I’m always fascinated by audio production on huge multi-million-dollar projects, and this handy little iZotope article about designing sound for HBO’s Westworld definitely scratches that itch.
Because as I’m sure you’re aware, sound engineers don’t all just live in punk basements – some of them go to work in film and TV! And often in really unique, interesting situations. The engineering challenges for a show like Westworld are myriad: how do you create separate audio worlds, how do you distinguish hosts from humans (or not, for misdirection), or like, how the hell do you achieve clean audio when you’re working in a freaking desert??
Here’s some of what sound editor Mark Allen had to say:
When it came to designing the sounds of the hosts themselves, Allen and team relied on old machines with cleanup by RX.
Allen says, “[The hosts] are extremely advanced and almost never require sound effects. On the other hand, there are older robot models that require extensive use of RX. One example is ‘Old Bill.’ Old Bill is an old, antiquated robot that Dr. Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins, created at the beginning of the park.”
“For Old Bill, the show runner Jonah Nolan expressed the idea that he wanted to emphasize Old Bill’s primitive technology and old age. This ended up being very difficult. After many attempts we ended up using old adding machines, clocks, and old typewriters synced perfectly to Old Bill’s slightest movements. These sounds were manipulated with [iZotope] RX’s Deconstruct, primarily to remove artifacts such as the ringing bell element of a clock chiming, leaving us only the whirring sounds of the clock mechanism.”
“As it turns out, this whirring, winding sound of the clock chiming has become a regular occurrence in the show. It is essentially a theme. You see it from the piano player, the old Victrola record player, to the older robots. RX was essential for removing any unwanted sounds.”
Here’s what iZotope RX does, in case you haven’t had a chance to use it (like me – but I hear it is so sick for cleaning up vocal noise)
There’s a buncha cool tidbits, so if you’re a fan of the show, check out the rest of the piece here.