel beside his life’s misadventures, which are methodically measured with melodic tones from music producer T Bone Burnett.
On set with Kurland recording wild tracks
“Joel and Ethan really know music. It isn’t like they decide to have music in the movie and figure out how to deal with it. Even on O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ethan was involved in the music editing early, and if something needed to be changed during shooting, to add a verse or a few bars, it happened. They are so deeply skilled they know what it needs to sound like and what’s possible. That provides me with a bit of a challenge, but a great level of support at the same time,” notes Kurland.
In addition to Kurland’s tech scouts, he took an opportunity to attend the New York recording session with Oscar, T Bone and the rest of the music producers. “They had a week of pre-recordings scheduled, but it turned out they weren’t really pre-records, but more rehearsals. It still was an opportunity to see how the pieces were going to be arranged and how all the elements were going to sound, which was very important to find out,” says Kurland. “T Bone is a genius. He finds ways to put musicians and songs and situations together organically that are unbelievable to me. He was with us for the club and recording studio scenes in the film – to get an opportunity to work with him – I knew we were accomplishing something great.”
Though a soundtrack was in the making, the Coens wanted to record everything as live as possible during production. “The great thing about visiting the recording studio was that it’s very much like a set. You have time to sit around and talk things out and see what’s going to happen. It gave us an opportunity to explore what the possibilities were going into production,” explains Kurland. “When we started shooting, Oscar’s pitch and tempo were very consistent which allowed the single camera coverage, shot beautifully by DP Bruno Delbonnel, to be cut together,” explains Kurland.
The singing of 500 Miles
For the song 500 Miles, which was sung inside the Gaslight Café by a trio that included Jean (Carey Mulligan) and Jim Berkey (Justin Timberlake), with the use of earwigs, they would playback only the instrument tracks so the voices could be recorded clean. When PleaseMr. Kennedy took center stage at a recording studio between Llewyn Davis, Jim Berkey, and Al Cody (Adam Driver), a different assortment of playback techniques were used, but all the vocals were live for every take.
With the exception of the Irish quartet singing Old Triangle scene, all the vocals managed to be recorded live. “The reason being there was that background players filled roles where music was sung by Timberlake and Marcus Mumford (associate music producer),” adds Kurland. All of Oscar Isaacs’ solo performances were totally live for vocals and guitar.
To help Peter with sound, he turned to long time friend and boom operator Randall Johnson. “We’ve been a team for many movies and Randy is a great boom operator and a master of the frame line,” says Kurland. For his third, Timothia Sellers was tapped with Julian Townsend filling in as well. “Timothia is a mixer in her own right, and it was helpful having her on. I have a set of Comteks that didn’t seem to work in New York, so she brought in hers till we could find a replacement,” notes Kurland. When playback became part of the workflow, Egor Panchenko was brought in to work from his Pro Tools rig.
Peter also designed a new cart for the production. “Interesting challenges we contended with were these incredibly narrow hallways. None of the sets were built. The entire show is practical locations with the exception of the bathroom where John Goodman falls down, and some of the office work,” mentions Kurland. “I built a special cart that was light-weight and slim. It was partly based on a Chinhda cart with a custom built box on top. It became a fairly extensive project as I wanted it to be as compact as possible. I did most of the wiring myself with the help of the crew over at Trew Audio in Nashville.”
At its heart, a Zaxcom Deva 16 recorder was paired with a Mix-12 control surface. Whenever they could Kurland preferred using his hard-line boom over radios. A Schoeps CMC641 was the workhorse on the film. A Schoeps CMIT-5U and Sennheiser MKH 60 were also brought out of the toolkit, but Kurland relied heavily on the 641 covering about 90% of the project. When they did look to radios, Zaxcom wireless and Sanken COS-11Ds were utilized. “We are pretty adamant about finding a place for the boom. But for some of the exterior scenes like the New York park, which had wider shots, we’ll put a radio on before moving in for coverage,” adds Kurland.
The era also introduced vintage microphones. Several scenes hallowed a Shure 55SH vocal mic provided by props. Peter and Randy managed to hollow out the instrument and place Schoeps microphone inside to match sound of the boom if Randy couldn’t be close. “Randy and I have this philosophy of: ‘the best microphone is a smart microphone.’ What makes it smart is Randy Johnson,” laughs Kurland.
Since there was very little score in the film, effects had to be very specific to the city and time period. “Skip and Greg Orloff and the FX editor Paul Urmson did a fantastic job with what we were able to give them. We had to record the cleanest possible track in very hard Manhattan surroundings. Like in Jean’s apartment, there was heavy street noise, so we asked the art department to sound proof the windows. Besides the sound proofing, we ended up putting a piece of plexiglass there to block out the air conditioners which were right outside the window,” explains Kurland.
Another obstacle for sound was the Gaslight Café where much of the music was done. “The problem was the roof drains were running into the audio tracks. Production went through the trouble to re-plumb and silence them so we wouldn’t hear water running up there during shooting,” says Kurland.
Jean (Carey Mulligan) & Llewyn (Oscar Issac) inside the coffee shop
One of my favorite scenes is when Jean and Llewyn have a conversation in a coffee shop. This provided some of the tighter working spaces. “That coffee shop was small. It was a funky building. There was a separate entrance. You couldn’t get behind the counter without using this weird secret passage. Just a little place where the compact cart really helped out,” mentions Kurland. The team also had to contend with the sounds of the neighboring street which played in the background. “Almost all the cars out there were period cars which mean they’re loud, and you can have RF issues. When we switched sides to shoot away from the window, the police wanted to open up regular traffic on the outside, so that can bleed into your track too.”
Part of the climax to the movie is when Llewyn travels to Chicago and ends up playing a song in front of Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) at the The Gate of Horn, which was shot in a Harlem theater. “It was quiet in there. We turned off the electronics and stage amps as much as we could, which allowed us to do the scene all with a boom,” notes Kurland. “The coverage was done with two slow push-ins. One of Llewyn. The other of Bud. For consistency, we just had Randy there holding the pole for the entire scene.” When the directors went to a wider shot high above, a plant mic was stashed underneath a table.
Peter has had a long term tendency to under record his tracks in the digital world, since there is little noise floor in the recorders he uses. “Working this way gives you an extra margin of safety in case an actor peaks. I’ll set a comfortable level for the bulk of the dialogue and for the people who do get loud, it won’t distort. And when there’s a particularly quiet scene, I’ll handle that separately,” says Kurland.
Behind the scenes of ILD
This methodology served particularly well near the end of the film when Llewyn goes overboard and starts yelling at Nancy Blake as she plays The Storms Are on the Ocean. “Nancy is singing and playing an autoharp and Llewyn is drunk and starts screaming at her. We were able to shoot the dialogue clean with singles, but there are two shots of them together. For this, we had Oscar do the dialogue at the same time Nancy was playing the song so the interruptions could be real and live,” explains Kurland.
Sitting in on the final mixing is one of Peter’s favorite things to do. For Inside Llewyn Davis, he was able to be there the entire time. “Skip and the guys can really astonish me with what they can do. A brilliant sequence in the film is Llewyn’s trip back from Chicago. We basically recorded that whole thing MOS, and what they managed to do was great. They built a score of music from car radios, the highway tones and passing cars. Sometimes we talk about things in advance about how they are going to play out, other times I’m surprised by it – and that was one of them.”