Behind The Sound: Building Run Run As Fast As You Can's Forest World
At 344 Audio we like to lend style and flair to every project, that's why with RRAFAYC we forged Sound Design elements from Custom Forest Recordings and Effects.
The Spotting Session
During our remote Sound Spotting Session, we spoke with the Director Katie Smith about the world that she wanted to create. It was important that we construct the sound around the children characters' perspective of a large isolating forest, in which these children are trying to escape their adult pursuers. This film includes themes of childhood innocence, wonder, exploration, conflict and disease, all of which play a pivotal role. It was also important to note the difference between the adult assailants scenes and the children's scenes.
Katie asked us not to hold back with Sound Design on this project, we needed to add a sense of urgency in some scenes and downright fear and abandonment in others. We knew that this called for some custom recordings and because the world had to feel isolated, we planned to use only sounds from the forest in our design. We visited a large reservoir/forest area in the British Countryside, that had enough character to work and was silent enough to gather clean material. We hit trees, whooshed sticks, stamped in mud and recorded various ambient sounds to lay on the film.
With a clear plan in place and lots of material for inspiration, it was time to start tracklaying.
Sound Design, Foley
We were able to use 100% production dialogue for this project - which was necessary to ensure the children's performances were kept intact, any problem lines had almost identical takes to replace them, which was nice. We also were very light handed with noise reduction, using it only where absolutely necessary, to preserve the warmth and depth of the audio. Due to the nature of the forest, we did have to remove a lot of harsh twig snaps, but did so with minimal effect on clarity.
One storytelling tool that was very useful was the passage of time and location within the forest. 90% of the film is set within this deep and huge rural environment, with time shifting to the evening as the film progresses. The forest allowed us to build sounds to sell this, Crows, Ravens, Foxes and Owls covered the adult's scenes with a sense of mystery, fear and anger, while Robins, Frogs and Various Tweeting Birds offered a sense of innocence to the children initially, progressing into the darker tone of Crickets and Marshland sounds as time passed, showing the isolation of the children group, as they part ways.
Our custom recordings were used numerous times to accentuate moments and bring subtle detail to shots. Everything from the initial title sequence that had its 'pencil drawing' sound made from a pitched up foot scraping a tree to slow motion shots accentuated with pitched down impact sounds of hitting trees with branches and whooshing sticks past the microphone to create cinematic transition elements. We even designed a car engine with a pitched down Bear Growl as it creeps towards the children in pursuit. There were also some much softer and delicate sounds to design, the stunning meteor shower VFX shots were covered with fireworks sounds that had Doppler pitch shifting and subtle flangering. Manipulated sounds of wind chimes and bells were added, which gave some 'sparkle' to the intense night sky. Here is a sound we designed from hitting a tree with a branch, it was used as part of a slow motion shot:
We mixed the film in stereo and wanted to add a sense of 'width', as per Katie's instructions. The background sounds had to surround the audience, so we extended the stereo field and had lots of layers of animal and weather effects panned around in different scenes.
We also did some interesting things with the score, filtering it down in certain shots and heavily accentuating low frequencies in others to create a pumping sensation.
The mix also had to sell the dialogue and foley to the audience in this heavily forested area. To achieve this, we used a combination of delays and convolution reverbs, with forest impulse responses loaded. Automation of distance perception with EQ and Reverb also provided a sense of realism and hyperrealism in certain shots.
Run Run As Fast As You Can was a pleasure to work on and we are already working with Katie again which is great news. You can expect to see the film at a festival near you soon!