Award-winning directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—the Daniels— have already made their mark on filmmaking. Their feature-length directorial debut, Swiss Army Man (2016), starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, is a life-affirming, unforgettable film of survival, resilience, perseverance and flatulence.”
Their follow-up, Everything Everywhere All At Once, is equally distinctive, traversing subjects ranging from the existence of parallel universes, to tax evasion, to universal consciousness, to generational trauma, to social acceptance, to dysfunctional relationships, to… It bears the Daniels’ distinct brand of outré humor (think kung fu fights with a fanny-pack, and a reality where hot dog-fingered humans play piano with their toes). Such out-there, creative concepts call for a filmmaking team that is willing to get weird. For sound, Emmy and MPSE Award-winning supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Brent Kiser, owner of Unbridled Sound in Los Angeles, fit the bill perfectly.
“After Swiss Army Man, the Daniels started talking about this fun new film,” Kiser recalls. “Then in 2019, producer Jonathan Wong said they had a script and asked if I wanted to see it. I said, ‘Yes, but will I understand it?’ The hard thing about reading these scripts is that they’re so amazing and you’re laughing as you’re reading them, but you’re also thinking, ‘How is this going to work?’”
Having sound supervised and co-mixed Swiss Army Man (with re-recording mixer Beau Borders), Kiser knew that Everything would require some creative contortionism. He tapped MPSE Award-winning sound designer Andrew Twite, ADR supervisor Julie Diaz, re-recording mixer Alexandra Fehrman, John Sievert’s Foley crew at JRS Productions, and sound effects editors Reese Richardson,” Kailand “KC” Reilly, and Jacob “Young Thor” Flack, among a few others.”
TUNING AND STATIC
“Verse jumping,” for those scenes when a character connects with a different version of themself from another reality in the multiverse in order to obtain their skills, became the first sound design task. From a sound perspective, the team needed to find a way for the verses to intermingle, to make it feel like elements from one verse are being pulled into another. For this, Kiser and Twite (also a Swiss Army Man alum) developed a radio-tuning transition.
“It became a great narrative tool that added to the story, but also assisted us in connecting these weird spaces and moments,” says Twite.” “They just tossed us this first scene and said, ‘We need to feel different verses coming through, and that everything’s breaking down. Go!’”
The first taste of verse jumping was an epic hallway fight in which antagonist Jobu Topaki confronts Evelyn. Jobu has mastered verse jumping to the point that she’s simultaneously experiencing every version of herself all at once. Twite typically starts his sound design by recording, with his most recent rig including an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo mic feeding an Avid Omni preamp directly into Pro Tools. For the radio-tuning elements, he recorded frequency sweeps, tuning and “roger” beeps from an old two-way radio, and a small, handcranked AM/FM camping radio, where “I was often tuning through channels, trying to find those places that ride the line between reception and static,” he says.
These recordings were loaded into Soundminer, which features a built-in DSPRack that supports both VST2.4 and AU plug-ins, allowing Twite to try out numerous plug-ins and processing chains to discover possible textures and movements before rendering into Pro Tools. “I used Kilohearts Snap Heap quite a bit with the radio elements,” he explains. “Snap Heap is a modular-based plug-in; you can add a wide variety of modules or Snap-ins to create or modify sounds. You can run the modules in parallel or in series, and each module can be controlled independently while you are tweaking your sound. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what is possible.”
Twite’s favorite radio-tuning moment plays during a fight in which a security guard gets pummeled by two oversized dildos. “We hit a slow-motion moment, and one ‘weapon’ bends toward the camera,” he says. “I ran a radio frequency sweep and roger beep through Snap Heap with a Frequency Shifter, Ring Mod, Dynamics module for boosting specific frequencies, and a Delay, and I got this crazy bending sound with the beep accent right as the ‘weapon’ is bent all the way forward. It’s a great accent for the moment. I just love it.”
One hallway scene also has huge waves of multiverse energy, which the Jobu character conjures during her confrontation with Evelyn. For that sound, Twite recorded a two-foot section of eight-inch ribbed tubing by inserting an A-T AT897 short shotgun mic into the tube and then scraping the tube’s exterior with a wooden dowel at different speeds, and with the tube bent in different directions. He manipulated the recordings using a pitch shifter before running the sounds through Ina-GRM Tools Doppler plug-in to create long, textured whoosh-bys. Twite also created breathy vocal whooshes using the Sennheiser MKH 8050 mic. Those recordings were pitched down significantly to create airy whoosh elements that play in tandem with the tube whooshes.
“Once we got to the mix stage and fine-tuned the panning, you can feel them pass around you, especially in the Dolby Atmos mix. They turned out to be really effective, albeit quite simple,” he says.