The role of sound design in this particular project is to support the story, provide speed, weight, and space to the animation, and occasionally provide a punchline to a joke. The star of this piece is the music, so the sound is there to fulfill any other sonic storytelling that needs to happen, and not clash with the notes of the tune. Even the most mundane sounds in our lives have pitch content, from a closing door, to the New York Stock Exchange closing bell. Throwing these sound effects into the mix with a song is like closing your eyes and striking a note on the piano. Nick, our sound designer changed the pitch of each of the sound effects to reach a pitch that would strike a nice note with the music.
The “design” aspect of sound design comes from mixing together different sound recordings together to achieve something that sounds singular and unique to the situation at hand. For example, the mars rover sound was achieved by combining various recordings together in a way that would help sell the shot. A servo motor recording was used to give it a “robotic” feel, a car pass-by recording gives the illusion of motion, dirt and rock falling effects give a grounded feel, and car suspension creaks are used to give a sense of rough terrain. In case you are wondering, Mars has an atmosphere, and therefore it has sound!
After all the effects are edited and timed out to the final animation, the mix begins. Mixing can provide more information about the space the characters are in, and how they move around their world. The music chugs along at a consistently high level, so the effects sit low in the mix, and are sometimes barely audible. Every effect is treated with compression and EQ to get best listening experience possible, and voilà! A soundtrack is born.