The Rum Diary | Frogs and Fiats

Nov 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Matt Hurwitz



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Not only was Guttierez tasked with recording the usual “full series” of basic car sound effects (starting, idling, driving away, pulling in, interior constants, etc.), but also a laundry list of “performance” recordings corresponding to a specific action taking place onscreen. “I gave him a list of sounds that were specific to this movie that would be too hard to edit from whole cloth, without them actually being performed,” he says.

In one scene, the Fiat is found stripped by thieves, not in particularly good running condition. Onscreen, the car is seen bobbing up and down as Kemp struggles to control the vehicle, even driving it down a set of stairs. “So I gave Gabriel specific directions: There’s a scene where Kemp is bobbing back and forth, and the engine should be revving and stopping, revving and stopping, in a sort of silly, cartoon-y way. Do that for 20 seconds. And then he drives down the set of stairs, so we need even more weird revs and the bouncing suspension sounds.” Mangini sent QuickTime videos of the scene to further assist Guttierez in visualizing his recording needs. The designer then fine-tuned the recordings to match specific visual cues. “I don’t time-stretch,” he says. “I just take out little slivers along the way to get a moment to hit.”

Guttierez recorded a total of 215 such cues of the Fiat, in multichannel, to give Mangini material to create a full, rich spread.

Mangini was also able to take advantage of additional background material recorded for the film by production sound recordist Ed Tise. “He’s an extremely conscientious sound recordist,” Mangini says. “He would get up at 2 in the morning—this was all on his own time—and record these dawn and dusk recordings for us, knowing we’d love to have them. For us in post, this is just gold.”

Among Tise’s recordings were a number of group wallas made specifically for the film. “There’s a gambling component where there are crowds of 50 men in these open-air plazas, betting on cockerel fights. And it’s a unique sound that I could never reproduce. It’s a certain kind of Spanish, a certain kind of guy that goes to these things that says certain kinds of things. A group walla could never reproduce this, so Ed captured a whole bunch of wild track.”

For those and other crowd scenes, Tise not only recorded the close-miked dialog of characters seen onscreen, but also made multichannel ambient background recordings of those same takes. “The dialog recording has those same 50 guys betting, but it’s in mono. He got a wild track, in stereo, that I could then lay on either side of it. It’s like a perfect marriage of sound effects and production sound that doesn’t sound artificial.”

Good sound effects design usually gets plenty of attention when it involves big action scenes or sci-fi effects, but Mangini notes the type of work created for The Rum Diary is equally important to the moviegoer. “It gives you a sense of place and time,” he concludes. “There’s no T-Rex attack or backward screaming monkeys; I don’t have any of those stories on this one. [Laughs] I just think I’ve done a nice job of putting you in Puerto Rico in the ’50s. Everything feels real; it just supports the film.”

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