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“Stranger Things 2” Sound Team Highlight Details For Authenticity

Adding environmental sounds to nature scenes, such as the hum of bugs or birds chirping, is one way the “Stranger Things 2” sound team bring authenticity to the show. Photo courtesy Netflix.,

There’s a lot in store for fans  of “Stranger Things.”  As the second season, called “Stranger Things 2”, hits the airwaves, new characters, creatures, even worlds, will be revealed.  Despite the many changes on screen, behind the scenes it is business as usual. The sound team found themselves right back where they started from, at the Technicolor Seward Post Facility,  Here they work directly across the hall from the colorist, composers and other members of the team.

The convenient positioning allows creators Matt and Ross Duffer to jump between rooms, enabling the merging of picture and sound to inform, even change, aspects of the story.  For example: when the Duffer brothers were looking for a way to make the gateway between Hawkings and The Upsidedown come “to life”, Brad North, Technicolor Supervising Sound Editor (and an Emmy winner for his first season’s work) experimented with breathing.  He recorded his own breath and laid it on the track. The Duffers were so inspired by the idea, it resulted in a redesign of the visual effects and one of the show’s signature atmospheres.

“That’s the power of having everything right across the hall,” said Adam Jenkins, Technicolor Sound Re-recording Mixer, a season one Emmy nominee along with fellow Technicolor Sound Re-recording Mixer Joe Barnett.  “We’re all in residence in this building; it brings together the whole boutique idea.”

What has changed for the sound team is the scope of the world.  “Stranger Things” started as an exercise in creativity; merging the details of 1980’s rural Hawking, Indiana with fabricating supernatural happenings.   Over the eight episode arc, it exploded into a mega-hit.  Feeling the pressure to live up to expectations, the Duffers raised the stakes.  For the sound team, “Stranger Things 2” meant doubling its exceptional level of detail.

Working with traditional sound equipment, the team adhere to the “see a dog, hear a dog” mentality: the picture informs the sound.  Dealing with period material, they carefully source sounds that match cars, electrical equipment, even telephone rings.  Barnett utilizes special software that duplicates the frequencies, reverb and other acoustic elements of radios and televisions.  This allows him to capture the perfect feel of any sound element they may have to create, such as a series of commercials.  While some authentic commercials have been used, the sound team help fabricate others by recording crew members, including producer Shawn Levy.  They then alter the vocals, turning them into everything from golf commentators to a choir of angels.  Further detailed sound work is added into every scene, from slight interior wood creaks to insect and bird songs for outdoor scenes.

The dialogue in season two presented some unique challenges as adolescent and vocal changes have enveloped the actors.  To maintain continuity, they would sometimes loop audio, or work with the young actors, giving them pitch cues, during ADR sessions.  As a rule, however, the team used the authentic on-set audio, recorded both on stages and location, whenever possible.

“We are really selective on what we use loop-wise,” said Strong.  “We are fine with some noisy or messy dialogue, as long as it is still telling the story.”

The realism of the supernatural world is equally important to the sound team.  Strong put seal calls to use during the creation of the Demogorgon, and animal sounds inform other season two creatures. Layers of folley design, including walking on dry floors and saturated floors, helped build a major new location.

“In the mix, we blend the dry and the wet.  It’s another way to make it sound more interesting,” said Jenkins.