DGC Ontario Production In The Shadow of the Moon is now streaming on Netflix and we chatted with Supervising Sound Editor Nathan Robitaille to get a glimpse into what goes into designing sound for sci-fi and thrillers.
Sci-fi is great for conditioning us to pivot quickly and not get too attached to our work. Picture Editors and VFX artists are under a lot of pressure to deliver ambitious visuals on tight turnarounds and that can’t always happen in time for the mix. It’s not uncommon to have to rework or completely replace a sound design on short notice because it no longer matches what’s happening on screen. It’s a great genre for sharpening sound design chops and reminding us that a great sound isn’t always the right sound.
On the sound and mood of In The Shadow of the Moon….
To me, it feels like a plausible and realistic take on a sci-fi concept. Visually, it strikes a balance that leaves a bit of room for surprise when the audience is presented with these sci-fi ideas in a story that is otherwise unfolding like a drama. Our intention with sound was to make it feel grounded in reality while gradually blending in those sci-fi elements in a convincing way without ever becoming conspicuous enough to tip our hand.
What was the most challenging aspect of designing the sound for the film?
I’ve worked on plenty of projects that required trial and error to nail down design concepts. On this, it just kind of felt like we all started out on the same page. Jim [Director] and Michael [Editor] were very articulate about what they wanted and crystal clear when they needed something changed. Jill Purdy and I got an early start with them, which probably helped. Some things got reworked but nothing ever felt like a snag. Everything clicked into place early on.
It’s a great team! Rob Bertola and Josh Brown were heavy hitters on this one too. The big collaboration here took place on the mix stage with Al Degraaf and Mike Woroniuk combining all the work that Jill, Kevin and I had been building during the editorial process. I like to sub-divide sound effects and design into element groups, much like how dialogue is often separated into production and ADR editorial. I think it gives editors more creative focus and keeps the track sounding consistent. I’ll merged reels as they’re completed, make adjustments and share scenes back and forth to refine the track as we go. In the last week (+/-) before the premix I’ll do a final assembly for delivery to the mix and polish up any beats I know the director is focused on.
Where do you turn for inspiration when you need to get the creative juices flowing?
I try and see as many movies in theatre as I can, it sets the bar high and motivates me to push myself. Apart from that, I think the best thing for my creativity is taking time away from it to re-charge. I don’t think that’s the right choice for everyone but it really works well for me.