Wolf Pack Sound Design Interview with Supervising Sound Editor Jan Bezouska
We spoke with Supervising Sound Editor Jan Bezouska (Spree, 3 From Hell) about the sound design of the Paramount+ drama, Wolf Pack.
Jan trusted in our plugins from the start of post-production, using Dehumaniser 2 and Reformer Pro at the core of the sound effects, and building the rest of the sound world around them. The resulting sound effects were a dense, texture-rich soundscape that is full of original and contemporary sounds.
Read the interview below!
JJ: Hi Jan! Did Wolf Pack turn out the way you had hoped?
Jan: It was a wild ride! It was something that I was expecting to be a fun but tough challenge, as it was the first season of a brand new show, so you’re starting everything from scratch. There were no rules, and nothing had been established, but there were superpowers to create, original characters, and of course a bunch of Werewolves!
I’m really happy with how it turned out. The whole season is out now and we’re getting really good feedback, the fans love it.
How essential was the sound to the narrative of the show?
More than I could have imagined. The amount of sound design in one episode is about the same as a whole season of another show, and that is no exaggeration. It’s a really dense soundscape.
We went all out, designing sound effects, atmospheres and ambiences. There were ambiguous moments where we didn’t really know if what we were creating was music or sound design as it was blending so nicely.
Which sound design choices do you feel most contributed to Wolf Pack?
Firstly, we wanted to avoid monster/animal libraries. We wanted to keep the werewolves, as human as possible, so the the audience would remember that there’s still a human being inside the werewolf, so it was crucial to translate that.
We initially tried to record the vocalisations ourselves, but we couldn’t achieve the aggression we wanted. So we hired a voice actor and tried different approaches using Dehumaniser 2 and Reformer Pro layered together using Sanken Microphones so we could pitch things own and not lose high-frequency information.
At that point, the werewolves really came to life. The showrunner loved it as soon as we hit play. It sounded so dangerous, but still so human. It was far better than finding something in libraries that felt processed.
Did the creative freedom help you to detach from previous approaches to Werewolf sound effects in shows like Teen Wolf or Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
It did, it was great. It’s funny you mention Buffy because Sarah Michelle Gellar is in the show and is a producer. We knew it would bring Buffy fans to our show, but we wanted to do something original and different.
We made sure that we could identify which character is transforming, so there are unique sound effects elements to each character. The actors from the show came to the studio and performed the growls for us, which was really exciting.
Growls are hard on the voices and some actors can be hesitant to go hard, but the cast loved coming to the studio to perform the growls. They heard the first episode with the voice actor and they loved it, so we earned their trust. It’s really cool to hear each character growl, especially in episode 6 when they are all growling together next to each other and you hear how different the growls are. I really love that.
Did you record the actors for every episode or did you repurpose sounds?
We recorded them for every episode, so we had individual growls and breathing for each scene. There’s a scene when one character is fighting to prevent the werewolf inside him from coming out. The real-time power of Dehumaniser 2 worked so well, it was affecting the breaths in-between growls whereas, with Library, you wouldn’t get these details. This really helped to feel the animal inside him starting to come out.
Those were real “wow” moments in the sound design, and I couldn’t imagine how to do it better without Dehumaniser, it was just perfect.
And when combined with Reformer Pro…I just love Reformer Pro. The Black Leopard library has so much body and character, it offered some great qualities alongside Dehumaniser 2. Combining those plugins was where we would have the most success. But yes, every growl is designed for that moment.
I imagine as the series progressed and the actors had a couple of growl sessions, their confidence and their performance developed too?
Absolutely, it was so great to see that happen. We were able to go to the premiere screening and the actors were all there, It was really cool to see them enjoy the results so much!
You mentioned earlier how much sound design is in one episode. How much time did you and your team take?
I was lucky to have two / three sound designers per episode, plus one hard effects editor and two dialogue editors. We would have around eight days per episode, which is a more average, but the amount of design we did was more than most feature films I have worked on. There are so many things happening; breaths, growls, steps, pumping, but thankfully I always felt that we had enough time.
Did the Krotos plugins live up to your expectations for the sound design on Wolf Pack?
They really did. At this point, I really don’t know how else I would do it, I have my character presets that I know to go to.
I was pushing my team to use Krotos for everything. I was using it for voices, forest fires creatures, werewolves. There’s so much happening in one scene in Wolf Pack, so using Krotos plugins for it was a huge benefit.
Are there sound design ideas that you would love to try next time?
I know now what the show sounds like, so I want to take it even further and go deeper. If we have the opportunity, I just want to keep going.
By the finale, we were designing Foley, soundscapes, heavily-designed stuff, blending the sounds into the music, and doing really stylized, sound effects, there were no rules for what we achieved in the last episode, the whole production team achieved something really strange, hypnotic and cool. That is something that it’s really rare on network TV. That’s where I would start building!
About Jan Bezouska
Jan Bezouska was born in the Czech Republic and is a graduate from the Film and Television Production MFA program at the University of Southern California. He has worked on project such as Spree, 3 From Hell, Teen Wolf: The Movie and The Munsters.