The nitty-gritties of sound designing for the long due ‘Slick Rick’

Sound is one of the most essential component in any film or series. We have come a long way since the inception of cinema as a medium of art, when there were only silent films with absolutely no music or sound. Though silence speaks volume and is important at times, the use of sound is equally essential to further highlight the content to its purest form. Slick Rick, a 3D animated feature by Bhasinsoft Studio is no exception. Slick Rick is a regular auto rickshaw driver who is content with a simple life. However, seeing a way to make quick buck, Slick Rick bumps into a criminal gang planted in India to foil PISRO’s Man on Mars Mission and and decides to join them. This gets Slick Rick in a delicate position when his girlfriend finds out and informs his friends who take it upon themselves to stop Slick and the gang, and he has to choose between love and friends or the money. Sound artist Nanda Kishore has designed the sound and audio effects for this film. With Slick Rick being a silent movie, music and sound were always one the most important things for the project. “We either had a choice to use gibberish or let the music convey the emotions and thought process of characters and we chose the latter. It has been a great journey working with Nanda Kishore and the team. With no formal education in music, it often gets hard for me to convey what exactly I want. But Nanda Kishore has been a great partner to materialise this – patient, understanding and a creative pillar. I will definitely look forward to working with him again on future projects,” Bhasinsoft Studio CEO Ankur Bhasin mentioned.
Ankur Bhasin
Written and directed by Bhasin, the film is currently under production for almost eight years and though the release date hasn’t been finalised, the good thing is that they have just completed the sound designing for the film. Speaking to AnimationXpress about what took them so long, Bhasin said, “We have transitioned to IP while continuing services so the feature took a long time to complete as we had to juggle and manage the team between the two while self financing the complete feature. In addition, we extensively used open source pipeline and a large part of building that has been through experimentation. We are currently working on the distribution of the feature and are in talks with a few parties. The release will depend on the distribution partner.” The sound design was created and executed to be at place and perfect sync with the content, and the outcome seemingly reflects sheer hard work, passion and dedication. We had a talk with Kishore who has supervised the entire process. Here’s what he has to say: How has sound designing aided the script/content/movie? Being a silent movie, the really interesting aspect of Slick Rick has the classical approach of using music and sound as the narrator of all the actions & emotions on screen like classic animations-Tom & Jerry used musical masterpieces to narrate all their movies. Even without spoken words, anyone who watched them could quickly understand & enjoy them. In that sense, composing for this movie was really interesting as every character’s emotional expressions, comic interactions & story progressions are all expressed through the music. It is obviously much more involved than composing ‘background music’ as the music here is in the foreground! Ankur’s vision for the movie was also very clear and that’s always great for me as a composer to write music which (hopefully) moves people as an emotional experience.
Nanda Kishore
What are the techniques that you have used? Obviously, composing 90 mins of music comes with the challenges of making sure there is enough fresh content to keep the viewer engaged. In that view, we decided to make the music more organic by actually performing them on keyboards and guitar, rather than resorting to stale ‘loops’. One of the complaints I have about modern music is, the overuse of computer-generated loops, which really detracts from the human aspect of music. We kept such loops to a minimum in this movie. Obviously, we developed signature themes for all the important characters in the movie . We also made sure that there is only enough repetition of a theme so that its memorable, but not too much , otherwise it would be boring. Stylistically, the music varies from orchestral to light modern jazz & even some synthesizer driven dance music. They were used for specific portions of the movie as a creative decision, which we all hope the audience would like. Who all are working on this as a team for sound designing and music composition? All music is composed by Ankur Bhasin and myself. All arrangements are done by me and Siddharth Kamath. Four  songs have been written, composed and sung by Ankur and all arrangements were done by me with Yogeendra providing additional sessions for the piano sections. Pradeep Gopinath has worked on the sound FX and foley. Can you throw some light on the process? What inspired/influenced to during the process? Since music is the unspoken language, we have to work to make sure the music carries both the emotion & the character’s interactions. Also sound FX would be quite exaggerated in animation as there are no rules about how a footstep or a painful howl has to sound. This creative freedom means you can use almost anything which would be unrealistic in the real world, but it would work wonderfully in the animation medium, where there may be a lot of slapstick comedy, characters falling in love & even a climatic fight sequence where they fight to save India! How was the experience on working this film? It was a great experience working on Ankur’s movie since he completely understands and appreciates the impact of good music in the animation medium. Given he himself is a musician, he gave us enough direction as well as creative freedom. It was also a great creative collaboration with my old friend Siddharth Kamath, working out ideas all night, discarding them in the morning. Then come up with the ‘perfect’ tune in 5 minutes, after eight hours of wondering where a scene would go next! Are you working on any other animated project? Is there something in pipeline? Currently, I am looking forward to getting back to the stage for some live concerts before we again engage in studio work, as I believe Live performances are super useful in keeping the spontaneity alive in our creative work. Ankur and I are also under discussion on his other upcoming movie A Mouse’s Tale. Their next movie, A Mouse’s Tale, is being completely made in Blender and other open source technologies and the team are hoping to deliver it much faster than the time it took to make Slick Rick. We hope to witness some quality music and great content from this team in near future!