Soundtrack: Amazon's <I>Invincible</I>
Marc Loftus
June 12, 2024

Soundtrack: Amazon's Invincible

Amazon’s Invincible is based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley. The show revolves around 18-year-old Mark Grayson, who’s much like other guys his age, except his father was the most powerful superhero on the planet. In Season 2, Mark is still reeling from an earlier betrayal, and is struggling to rebuild his life as he faces new threats. The season was split into two four-episode sections, rolling out weekly in November and March.

Boom Box Post in Burbank, CA, provided audio services for the second season, with Brad Meyer, MPSE, serving as supervising sound editor. The Boom Box team also included re-recording mixer Jeff Shiffman, MPSE, CAS; re-recording mixer Jacob Cook, MPSE; and music editor Crystal Grooms Mangano. Additional credits on Invincible include sound effects editors Katie Jackson, MPSE; Natalia Saavedra Brychcy, MPSE; Noah Kowalski and Mia Perfetti; dialogue editor Logan Romjue, MPSE; Foley artist Carol Ma, MPSE; score mixer John Chapman; ADR mixer Mark De La Fuente and production sound mixers Jessica Gutierrez and Sergio Martinez.

Boom Box team members recently shared insight into their work and the show’s soundtrack needs.

Photo (L-R): Sound effects editor Katie Jackson, MPSE; sound effects editor Noah Kowalski; Foley editor Carol Ma, MPSE; re-recording mixer Jeff Shiffman, MPSE, CAS; sound effects editor Mia Perfetti; supervising sound editor Brad Meyer, MPSE; sound effects editor Natalia Saavedra Brychcy, MPSE; re-recording mixer Jacob Cook, MPSE; and dialogue editor Logan Romjue, MPSE

Could you provide a few details on the show's soundtrack? 

Brad Meyer: “Although animated, the goal of the soundtrack for Invincible is realism. We want the audience to feel like they are part of the world, and to be fully invested in the relationships between characters and stakes of the story. The show strikes a stunning balance between over-the-top action scenes and emotionally intimate moments, which allows us to highlight both our action-packed sound design and hyper-focus on some of the more subtle sound details. From the sounds of Mark drenched in Angstrom’s blood to Debbie Grayson slamming cabinet doors out of anger toward her murderous husband, some of Invincible’s most impactful moments are also some of the most intimate and visceral. In contrast, we’re not afraid to go big when the story warrants it. Buildings getting destroyed. Planetary wars. A horde of evil Martian squids. You name it. For moments like these, we lean into low-end sweeteners to pack a punch. We also get creative with the 5.1 surround space with tools like panning and reverbs. We want to make the audience feel like they are right in the middle of the action. 

“We go out of our way to tailor original sound design and editorial to the needs of the show. From heightened sonic builds like a massive underwater sea creature, to more subtle custom-recorded ambient sounds like distant Chicago El Trains passing by, you can hear signature sounds in every nook and cranny of the show. However, sound effects aren’t the only elements of the soundtrack that get bespoke treatment; Foley is designed depending on the weight of the character, the footwear they are wearing, and the surface they are on. Certain characters like Allen The Alien have custom vocal processing for things like telepathic speech. Backgrounds and ambiences are fully built out, down to the dog barking across the street or a city bus pulling up offscreen. 

“On the music side, composer John Paesano has continued to craft and curate the musical sound of the show even further in season 2. Not only does the score cover significant ground with action, ranging from comedic adventure to life threatening sequences, it also treats each character with intent and consideration. The score weaves through the story in a way that invites viewers to let go and enjoy the ride. Each episode also features effective song placements that contribute to the tone and energy of the story. Needle-drop song numbers are often used to propel action forward, but can also be used to take a pause and reflect, reiterating the balance between bombastic and intimate in the show.” 

What services does Boom Box provide? 

Jeff Shiffman: “At Boom Box Post, we provide full post production sound services including sound effects design and editorial, dialogue editorial, Foley and multi-format re-recording mixing. Our brand new state of the art facility offers three large Dolby Atmos mix stages, three 5.1 mix suites and eight 5.1 sound editorial suites. We can handle work both in person and remote.” 
What were the sound needs of Invincible and what gear were you using? 

