Soundtrack: Apple TV+'s <I>Silo</I>
June 17, 2024

Soundtrack: Apple TV+'s Silo

Apple TV+’s Silo tells the story of the last 10,000 people on Earth and their mile-deep home that protects them from the toxic world outside. No one knows when or why the silo was built, and any attempts to find out leads to fatal consequences. Rebecca Ferguson stars as Juliette, an engineer, who seeks answers about a loved one's murder and stumbles onto a mystery that goes far deeper than she could have imagined. The show also stars Common, Harriet Walter and Chinaza Uche.

According to production sound mixer, John Mooney, CAS, the show’s workflow is fairly straight forward.

“We supplied two mix tracks and pre-fade iso's of all incoming sources on Polyphonic WAV files,” says Mooney. “The mix tracks consist of a mix of all sources: booms, radios, playback, etc., which I've mixed together as best I can on the day. The mix tracks are almost identical, except that mix track 1 had a small amount of DNR applied to it from a Cedar DNS2, which becomes our picture-cutting mix, whereas mix track 2 was the same mix, but clean of DNR and supplied as an alternative option.”

These two tracks are followed by iso tracks of any booms, which, in turn, were followed by iso tracks of any personal mics or playback.

“The cameras were generally Mini Alexas and TC synced via Ultra-sync Ones from our main recorder, a Sound Devices 688, which acted as the TC master clock...apart from when we shot in any of the cafeteria sets, where there was a requirement for the cameras to be genlocked to the video wall, in which case, the video wall department supplied the master clock and sound department and cameras took a TC feed from them. We would generally split rushes half way through the day and supply all files on SD Cards to our DIT department, where they were transferred to a shuttle drive which was sent off to post.”
Mooney says a few features of the set influenced their gear selection.

“Silo is suppose to be a world of concrete. However, most of the sets are made of wood, with few real concrete floors,” Mooney explains. “This lead to the possibility of loud, inappropriate-sounding footsteps over the dialogue, so our main approach on Silo is one of trying to provide a very isolated and sterile dialogue track.”

For this reason, the team chose Schoeps Super-CMITs as their main boom mics, which Moone says have excellent off-axis rejection.

“We're fans of radio-booms, so our Super-CMITs were transmitted from the set back to me using Zaxcom 742 digital transmitters. In addition to the boom coverage, any actor with any dialogue also had a radio mic fitted...various capsules used depending upon which we felt most appropriate for the particular performer's voice.”

Rebecca Ferguson, Mooney recalls, was very keen for every performance nuance to be captured, and welcomed being wired for these non-dialogue scenes.

“I feel this was definitely worth the extra effort here as the additional sound detail really added an extra dynamic to what we were seeing on the screen.”
According to Mooney, one of the greatest challenges for the production sound department was trying to keep the acoustic down on the main stairwell set.

“From the very large, cavernous version on Hoddesdon A-Stage, to a smaller technical stairwell on E-Stage, to some quite dry sounding stunt sets at the OMA Studio complex, where there was also a version which was half submerged -so maybe not so dry!”

All in all, Mooney says his experience on the show was very positive.

“All departments are willing to collaborate and help out the sound department as much they can,” he explains. “Particular thanks to the costume and special effects departments, who always went above and beyond when it came to helping conceal radio mics or quiet down in-vision steam vents, etc. The tone is set from the very top, and for a large-scale show with a big crew, it has a very nice family-feel to it.”

Dustin Harris (pictured), MPSE, is Silo’s supervising sound editor and says building the world of Silo was a real group effort.

“We were blessed to have so much time with (showrunner) Graham Yost and the director (Morten Tyldum) of the first three episodes to have in-depth conversations about how we all imagined the Silo would sound, and more importantly, feel,” says Harris. “From there we were given quite a long leash to exercise our creativity when bringing the Silo to life sonically.”
Harris says sound designer Nathan Robitaille andhe recorded a lot of sounds from scratch, because the show has the unique situation of not using wood as a building material. 

“Removing wood from your sonic palette is akin to removing one of the primary colors from your paintings, so you need to redefine what colors represent what emotions,” he explains. “Metal and concrete are traditionally ‘cold’ sounding surfaces, and we needed to find ways to make them sound both warm and cold, to bring that color back to our spectrum of sound.”
Harris notes that one of the show’s biggest challenges was making the silo itself feel massive yet claustrophobic at the same time. 

“We really wanted the eyes to see all this space, and at the same time, the mind and heart wondering what is beyond,” he explains. “That push to trade safety for curiosity, and ultimately the truth.”