The Sundance Connection
The sound mix for Mud was done at IPR in the Master Mix B studio by Audio Production and Engineering Program Instructor Luke Harper. Recent IPR grads Brandon Smith and Chris Code assisted on the project.
Mud, a short film written and directed by Shaandiin Tome, is a nine-minute film is about Ruby, a young Navajo mother, who faces the remnants of alcohol, family and culture on the last day of her life. It was chosen for the Indie Episodic, Shorts and Special Events for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Harper says, “Eric Fawcett, founder and owner of Egg Music, brought me the film. We have collaborated on numerous commercial and artistic projects before.” Smith and Code became involved shortly afterwards. Smith says, “Luke came to Chris Code and I with the project saying he wanted to help us get our feet wet on an actual real world project after we hounded him. I think he trusted our abilities after seeing the time and effort we put into sound designing a copy of Andrew Hunt’s, “Level”, and he wanted to see what creative elements we could add to Mud.
Harper also states, “Chris Code and Brandon Smith have distinguished themselves over the past year as truly exceptional artists and technicians. They were utterly instrumental in the completion of this mix within an extremely short time-frame.”
The IPR Connection
Master Mix B at IPR was the ideal space for doing the sound design on Mud, meeting all the technical and spatial requirements. Harper says, “We have a gorgeous Pro Tools HDX system and a 32 Channel AVID System 5 MC console which make the process incredibly efficient and, frankly, very enjoyable. We also made extensive use of our TC Electronics TC6000 Unit for complex reverbs, iZotope plug ins for extensive cleaning and reparations, and beautiful field mix kits for external foley.”
Code echoes this sentiment, “Master Mix B is a studio in which I wish I had the opportunity of working in on a daily basis. You quickly forget how lucky you are to be equipped with the technology that the school has to offer until you graduate. As a fully equipped surround sound set-up it is a pristine place to mix and master longer format projects like Mud. The Euphonix System 5 console in the control room gives you great ability for mixing as well as the outboard gear that comes equipped in the room for time-based effects such as reverb.”
The collaborators were in agreement that doing the sound design for Mud was a rewarding experience. Harper says, “the film was masterfully shot, and we had a massive amount of creative control within the process of designing the final aural experience.” Smith adds, “Mud was definitely unique in that Shaandiin Tome really put her heart and soul into the film, and you could see it. We didn’t want to just edit the sound and put in SFX when needed, but we REALLY tried to help her convey the emotion she was going for. The sound needed to make the viewer feel as if you were actually there with Ruby, and could relate to her struggle. I think we successfully did that and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Both Brandon Smith and Chris Code expressed their gratitude to Luke Harper. Smith says, “Luke is an absolute blessing and pleasure to work with. He gives you the creative freedom to do your own thing and then gives his insight on how he feels it works with the project. If something sounds slightly off, he helps you improve it and make it perfect. Just when you think you have a great sound, he comes in and tweaks a thing or two and makes it even better. I’d say about 90% of what I know when it comes to Pro Tools is due to him.”
Code adds, “The experience working side by side with Luke Harper is some of the best learning I could ask for. The man has been doing this for years, and being able to learn from him in an environment where he isn’t only a mentor of mine, but someone who takes my ideas and creativity to heart is the perfect learning and working environment. His humility and ability to see that everyone has input not only makes him a great mentor, but a great co-worker as well.”
Code credits his education to being prepared for such an opportunity saying, “My decision to come to IPR and learn what I wanted to learn was one of the better decisions I’ve made – granted I’ve made few good ones – but nonetheless I learned more than I could’ve imagined. The course curriculum as a Sound Design student in a school that seemingly places its’ focus in audio engineering and digital video, is perfect because you are in the middle ground. You learn much of the engineering side of things, especially mixing and mastering, and you are enveloped into the nitty gritty video stuff as well. The experience I gained from such a curriculum allowed me to broaden my view of the audio world as well as see the benefits of working on something that is bigger than myself or my “musical career.””
Link to Mud website: https://www.mudfilm.com/
Luke Harper bio: https://www.ipr.edu/blogs/faculty/luke-harper/
Audio Production and Engineering Program link: https://www.ipr.edu/programs/audio-production/