Billa 2 is a full fledged action film that has very little space in terms of romance and comedy. That being said, the Director Chakri Toleti was very particular that he wanted the sounds to be real world and gritty. Trying to achieve that was the challenge because it was not an easy task. I must admit that along the way there was leniency towards designed sounds especially to create ambiences and for certain sequences in terms of treatment, we did manage to make the rest real.
The initial idea of the opening sequence of the film was just to have Ajith’s breaths on black and then face into the scene. It worked fine, but the only problem we felt was breaths for nearly 10 seconds didnt quite work. So, I created some surrealism in the breath. My premix engineer Rajiv Divakaran, who handled Dialogues and music premix, created a nice effect. Rather than just using plain reverse reverbs, (I am a fan of that since Protools 10 made it so easy!), we created reverse reverbs from other portions of his breaths and layered it under the regular breath. There was then a general reverb added on this process so that it doesnt sound as a double breath. These were panned in contrasting directions from the main voice. The next addition was to incorporate some dialogues that were present in the scene when it comes in a later cut to prelude the breaths. For processing this, we used reverse Delays and made 4 tracks of different delay timings, feed backs and also there was an eq ride like an LFO filter on each one. These were placed in each position of the quad speaker (Left, Right, Left Surround and Right Surround) and the main dialogue was completely washed with reverb and panned across the room based on the delivery intensity. As he slows down, the pan speed slows and as he intensifies, the pan becomes aggressive. Now that we had our organic layer, we added some wooden creaks and low drum bang on the opening. This preludes all the vocal effects by nearly 4-5 seconds. The creaks were only 2 tracks, but to make it sound bigger and more unsettling, I duplicated the creaks, low passed them and processed them with a reverb. The next thing I did was to copy the pan of the dry creaks (They moved from front to back in sync with the ticks of the creak) and paste on the wet ones. The wet creaks were then delayed so that each wet creek falls just between the dry one. (If the dry is tic and wet is toc, it would sound as tic-toc, tic-tic-toc-toc etc.). The strangeness with this idea is that the reverbs will follow the dry and act as a slap not only in terms of the delay but also it would be as if there was a residual persistence sound. (I got this idea after reading about the Phi Phenomenon that happens to our eyes.) It would make the creak too difficult to accurately be placed my our mind and yet get the general sense of direction from front to back pan. To add to this, I add a tinge of reverb to the overall creak to make it just “glued” together.
All of that is 15 seconds.
And so starts the fight in the opening scene. Sharon Kalan Johny handled FX premix along with Boloi Kumar. The fights were completely kept real and had very little whooshes to it. To make it more realistic, the stabs were mixed dead center so that it fell in line with the reactions that followed in terms of space and the LFE of the punches were not too much. I relied on the main channels to deliver the low end as they too are full range. This then goes on to the title sequence.
The designing of the sequence was layered very well by Stephen Gomes and Lochan Kanvinde. The dynamics of the mix was such that it starts of on a slow note, rises to a war sequence and slowly comes down but maintaining the aggressiveness. This title is actually the story of how Billa grows from a boy to a man. The surrounds were also used in such a way where sounds start from the front center, graduate slowly to the other speakers, and when war starts, have them moving with different elements in speaker taking different positions as fast as the texture grows and then again riding down slowly. In order to maintain the growth, another technique I used was again with EQs where the sounds start mellow, become aggresive with a lot of attacks and as it lowers down, have more lows and subs to maintain the menace that space created.
These were some of the techniques that I had used in the film. Although these are just about the first reel, there were variations of this that were used through out the film mix which I hope will be heard and appreciated in the whole experience. In the end, it became from “keep it real” to “that works great.”