Hope is a funny thing—as the creators of the Apple TV+ comedy series Ted Lasso well know. In the season finale, “The Hope That Kills You,” the series’ soccer team, AFC Richmond, finds themselves championship-bound, whether they win their match or simply tie. All they have to do is tie… is that too much to hope?!
The sound of the stadium crowd builds an infectious atmosphere of excitement and anticipation during the match. Supervising sound editor Brent Findley, MPSE, says, “The fun that we had in mixing the story of a pivotal stadium sporting event in Dolby Atmos can not be overstated. The immersion is exciting—being down on the field and feeling the immensity of the crowd with the height speakers all around and above is energizing.”
Funny thing is, that stadium was nearly empty during the shoot. The 20,000-plus crowd was created in post, visually and sonically. “There were maybe a couple hundred people waving about and reacting, following the director’s requests,” reveals Findley.
It was up to him and his sound editing team to fill the stands and cover all the crowd perspectives appropriately, from the wide stadium shots to sell the scale of the crowd to inside the locker room where the deep crowd roar carries through the structure, to inside the packed local pub, and everything in between.
“Every one of those perspectives is crafted deliberately,” Findley explains. “Bernard Weiser, MPSE (Dialog Editor), Kip Smedley (FX Editor), Nancy Snow (Loop Group Leader), and Sanaa Kelley, MPSE (Lead Foley Artist) provided me with enough material to fill over 600 tracks in the final episode. Of those, over a hundred are dedicated to crowd sounds. We have layers upon layers of densities and textures, from deep howling masses to specific individual voices for prominent fans on camera.”
No soccer match is complete without a crowd chant. So how did Findley get 20,000 fans to sing the “Roy Kent” chant? He says, “With no way to put together a crowd of people big enough to cleanly record the song [because of COVID restrictions], we really had to get creative.”
Using production tracks of the small stadium group and the pub patrons singing to create a framework, they layered on loop group and generic crowd chanting manipulated with Cargo Cult’s Envy, which “allows me to impose the characteristics of one sound onto another sound,” says Findley.
Also, the stadium crowd chant was much slower than the pub crowd chant, and cutting back and forth repeatedly revealed a startling contrast in the tempo. “To make it feel like all fans everywhere were chanting in unison, we increased the tempo of the stadium crowd a bit and slowed down the pub crowd a bit to get them to match more closely from cut to cut.”
On the WB Sound dub stage, re-recording mixers Ryan Kennedy and Sean Byrne had to keep the crowd energy going during perspective changes. Byrne says, “Kip [Smedley] is very good about giving me the same locations and angles on the same tracks. So, once I establish levels/verb/slap for an angle, I can simply copy/paste all automation for the next time we are there. With so many complex perspectives, it helps to simplify as much as possible, establish an atmosphere, and then add detail to the moment.”
When mixing crowds, Kennedy keeps up the energy by letting specific elements poke through. For instance, Kennedy pushed individual reactions in the bar scene to hit where the eye was drawn at that moment. “Also, letting the loop group percolate throughout helps sell the realism. Add to that sneaking in a bit of the crowd from the television and you are able to maintain the excitement of the game,” he says.
Selling the reality of the crowd was key to making the match feel exciting. “Viewers NEED Ted Lasso to sound real, concludes Byrne. “Real soccer games, real stadiums, real emotions. If it sounded anything less than real and authentic, it would rip you out of the story. Since the stadium doesn’t exist on set, and neither does the game for that matter, we had to build an idea in your ears that you were actually there, in a real stadium.”