The SFX recording challenge on The Guardian was that the action sequences took place below and above water. My goal was to deliver a SFX library that was thick, rich and accurate. We were able to create a fantastic water sound library thanks to the work by Alex Daniels, the stunt coordinator on the film.
Our equipment preparation was seven underwater hydrophones (DPA 9611’s and SQ26-08’s), two Neumann 191i and a DEVA 5.
We worked in an indoor pool at dawn so that we could minimize traffic, people and airplanes. The hydrophones were set up in an array, attached to a chord fastened across the pool. The stunt divers performed the moves across the arrayed hydrophones. The Neumann on the side of the pool (looking down to the water) captured the above water sounds. The choice of using hydrophones in an away is based on the fact that sound propagates underwater faster than in air, so when underwater, the sound passes by the hydrophone super fast. Using an array allows you to build a thicker, longer sound from the array of hydrophones.
Alex and I worked together to recreate the specific moves as seen in the movie, while two other recordists were lying flat on the diving boards above the divers.
Alex directed the divers to perform the desired underwater sounds, while a medium perspective of the same water sound effects is recorded.
For the deployment dive, the hydrophone array was set vertically so we could capture more of the sound. Utilizing the diver’s quick physical abilities we accentuated specific sound effects such as water slaps with swimming fins, two divers jumping in the water at the same time, two divers swimming, all four divers making water slaps on the surface. The goal is to create a diverse, complete and rich library so that the sound designer can then create the right sounds that bring the movie to the next level.
Mastering these water sound effects presented bit of a challenge. As mentioned, we recorded early in the morning, but as the city began to wake more unwanted sounds came along. Also, having ten people (us and the diving crew) in a large pool creates many overlaps. Technically the tracks required lots of edits to remove voice commands, background traffic and general overlaps.
The finished tracks were then sent out to sound designer Rob Sephton and his talented crew who created the excellent sounds on the film.