Awards Radar interviewed Pachinko‘s re-recording mixer, Martin Czembor, who spoke about the talented sound editing team behind the international multi-generational television series. Pachinko Season One, created by Soo Hugh, is based on a novel of the same name by Min Jin Lee. The series chronicles the saga of a Korean immigrant family across four generations as they leave their homeland to find better lives for themselves.
Pachinko travels between the early 1900s to the late 1980s. There are three different languages spoken in the series: Korean, Japanese, and English. Czembor talked about how the sound design team worked with all these languages and dialects, ” The Korean immigrants speak Japanese in a particular way. And then, in Korea, they speak using the recognizable Busan dialect. All the actors speak differently in the same language depending on the historical context. We used ADR for some of the dialogue for normal technical reasons. Sometimes because the production sound was too noisy, some of it was for performance. For example, series creator Soo Hugh sometimes wanted to improve the delivery of some pieces of dialogue. Some of it was because an actor’s word choice or accent during a take was not historically accurate. So, we worked a lot with translators that were historians, language specialists, and accent specialists.”
QUESTION AND ANSWER SECTION
Q: How would you describe the soundscape for the four distinct time periods? Did the way you guys mixed sound change when young Kim Sunja (Kim Min-ha) moved from Busan to Japan?
Czembor: If you just read the scripts that Soo and the other writers wrote, it’s like, wow, there’s so much beautiful, descriptive detail in it. That goes to the way people, time periods, and landscapes are described. It is one of the most beautiful scripts I have ever read. You feel like you go through this meditation through time. At the beginning of the project, we ended up meeting up with Soo to talk about the series’ sound. She cared about making the scenes in 1910s Busan Korea culturally accurate. She wanted to capture how people lived, what materials they used, and the recognizable Korean Busan accent.
Soo had had ideas about how she wanted the landscapes to sound, starting with the windy forest and the boarding house. What would the landscape sound like when people work hard in the boarding house? What are the textures of the sound? What sounds do the bowls, utensils, kimchi, and other stuff create?
Then we had to fill out the sound of the fish market and the whole port area. We had to figure out the texture of the sound in spaces where people are selling all these different items and the camera is moving around. For example, in the fish market, the vendors are screaming and shouting in Korean, then are moments when you hear Japanese voices. The Japanese characters are tourists and oppressive police officers who are occupying Korea.
Then there are scenes in late 1980s Tokyo and New York that center around Solomon Baek (Jin Ha). Solomon exists in a dry corporate-cold environment. But there is also the bustle of the big cities, the airplanes landing, and other sounds that come from industrialized areas. Then the series moves into a particular pachinko parlor. That is where the whole story gets its name. I’ve never been in one or heard the sounds the machines make before this series. These pachinko parlors create this deafening sound. You have all these little hard metal balls moving around all these different machines at the same time.
The production got one of those pachinko machines from the eighties because we had to record all the sounds that these machines make. These active machines have closeups during the first scene in the pachinko parlor. Even one device makes a lot of loud noises with the metal ball pinging around inside, but hundreds of machines are in the parlor. Luciano Vignola, the supervising sound editor, and Filipe Messeder, the sound designer/effects editor, worked for months before the production started creating the parlor’s sound. They had to record all the individual sounds. For example, balls moving around the machine, hitting the pins, rolling down, and whatever sound you can imagine these machines making.
Q: Did you use foley in the miniseries soundscape? How was the sound natural, and how much was recreated in foley?
Alchemy Post Sound did the foley work and did a great job creating all these textures in the sound they created. They made footstep sounds and other sounds involving movement. Luciano was able to mix in all foley sounds into the background of the scenes. I mixed the dialogue and the music into the episodes. Luciano did a beautiful job mixing all these sounds to create a soundscape. Production sound can be noisy, so you must eliminate it. Foley and different effects fill in the emptiness around the dialogue. In the end, the sound mix has all these textures and tactile elements that create a natural feeling soundscape. The natural soundscape helps everybody travel back in time. We had a lot of freedom to make it. Everything turned out well.
Martin Czembor, Luciano Vignola, and the rest of the sound editing team did a brilliant job building a beautiful soundscape for every episode of Pachinko. Czembor shared that watching all the clips that Apple TV+ put up online allowed him to reflect on the masterpiece everybody created, from the creator to the cast to the sound department. The pieces blend perfectly to tell a compelling story about generational trauma and perseverance. The series has been renewed for a second season, so audiences will get to see more of this masterpiece. Let us know what you think in the comments below.