Anatomy of a Scene: Brad Engleking of TBD Post on Fathom

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Brad Engleking of TBD Post has been a sound professional in the film industry since 2000 when he graduated from Texas State University with a degree in music/sound recording technology. During this time he has worked on a wide range of film projects from Robert Rodriguez's Sin City to James Cameron’s Alita Battle Angel to Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life.
  

In an effort to help educate future filmmakers, Brad has taught classes and lectured at The University of Texas at Austin Radio, Television and Film department, at Texas State University's Sound Recording Technology department, and has participated in panels at SXSW. He has also been featured  in industry trade publications including: Pro Sound News, Editor's Guild, Cinemontage, and Studio Daily. His tutorial videos for Pro Sound Effects have been viewed 30k+ times.

In this interview, Brad goes in-depth about the opening scene in Fathom.

PH: Which scene was your favorite to work on in Fathom?

Brad Engleking of TBD Post: The opening scene!

PH: Describe this scene and the significance it has to the rest of the film.

Brad Engleking of TBD PostIt’s a very sound centric way to start a movie. It opens with quadraphonic whale recordings that Michelle Fournette, who is featured in the film, recorded in the field. As the whales' calls build over black, the Atmos mix envelopes the audience and the sound crashes into reality with Michelle on her small motor boat racing across the Alaskan bay where she does her research. Then she hits stop on her recorder and we hear the quiet location on the boat in the middle of the bay. The opening sets up the film as an experiential journey that delivers the audience into the concepts of communication through space and time that the featured scientists are studying. 

PH: What tools, plugins, or instruments did you use in your production of this scene?

Brad Engleking of TBD PostOur sound Designer Nick Ryan, cleaned these recordings up and created the initial build up mostly using isotope. Underwater recordings have a lot of inherent noise, and getting from the raw recordings to what you hear in the film required many hours of painstaking cleanup. All of the editorial and mixing was completed in Avid Protools. Nick provided me with sessions containing his design and my team and I at TBD Post did a polish pass on the effects added foley and did the final Atmos Mix.

PH: What technical challenges did you encounter while working on this scene?

Brad Engleking of TBD PostI did a lot of shaping editorially and with the faders and panners in the opening to make it as dynamic as possible. The quadrophonic whale recordings are panning into the surrounds behind and above and Nick there’s also some delays and reverbs happening to add additional textures.

PH: What was the dialogue like between you and the director regarding this scene?

Brad Engleking of TBD PostDrew, to his credit, gave me a lot of leeway and a lot of latitude. When I first started mixing the opening of the film, I called Drew and said, “Hey man, I'm having way too much fun, I might be going too far…” and he said, “Do that, do what you think is right. We can always dial it in together, but I want to see your ideas.” It’s really cool when you work with someone who gives you the opportunity to do that. When Drew arrived in Austin to check out the mix, I played the first 30 or 40 minutes for him and Megan and it got a little emotional in the room - it was really a great moment and one that I won’t forget. Together, Drew, Megan and I did some additional shaping to make it even more far out. When we show off the Dolby Atmos room at TBD Post, this opening is always a crowd pleaser.

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