Sound Q&A: Harmony and the Chocolate Factory

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It's no Gummo, but Harmony Korine's new spot for U.K. chocolatier Thorntons is an emotive, earnest take on those moments of indecision. In this case, life pauses as one boy ponders how to personalize a chocolate gift and then snaps back to reality once he finally decides. We spoke to Wave sound designer Jack Sedgwick about constructing the sound for this stopped-in-time spot.

How did you approach the music/sound for this spot?
The music was already chosen, I think Harmony and the editor had laid it over the picture when they were editing it. It was initially an original track but it sounds completely different to what's there at the moment. There was a remix and they sent over all the stems of the trackā€”a guitar, a piano, some celesta and sound effects like a bicycle wheel and the sprockets going around, as well as a record crackle that happens at the end of a vinyl record, which was cut in time with the music. So yeah, it was more a case of taking those elements and editing the track to fit the picture edit and mixing certain things to portray the stuck element of the picture.

What elements were key in helping it match the stuttering visuals?
I think it was a case of getting the vinyl crackle and the bicycle sound effects to fit nicely and give them a lot of top end so they really cut through. Because the vinyl crackle is cyclical it really helps with the backwards and forwards of the picture.

Did you add alternate sounds to emphasize the idea of being stuck in thought?
I did do another sound effects dub to go with the picture but it ended up choking out all the effects. There's quite a lot of staccato sound in the music and the sound effects over that just became a bit too much and started to sound a little too haunting, which, for a chocolate company, you don't really want. So, it was more a case of when we were cutting to the release point, when the boy realizes what he wants, to bridge that gap and make it feel like an exhale of breath.

What went into that moment of clarity?
There are elements within the music that were strings with reverb with a low hum as well, so it was a matter of getting rid of the crackle and the staccato sounds and letting the smooth bits take over. And when the pictures start flashing it was a matter of turning up the sound effects, like the ice scraping, which was piercing, the dog barking, the baby screaming and the balloons popping. It was about keeping those sounding a little lo-fi, as well, which I thought just went with the style of the spot and how the kid looks, which is like something out of the 1970's.

What was the biggest challenge of the job?
To be honest, it was a lot easier than we thought it was going to be. When I first saw it I thought if we were going to be putting sound effects over all the shots, to accentuate the back and forth, it would clash with the music which was already doing that to a certain extent. So we decided to go solely with the music, which fit it quite well.

Beyond that, it was about making sure it really crackled and cut, some spots tend to wash out during broadcast but when I saw this on TV it came out quite well.

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