Brad Meyer & Jeff Shiffman: “I’d have to say the biggest need of the show is a signature sound palette that lends itself to the show’s personality. There are so many unique characters, unusual locations, and absurd situations in this show that we often have to tailor our sounds to fit the moment. Invincible is not a formulaic copy-and-paste kind of show. Even something as simple as a punch can create a fun opportunity to infuse some personality into a sound. When some of the most powerful beings in the universe are fighting each other, a simple punch won’t do, so we have to get creative and think outside of the box like layering in cannon fire or an 808 kick drum sample. Or take for example the sound of Shrinking Rae getting crushed inside of Komodo Dragon’s body, and then crawling out of his neck cavity after he gets his head blown off. It’s such an absurd situation, and it’s fun to imagine what we would hear in a moment like this. Is it mostly flesh and blood? Any bones crunching? Would we hear Rae’s screams through Komodo Dragon’s chest? When working on a scene that wild, we can get our creative juices flowing and imagine what something like that would sound like. What something like that could sound like. 

“As for the gear that we use to make it all happen, all of our editorial workstations run Pro Tools Ultimate on a Mac Studio with Focusrite hardware. Our three 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos mix stages are powered by the latest Mac Pro hardware, paired with Focusrite 16Line interfaces and Crown DCi amplifiers. We run Avid S3/Pro Tools Dock boards with a Focusrite R1 for monitor switching.”  

Is there a specific scene or episode that you would point to as a highlight? 

Jacob Cook & Crystal Grooms Mangano: “The Invincible Season 2 finale episode, “I Thought You Were Stronger”, has to be my favorite of the season. Aside from a satisfying ending to season two, it has some of my favorite sound moments. 

“The first is baby Oliver’s crying when Angstrom is holding him and Debbie hostage. We often cut vocal sounds like baby crying as part of editorial, and it was important for us to use Oliver’s crying as a storytelling and tension-building tool. We made a point of having Oliver react to things happening in the room, and intensified his cries over the course of the hostage scenes in the Grayson house. Like fire alarms and nails on a chalkboard, baby cries hit our ears right in the sweet spot to trigger an uneasy feeling, contributing to the tension of the scene. 

"Another scene I’d like to highlight is when Angstrom breaks Debbie’s arm. At first, we took a disgusting, over-the-top approach. But we agreed that the most impactful way for the arm break to land was to downplay it a tad, making it almost realistic. Sometimes less is more. Sandra Oh’s stellar voice acting does the heavy lifting anyway, so we let her performance shine and let the arm break play the supporting role. 

“Lastly, I want to highlight the moment where Invincible beats Angstrom. Once he pins Angstrom to the ground, you’ll notice that the music cuts out, almost reminiscent of the post-credits scene in episode one of the series, perhaps to imply Invincible is more like his father than he’d like to admit. This is a moment where we cut out all the fluff and hyper-focus on the impacts, blood dripping, writhing on the ground, and vocal performances. It’s the small details in this scene that make it feel so jarring. Blood drips made from water, Jell-O, and pasta. Impacts sweetened with bass hits. Sudden cloth movements for Angstrom flailing around. The cherry on top is Sterling K. Brown’s vocal work. He makes you believe he’s actually getting his face beaten in and just puts the scene over the top. 

“In terms of the final mix, our primary goal for any show is to ensure we are guiding the viewer through the story by directing their attention with sound. A great example of this is the sequence when Angstrom and Invincible are fighting while traveling through dozens of alternate dimensions. There is so much to take in visually and sonically, we have to pick and choose what sounds to feature while still keeping the focus on dialogue. Invincible often has big, climactic moments, so we are always looking at how we can enhance that idea in a way that supports the narrative. Musically, this episode is packed with challenges. Within the episode we encounter dinosaurs, zombies, and inter-dimensional travel, all while Invincible faces a very personal threat directed at his family. While spotting with clients, we discussed how and when music should affect the story. 

“For example, five minutes into the episode we are transported to a world with talking dinosaurs. The challenge was to let the scene have a humorous tone without coming across as cartoony. Ultimately this became a moment where the dialogue and sound design led the way and music took a backseat. In the second half of the episode, Mark struggles with the direct consequences of his actions, a theme that runs throughout the series, which John Paesano shaped with touching score that allowed for the moments to be heavy and important without becoming melodramatic. While Mark is in the desert after his battle with Angstrom, the score and sound design create a haunting atmosphere that stays with the viewer as well as the characters. While the show is often larger than life, it’s these distinctly human moments that give magnitude to the series.”