DEFINITION - April 2020 - Web


Sex toys, screaming babies and rebellious cloaks. We talk to the people responsible for the sound, SFX and VFX in the BBC’s Dracula SOUND AND VISION


L et’s start with the score. A mix of murky orchestral dirges and romantic flourishes that stink of Dracula: his toxicity infects each piece of music – but it’s only when you pay close attention that you actually notice it. David Arnold – perhaps better known as composer for the James Bond films – reveals that he experimented with all manner of unsavoury sounds, including glass rubbing with real blood, coffin lid percussion and an ‘organ’ of screaming baby sound effects. “I got Doug Sinclair at Bang Post Production to send me all their recordings of screaming babies, and I programmed them into software that allowed me to change the pitch, yet retain the sound and tone,” Arnold divulges. “To have screaming babies among the score evokes a human reaction of unease and panic. It’s instinctive and it’s the same sense of horror that Dracula exudes.” SOUNDING HORROR Doug Sinclair was the supervising sound editor on the series, meaning he was responsible for the sound effects and foley sound departments. He reveals that sound effects are often conjured through stock effects that have been treated and combined with different

noises, whereas foley reproduces everyday sounds – and these are made in-house. “Foley often works simultaneously to sound effects but can sometimes be discarded for a sound effect when an action requires more weight,” he explains. “When Harker enters Castle Dracula for the first time, for example, the castle’s doors unexpectedly slam shut behind him. A door closing would usually be covered by foley, but we used a sound effect here to add more drama.” Foley and sound effects working together can be heard as Dracula emerges from the body of a werewolf. Sinclair reveals that “the bone breaking and dog yelps are effects; the chunks of gloopy flesh ripping away from the wolf’s body are foley.” DEVIL’S DOG Which brings us onto how that particular scene was created – a scene that is, without a doubt, perhaps the most grotesque of the entire series. “The idea was that Dracula would be born out of a wolf,” say Dave and Lou Elsey. “It had to be odd, frightening and strange, and a lot of work went into that.” The Elseys are prosthetic make- up artists who own Igor Studios in Los Angeles. Their involvement on the show’s

visual effects was paramount, as the series’ visual brief requested in-camera effects as much as possible. The wolf was a custom-built puppet with a cavity that allowed actors to crawl out of it via a hole underneath the set. Differently sized contortionists were hired to come through the hole and out of the wolf’s body in weird, twisting shapes to capture the transformation’s horrific and other-worldly quality. “One of the contortionists was female, so we made a male body prosthetic for her to wear, and both contortionists wore a prosthetic of Claes Bang’s head before he [Dracula] emerged as the final element of that sequence,” explains Dave Elsey. The separate shots, depicting the different stages of the transformation, were then edited together to make up the scene. A crucial practical effect of that sequence, however, could only be achieved by melting down and remoulding some rather adult material. Dracula emerges from the wolf in something that looks a bit like an amniotic sac but is, in fact, a sex toy. To achieve the desired effect – which required “tough but breakable and slightly translucent plastic” – only the material from a flesh light could do the trick! LAST MINUTE PROSTHETICS The process of making facial and body prosthetics starts with an image of an actor, as this helps direct the design in Photoshop. However, John Heffernan’s prosthetics for his character, Jonathan Harker, had to be done without a reference because he wasn’t cast until the very last minute. “Fortunately, he was the perfect casting for the look we had come up with,” explains Lou Elsey. “Camera tests with

LEFT Claes Bang (left) and Dolly Wells sample some of the effect department’s fake blood...

Tony Slater-Ling [see the last issue of Definition to read an interview with the DOP] revealed that his skin tone needed I got Doug Sinclair at Bang Post Production to send all his recordings of screaming babies

36 DEF I N I T ION | APR I L 2020

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