Asbjoern Andersen


Better Call Saul from AMC is a spin-off of Breaking Bad – and it’s massively popular with both critics and viewers. The series premiere became the biggest in cable history, and the first two episodes alone garnered more than 15 million views. The final episode premieres tonight on AMC – and the whole season can be seen across the world on Netflix from Tuesday.

To find out more about the sound for the show, I managed to get in touch with Nick Forshager, the man behind the sound for both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.

In this exclusive A Sound Effect talk, Nick shares his creative vision and workflow for the show, why it sounds markedly different from Breaking Bad – and the challenges of getting humor in sound just right.

 

Hi Nick, congrats on the fantastic reception to Better Call Saul! What’s it like being part of a project that’s received so enthusiastically by the viewers and critics – and what do you think makes the show so successful?

Thank you. It’s really great that everyone is very excited about the show. We had a lot of fun doing it. The success of the show is simple, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. They are amazing writers and show runners. They are involved with every detail of the show and they have such a tremendous vision.
 

What’s been your overall vision for the sound for Better Call Saul?

The vision for the sound of Better Call Saul has been to keep it authentic and organic. This isn’t a show that you can really fake. If you try and use sound effects that aren’t what you are seeing, the audience will know it’s off. So we take great care in making sure that the there is authenticity to what you hear. We also try and use as much organic sound as possible. We shoot over twenty hours of foley per episode.

We also try and use as much organic sound as possible. We shoot over twenty hours of foley per episode.

When we started this season I told our foley team, Dave Torres and Tim Chiton over at Smart Post, that we will use foley on this show like sound effects. Foley won’t just be just something to fill holes or used for an M&E. I told them we will use almost everything that I cue for the show. At first they seemed skeptical, but were excited about the challenge.

When we finished the first episode, they were blown away by how much of their work was helping tell the story. Foley is such a major component of the overall sound design and it is vital that is sounds good and that it works with the production effects. It’s what helps keep the show organic and authentic.
 

You’ve also done the sound on Breaking Bad – what’s it like returning to that world? And in terms of the sound, are you approaching Better Call Saul the same way you did Breaking Bad, or are things different this time around?

On the surface these shows seem very similar, but sonically it is very different from Breaking Bad. I think everyone was hoping that we would be making BB2, but Vince and Peter were pretty adamant about making each aspect of this show be new and unique.

I think the main difference between the two shows is the overall tone. Walter White’s world was all about death and secrets. The entire series was built around Walter hiding from the world what he was doing and who he was. So the world was generally very still, quiet and dark. We worked really hard at keeping his world isolated and sterile. We used very little background and used silence as a story telling device, which made his character more desperate and vulnerable. Jimmy’s world is the complete opposite. His world is alive and full of hope.

The main locations of the show have their own identity and they have become characters to the story.

The story is about Jimmy looking to make a mark on the world and be accepted. So we are using a lot more backgrounds and creating richer environments for Jimmy. The main locations of the show have their own identity and they have become characters to the story.
Whether it’s a buzz of the courtroom, or the high tech offices Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill, the Vietnamese nail salon where Jimmy works and lives or the quiet of Chuck’s electricity free house. They all have a uniqueness that let’s you know right away were you are and how these locations affect Jimmy.
 

Are there any signature sounds and sonic references that you wanted to carry over from Breaking Bad to Better Call Saul?

Not really. It was important to think of the shows a two separate shows. Of course certain locations, like the desert, had been established in Breaking Bad and we wanted to carry that sound forward, but most of the show has been built for this show. I would imagine as Jimmy becomes closer to becoming Saul, there will be more things that we will bring back from Breaking Bad.
 

Who’s on the sound team for the show, and what’s the workflow like on an episode? Do you work on an entire season at once, or is it episode-by-episode?

Editorially we are using the same editing crew as Breaking Bad. Kathryn Madsen is my ADR supervisor and right hand man. She handles all the dialogue and ADR and coordinates with Jane Boegel our dialogue editor on every show. I handle the sound effects and sound design. Mark Cookson is my main sound designer and sound effects editor. Cormac Funge cuts all of our backgrounds and Jeff Cranford programs and helps edit the foley.

