26 September 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Ardmore Sound/Screen Scene Sound Team on Animated film ‘Two by Two’; in cinemas May 1st
30 Apr 2015 : Seán Brosnan
‘Two by Two’ will be released to Irish cinemas on Friday, May 1
With animated film ‘Two by Two – Ooops...The Ark has Gone' being released to Irish cinemas on May 1, IFTN caught up with some of the Sound Team at Ardmore Sound/Screen Scene (Niall Brady, Garret Farrell, Steve Fanagan) to talk about the very “different assignment” facing them in this international co-production.

The film centres on two Nestrians (clumsy, silly-looking, brightly coloured creatures whose only skills are making comfortable nests and secreting a foul smelling cloud of gas whenever they get scared), who, facing the end of the world via biblical flood, discover that their species are not allowed on Noah’s ark. The film was co-produced by Galway-based Moetion Films (Moe Honan) and was directed by Toby Genkel and Sean McCormack with funding from the IFB.

With no production track to use as a reference point, the team at Ardmore Sound/Screen Scene had to originate everything from scratch, a process Sound Designer Niall Brady called “equal measures daunting and exciting.’

‘This was a very different assignment for us as with an animated film like this, it really is a blank page which is equal measures daunting and exciting. We didn’t have a production track as an anchor here. We were just creating from the ground up around the voice actors great performances.’

Sound Designer/Re-recording Mixer Steve Fanagan added: ‘It was a very exciting thing for us to do, especially since it’s a great story with a lot of action sequences in it. We didn’t have anything from the set as a reference point because there was no set per se. Toby and Sean were very adamant about doing something big and exciting so they kept pushing us to make things as dynamic and fun as possible.’

Steve Fanagan and Niall Brady spent a lot of time recording material – they went to Red Rock, Ireland’s Eye and beyond to collect new sounds for the film. They garnered a recording of waves generated from a Ferry which (after getting rid of the hum of the Ferry) became a very important sound in the picture as the flood comes and the water envelopes the land.

Speaking more on this, Steve Fanagan said: ‘One of the big things in this film was obviously the storm approaching. So, we had to deal with the changing environment as the storm approaches while simultaneously presenting a world that is vibrant and alive. So there were a lot of different layers here when building the sound.’

Niall Brady added: ‘We had to be careful not to create a doomsday world either because this is a kid’s film. We had to keep it as welcoming as we could.’

After the sound edit, the team moved out to Ardmore Sound - the only Dolby-approved feature stage in Ireland - to begin mixing.

Re-recording Mixer Garret Farrell said: ‘If you are going to mix a movie like this, you want to mix it in a Cinema-sized room, and essentially that’s what Ardmore Sound is. We were out there on three Pro-Tools systems mixing, one for dialogue and music, one for effects and foley, and one for recording and from there, we kind of just opened it up and went crazy for three weeks and tried to make it as exciting, story-driven and dynamic as possible. When you’re sitting in a room that large, you can really decide the mood and placements of things and know that it is going to sound good in any cinema screen in the world.’

Farrell was tasked with mixing the dialogue and adding believability and weight to the colourful characters on screen.

Speaking on this, Farrell added: ‘In the dialogue mix, we really wanted to take those voices and put them in the world and make them come alive. So, in collaboration with Toby and Sean, we decided from an early stage that we should pan the dialogue on the screen with the characters. It is not something you would generally do for a feature film as it can become distracting but I think in an animation like this you really begin to believe a character is in the world – with careful panning and use of reverb. Like, with the character Obesey who was a giant creature who was kind of an immovable object – we were able to use a lot of sound design techniques to give him weight and add believability to the character on the screen.’

Niall Brady added: ‘One of the key things in animation is making the characters feel alive and a big part of that is done in sound post as the dialogue gets mixed and a combination of the dialogue with Foley makes the dialogue go from a dry voice on top of a soundtrack to something that is living and breathing within the film.

With an animation film like this, did providing the soundtrack for such vibrant, friendly high-octane world designed to make kids and adults laugh create a lot of pressure and pose a difficult process for the sound guys?

Steve Fanagan said: ‘Not at all, it was incredibly good fun and was a fantastic creative process for us. The directors just encouraged us to experiment as much as possible. They were very open to any and all ideas that we threw at them. They came to us with an idea of what they wanted, but they also gave us free reign to experiment. As we delved deeper into the film, there was a lot of “how about if we try” moments which is a great way to work.’

One of the more comic elements of the film is the unusual defence mechanism of the Nestrians – emitting a noxious blue gas from their noses when threatened – with the sound team thinking up a novel way to create the desired sound.

Fanagan said: ‘We spent a lot of time in the studio letting air out of balloons against an array of mikes! So we would blow up a balloon and let it fly off around the room and be caught by the mikes as it flew passed so we could get that air release as well as the comic fart sound that helped us build the identity of this unique Nestrian biology. There’s a certain amount of action, violence and mishap in the story but its’ a kids movie so you get to play with that and make it fun. Toby and Sean really encouraged us to play around with it.’

Another element of ‘Two By Two’ that made it a very different assignment was having two directors who were in different parts of the world to liaise with on the post-production.

Steve Fanagan said: ‘One of the directors was in Germany and another was in Luxembourg. So, we were constantly on Skype and sending on Quicktime bounces of our work in progress. We were given clear notes of what they wanted in the sound and the work evolved in that way. It wouldn’t have been technologically possible in the past and was a really nice way to work as it meant the directors were very hands on even though geography didn’t allow them to be in the same room as us. We were constantly getting feedback.’

And the feedback was overwhelmingly positive as the directors and producers began to see the world they had created fully realized for the very first time.

Niall Brady said: ‘It was very exciting and interesting to see the directors and producers see what was in their heads for so many years come to life in the sound for the first time in tandem with their beautiful animation work – they all got excited and that excitement was contagious and spurred us on.’

And the makers of the animated film aren’t the only people excited by the work of the Ardmore Sound/Screen Scene team as the work has been flowing in “two by two” for the past number of years. Another current cinema release ‘Glassland’, also received sound post at the facility and the past year has seen the group work on IFTA-nominated RTÉ biopic ‘Charlie’ as well as the well-received horror film ‘The Hallow’, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance.

Currently on the Screen Scene slate is John Carney’s ‘Sing Street’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Room’, both destined to become big hits when they are released later this year.

With many esteemed directors and producers turning to Ardmore Sound/Screen Scene and a lot of repeat television and film business returning, what is it that keeps the work fresh and exciting?

Niall Brady said: ‘I think we have all been working together so long here and we have a great short-hand. We know how to work to each other’s strengths and I think that shows in our work. We have learned to complement each other very well. I also think we know how to work best to a budget in very creative ways to get the best for the project, meaning no matter what budget we are dealing with we are going to ensure high quality.’

Garret Farrell agreed with this saying: ‘Another big reason is that big room in Ardmore Sound is not only unique in Ireland but also unique in the British Isles. You don’t get rooms of that size everywhere. When people walk in there, they are always taken aback and that’s an exciting thing for us.’

‘Two by Two – Ooops...The Ark has Gone' will be released to Irish cinemas on Friday, May 1.

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