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April 2014
Issue: October 1, 2013

Film Sound: 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2'

CULVER CITY, CA — Sony Pictures Animation’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 picks up where its 2009 predecessor left off. An infamous machine that caused food to rain from the sky is now populating the world with “tacodiles,” “shrimpanzees” and other “foodimals.” 

For supervising sound editor Geoffrey Rubay and his team from Sony Pictures Post Production Services (www.sonypicturesanimation.com), the new film’s savory cast required unique sound flavoring. “Cloudy 2 delivered a whole new set of challenges beyond the first film,” Rubay recalls. “Having food fall from the sky and flop to the ground was hard, because there was so much of it, but now the food gets up and walks around. It acts. It emotes.”

The sound team dreamed up vocalizations and other sounds for dozens of foodimal species. They ranged from avian “bananostriches” to a family of pickles, with each species having characteristic behaviors and sounds. Rubay points to the seemingly vicious “cheespider.”  

“It’s a dump truck-size cheeseburger with French fry legs,” he relates. “When it growls, a big leaf of lettuce wags in its mouth like a tongue. When it speaks, it sizzles like it’s fresh off the grill.”

Sound for these creatures was created from a mix of human vocalizations, original sound effects recordings and Foley. Rubay says that he chose to use “organic” sound effects rather than digitally-produced sounds, reasoning that the creatures themselves were “organic.” It made the fabulous food creations seem more real. 

“We use sounds from the real world because they’re familiar,” he explains. “When you hear them, your brain recognizes that it’s heard that sound before and concludes that what it’s looking at must be real.”

In fact, many of the sounds were produced using real food: lettuce, celery, watermelons and so on. The Sony sound department was transformed into a veritable farmer’s market as daily shipments of produce arrived for recordists, sound designers and Foley artists. 

Using Avid Pro Tools X and newly-developed microphones, Pueblo Audio pre-amps and software plugins (Lowender, Altiverb), the sound team bent, manipulated and stretched recorded sounds to fit the characters on screen. Rubay recalls the recording of a banana being peeled that, when blown up, sounded like “the skin being torn from a 100-foot lizard.” 

“We’ll use any sounds and do whatever we need to do to convince the audience that what they’re hearing is how that creature sounds,” he notes.