BOY – Sound Design for the Film

BOY is Taika Waititis second feature film, and opens in New Zealand cinemas on March 24th. My cohorts and I worked on the sound design for the film during October & November last year, and mixed at Park Road Post in December, with a print ready in time for screening in competition at Sundance, and soon after at the Berlin Film festival where it won the Grand Prix of the Deutsche Kinderhilfswerk for the Best Feature Film.

The film is set in the 1980s in Waihau Bay, East Cape, & here is what the Berlin Festival Jury had to say about it: “With a genuine voice and a remarkable spirit, the winner is a film with bold direction, a fearless risk-taker. It tackles difficult subject matter not with preaching, sentimentality or self-pity but with humour, often treating tragedy and comedy simultaneously. Because it’s so enjoyable it is easy to underestimate the depth of this film. It is a rich mix of ideas which strike and collide to create poetic moments that speak, despite the remote location, to all of us today. With fantastic charismatic performances all around, including a striking moustache on the director.”

One of the best aspects of being confirmed on a project early is it means you can start thinking about the creative challenges & what will be required long before officially starting work. When I first read the script I tagged one location as critical for sound, a corn field, as I knew by the time we were working on the film the corn would have been harvested & long gone. So I decided to visit Waihau Bay while they were shooting, and I am so glad I did. It is such a beautiful part of the country and while I have driven through there before I never had time to stop & explore it. And while my primary intention was to record ambiences I soon realised it made sense to try & capture as many of the vehicles in the film as possible, since they would all be there, available for the shoot.

Another bonus of visiting the shoot was getting to sit beside Ken Saville, the production sound recordist, and listen as he & his boom swinger Jo Fraser worked. After seeing some of the difficulties they have to overcome to record good sound I said to him, “Everyone in sound post should have to come visit the set & see what you guys go through” and he smiled wryly and replied “I think everyone in production should do the same with post!” Ken did a brilliant job on this film, recording genius multitrack coverage to a Fostex 8 track and also providing a huge range of ambiences & FX. I was so impressed when I listened to a dawn chorus he recorded, and about six minutes into it I heard the rooster wake up & start crowing. I surmised this was no accident, he knew what time the rooster started crowing & planned to get both a clean dawn chorus AND the rooster in one go!

Anyway here are some photos from my recording mission to Waihau Bay, definitely go see the film when its released – it is a film I am very proud to have worked on!

waihau bay pix

waihau bay pix

This bridge & riverbed were a location in the film, so I did quite a bit of recording here, from many different perspectives & also walked up the riverbed to get near rapids… Later when I edited the ambiences for these scenes I of course used recordings from a dozen different rivers, but one wide recording I did at this river I really liked for its ‘thin-ness’ and used it in wide shots & as layers in the surrounds, have a listen:

waihau bay pix

I also did some recording close up by this small stream in the river, and noticed that quiet, still pool off to the right in the photo, so I jumped the stream, set up mic and started lobbing big boulders into the pool

waihau bay pix

Way further up the river I came cross this stand of Toitois so I recorded a lovely ambience of rustles & crickets

waihau bay pix

Ah the corn! It was unreal to walk 100m into this corn paddock – the corn was 8 foot high, and when there was a wind gust you could hear it travelling through the corn….. I must have spent an hour or two in this paddock – it was like an ocean of rustles & this recording doesn’t do it justice…

waihau bay pix

What do you do for a living? Me? I record the sound of empty paddocks, the sound of one cricket chirping, well maybe not one…

waihau bay pix

Another paddock so you can appreciate how each empty paddock is unique

waihau bay pix

This was a location in the film where the kids play – I did record some nice roof iron rattling in the wind but didn’t end up using it in the film as the scene played as a montage driven by music….

