Post Magazine

January 2013

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It can be hard to identify an indie film these days. Budgets can rival that of blockbuster films. Major indie films can have star-studded casts. It's not easy to gleam from a preview if a film is truly an independent film or not. The difference lies in the creative chain of command, and who has the final say over what makes the cut. DJANGO UNCHAINED Django Unchained is one of those films that doesn't say "indie" at first glance, with its all-star cast and Oscar-winning director who had his hand in absolutely every aspect of the movie. "Django Unchained is a classic spaghetti-style western with a southern flair," describes Wylie Stateman, supervising sound editor on this latest effort from Quentin Tarantino. The film follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave in the deep south who is sold to a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Django has been separated from wife, and Schultz offers to free Django and help rescue his wife in exchange for help in hunting down and killing the ruthless Brittle Brothers. Stateman, supervising sound editor at Soundelux (, is no stranger to Tarantino films. He worked on Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol.2, Grind House and Inglorious Basterds. Stateman calls Tarantino a "final-cut" kind of director: a director/writer who is actively involved in every aspect of the film. For Django Unchained, Tarantino had several criteria for the soundtrack. It had to be analog, spirited and sound like a classic western that just might have featured a young Clint Eastwood. "Through the sound effects and the mix, we really dealt with a style, a pacing, and an acoustical palette that was true to his desire," explains Stateman. The music for Django Unchained starts with the original 1966 title song for Django, a film directed by Sergio Corbucci. From there, it's an eclectic musical journey that includes tracks by Jim Croce, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Tupac and James Brown, and an original song from Jamie Foxx. The songs that were recorded from vinyl were taken from Tarantino's personal collection. He wanted all the pops and hiss of the vinyl recordings to remain in the track because these analog artifacts contributed to the feeling of a classic 1960's spa38 Post฀•฀January฀2013฀ Post0113_038-40,42-AudioRAV8FINALREAD.indd 38 ghetti western. "For Quentin, it time stamps it," says Stateman. "He very much wanted this film to feel as if its roots were a product of a certain era, and vinyl is the perfect way to accompany that feeling sonically." Tarantino chose the order of the songs and Stateman and his crew created sound design that was sympathetic to the rhythm and tone of the songs for the soundtrack. Sound effects editor Harry Cohen sifted through the music tracks and created a sonic palette that would tie the music and sound design together. "The pitch and the rhythm were established, and we connected to that with the sound design," says Stateman. "We provided the smear that helps blend the track, and makes it a part of the visual image." A challenging aspect of the sound design was dealing with changes in time, for instance, using slow motion within an action sequence, or having the juxtaposition of a scene within a scene. Stateman needed to punctuate those events in a way that would complement the music's rhythm and pitch. "Depending upon where that music came from, there are elements that are set sonically. We had to be quite flexible and work to create a consistent sound while also instilling the illusion sonically. The film is a rich tapestry of time, pitch and tempo." Since Tarantino wanted to create a soundtrack with an analog feel, all the sound design elements are from naturally-occurring sources. Instead of adding reverb or echo created by a plug-in, Stateman and sound editor Dror Mahar created their own reverbs and echoes in three different locations: Death Valley, California, Zion Canyon in Utah, and Monument Valley, Utah. Those locations were where many classic westerns were shot. Stateman and Mahar traveled hundreds of miles beyond the tourist areas to find the most remote and acoustically beautiful locations. Using a signal cannon (so they weren't shooting live rounds of ammo in a national park), they recorded the impulse responses created deep within those natural canyons. They captured the sound using a DPA 5100 mobile 5.1 surround microphone and a Sound Devices 788 digital recorder. "We recorded echoes that sometimes had up to five repeats, and it was all absolutely, brilliantly clear. No algorithm could duplicate what you find in a series of box canyons with 1,000-foot vertical spaces of stone. It 12/21/12 2:43 PM

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