Each four-minute episode of Nick.com’s Welcome to the Wayne (www.nick.com/welcome-to-the-wayne), with its rapid-fire jokes, action, and plot-points, seems to cover as much ground as a half-hour episode. The six-part digital series, created by Emmy-nominated writer and composer Billy Lopez, follows two 10-year-old boys, Olly and Ansi, as they explore the topsy-turvy world of their New York City apartment building, The Wayne. Beatstreet Productions Emmy award winning mixer/sound designer Matt Longoria says, “The Wayne is a fantastic, crazy place with lots of different, weird characters. In the short form we’re working with, the jokes come really fast.” Longoria and Beatstreet Productions sound designer Bobb Barito try to squeeze as much humor out of each episode as possible. Barito adds, “It’s our job to ground the insanity of the animation because there’s so much going on. The creator Billy has a crazy, high-energy vision and it’s up to us to make that relatable on the screen.”
The Grammy and Emmy award-winning Beatstreet Productions, located in New York, NY (www.beatstreetnyc.com), provides original music and sound design, and mix services. In addition to Welcome to the Wayne, Beatstreet’s past work with Nickelodeon includes audio-post for animated series Team Umizoomi, and creating the interface sound design for Nick.com.
The Beatstreet team started work on Welcome to the Wayne with the dialogue record and edit, building a radio play — that occasionally included sound effects for comedic timing, for the animators to work with. This early work gave Longoria and Barito a feel for the fast-paced series, and an opportunity to discover Lopez’s goal for the sound. Once the picture was locked, Longoria and Barito spent two days designing each episode, adding diegetic sounds as well as inserting sound jokes. Barito notes that Lopez gave them creative freedom to build the track, and then re-directed them at times to clarify details in the animation. “Billy was very open and encouraging of our input,” says Barito. “My personal goal is to make the guy, who's seen it a million more times than everyone else, laugh the first time he hears it. And, if he laughs on the million and first time, we've done something right.”
One of Longoria and Barito’s most rewarding challenges was inserting sound jokes into Welcome to the Wayne. Though putting in a throw-back Hanna Barbera effect is always funny, the Beatstreet team prefers to create their own, unique slapstick style. Barito explains, “Dynamics in level and frequencies are key — say, following a big, full, bassy laser sound with a wimpy slap. Another thing that's fun is character-specific sounds, like giving [the character] Olly squeaky tennis shoes. It's subtle, but it adds to his eccentricity.”
Using Soundminer as their sound asset manager, Barito and Longoria built the sound design from a combination of library effects and custom recordings, like a slow-down tape effect they recorded for a sequence involving an old filmstrip. Longoria says, “It was supposed to be like one of those filmstrips you see in elementary school, where it’s been played a million times on the projector and the sound warbles.” They recorded the sound for the filmstrip onto a cassette recorder/player, and then recorded it back into Pro Tool 11 as Longoria intermittently pressed on the cassette player’s supply spindle. “I pressed on the wheels inside the tape player to slow it down here and there, and shook the player to make it sound messed up,” he explains.
One consideration for the sound design was how it plays against the score, which typically gets delivered to Barito and Longoria half-way through their design process. The team feels it’s best to build up the sound design first without the music. Then they go back and tonally tweak the sound design to mesh with the score. For example, if a tonal sound effect — like lasers ricocheting off mirrors, coincides with a climax in the music, then they’ll use Avid’s Pitch II plug-in to make the tone of the lasers complement the pitch of the music. Barito adds, “Or, we might shift/time-shift the percussion stem to match the rhythm of the sound effects. The sound design is not done until it dances with the score.”
Throughout the two-day design process, the sound team sends demos to Lopez and the producers at Nick, and oftentimes, they’ll make changes as a result. “It's impossible for the animators and director to perfectly envision an animation with wall-to-wall action and gags. Cartoons are getting more and more hyperactive, and the rhythm of the sound design decides if all this action is even cohesive,” says Longoria. “Nine times out of ten, grounding it with sound design clears things up, but the back and forth is sometimes necessary.”