New York— Now in its second season on EPIX, the tense cloak and dagger
drama Berlin Station centers on undercover
agents, diplomats and whistleblowers inhabiting a shadow world inside the
German capital. It’s hard to tell who’s working for or against whom in this nothing-as-it-seems
tale where a CIA team operates out of hidden quarters within the American
embassy and where even footsteps seem to be concealing something.
Working under the direction of series Supervising Sound
Editor Ruy Garcia, Foley studio Alchemy Post Sound is using every resource at
its disposal to provide Berlin Station with
cinematic sound. Practical effects, like the clatter of weapons and clinking
glass, are recorded on the facility’s main Foley stage, which is designed to
capture sound effects in a pristine state. Certain environmental effects are
captured on location at sites whose ambience is like the show’s settings. Interior
footsteps, meanwhile, are recorded in the facility’s new “live” room, a 1300
square foot space with natural reverb that’s used to replicate the environment
of rooms with concrete, linoleum and tile floors.
“Ruy wants a soundtrack with a lot of detail and depth of
field,” explains lead Foley artist and Alchemy Post founder Leslie Bloome. “So,
it’s important to perform sounds in the proper perspective. Our entire team of
editors, engineers and Foley artists need to be on point regarding the location
and depth of field of sounds we’re recording. Our aim is to make every setting
feel like a real place.”

A frequent task for the Foley team is to come up with sounds
for high tech cameras, surveillance equipment and other spy gadgetry. Foley
artist Joanna Fang notes that sophisticated wall safes appear in several
episodes, each one featuring differing combinations of electronic, latch and
door sounds. She adds that in one episode a character has a microchip concealed
in his suit jacket and the Foley team needed to invent the muffled crunch the
chip makes when the man is frisked. “It’s one of those little ‘non-sounds,’
that Foley specializes in,” she says. “Most people take it for granted, but it
helps tell the story.”

The team is also called on to create Foley effects
associated with specific exterior and interior locations. This can include
everything from seedy safe houses and bars to modern office suites and upscale
hotel rooms. When possible, Alchemy prefers to record such effects on location
at sites closely resembling those pictured on screen. Bloome says that recording
things like creaky wood floors on location results in effects that sound more
real. “The natural ambiance allows us to grab the essence of the moment,” he
explains, “and keep viewers engaged with the scene.”
Footsteps are another regular Foley task. Fang points out
that there is a lot of “cat and mouse” action with one character following
another or being pursued, and the patter of footsteps adds to the tension. “The
footsteps are kind of tough,” she says. “Many of the characters are either
diplomats or spies and they all wear hard soled shoes. It’s hard to build contrast,
so we end up creating a hierarchy, dark powerful heels for strong characters,
lighter shoes for secondary roles.”
For interior footsteps, large theatrical curtains are used
to adjust the ambiance in the live stage to fit the scene. “If
it’s an office or a small room in a house, we draw the curtains cutting the
room in half; if it’s a hotel lobby, we open them up,” Fang explains. “It’s
amazing. We’re not only creating depth and contrast by using different types of
shoes and walking surfaces, we’re doing it by adjusting the size of the
recording space.”
edits their Foley in-house and delivers pre-mixed and synced Foley that can be
dropped right into the final mix seamlessly. “The things we’re doing with
location Foley and perspective mixing are really cool,” says Foley editor and
mixer Nicholas Seaman. “But it also means the responsibility for getting the
sound right falls squarely on our shoulders. There is no ‘fix in the mix.’ From
our point of view, the Foley should be able to stand on its own. You should be
able to watch a scene and understand what’s going on without hearing a single
line of dialogue.”
challenge to deliver sound effects that can stand up to that level of scrutiny
keeps the Foley team on its toes. “It’s a fascinating show,” says Fang. “One
moment, we’re inside the station with the usual office sounds and in the next
edit, we’re in the field in the middle of a machine gun battle. From one
episode to the next, we never know what’s going to be thrown at us.”
About Alchemy Post
Alchemy Post Sound is a 3,500 square foot, dedicated Foley
studio designed specifically for Foley by resident Foley Artist Leslie Bloome.
The company’s Emmy Award-winning staff has created sound for numerous major
feature films, long-running television series, independent films and popular
games. Alchemy’s services also include music recording, live performance, video
production, ADR, and sound design.
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