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November 2016

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BITS & PIECES 4 POST NOVEMBER 2016 AMANDA KNOX: HOBO & GIGANTIC POST CREATE SONIC DREAD FOR NETFLIX DOC usical sound design? That may sound incongruous, but not for Chris Stangroom, Hobo's (www.hobo- VP, senior sound designer/ engineer and the supervising sound editor on the new Netflix documentary feature, Amanda Knox. That's how he describes his work on the new film. "The sound design plays off of pitches and timbre to help build on emotions the filmmakers want the viewers to feel in each scene," Stangroom says. The film marks the second time Stangroom and the Hobo team partnered with Tom Paul of Gigantic Post. The two recently collaborated on the doc, Weiner which aired on Showtime following a suc- cessful theatrical run in late summer. We recently spoke with Stangroom and Paul about their work on the film and the challenges it presented. This project comes on the heels of your collaboration on another high profile indie doc, Weiner. How does your work on that film compare with Amanda Knox? Stangroom: "I had my hands in this film much more than Weiner. For that film I was the dialogue editor, but for Amanda Knox, I joined the film as the supervising sound editor. I was more involved with the entire post audio process: Putting the sound editorial team together, communi- cating with the film's producers/directors Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst about their sonic vision for the film, as well as connecting with the music composers (Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans) so we always had the latest music cues and sound design to work off of. "Overall, the sound was evenly split between creating the realism of the film as honestly as possible, and more cinematic sound design that we used to represent the emotion and journey of this unbelievable case. The sounds we decided to use for the small town of Perugia, Italy, were very specific. In those ambiences you'll hear lone car engines, the occasional barking dog and a Vespa scooter or two. We contrast how eerily quiet Perugia usually is compared with the media frenzy of the Knox case. As the drama unfolds, we used a more cinematic sound design approach to help amplify the tension that was constantly growing with the film." Paul: "Hobo's work was fantastic and they were fun to get creative with. We had another collaborator on the sound team this time. Sound designer, mixer and good friend Coll Anderson (Restrepo, The Jinx) came in for a couple of crucial mix days. He brought his own brand of realism mixed with an acute insight into character to the table." Where there any particular scenes that you found challenging or creatively interesting? Stangroom: "I find the opening scene so spooky. Rod and Brian made a great decision to start this film about such a controversial case with the actual police footage from when they responded to the call about Meredith Kercher's death. Every piece of that police footage that you see in the film is untouched. We supplemented those raw sounds with natural ambience of Perugia, as well as subtle Foley touches. "My favorite is the final scene inside the church where we hear these eerie re- verbed whispers and a low sub-harmonic drone that builds the tension. That scene cuts to a ferry in Seattle with Amanda Knox aboard looking weary from the media attention. We tried capturing that feeling sonically with layers of low vibra- tions, a pitched down sound of churning water and distant drones swaying in and out of the music." Paul: "The big challenge in both the sound design and mix was giving em- phasis to all the case material and the details. There's a lot of text and graph- ics, and we had to find the sweet spot between over-melodramatic, cheesy swishes and being right on point. We did that using the right amount of reverb and levels. We also wanted to make all the archival footage, which is intercut with interviews, feel very present. We added specific broken-glass sounds and Foley footsteps so that it's like a movie and very experiential and emotional." Hobo and Gigantic Post have collaborated on several critically acclaimed indie documentaries. What's the creative partnership between the two companies like? Stangroom: "Hobo and Gigantic have been collaborating for about five years. I've known Tom Paul for more than a decade, and he is one of the top docu- mentary film mixers out there. He pushes us all to look deeper and find the smallest details of any scene. It's his attention to small touches that make him who he is. He trusts us with the full sound edito- rial on a lot of his projects, adding and tweaking the overall soundscape to build on what the directors and producers want the film to sound like." Paul: "I am proud of our work on Amanda Knox, and in addition to Hobo, was excited to have another opportunity to work with editor Matt Hamacheck, who I worked with on the film, Cartel Land, and to work with the directors Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst. They are a great team, probably because they have such different personalities." You've worked on a number of indie film projects in the past. Where does this film sit for you as a creative accomplishment? Stangroom: "Amanda Knox is probably the most unique documentary soundtrack I've ever worked on. There were a lot of cinematic references made by the directors and editor. We worked hard to craft a film that could make an emotional impact even if you muted the interviews and dialogue in the film. Its success is a testament to many talented people in this process, especially Rod, Brian and Matt, who gave us detailed feedback and helped direct us all to an incredible final mix. The final mix stands out from every M

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