Behind The Sound Of The Platform

June 11, 2020| We Sound Effects

The Platform is the Netflix’s viral new thriller, the film is set in a vertical self-management prison. The prisoners are housed in vertical cells, watching as prisoners in the upper cells are fed while those below starve to death.

Every day, an elaborate feast is laid out on a platform, which drops from floor to floor while each level can only eat the leftovers of those above. The people on the top levels always gorge themselves so that by the time the table reaches the lower floors, there’s nothing left.

We had the pleasure to chat with Iñaki Alonso, the sound designer and re-recording mixer behind the sound of The Platform.

What was your approach for the film sound?

“The Platform” has always moved between a socio-political but also moral burden dystopia and an extreme violence and bloody film. Part of the success of “The Platform” lies in the balance that Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia (The Director) achieved with his approach for the film. While being always very clear about what he wanted, he was also open to creative contributions. From the very beginning we were in tune about the film requirements in terms of sound, so working with him was very easy. The film release date was not set yet at this time so we were able to work without any kind of pressure for over half a year, which was really great.

The main approach for the film sound was designing a compelling atmosphere while maintaining a balance between the philosophical and the rough-and-tumble sides of the film.

Since the beginning we focused on establishing a strong connection between the film sound design and music (Composed by Aranzazu Calleja), using sound elements with a certain tonality to reinforce this interactive connection.

Each project has always its own challenges, what were the biggest challenges in terms of sound design?

“The Platform” is a vertical prison. A bottomless well full of echoes, wailing, violence and sex. But also a dark and oppressive ruthless machine, which may kill you if you do not follow the rules.

One of the main challenges was related to designing the ambiences for each cell level, since all the levels were visually identical. We had to achieve a dramatic evolution between the cells but at same time not being noticed or monotonous.

One of the main challenges was related to designing the ambiences for each cell level, since all the levels were visually identical.

Depending on the drama of each scene, different sound layers will emerge. Soft, heavy, light, dark, organic, mechanical, realistic and unreal sounds were mixed to create the desired environments for each scene.

During the film you can always hear a dark background like “Nostromo”, a kind of organic breathing, the high-pitched hum coming from the lights and the echoes of prisoners from other levels. All these sounds are modulated in and out depending on the dramatic or expressive needs.                      

The most important sound elements in the film were the siren heard when the platform moves between cells and the platform itself.

For the siren sound I was looking for a light and innocent fun sound that matches the music timber in the initial scenes, but evolving to an anemic, macabre and almost surreal element as the film moves forward. It was one of the few proposals rejected, so finally we ended up using a grotesque and aggressive buzz, as the director initially proposed.

Creating the sound of the platform was probably the most complex task from the whole project. It is a very heavy element moved by an invisible force so I wanted to avoid abusing from classic drone sounds, but at same time highlighting some mechanical character of the platform. I mainly used a squeaking sound which seems emitted by a whale, a kind of organic and mechanical sound which was mixed over some other layers, as a lion`s roar sound. The sharp, hurtful crystal and metallic sounds also plays an important role during the film.

What was the most complicated scene to work with?

I don’t think there was a particularly complicated scene to perform. But as the film progresses, everything becomes darker and more variegated. Many layers were added while the music gains prominence. Sometimes the dialogues were obscured by other elements competing for the leading role in the scene. There is a long section of the film (the descent into “hell”) whose mix gave us quite a few headaches.

One of the main problems was related to the materials used for the set design as it does not offered us the sound properties we were looking for, so apart from the dialogues, almost all sounds were created using Foley. For me is Foley one of the most funny but also the most time-consuming process within the film sound. Through the details and textures introduced by the Foley sounds, we achieved the sound we were looking for the film.

Of course the film lends itself to fun. Apart from the essential sounds like steps, there are “gore” scenes with slashes and various mutilations where we used lettuces, oranges and some other fruits and vegetables.

For me is Foley one of the most funny but also the most time-consuming process within the film sound.

There was also a very meticulous Foley work for the kitchen and food elements.

What has been your favorite tools throughout the whole sound design process?

Definitely the reverb, I used 2 different reverb settings: A short, natural room reverb for dialogue and diegetic sounds within each cell level; and a long reverb plus a delay for the sounds coming from the rest of the levels. The same reverb was also used in hallucination scenes.

Probably one of my favorite sound resources was the bird sounds used during the interview between Imoguiri and Goreng: In an immense space of hostile and cold concrete, some sparrows can be heard chirping in the background, far away. You can’t see them, but it is the only reference to the outside world, to nature, and perhaps to freedom. The director was never very convinced of this resource, but finally he agreed to use it

Check out the official trailer:


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