NEW YORK CITY – HOBO (www.hoboaudio.com) continues providing audio post services for cutting edge indie documentaries, having recently lent its sonic skills to Quest. A part of PBS’s POV series,
Quest aired throughout June and is also screening theatrically in limited showings throughout the US. The film has a successful film festival run that included winning a 2018 Independent Spirit Award, and was named a 2017 official section at Sundance.
Directed by Jonathan Olshefski and shot over the course of nearly a decade, Quest is a moving portrait of an American family living in North Philadelphia. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency, parents Christopher "Quest" Rainey, and his wife, Christine'a "Ma Quest" Rainey raise their family while navigating the poverty and strife that grips their neighborhood. Amid the chaos, they nurture a community of artists in their basement home music studio. But even this creative sanctuary can't always keep them safe.
Senior audio engineer Chris Stangroom lead the HOBO team, which included Stephen Davies, Diego Jimenez, Julian Angel, Oscar Convers and Jesse Peterson. Sound for the documentary sound proved to be a big part of the cinematic experience.
“Since Quest was a film not only about the Rainey family, but also their neighborhood of North Philly, I spent a lot of time researching the sounds of Philadelphia,” Stangroom explains. “I gathered a lot of great references and insight from friends who had grown up in Philly, like the sounds of ‘ghetto birds’ (helicopters), the motorbikes that are driven around constantly and the SEPTA buses. As Jon and I spoke about the film’s soundtrack, those kinds of gritty, authentic sounds were exactly what he was looking for. It created an energy to the film that made it vivid and alive.”
As any documentary shot over nearly decade might have, Quest too faced audio challenges, including the maintaining of consistent sound quality throughout. For Stangroom, the biggest challenge came in a key scene in a hospital room, with Quest and his injured daughter PJ. The scene features the two holding each other close and whispering, but the moment’s emotional core is ruined due to the large amounts of room noise.
“It took the viewer immediately away from the emotions that we were trying to connect with,” Stangroom says. “We ended up scrapping that entire audio track and re-creating the entire scene’s audio from scratch. Jon actually ended up getting in the sound booth and quietly whispered the kinds of phrases Quest said in the moment to his daughter. It took a couple hours to finesse that scene, but in the end, it ended (up) accurately capturing the touching moment that it actually was.”
The HOBO team relied on numerous audio tools to complete the job, including Avid Pro Tools, Izotope RX 5 Advanced, Audio Ease Altiverb, Zoom H4N, and sE1a condenser mics. Stephen Davies and Diego Jimenez both served as sound effects editors. Julian Angel also handled SFX editing and Foley mixing. Oscar Convers was the Foley artist and Jesse Peterson edited dialogue.
The film was edited by Lindsay Utz, wth Ellen Knechel assisting. Christopher "Quest" Rainey provided original music and T. Griffin handled the score.