“As is often the case with Blue Chip natural history shows, very little sound is actually recorded while filming on location,” explained Graham Wild, dubbing mixer on the David Attenborough-narrated documentary series. “Sometimes sound recordists are sent to gather wild tracks and atmospheres, but not always, so our biggest challenge as the sound team is to make the sequences sound as realistic as possible.
“We were lucky on this series as there were quite a few location recordings done for us — but even so, none were sync to picture apart from a couple of dialogue pieces. Sound editors Tim Owens and Kate Hopkins had the task of sourcing and choosing suitable tracks to match the pictures — and these all have to fit with the correct location, species, etc — often using in the region of 30 tracks just to make up the sound for one shot. My job as re-recording mixer is to then blend these all together with the Foleys to create what the audience hears.”
Wild related that In other instances, they “want to skew the sound slightly, for instance, what would it actually sound like for that mouse? This is where the sound design starts, and being creative with the sound can really help the story. A lot of the sound in Planet Earth II was about creating mood. Sometimes being dramatic and adding excitement or danger, but sometimes just leaving the audience time and space to reflect on what they’ve just seen.
“Some of the animal behavior filmed in Planet Earth II has never been filmed before, and some sequences gave us their own particular challenges,” WIld related, citing a sequence with Langur Monkeys “jumping over rooftops in a James Bond Style chase. Not only was a lot of it shot off-speed and used ramping to accentuate the really close up filming style, but also some of the behavior was really rare. Despite having some good wild tracks to work with, one particular really close-up call was missing. In the end we remembered working on a show many years ago that featured the same type of vocalization. Unfortunately it was well before the days of splitting out stems from mixes, so any version of the sound would have had music and commentary mixed in with it. Luckily though, they managed to find an old archive of the track lay, and even more fortunately managed to find someone with an old audio workstation that could restore audio from the track lay–even though it hadn’t even been turned on for years.”