So, as many of you know, one of my favorite shows on Television is “Fringe” on Fox. It is an absolutely terrific show.
As you probably know, the Emmy nominations came out a few weeks ago, and I was thrilled to hear that Bruce Tanis was nominated in the area of Sound Design on “Fringe”, as well as for an HBO film he worked on. I’ve been getting to know Bruce over the past few months (amazingly nice guy). You can read an interview I did with him a while back on the sound design of “Fringe” here. Anyways, Bruce just finished up writing for Miguel for a month over at Designing Sound, so I figured while his fingers were still warm I would ask him to write up a blog about what his nominations meant to him and to write a bit about each of the pieces that were nominated.
So here’s what he had to say:
Hi Colin. As you know, I was lucky enough to be nominated recently for a Sound Editing Emmy Award for this past television season. Actually, I was even luckier and received TWO nominations! One was for sound effects editing on “Fringe” and the other was for the HBO movie, “Temple Grandin”. That was a terrific project and I was really happy to be a part of it although it couldn’t have been much more different in terms of material than “Fringe”. “Temple Grandin” is a biographical film about a real person named Temple Grandin and who has autism but still managed to go through her professional life becoming a highly respected professor and researcher in animal husbandry. The film is very straight forward and takes place mostly in the sixties and seventies with a few whimsical montages that illustrate how her mind sees things that the rest of us take for granted. It’s a terrific story about a very inspirational person.
“Fringe”, on the other hand, is all about alternate Universes, monsters, and things that go bump under your bed. Things like two foot long hookworms and horribly destructive viruses and mind control. I think the part that interests me about these two shows, taken together, is that they represent two very different points along the sound spectrum. One is a very literal film where sound helps tell the story of what actually took place in a particular location and time and the other uses sound to create things that don’t exist anywhere. Both projects use sound effects to tell their story but in completely different ways. I have to admit, I was surprised to be nominated for “Fringe” since there are so many other worthy shows out there but I’m really glad and excited that we made the list!
The episode that got nominated is called “White Tulip” and it features Peter Weller (“Robocop” and “Buckaroo Banzai”), as a time traveling scientist named Alistair Peck. He’s come up with a type of Faraday Cage wiring system that has grown into his body and arms and he uses this mechanism to propel himself through time in an attempt to go back and save his wife from a fatal car crash. He earns Walter’s respect because his design, as disgusting as it is visually, is actually a success. The picture editor wanted some sounds to cut in for the time travel sequences as they developed the episode and their temp opticals were fast-cut fluttery images of Peck as he built up in intensity to the moment of making the “jump” and then winding down on the b-side. I knew his device was electrically based so I came up with some sparking and zapping sounds that I pitch bent up to the moment of jumping and then brought them back down as he arrived at his destination time. These sort of made a wave that crested as he disappeared from out time and washed away as he re-appeared as he re-entered the time stream somewhere else. Since the nature of time jumping is that the jumper moves along the timeline but doesn’t usually move anywhere else geographically, I wanted to try and sell the effect by using vocals that made it seem like he was jumping over other people who occupied the same physical space as him but simply at a different time. I took some pieces of the production dialog and, again, pitch bent them to wind up and down and also treated them to have a delayed chorusing so that they vibrated a bit in the same was as the picture. There were also the regular whooshes and echoes to heighten the moment of transference even further. At various points during the episode, Peck “jumps” to a time moment that we’ve already seen but each time it’s just a little bit different because Walter has begun to piece together what Peck must be doing and, as he understands more and more, he begins to affect the time jumps as he gets closer and closer to catching Peck in the act. This was handled by using the exact same elements each time but adding something slightly different so that we know that, very subtly, even though we’ve seen this exact set of events before, this time the sequence is unfolding just a little bit differently . . . .
This was a really fun episode to be nominated for because time travel is such a staple of science fiction programs. Certainly, each “Fringe” episode had something interesting in it but I like this one because it goes so far back through a lot of terrific films and TV programs as one of the Grandfather story devices. I love the irony that this show got nominated for a time travel machine that was first used so long ago and has now looped back on itself!
Thanks so much Bruce for sharing!
You can download this episode of “Fringe” here. (iTunes link)
NOTE: I do not get any procedes for click-thru’s or purchases. I support “Fringe” because I’m a loving fan!)
P.S. I have not forgotten about my boom operation post! It is almost finished and is coming soon!!!