‘Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse’ wasn’t an ordinary Spiderman movie, not only for its unorthodox story but also for its remarkable and truly outstanding sound. The filmmakers took the story we’re all familiar with and turned it upside down a bit, letting the audience know that the character is more than just some random friendly guy who wears a mask in your neighborhood.
The film goes about a teenager from Brooklyn, Miles Morales, who is currently struggling with all the things a teenager lives in addition to the fact that he is, well, Spiderman. Audio played no less than a pivotal role in this film. Sony supervising sound editors, Geoff Rubay, and Curt Shulkey earlier this year won an MPSE Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing due to their work on the film. So, what’s so special about this particular movie sound-wise? Let’s find out.
The movie is fun, clever, it definitely has an attitude and a defined style. It is also really energetic. The sound elements found in the movie are definitely stylistic and eye-catching as the moving images. They do a great job supporting not only the story but also each character. Given the fact that the movie is a mix of fantastic and realistic elements, right from the beginning, one can tell that sound elements make an effort to stay true to the incredible nature of the film’s visuals.
The sound editing team also did a great job in making the film feel believable despite the fact that its nature is rather unrealistic; however, through sound, the sound team managed to support the story whilst staying away from a common mistake: make all things sound awesome.
In an interview, Shulkey mentioned that the team assembled about 9.5 months before completion, which allowed them to get neck-deep involved in the sound design and sound creation processes from the very first studio screening, right on to the end of the final version. This way of working allowed both sound professionals and their teams to create sound and test sound ideas in advance of the images, or even to influence the development of pace and new imagery.
Given their level of involvement and commitment, the directors allowed them to speculate on what kinds of sounds might suit the upcoming moving images and scenes, which also allowed directors to mold their ideas in a much better way visually-wise.
Live-Action v.s. Animation
Traditionally, whenever sound professionals work in a live-action film, the vast majority of all of the imagery has already been shot even before they begin their work. Being this project an animated film, the sound editing team had more creative involvement and, of course, more time to test out new things and develop new ideas. When it comes to animated films, a high percentage of the project is still in storyboards by the time the sound team is brought to the table, which ultimately allows animators to adjust their work to fit the sounds that are being created As visual elements develop, sound professionals begin creating layers of sound to support the moving images.
One of the best parts of developing sound for an animated movie is that not a single sound is imposed by the real world, unlike the vast majority of live-action projects, Normally, in a live-action film, if a dialogue scene is shot on a city street in San Francisco, there’s a lot of ambient noise such as traffic built into the dialogue lines.
A director’s main goal is to keep the spontaneity of the talent’s original performance. In animated films like ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, the sound team didn’t have that problem —sound effects and ambiances were created without previous recording and environmental noises, making the film feel very organic and natural.
Working in animated movies provides sound and audio professionals with a bit more freedom, as there is no production track, and they can simply add new sounds and new layers of sound to the animations; however, more is not always better.
This film is an animated film with a rather unique visual style. At times, it seems as though the sound editing team played the effects straight as if they were working on a live-action motion picture; other times, they removed any notion of reality to set the tone and emphasize the realistic v.s. Non- realistic debate within the film.
There’s a lot of snapping sounds and hard angle turns, all of which support the story as they are really in close proximity with the action. Sound is what makes your eye turn or notice something special, and sound is also what further enhances the image when frames are expanded.
On a final note, both Shulkey and Rubay mentioned that they used ProTools for this movie, especially Pitch ‘n’ Time, Envy, Reverbs by Exponential Audio, and a sheer array of recording rigs and microphones of all sorts.
*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com