<I>Fathom</I>: Brad Engleking discusses his Emmy-winning sound work
February 17, 2023

Fathom: Brad Engleking discusses his Emmy-winning sound work

AUSTIN, TX — Re-recording mixer, sound supervisor and sound designer Brad Engleking has a wide range of film projects to his credit, including work on Robert Rodriguez's Sin City, James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel and Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life. Recently, he was honored with an Emmy for his work on Apple TV+’s Fathom.

Directed and photographed by Drew Xanthopoulos, Fathom follows Dr. Ellen Garland and Dr. Michelle Fournet, two scientists focused on the study of humpback whale songs and social communication. As they embark on parallel research journeys on opposite sides of the world, they seek to better understand whale culture and communication. 

Fathom received two Emmy nominations, including “Outstanding Sound: Documentary” and “Outstanding Science & Technology Documentary.” Engleking served as supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer on the project, working through Austin’s TBD Post (https://tbdpost.com), which provides creative services such as editorial, color grading, sound design and mixing to filmmakers and agencies.

Fathom displays his expertise in creating and finalizing an experimental soundtrack that immerses viewers in an underwater world. Here, Brad Engleking shares with Post his experience working on the documentary.

Congratulations on your Emmy win!

“I’ve been very fortunate over the years to work on a lot of amazing movies. Over the last 20 years, there are some that stick out that I’m still excited to watch and share with friends and colleagues. Fathom is absolutely one of those. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and the best work in my experience comes from the deepest collaborations. Director Drew Xanthopoulos and producer Megan Gilbride created an atmosphere of experimentation and collaboration that allowed the whole team to create something that is really special. I’m pleased to be nominated, but thrilled beyond measure that it’s for this film and with these friends.”

What are some of the highlights from your work on Fathom?

“The proudest moment working on the film was when Drew and Megan arrived in Austin, having not heard anything I’d done, and screened the first 40 minutes of the film. Those moments can be really emotional for everyone in the room. Often, early in the process, I’m working so hard on something that I become snow blind to the cinematic experience. There’s something about being there with the director, making a first impression with your mix, and being a passive observer that allows you to step back and appreciate the power of the story. 

“After screening the opening, we were all emotional. I live for helping filmmakers realize their vision. There’s no rush like making something you and they are proud of. The opening of the film provided a canvas for sound effects to create the first impression for the audience and let them know that this is not going to be a stale science doc, but an experiential journey with the scientists and the science that is the focus of this film.”

Can you talk a little bit about the approach to sound for this project?

“The movie is mixed natively in Dolby Atmos. This format really allowed us to immerse the audience in the locations where the scientists are doing their work. It also allowed us to create really interesting and powerful explanations of the concepts behind the research by allowing us to explore the idea of space and time as it relates to the communication of Humpback whales. One of the really cool things about the whale recordings in this film is that they were recorded by the scientists profiled in it. Dr. Michelle Fournett in particular has a quadraphonic recording technique that involves placing hydrophones in a 1 kilometer square. We used those recordings extensively throughout the film.”

Tell us about your time at TBD Post?

“I’ve always worked really hard to create a space where directors and producers can feel empowered and safe to take creative chances. I’m really lucky to work with the team at TBD, and for the first time in my career, it feels like someone has curated that same environment for my creativity. The folks there are so talented and so much fun. I go to work with my best friends everyday.”