It was during the editing stages of Of Shark And Man that director David Diley contacted David Lawrie about sound design. After reviewing the early edits and original source recordings it was clear that the film needed foley and ambient/location recording reinforcement for the segments shot above ground and, because there was nothing of substance recorded underwater during the shoot, all of the aquatic sequences required complete sonic treatment in post production.
Because the ambient sounds captured on location by the film crew were of a usable quality, they could be reinforced with other, similar location recordings (rivers, tides, forests, cities etc.), rather than having to be completely replaced. By using ambience recorded over a period of years, in many different locations, a balance could be found between the diagetic ambience, and the suggestive ambience.
In the case of interviews, where only a lavalier microphone was used, some of the ambience in the locations was detectible. Left alone this could have become a distraction to the viewer, so in most of these cases low level ambience of a similar nature was added, in order to “fill in the gaps,” and bring it back into the narrative, rather than leaving it as-was, to detract from the story.
Because Of Shark And Man is a documentary at its core, much of what was captured on camera was unplanned, and therefore unprepared. In certain scenes where dialogue was present but minimal, there were sonic gaps in the diagesis (this is common in documentary film-making, when a great occurrence being captured imperfectly is better than not being captured at all). Because of this, Of Shark And Man contains many instances of overdubbed foley, in order to paint a more convincing sonic picture.
CREATIVE SOUND DESIGN
The main ingredient in the overall sound design process for the film was in creating the underwater sequences. In the stylistic discussions with the director, it was decided that referencing old slasher movies to introduce a sense of unease and, at times, dread, would help to create an immersive experience for the viewer, which would neither paint the sharks as cuddly toys, nor would it pull an overtly “Hollywood” style “terror” stunt on the viewer. The sound had to instill a “respect” for the sharks. By personifying the sharks’ characters, found sounds, which best represented the personifications, were collected. These found sounds were then manipulated, using various digital audio processing techniques, to mould them into otherworldly drones and tones.
Even the water itself was crafted from scratch – each depth, movement, and bubble was manipulated by hand, to create a fully immersive experience.
As the process of creating the sound design was nearing completion, the film still required an opening theme. David composed an instrumental piece that used piano as its main instrument, along with found sounds for percussion. He later worked on the piece, to create a vocal version called “The Opportunity,” which was released as a B-Side to his single “Dorothea” – a song taken from his album Dorothea’s Boat. Other pieces of music by David appear throughout the film.
Once all elements of the sound had been brought together, the overall mix was completed by David at Ishikawa Studios. All delivered formats were in stereo, in order to provide maximum compatibility at multiple film festivals (its primary outlet), and also for online streaming. Another version, adhering to EBU-R128 loudness requirements, was also supplied.
The film went on to win many awards around the world, including Best Sound Design at the 2016 Nice International Filmmaker Festival.