Theoretically we work episode by episode. We usually get five days of editorial per episode, however we have an average of ten days from lock/spot to first day of mix. We need that additional time to spot and begin prep on the new episode and finish the previous episode. Since we are on the stage two to three days per episode and it takes almost one day to spot, that extra time gets used up pretty quick. After we are done editing, I generally run each show with Mark, our sound effects editor. This is usually my last pass of integrating some of my sound design with the foley and Mark’s effects. Once I have seen the whole show edited, that is where I begin to think about little details that I can add to try and elevate the overall sound design.

After we are done editing, we start mixing with the crew over at Smart Post. Our mix team is Larry Benjamin and Kevin Valentine. I usually spend the first day pre-dubbing the show before our post producer Diane Mercer comes over for playback. The first half of the second day Diane, Kathryn, and Jason Newman, our music editor, go through our notes, check for content and to make sure everything is covered. This our last pass to add anything and to work on the more complex scenes before our executive playback.
This is where Vince and Peter come in and give their thought and notes. This is actually my favorite part of the process, because this is where you can really see how creative these guys are. They work through each scene and go through every detail. They are always trying to come up with creative ways of getting more out of every scene. They are very open to suggestions and to trying new things. So many great things come out of those last couple of hours of mixing.
 

What are some of the key elements to get right when doing sound for a show like Better Call Saul?

The key element in a show like Better Call Saul is to create the right sound effects for the humor.

It’s a tricky show because so many scenes are humorous, but they aren’t slapstick funny scenes. The sounds need to really support the humor, and if the sounds are too big or broad, they just won’t work.

It’s a tricky show because so many scenes are humorous, but they aren’t slapstick funny scenes. The sounds need to really support the humor, and if the sounds are too big or broad, they just won’t work. A good example is when Jimmy is in the trash can searching for evidence in Ep108. When the janitors dump the trash on Jimmy, we wanted to make it gross and disgusting.

Finding the right balance of wet sound and squishes was important in not making the scene too cartoony. Same thing when Jimmy gets out of the trash can he falls. If the body fall is too big it becomes less funny.
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $75

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $30 $15

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569707999
    Add to cart
  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $120 $99

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

    18 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569016799
    Add to cart
  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $30 $15

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
    Add to cart
  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $149.99 $99.99

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1568757599
    Add to cart

Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

Do you have any favorite sound moments you can share? And can you tell a bit about what went into making them?

I would have to say that my favorite moment on Better Call Saul so far has to be the episode “5-0”. We call it the Mike episode. It’s the episode where we learn about Mike Ehrmantraut’s backstory. Since a good portion of the show is flashback, and part of the story takes place in Philly, we got to use a lot of environments that we don’t get normally use. We got to create these cool transitions between present time and the past. It was an intricate balance between music and sound effects, but very effective in helping move the story along. Also, the entire episode had a noir feeling to it, so the final shootout scene lent itself to creating this really cool retro feel.
 

What’s been one of the strangest sounds you’ve had to come up with for the show? Any particular sounds viewers should keep their ears out for?

When we were spotting the scene in the desert with Tuco in EP102. Vince was talking about how he wanted the sound of Tuco breaking Cal’s and Lars’ legs to be the most horrific thing that we have ever done.

He wanted the sound of Tuco breaking Cal’s and Lars’ legs to be the most horrific thing that we have ever done.

Especially the sound of their screams. He wanted them to have this animalistic quality to them. He had suggested a rabbit screaming. I did some research and felt that the sound of the rabbits wasn’t big enough. So I began listening to other animals.

I came across this series of pig squeals, where a couple of them sounded like something I could use. Kathryn had re-recorded their screams in ADR and gave them to me so that I could see if I could get the pigs to match the screams. It was incredible how close the squeals were in tone and in pitch to their screams. When we played it for Vince he loved it. He loved it so much that we extended the squeals over the end of the scene into the next scene where Jimmy pulls up to the hospital with Cal and Lars. The squeals blended in perfectly with the tire squeals of Jimmy’s car coming to a stop. Sound just helped pull the two scenes together.

 

Please share this:


 

A huge thanks to Nick Forshager for the in-depth insights into making the sound for Better Call Saul. The season finale premieres tonight on AMC – and the entire season can be seen across the world on Netflix from Tuesday.
 

Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/AMC

 


 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • In a remote research lab in the north-east of England, scientists have been secretly carrying out experiments on a number of human test subjects. There is no record of what these experiments entailed or who authorized them, but one thing we do know is that something went horrendously wrong and transformed these once-innocent, everyday people into something else entirely… Something inherently evil.

    Herein lies an audio documentation of these wretched beasts as they run amok with only one thing on their minds… To feed and to destroy.

    Zombie contains 205 vocal sounds in the following categories:
    Subject A: 67 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Subject B: 89 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Subject C: Zombie Brat: 18 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Processed: 27 vocal sounds with pitch down and reverb fx
    Layered: 4 layered, looping sequences of Subject A & B
    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Atmosfear Play Track 50 sounds included, 31 mins total $10

    Featuring sounds taken from lo-fi instrumental recordings, harsh noise experiments and granular synthesis explorations, Atmosfear is a gritty soundscape collection geared towards the horror genre. With a distinctly unpolished production style to bring a rough edge to your scenario, these sounds can be used to invoke feelings of suspense, dread, tension, fear and doom into your characters and environments.

    What does an industrial scale torture chamber in an abandoned asylum sound like? What about a high-voltage electrical possession? Find the answer to these questions and more with Atmosfear. Enter if you dare.

    Add to cart
  • Human Swordfighter Play Track 479 sounds included $25 $20

    Swordfighter is a robust package with sharp sounding swords, heaps of variations and all the extras you need to make a fight come alive. Build unique sword swings with various hits, swooshes, schings, different fighter vocals and impacts on various surfaces. All up there are 137 sword sounds, 93 surface impact sounds, 15 knife throwing sounds, 48 swooshes and 180 fighter vocals.

    This version includes two sub-folders: one optimised for a film & TV workflow and the other optimised for video games workflow. Plus a few bonus sounds of a charging army.

    20 %
    OFF
    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $75

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $30 $15

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569707999
  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $120 $99

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

    18 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569016799
  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $30 $15

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $149.99 $99.99

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1568757599
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

3 thoughts on “This is how the rich, lively sound of ‘Better Call Saul’ is made

  1. OMG! Glad to see this feature on here, I’ve really enjoyed BCS a lot, including the sound design — some of Nick’s insights take on even more relevance when I look back at how they impacted part of the show. For example, when Jimmy is searching for the Sandpiper records in the trash, I definitely marveled and “ewwwed” at how moist and yucky it sounded. Without it being overdone, it just contributed to the overall VISCERAL FEEL of that scene.

    I wonder how they did the sound design for the scenes where Chuck is freaking out outside in his space blanket? There was some quick visual cutting to emphasize that discomfort as well as high-pitched tones that heightened the dissonant awkwardness.

    • Hey Torley, thanks for the comment! Really glad you enjoyed it :) I’ve sent your question on to Nick. I don’t think he has a lot of time on his hands at the moment, but fingers crossed he gets the chance to answer here.

  2. Hi Torley,

    Great follow up question.
    The sound design for Chuck’s freak out is one of those moments where everyone has a hand in helping create a really unique moment. The initial sound design started with picture assistant/co-editor Chris McCaleb. He assembled some great sound in the temp that really gave us a good blueprint to work from. Vince Gilligan really liked what Chris had done, so I knew we were going to use some of those elements as part of the design. In our spotting session Vince also mentioned that he wanted the whole scene to have a pulse that would build up to the end, so that it would be more dramatic when we cut to the woman watching thru the window. Dave Porter, our composer, was writing score that was supposed to end when Chuck opened the door, but he was afraid that it would seem like it was going to feel like it was going to drop out if he didn’t extend it outside. So he created the low pulse that became the glue that holds the whole scene together. I wanted to create a couple of elements that would give the scene more motion.
    So I created some doppler electric buzzes that we could pan across the power lines. After that it was Kevin Valentine, our sfx mixer’s, job to put it all together. While we were mixing it I asked him if we should process the car horn. He was like sure, let’s try it. He started using some plug-in that made the car horn sound really electronic. I’m not sure what it was, but it created this really cool electronic tone which just added to the whole overall design. Like so many moments in BCS it is really a team effort to create each moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.