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October 2016

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AUDIO FOR FOREIGN FILMS 39 POST OCTOBER 2016 Bilal: A New Breed of Hero was co-directed by Pakistani filmmaker Khurram H. Alavi and Ayman Jamal, the founder and managing partner of Dubai-based animation and visual effects studio Barajoun Entertainment. For picture finishing and post sound, they brought the film to New Zealand's Park Road Post Production ( in Wellington, New Zealand. Park Road's sound team was led by supervising sound editor/sound designer Hayden Collow. There, he worked with re-recording mixers Michael Hedges (dialogue/ music) and Alexis Feodoroff (sound effects/Foley/ backgrounds). Also mixing sound effects was re-re- cording mixer Pete Smith. Even though it's an animated film, Bilal tells a serious story. Director Alavi relied on sound to help transform the audiences' awareness of the visual medium — instead of seeing it as an animation, he wanted the audience to feel the realness of the story. "The direction was to make the film not sound comical. To make it sound almost as if it were a live-action film, but not quite," explains Collow, who had the challenge of creating a soundscape that was 'real-ish' but not too threatening. "The sound still had to suit a younger audience. It had to be dramatic yet entertaining." Collow details a dream sequence in which several characters morph into sand versions of themselves along with a 'Giant Sand God.' At Park Road, they recorded numerous tracks of sand sweeping movements, impacts and sand sprays, as well as captured sand recordings at the beach. Collow says they morphed the sand recordings with various heavy wind-storm recordings to add movement, power and tex- ture to the sand so that it didn't become a wash of white noise. For plug-in processing, Collow found that Slapper, by The Cargo Cult, provid- ed a great multi-tap surround delay with a tape mode vari-speed feature. He used Slapper on the Giant Sand God to help create a larger-than-life vocal sound. "Most notably, Slapper was part of the chain that we used on the Charlatan Priest's vocal treatment. We also used it often on the design throughout the film. It's great at making designs more ominous or a bit weirder." The opening dream-like sequence also required an ominous tone. Young Bilal plays pretend as a masked hero while riders on black horses bear down upon his village. Collow and his team need- ed to craft a difference between the light, positive sounds and the dark, ominous sounds without hinting too early that the entire sequence was a nightmare. Collow says, "It was a great sequence to work on. It started with the delicate sounds of the starry night and then we introduced the threatening Dark Riders. We jump back to showing young Bilal in a nice environment. From there we slowly twist the sounds to become more dark and ominous, into a more classic night- mare sound sequence as we see more of the Dark Riders." Mixing that opening sequence was also challeng- ing. Hedges explains that, on one hand, they had Dark Riders charging in on powerful, huge horses toward an unsuspecting family. Then there are intense intercut shots of panic, lightning, thundering hoofs and a huge score. "We had the most amazing team working on Bilal. The opening 12 minutes of this movie was huge to mix. We spent about three days to get it right! We worked hard so as not to overpower this moment because we had a number of massive scenes to come," says Hedges. Hedges notes they dubbed on both of Park Road's main stages simultaneously, to ensure they would meet their deadline. In Theatre 1, Hedges would work with dialogue (from dialogue supervi- sor Jason Canovas) and composer Atli Örvarsson's score, and then move into Theatre 2 to join Feodoroff on a separate reel that they were pre- paring for playback. "It sounds easy," says Hedges, "but working at all hours of the day and night, this tended to become rather disorienting!" Another tricky sequence for the mix team was when the film flashes back to darker times of brutal battles and the capturing of towns. Hedges says the challenge was to ensure that the emotion of the scene was retained. The mix team experi- mented with reverbs, taking out the sound effects, and then trying numerous variations of sound effects combinations. Örvarsson's score, which at times was huge and powerful, could be extremely delicate in other moments. And the score for this sequence was the latter, so Hedges made sure to find a space for it. He says, "It was a pleasure to work with a score that breathed and moved so effortlessly. The beauty of such an outstanding score is that during some of the major sound effect sequences it allowed the sound design to have its space and grandeur." Hedges feels that Bilal: A New Breed of Hero comes to life with the soundtrack. "It has every- thing from extremely warm and funny sequences to the most visually and aurally spectacular scenes, making you feel the power of Bilal. It truly sounds amazing." Two Park Road theaters were used for the mix of Bilal. Bilal features and huge, powerful score.

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