By Jennifer Walden
Bothell, Washington — Brian Pamintuan and Nathan Hendrickson are currently in post on a feature length indie film called The Darker Path, about an isolated coastal community where character Rachel Wade spirals down an emotionally destructive path after the tragic death of her mother, and after she’s forced to leave home by her grieving father. Rachel and her younger sister return years later to find their father missing and the community deserted. Their search for answers quickly turns into a race for survival.
Pamintuan is the producer/supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer on the film. He also handled production sound. Hendrickson is the writer/director/producer/editor. DP Connor Hair shot the film with Red Epic and will be providing color correction and grading.
Though they have tons of experience in post, this is their first foray into feature films. Pamintuan and Hendrickson work together at Monolith, a Washington State-based computer game developer that’s a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Together, they’ve worked on games such as the Condemned and F.E.A.R. franchises, and the upcoming next-gen title Shadow of Mordor.
So, how is all that game industry knowledge working out in the film world? “The technical aspects of games, dealing with engines and engineers and hundreds of people who are constantly changing how the engine interpolates the data, can make it more difficult than film because things can break and you don’t know why. In film, you point a camera and it’s pretty much reliant on locations and actors, and real things that go beyond the digital realm. In that regard, for Brian and me, it was way easier,” says Hendrickson.
Pamintuan agrees. Unlike a film, where a character enters a room the same way every time you watch it, that is quite different in games. The character can come in through the window, or walk in backwards. He/she can take two steps in, change his/her mind, and leave. On the game side, a big challenge is using the technology and designing sound for many variables. Audio post for film is simpler, he says. “We don’t have to deal with an engine; we don’t need a meeting to talk about how many ways the character can enter the room. With film, it’s just a straight script. My job was to capture the sound of a character walking from one spot to another.”
For Pamintuan, the workflow difference between games and film comes down to implementation. After designing a game’s sound, Pamintuan then has to work with tools and programs, like Audiokinetic’s Wwise, to get those sounds into the game and modify them until they’re behaving exactly how he wants them to. The audio post workflow for film is much more streamlined. Pamintaun designs and mixes in Avid Pro Tools 10, or in Adobe Audition, and then delivers his tracks to Hendrickson for review. “You completely remove the step of having to get it into the game and that’s where, with audio in particular, it gets complicated,” notes Hendrickson.
Hendrickson, who directs all the cinematics at Monolith, often adds temp sounds and music to his edits. These placeholders communicate his sound ideas for the tone and feel of the cinematic to Pamintuan. Both of them have been working this way on game cinematics for many years. Since they’re very comfortable communicating this way, they took the same approach with their film. “As an editor, director, and writer, I present my interpretations of what the sound could be based on popular music or films, and Brian gets it and kicks ass on it. He makes it sound better than I ever thought it could,” says Hendrickson.
Now that they’re in post on The Darker Path, Hendrickson is finding that he’s limited to what was captured on-set. With in-game cinematics, he says, it’s much easier to make changes and add elements to a scene. With film, if you don’t get it on-set then they don’t have it. “It was kind of fire and forget it, especially with this being a lower budget film. Maybe with a higher budget, we would have money for ADR. We did this film on a shoestring budget, as a part-time endeavor while we were doing our full-time jobs fore 12 hours a day. So we just ended up not getting everything we need,” confesses Hendrickson.
Hendrickson is approaching his edit of The Darker Path as if it were several in-game cinematics. He’s handling the film in shorter chunks and piecing those together as a whole. One concern with this approach is how the film’s pace will feel overall. With in-game cinematics, you never watch them back to back… they’re broken up by gameplay. If they don’t sound congruous, it’s not a big deal. You won’t really notice. With a film, though, you want it to be well paced and flow from beginning to end. You don’t want it to seem like many little chunks. “As we start putting the film together as a whole, we’re asking, does it flow? Is the pacing right? Does my sound translate well over the whole film? Or does it sound like it was attacked scene by scene?” asks Pamintaun.
Pamintaun will mix the film in 5.1. They are currently pitching The Darker Path to major studios for distribution, with possible submissions to indie film festivals. “We have great actors who did a really nice job, and I think the film looks really good. We’ll put it out there and see what happens. We are learning a lot from this process about things we should have done and shouldn’t have done,” says Hendrickson. You can check out The Darker Path on IMDB at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3305176/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1.
Jennifer Walden is an audio engineer and writer based in New Jersey.