waihau bay pix

This beautiful old church wasn’t in the film but I just had to take this photo as it was so beautiful as the sun set…

waihau bay pix

Now the above car was one of the meanest sounding V8s I have recorded & I would have liked to record for hours with it & get complete coverage for future use, but this car only featured in one shot in the film and it had over heating problems so the vehicle wrangler wasn’t keen for us to use it too much before they got the scene shot…. but just listen to it:

waihau bay pix

This valiant Charger V8 did appear in the film a lot, so I did quite a bit of recording with it – you can see my exhaust mic gaffer taped to the rear bumper…. It was a far more ‘normal’ sounding V8…

waihau bay pix

And this is the kids Nans Humber 80, a classic 4 cylinder car in great condition. It made me smile to hop in & drive it after roaring around in those two V8s!

waihau bay pix

13 thoughts on “BOY – Sound Design for the Film

  1. Nathan Moody

    Congrats on the festival win, and here’s to many more! Gorgeous photos, Tim, and of course killer recordings: Nasty and lucious by turns. This film’s crew has quite a pedigree, you must be proud to be a part of it. Look forward to it, and to more recording b-roll from it in the future, perhaps..? 🙂

    1. tim Post author

      thanks Nathan! i shot half dozen good quicktime VRs there too (including one in the cornfield) so i’ll put them online sooner or later….

  2. Anton

    The recording of the water drops is fantastic. It even amanged to create eh sensation of water on my skin, one of those instinctive things that can only happen with sound 🙂

  3. Enos

    Beautiful stuff Tim! I live in a large city and one thing I need to do a lot more of is getting out into the wild to relax and record ambiences! Now that I finally bought a 744T and have started going out and recording everything, I can’t understand how I’ve managed without it in the past! I’m done with using libraries! Getting custom recording for EVERYTHING is fun, sounds so much better and adds so much to the experience!

    I’ll be looking forward to being able to see Boy somewhere near me soon! Congratulations Tim!

  4. Pingback: Designing Sound » Tim Prebble on the Sound Design of “Boy”

  5. Oscar

    Hay Tim!

    I just stumbled across your website, listening through the sounds above. thay sound wonderful! gives me some Spring and summer feelings. It´s realy coold in Sweden where im from right now!

    iv got a question.The only portable audio equipment I have right now is zoom H4. But im interested in buying something better. Thought i could ask what microphone and recording device you used for the sounds you recorded above.

    Grateful for answers! And agin Fantastic sounds man!

    1. tim Post author

      hey Oscar
      I use a Sound Devices 722 recorder and my two main mics are a Sanken CSS5 stereo shotgun mic (great for ambiences & general recording, very sensitive) and a Sennheiser MKH70 mono long shotgun (its very directional & is great for eg vehicles)
      You can use external mics with your H4 so I would highly recommend borrowing or renting some mics to test them out…

  6. Luiz Felipe

    Hi Tim, really great and inspiring recordings! Unfortunately I don’t think “Boy” is going to hit the cinemas here in Brazil… If a DVD come out it would be great!

  7. Michael Maroussas

    great stuff tim – do you not have much problem with flight path noise in NZ? In UK, you can go to some of the remotest parts of the country and never be sure, depending on the weather i guess, if you’re going to have problems with air traffic.

    1. tim Post author

      I totally know what you mean & planes take a lot longer to get out of your hearing/recording zone than cars do…. But NZ is such a small country – most international flights leave from Auckland or Christchurch, so anywhere else in NZ is just domestic air traffic which at worst is a flight every hour or two…. and their routes are fairly predictable, depending on the wind direction so mostly they aren’t a problem…. Although last weekend I was recording some kart racing on a remote racetrack & suddenly noticed a small plane about to crash into trees right near us.. turns out theres a gliding club in the next valley! But they only did 3 flights in the 5 hours I was there so didnt stop me doing what I need to do…
      But for sure, one of the few benefits of a small under populated country is the lack of noisy humans! You could fit all of NZ population into a suburb of most large scale cities (Tokyo/London/New York) but our land mass is a similar to UK or Japan…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *