Post-apocalyptic drama Snowpiercer is a runaway success for Netflix and producer TNT with season three about to premiere, and a fourth season already commissioned. Developed by Josh Friedman and Graeme Manson from the 2013 film of the same name and based on a 1982 French graphic novel, the thriller depicts class warfare and the politics of survival aboard a perpetually moving luxury train. Sharpe Sound Studios, which has mixed every episode, certainly wasn’t going to let COVID derail its journey.
The first season was produced in 2019 with direct hands-on access by creatives with the sound team at the full-service audio house in Vancouver, but the second season was post produced under lockdown.
“We leaned heavily into ClearView Flex to keep everyone connected and to help us deal with the typical day-to-day operational running of the series,” says Kelly Cole, Sharpe’s president and senior re-recording mixer. “Because ClearView was so successful and proved so easy to use, it became our established way of working through COVID. Our executive producers, associate producers and lead picture editor for Snowpiercer all felt very comfortable and at ease using ClearView to work remotely.”
“So, as we approached season three it was a natural progression to continue with ClearView as a central part of our workflow.”
S2 wrapped in late spring 2021 and Sharpe Sound started on season three during the summer with lead picture editor Jay Prychidny in Toronto. Prychidny, also a producer, on the show was able to work from home and connected to Cole via ClearView.
“Because ClearView is a cloud-based and web browser system, not point to point like other systems, we can get all the creatives and execs on the same playback session watching the exact same feed through ClearView,” Cole explains. “Whether they are in LA, Vancouver, or Toronto, it doesn’t matter. ClearView gives us the ability to playback and conduct notes and fix sessions. I just send out a web link and it’s like attaching them to my mix stage while working.”
“When we came to later eps on season three, Jay was in Romania working on another show and we still sent him ClearView links for when he able to work on the show with us.”
The sound design of Snowpiercer has evolved over the course of the three series. Cole explains, “Season one stayed true to the feeling that was established in the original movie. We concentrated on establishing the sound of the train and differentiating the carriages carrying different social classes from stowaways to service class and aristocracy.”
The second season travelled further along the arc of class struggle and introduced the desire of some characters to escape from the train and a growing realization that the train’s perpetual motion may not be infinite.
“Season three is a continuation of this story arc of people trying to survive onboard and the looming fear of things breaking down. It is an incredibly challenging and exciting show because the creatives and producers are not content with just telling the story. They are always pushing boundaries on what they can do on story, on VFX and on sound.”
“We’re constantly trying to give viewers really dramatic transitions from one area of the train to another. We play around with the idea of some cars being higher than others. We play with Atmos a lot so in some areas you can hear Atmos all round you but in other areas we play up the idea of claustrophobia. We go from extreme wide soundscapes into very narrow tight areas where everything feels sucked in.”
Kelly, Sandra Portman, Bill Mellow, James Fonnyadt, Eric Mouawad, Gregorio Gomez recently earned an HPA Award for Sharpe Sound’s work on Snowpiercer in the Outstanding Sound in the Episodic or Non-theatrical Feature category.
“It’s a great series to work on – the crew is amazing – and ClearView has helped us to keep it all on track.”