‘The Wheel of Time’ sound editor Matt Skelding: ‘We wanted to envelop the audience in this world’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“They are borne out of the elements — out of earth, wind — so we always tried to start with natural sounds and build them through that,” explains “The Wheel of Time” supervising sound editor Matt Skelding about the process of creating the sounds of magic for the epic fantasy drama series. We talked to Skelding as part of our “Meet the Experts” TV sound editors and mixers panel. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Based on the classic series of fantasy novels by Robert Jordan, “The Wheel of Time” tells the story of Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a powerful wielder of the One Power who seeks out a group of young men and women, one of whom she believes to be the reincarnation of the Dragon, who is prophesied to either save the world or end it. Because Skelding wanted to bring a feminine quality to Moiraine’s abilities, he brought in a “vocal component” to the magic with a choir, requiring collaboration with composer Lorne Balfe. Ultimately, it was a group effort to bring together music and the descriptions from the book, “and the sound designers ran with it.”

This new fantasy world also introduces creatures like the brutish Trollocs and the more intelligent but equally sinister Fade. “From a very early point in the process we were doing R&D for Rafe [Judkins], the showrunner, and various execs, and so we got their feedback early on,” and what they decided was that the creatures “need to be grounded in reality,” so “there’s a lot of animals — pigs, deer, donkeys — in the Trollocs” with “a lot of human elements mixed in.”

Despite those showier elements in the sound design, though, “there was a huge amount in the ambient sounds. To me, I’m more proud of that than the the creature work … We really wanted to envelop the audience in this world.” But that ambiance, despite being “unique and otherworldly,” also “needed to be anchored in a real world of animals and experiences.” They sought out animal sounds, “finding the more unusual ones and maybe giving them a slight twist, pitching them, or just isolating them from real location recordings from around the world, and then using those ambiances to tell the story as the characters travel on this journey throughout the series.”

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