Kuala Lumpur’s Imaginex talks Audio Production for ‘SeeFood’

By AMRITA VALECHA | 4 July, 2011 - 15:39

Kuala Lumpur based studio Silver Ant has successful completed its 3D feature film, SeeFood. Its co- produced with Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC) and is expected to release in September 2011.  Previously we had spoken to the makers of the feature film and now Imaginex Studios’s Mike Bloemendal & Leon Tan inform that a lot of research went in creating the aquatic sound of the movie.

Talking to AnimationXpress Asia Pacific about doing the audio of the feature, Leon Tan, Managing Director, Imaginex shared, “It was a pleasure and privilege handling the audio production requirements for “SeeFood”.  Very few animation producers realize the power of audio as a critical tool in storytelling, and Silver Ant and director Goh Aun Hoe, to their credit, understood this well before production commenced and we got to participate in “SeeFood’s production conceptualization from the start”.

“Audio is a critical component of the animation industry’s value chain, and is often overlooked.  We hope that projects like “SeeFood”, “Saladin” and “War of the Worlds: Goliath” will not only confirm the necessity of audio in great animation work, but also showcase to the world that professional creative audio talents do exist in Malaysia, and we’re improving our craft as we move forward”, he added.

Talking about the sound and audio of SeeFood by Imaginex Studios, Mike Bloemendal, Co-owner of Imaginex Studios said, “Initially, we assumed that the ambient sound would be “muffled” and “heavy”, which is very much the usual experience when one is submerged in water.  But it didn’t work cinematically. We then reviewed other animated movies like “Finding Nemo” and discovered that a lot of the aquatic sounds made by the characters felt like splashes and ripples on the surface, not underwater. So we started experimenting at our studios.  Pails and even inflatable pools (like the ones children use outdoors) were dragged into our booths and filled with water, and then we recorded surface splashes – and guess what, they matched the sounds in “Nemo” and other movies!”

He continues, “This is the art of foley – the creation (or “recreation” if it is a live-action movie) of ambient sound effects that often go unnoticed due to their “realism” but in essence helps tell the story and immerse the viewer in the world of the movie.  It is done by foley artists who make all the requisite sounds with tools and accessories and is recorded live in a studio. For weeks, our audio engineers became foley artists and recorded splashes, dribbles, slops, skips, scatters and all sorts of water sounds synchronized to the movements and mood of the scenes in question. We now have a formidable library for another underwater movie!”

Imaginex Studios was given the task of casting, directing and recording the voice actors. All voice actors were from Malaysia. The voice actors for the main characters are Gavin Yap for Julius the white-tip shark and Diong Chae Lian who lent her voice to Pup the bamboo shark.

Other talents from Malaysia’s media scene also lent their voice talents on SeeFood. Some names are recognizable from TV, movies and even a co-owner of Imaginex Studios! They include: Christina Orow, Kenny Dowle, Adila Shakir, Rob Middleton, Mike Bloemendal, Jason Cottom, Andrew Susay, Brian Zimmerman, Colin Chong, Mike Swift, Tikriti Shabudin, Chi Ren Choong, Jay Sheldon, Maxwell Andrew, Steven Tan, Ramona Rahman and Amelia Henderson. The process was difficult as there was large cast but still they managed it as they wanted right actor for right character.

They also discovered some new equipment, plug-ins and better processes. The key people involved in these processes were Mike Bloemendal, the co-owner of Imaginex Studios and “audio guru”, led the studio crew.  Jazzlyn Loh and Leon Tan were the producers, dealing with the deadlines, keeping to budgets and working with the clients – both Silver Ant and JCC. Jenny Ho was the line producer. Raja Ahmad Shaidaley was the head Sound Designer – all the sound effects and foley direction were done by him. He was assisted by Jason Lee for sound editing, and Wong Kok Seng and Lim Onn Jian (OJ) who did all the work and the related recordings.

Talking about the difficulty in regards to the accent and performance, Leon Tan shared, “Not really. Imaginex Studios has developed an in-house voice casting and direction unit for several years now, specializing in mid-Atlantic “neutral” English language performances (i.e. the “English” you hear that is acceptable for audiences the world over), and as such we’ve cut our teeth on international projects before, including “Saladin”, Mattel USA’s “Barbie” DVD movies, and the upcoming “War of the Worlds: Goliath” sci-fi animated movie due in early 2012. Getting the accent isn’t as hard as getting the right performances – whether it’s to portray fear, anger, betrayal, tenderness, heroism, urgency. The nuances can be tough to cultivate and capture.”

Apart from “Seefood”, Imaginex studios also completed audio for another Malaysian movie “Bunohan”, a live-action thriller. They are still working on the “Saladin” TV series, into its second season now. They are also working on several other TV series and they are looking forward eagerly to “War of the Worlds: Goliath”, which will probably be their biggest challenge to date, audio-wise.