Rumor has it that the real Queen Elizabeth watches Netflix’s biographical drama, The Crown. Considering it’s a series about her life and reign, that’s not too surprising (although it’s difficult to imagine her lounging on the couch, binge-watching an entire season). Supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Lee Walpole and his crew at Boom Post in London, UK (boompost.co.uk) have been with the series since Season 1, and are currently into mixing Season 2, which is due out this November. The team’s mission is to deliver sonic authenticity that’s on par with the other highly researched aspects of the series. It’s a job well-suited to Walpole’s experience. Having worked on such films as
The King’s Speech and
The Imitation Game, he’s quite familiar with England of the 1940s.
Since The Crown is a depiction of real people and events, Walpole and his team viewed any available archival footage to better understand the reality of those events. For example, they studied actual footage of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding to Prince Philip before starting work on the wedding scene in The Crown, Season 1, Episode. 1, “Wolferton Splash.” Walpole says, “The real events informed our decisions for what we put in the series. Were the crowds cheering outside the church? Were the bells ringing in the Abbey? That sort of thing. Also, we researched and sourced relevant geographical sounds to ensure that we were always using authentic birds and cicadas for the various countries listed in the show.”
During filming, Walpole’s team was on-set to capture specific spot effects of props, era-appropriate vehicles, and location ambiences. They even recorded live footsteps, which they layered in post, to bring a signature character to the various rooms. “With live feet, a character can leave a room and walk down a corridor off-screen and we can sustain the sound longer than you would expect. This helped to reinforce the sheer scale of the locations for the viewer,” explains Walpole.
Their field recording kit included Sound Devices 663 and 744T recorders, and a Roland R26 recorder. For mics, they chose two DPA 4061s, a Rode NT4 and a Schoeps CMIT 5U.
Walpole wanted the spot effects for the palace to sound expensive and decadent. The glassware and crockery all have exaggerated weight. The doors in the show have amplified bass and larger reverbs to highlight the size of the spaces. “The dinner scenes are treated as a set piece, with huge amounts of worldized recordings, done to provide a realistic base for the Foley and to ensure that the sound always sounds real,” says Walpole.
Another effective way of adding authenticity and specificity was to record meticulously scripted loop group. Walpole explains that the Royal family is built on protocol and tradition, so there are very specific manners of addressing and responding to the Royals. If that commentary is correct in the backgrounds, they can confidently feature the loop group in the mix. “All of the principal dialogue is researched to the nth degree by show creator/writer Peter Morgan and his crew, so all of the additional ADR and group was sent to them to script and advise on as well. I wanted to use the background walla for storytelling and to create a sense of location. There are a lot of quiet conversations in The Crown, so the loop group really has a chance to poke in,” says Walpole, who mixes the show alongside re-recording mixer Martin Jensen (dialogue/music).
One of Walpole’s favorite episodes for sound is Season 1, Episode. 2, “Hyde Park Corner,” in which Princess Elizabeth and Philip are on tour in Kenya. Walpole wanted Kenya to overwhelm the senses, to emphasize how alien the environment would seem to the Princess in the 1950s. He gathered new vibrant sounds of cicadas, birdsongs, tree frogs and other atmospheric elements, and feature those heavily in the mix. It stands in contrast to the stark environment of the palace back in England. “We also use it as a device when Elizabeth learns of the King’s death. As she emerges from the lodge, we meet her with an incredibly dense mix of birds and cicadas. We then use the passing messenger’s car as a trigger to slowly remove the atmosphere until we are left with a solitary wind that tonally emerges from the car’s reverb tail. The world literally stops for a moment,” Walpole says.
Sound also plays a huge role when the Royals encounter an elephant while in Kenya. Through sound effects, they added weight, scale and intricate detail that helped bring the CGI elephant to life. “We tried to harness the power and potential threat of the animal through sound,” says Walpole.
They also had fun with the pheasant shoot that happens earlier in the episode. Director Stephen Daldry wanted the guns to have “as much weight and volume as we felt the dialogue would allow. A fine balance between effects and dialogue was struck with the guns punctuating the King’s conversation with Eden,” concludes Walpole.