“Mary Queen of Scots” has mixed its soundtrack at Abbey Road Studios.
“Mary queen of scots”, the period drama about the life of Mary Stuart, played by Saoirse Ronan, and that of her English cousin Queen Elizabeth I, played by Margot Robbie, may mark the directorial debut of Josie Rourke, but as director of the prestigious Donmar Warehouse in London, where she has directed acclaimed and groundbreaking productions, she is no stranger to sound and music.
“In the theater, sound is so important,” she says. “One of the most basic functions of a director is to tell whether an actor on stage can be heard. So we spend a lot of time thinking about the acoustics, but also about how music works in a scene. And while film is such a visual medium, I think music and sound are even more important in films, and how you use them to help tell the story.
Rourke says his initial vision for the soundtrack was inspired by the music of composer Max Richter – “and in particular his famous Vivaldi piece” The Four Seasons Recomposed, “which breaks down a famous work and reassembles it in a way that lets you hear it renews, and also connects the past and the present. And it’s also able to bring out a deep and deep emotion of what is essentially minimalist music. That’s why I wanted it for that, and why he was perfect.
Rourke also worked closely with a sound team that included sound designers Ian Wilson and Alastair Sirkett, and re-recording mixers Steve Single and Andrew Caller.
Wilson and Sirkett split their work between Scotland and England, “to help realize a hearing difference,” Wilson says.
“Al also handled the main battle as he had more time to focus on this with Chris Dickens, the editor, as it visually developed in the montage of the image.”
For a temporary mix, the team then used the new Mix Stage at Abbey Road Studios. Single and Wilson produced three temporary mixes during the image editing period, Single using the Avid S6 console for dialogue and music, and Wilson using an Avid S3 for its effects. While preparing for each temporary mix, the team worked in Dolby Atmos Pro Tools 7.1.2 sessions and folded via Spanner to 5.1 in the tracks to feed the temporary mixes. “This meant that we always moved the temporary mix adjustments and editing work to the final mix,” Wilson adds.
For programming reasons, all premixes were made at Pinewood Studios, near London, and the effects were mixed by Pinewood Caller’s resident mixer in the Dolby Atmos room.
The final mix at Abbey Road lasted three weeks. As Single recalls, one of the main challenges was “how to approach two very different styles of music in Atmos. Max Richter’s score suited the film’s wide range of emotions and drama perfectly and directed the film, and in that sense Atmos is a perfect format for this music.
But the historically-sourced music, composed by William Lyons, presented a different challenge. “Trying to process this music, which uses real period instruments, like we did with the score was just not realistic,” Single says. “We had to be focused and guided by where the band or instrument lived in the scene and that meant ‘monoising’ a lot of elements. Based on this, we used the “object” option in Atmos.
For example, to match John Rizzio’s violin to his movements throughout certain scenes, we treated his violin recording as an “object,” allowing him to follow his every move. This increased the reality of all source clues. The combination of these two very different styles was both the most stimulating and the most enjoyable aspect of the mix.
“Working on the sound mix has been one of the most creative experiences I’ve ever had,” says Rourke, citing a scene where Mary and Lord Darnley, a suitor, are walking outside. “We have the sheet music of Max playing, and when they stop and Darnley walks up to hug Mary, we also turned off the music and turned up the natural sound – the wind in the grass, the birds singing – and as he made physical contact, we let it all go. , as if each creature was holding its breath. It’s subtle but so powerful.
(Pictured above: Director Josie Rourke with actors Margot Robbie and Joe Alwyn)