Technicolor Sound Revives An Important Era In Roots

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June 24, 2016
Technicolor Sound helps breathe life into the History Channel’s acclaimed miniseries Roots.

Technicolor supervising sound editor Gary Megregian, re-recording mixer Joseph Earle, and re-recording mixer Doug Andham worked out of Technicolor’s sound facility at Paramount to create a soundscape for the miniseries that helps bring alive a unique, important era in history.

Below, Megregian discusses the sounds of the show and working with producer Karen Mayeda and the History Channel again after previously winning an Emmy for his sound work on Houdini:

WHAT WAS SPECIAL ABOUT ROOTS AND HOW DID YOU AND THE TEAM HELP TELL THE STORY WITH SOUND?

Megregian: First of all, I can't begin to explain how honored we all were to be a part of this project. Roots, while it was a mini-series, each night was a stand-alone feature. Four nights. Four Directors. Each with their own feel, tone, and story. You could watch only one night and get a sense of the big picture, but it's not until watching Night 1 through Night 4 that you see how this is a story about family.

One way I think we helped tell Kunta Kinte’s story was in the scene when he awoke in the slave hold in Night 1. He finds himself chained and alone in a foreign place. He’s confused and terrified. I think his terror and confusion is amplified by the crescendo of sounds in the hold, the creaking ship, the pounding waves, chaos above deck, the anchor, and sails being raised.

WERE THERE ANY UNCONVENTIONAL AND/OR UNIQUE SOUNDS OR APPROACHES TO MIXING, AND IF SO, ARE THERE SPECIFIC SCENES YOU CAN POINT TO? 

Megregian: Starting with Night 1, in Kunta Kinte's village and the jungles on the shores of the Gambia River (Kamby Bolongo) his world is teeming with life. Once his world is turned upside down and he's sold to the English, being robbed of his freedom there was a conscious decision on the mix stage to remove this life once in America. Originally, we had built John Waller's Farm with the sounds of birds in the forest and other wild life. It wasn't until we stripped this all out that we were transported into Kunta's space. There's an oppressive and claustrophobic feeling to it.