Stealing Sounds – Q&A with Jose Ignacio Arrufat

Jose is a Sound Designer and Re-Recording Mixer by profession and owner of LaPalma52 Sound Studios in Madrid.

He was worked extensively with the Spanish Film and TV Industries and his most recent work is featured in Netflix’ Money Heist, Emmy Award Winner for Best International Series.

“I always bring all my creativity in every project, no matter how big or small it is. In my career I’ve worked in every single occupation within sound, allowing me to develop my expertise in each process.”

What led you to a career in Sound Design and Post-Production? What were some of your earliest influences?

I was always amazed by special sound effects in general and the role they played in big Hollywood productions since I remember going to the theatre to watch movies on the big screen.

Since I started to work on the audio-visual scene, I was always so curious about sound post-production and how they would create and design sounds to fit perfectly and help convey the story you want to tell.

After years of using Pro Tools, I used my experience of what I enjoyed in movies and always tried to create new things based on those ideas or just improving it. Usually, you need to recreate reality, but not always.

Sound Design has a lot of creativity, so you are always learning and trying new ideas. You are constantly influenced by everything you hear or watch in the streets, museums and so many other indoor and outdoor environments.

One of my earliest influences was the opening scene of Apocalypse Now – the scene with the sound of the helicopters that become the sound of a fan in the hotel room of Saigon. That totally blew my mind and let me think of sounds as sensations and that it’s a magical tool that you can use to tell any story.

Please describe a typical day or project at work. What are the main differences between Sound Design and Re-Recording Mixing?

At LP52 Sound (La Palma 52 Sound) we work as a team from the very beginning. Our goal is to bring the project all that it needs, in terms of sound, before the deadline. There are many parts of work that require a lot of dedication. Our teams work by “thinking in the mix,” so that when I am re-recording, a lot of the work has been done and I have more time to be creative. During the sound design my team works by adding in all the sound elements needed depending on the scene. That includes background, special sound effects, foley, dialogue, sound editing and a premix.

During the re-recording mixes I combine all these elements in the best way, technically and artistically. It’s here when we get more creative. We level all the sounds of the project in line with what the director wants and what the story needs. I love to try and hear, and then decide what’s best for the scene.

Currently we have Dynaudio speakers for the 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos system managed by a Yamaha MMP1 and a Focusrite RedPre 16, all connected by Dante. I would be very keen to try M&K Monitors in future too.

Congratulations on your work in Money Heist – please tell us your approach to creating the ambience for this show and from where you drew your inspiration.

Just before shooting of the first season, I had dinner at the home of Alex Pina, the creator of the show, which is 15 minutes away from mine here in Madrid.

We talked about the story itself and he gave me some guidelines about what was in his head in terms of sound, and I told him my thoughts as well. We wanted everything big and exaggerated, using hyperbole all the time. My duty was to follow the amazing photography of Migue Amoedo, and the brilliant work of the editors, to enhance the sound in every scene. My inspiration was every Hollywood action movie that I had ever watched. Our challenge was to make it sound just as dynamic and intense but with only a fraction of the of the time and budget. I was focused on creativity and trying to take all the shortcuts possible in order to save time and dedicating it to the most important scene in every shot by analysing everything very closely.

Each season of Money Heist gets more exciting – what can we expect from an audio-visual perspective for Season 5?

As you said it gets more exciting every season, and all I can say is that Season 5 is much bigger and better from an audio-visual perspective. Improving upon every season has always been a big challenge to all the teams that take part in the series, but this one is brutal. You will see and hear why! From LP52Sound we try to push everything to the limit all the time and improve from one episode to another.

How much of your work is influenced by the Director? Are you given free reign or do you have to collaborate very closely?

The most important thing is to be on the same wavelength with the director and creators from the very beginning, so that you can give them exactly what they want, and then you have time to give them more from your expertise and creativeness. I can’t imagine a project without closely collaborating with the director.

Money Heist is a project made by many people that have shared all their knowledge and always pushing the boundaries. The director knows this and manages to work with this intensity for sake of the project. Post-sound is a good example.

Is your work influenced by how the audience enjoys the content? For example, a Dolby Atmos home set-up vs soundbar or iPad?

The final mix is in Atmos, but at the end we know that most of the people will hear it in stereo.

No matter how many channels you have I highly recommend listening to Money heist with the best equipment you may get. It’s like action movies.

What are your tips for how the audience at home can best enjoy the audio post-productions?

A soundbar is much better than listening to just the TV but if you listen to it on a well-balanced multichannel system, you’ll enjoy it far better – and it’s much more fun when the volume’s turned up!

Are there any more international projects can we look out for featuring your work?

TV Series like The Barrier, Vis a Vis (Locked Up), Victim number 8, The Pier and movies like Road to Hell, Vampyres and Wax.

Finally – please share some of your favourite music tracks, TV shows and movie titles.

Music: Guns and Roses – Appetite For Destruction album, The XX – Shelter, Pearl Jam – Black, Sigur Ros -Flojtavit, Vitalic – Second Lives, Mother Love Bone – Man of Golden Words, Soundgarden – Jesus Christ Pose, The Hives – Come On, The Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm, Der Dritte Raum – Hale Bop, Muse – Stockholm Syndrome, El Columpio Asesino – Toro, and so many more!

TV Shows: Lost, Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Carnivale

Movies: Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, Top Secret, One Two Three, Barry Lyndon, Apocalypse Now, Dunkirk, Mad Max, North by Northwest, A Clockwork Orange, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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