BURBANK— The drama series Westworld, which just completed its
first season on HBO, is described as a
dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of
sin, exploring a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or
depraved, can be indulged. The contrast between (and sometimes
intermingling of) the near future and the distant past fuels the drama and is a
large part of the show’s fascinating appeal.

Westworld’s sound team
plays a significant role in conjuring up its two divergent worlds. Re-recording
mixers Keith Rogers and Scott Weber from South Lake Audio Services (which works
out of Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank) were tasked with building
soundtracks that include, on the one hand, steam locomotives, horses and
gunfights, and, on the other, a vast industrial complex where engineers tinker
with robots.

“That’s the joy of this show,” says Producer Bruce Dunn, who
supervises post production. “We are truly working on two completely different
genres in each episode, a full bore Western and a clinical, futuristic tech
world. It’s a lot of fun to play with that as it moves back and forth, or,
especially, when the two meld together.”

Other key members of the show’s sound team include
Emmy-winning Supervising Sound Editor Tom de Gorter from Atomic Sound and
composer Ramin Djawadi. The final mix was completed on Roundabout’s Stage F.

Rogers and Weber previously collaborated with Westworld co-creator and executive
producer Jonathan Nolan on the series Person
of Interest,
and that familiarity helped them hit the ground running with
Nolan and co-creator and executive producer Lisa Joy. “We’ve worked with
Jonathan, Lisa, and their production team for more than five years and are in
sync with their ideas and what they want to create in terms of a sonic image,”
Rogers notes. “Jonathan’s priority is storytelling, and he loves to use sound
to support what he is trying to get across in his stories.”
Citing the show’s length—most of the show’s ten episodes ran
just under an hour—and the producers’ high expectations for quality, Rogers
says the process of mixing Westworld
is very demanding. But, he adds, they also have more time than most television
dramas with a full five days to deliver each episode. “Because we have time we
treat each episode like a feature,” he observes. “I pre-dub the dialogue, the
ADR and the group elements before we add sound effects and music. That allows
us to fine tune the elements. We are able to listen to each track, balance
things and make sure they are correct. As we move forward, we balance the rest
of the show around the dialogue.”
(l to r) Paul Rodriquez, VP. SouthLake Audio; Brittany Ellis, Recordist; Keith Rogers, Re-Recoding Mixer, dialogue and music;  Scott Weber, Re-Recording Mixer, sound effects; Fred Paragano, Dialogue Editor.
For the Old West scenes, de Gorter’s crew delivered a myriad
of sound effects and sound design elements, many of which were originally
recorded and derived from actual period sources. “There are authentic sounds of
horses, wagons and guns,” notes Weber. “There are no cars, so the ambience is
birds and wind in the trees. In the bar, we have glass clinks and the crowds.
It’s a lot of cool stuff.”
The soundscapes for the laboratory environments and not only
far different, they require an imaginative touch in order to create a
technological world, not of today, but of tomorrow. “The equipment needs to
sound familiar but a little more advanced than what we have now,” explains
Dunn. “How does a robot sound? The first episode features a broken down, 35
year-old robot. The sound team created sound treatments for an old robot’s eye
blinks. They created tones for Tech World that vary from floor to floor, so
Manufacturing sounds different from Behavior. There is a distinct sound for
every place. If you listen to the mix closely, it’s all there.”
Rogers says they took pride in polishing the details. Many
sounds play in the background and may go unnoticed, but are critical to
creating a sense of place. “The subtleties are immense and it creates a lot of
opportunities to experiment with sound,” he says. “It’s a sound designer’s

blending of two worlds poses unique challenges in the mix, says Weber, but he
credits the producers for providing them with the latitude to succeed. “It’s a
privilege to work with people who devote the time and resources to sound to
ensure it is done right and sounds right,” he says. “They provide a great
creative environment and the freedom to do our best work.”
WESTWORLD season one is available on HBO GO, HBO NOW and HBO

About South Lake
South Lake Audio Services is a union-signatory sound company
offering mixing and ADR services for motion pictures and television. Located at
in Burbank, the company’s mix stages are equipped with latest generation Avid
Icon D-Control digital consoles and Pro Tools editing systems. They also
feature 4K and HD projection systems, are Dolby certified and capable of mixing
in 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound.
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