BOP_sound-11 Asbjoern Andersen


Go behind the sound of Harley Quinn's colorful, manic, psychotic world in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey with supervising sound editor Katy Wood, sound designer Paula Fairfield, and re-recording mixer Onnalee Blank, as they talk about designing swirling vocals, glitter-filled bean bag shotgun shells, a roller-skate chase sequence, and more!
Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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Warner Bros. Pictures’ Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is the perfect escape from the brown and grey reality of a northeast winter. Harley’s world is a psychedelic rainbow explosion of color that’s as manic and messy as she is — in a good way! Sure, there are gruesome scenes — like Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his lynch man Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) peeling off people’s faces — but overall the fight sequences are fun and fresh, and offered plenty of opportunity for the sound team to let loose.

Here, WB Sound‘s supervising sound editor Katy Wood and re-recording mixer Onnalee Blank, and sound designer Paula Fairfield shine a light on some standout scenes where sound played a key role — Harley’s ‘fun gun’ shotgun encounter in the police station, the fun house fight, Black Canary’s epic ‘cry,’ the trip down Founder’s Pier, the roller-skate chase, and much more!

 



BIRDS OF PREY – Official Trailer 2


Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

There’s a music video-style scene in which Harley (Margot Robbie) dances to “Diamonds” by Megan Thee Stallion & Normani. It’s like Marilyn Monroe meets Madonna, but much more edgy. What were some of your challenges/opportunities for sound here?

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Supervising Sound Editor Katy Wood

Katy Wood (KW): It’s very music-driven. We did add some sound effects in there but only for very specific things, like the feet, the gun, and the slap, but we wanted it to be this frenetic, music-driven sequence. Even some of the musical effects, like the reversed music, were all supplied by the music department and Onnalee mixed it.

Onnalee Blank (OB): We put some Harley Quinn breathing sounds and some call-outs on the quick shots to make it more insane.

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Re-recording mixer Onnalee Blank

The film was mixed in Dolby Atmos, and so I spread the stems out and was able to put some of Harley’s breathing up in the front ceiling speakers. We added a lot of low-end to it. Every piece of music in the film was mixed in Atmos.

 

Prior to that song, Harley is tied to a chair, thinking about all the reasons why Roman Sionis/Black Mask would want to kill her. There are so many overlapping lines from her, spread out around the theater. Can you tell me about your design and mix in that scene?

KW: We played around with a few different iterations of it, with different spacings. We had to wait for the VFX of the type-face coming up as she is saying things because we wanted to time certain words to the text that was coming up on-screen.

…we wanted to time certain words to the text that was coming up on-screen.

Then, Onnalee tried different versions of spreading it around the room to see what was the most fun, and also had a slight edge of intelligibility so you could hear the lines we wanted you to.

OB: We tried to hit certain lines of dialogue that we thought were funny.
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Another interesting scene for dialogue was when Roman and Cassandra (Ella Jay Basco) were hiding on Founder’s Pier. Harley can hear their voices coming through the dense fog. Can you tell me about your design and mix for that scene?

KW: You can see Harley’s head moving around as she’s trying to ascertain where Roman and Cass are hiding, so we wanted to up the confusion level. Onnalee really handled the dialogue design alone.

OB: I love reverbs and delays. So that was my dream; I could work on that scene forever.

It was fun to find that line between what is too much and what works for that scene. You don’t want the audience to feel like, oh there’s the mixer using all of their gimmicks. I didn’t want that. I wanted it to feel sort of real, like the sound is bouncing off the fog or the statues. You still want to be able to hear the words. They couldn’t be too soft or too loud. It was a team effort to find the final sound.

KW: For the sound effects we put in there, we went in a few different directions before we arrived at what that location should sound like. We wanted it to be creepy and weird, and remind the audience that the water is really close. We also wanted to make it feel slightly more intimate as to what Harley was experiencing as she’s walking down the pier. It helped to swirl the non-literal sound design around to match the voice.

OB: There used to be music in there at one point but the sound design from Luke Gibelon was so great that the music interfered and so the filmmakers were gracious enough to let us mute it.

 


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What did you use for processing on the dialogue there? At one point, it feels like Roman’s lines are rolling out of the fog. That was such a cool effect!

OB: When you hear that effect, it’s a pre-delay reversed reverb, so it catches the word a second before the person speaks and you hear the first syllable of the word coming in before the word is actually spoken. So it’s this twisted ramp-up sort of sound.

…it’s a pre-delay reversed reverb, so it catches the word a second before the person speaks and you hear the first syllable of the word coming in before the word is actually spoken.

I like to use the PCM Lexicon plate delays, The Cargo Cult’s Slapper , and Exponential Audio/iZotope’s Stratus 3D because that works really well in Atmos. I was using three or four reverbs together, to pinpoint off each other. And those are all multichannel reverbs, mostly 7.0. Sometimes, I would take the surround channel of the reverb and place that in the overhead speakers in Atmos.

 

I loved the reverb sound you created for inside the tube slide during the Fun House fight sequence. What went into creating that sound?

OB: There was the sound design and Foley of them sliding down, and then I did a tight reverb on their voices. Brandon Proctor (re-recording mixer on effects/Foley/backgrounds) and I figured out what reverb sounded cool for that slide, and we matched each other. It worked; it sounded great.

The sound design there sold that closed, plastic-tube kind of sound.

KW: Yeah, that was something we added.

 

Another fun sound in that Fun House was for the tongue sculptures that Harley’s crew and the assailants were bouncing on while they fought. What went into the sound for that?

KW: The sound of the tongues went through so many iterations. Initially, there was a completely different music cue for that scene. So we had this comedic-type sound effect that worked really well with that specific piece of music, but when the cue changed that sound didn’t work at all. So we went in a completely different direction and tried many different things.

At the back of the mix stage here, there’s a little kitchen with a dishwasher and its door makes this tremendous screech. I thought it would be fun to try that sound in there…

At the back of the mix stage here, there’s a little kitchen with a dishwasher and its door makes this tremendous screech. I thought it would be fun to try that sound in there, so Onnalee and I recorded it and I cut it and added a few extra elements and that became the sound of the tongues. Inspiration comes from everywhere.

OB: I think that dishwasher door screech has been used in other films.

KW: We’re not the first to use it. But I don’t think it’s been used in this application before.

The key to making it work was that it couldn’t be so audible in the mix that people would pick it out. But it was an appropriate sound for that scene; it doesn’t distract from the action. Anything too goofy would’ve been distracting.

It was always a bit of a challenge in the Fun House in knowing where to go with the sounds so they had impact but weren’t cartoony. For instance, in the fight between Renee (Rosie Perez) and Harley in the room atop the Fun House, before Roman’s crew shows up, there was this coconut shy (or some sort of game booth) over to the side that they smash into. I wanted the sound of bells on that, which worked with how it looked. So it was comedic but grounded in reality. We were always walking that line. It had to feel real to what was on-screen, to what they encounter in the Fun House.

To create that funhouse vibe, we ended up playing more ambient sounds. For example, before the first fight with Roman’s men, Harley says, “Get ready ladies” as they’re going through that glowing tunnel. We’re playing fun house laughs — those weirdo, creepy laugh sounds and effects — in the background. We bring that sound in at other points, just to keep the funhouse vibe going. But when they interact with objects in the environment, we wanted to have the sound grounded in some reality otherwise it becomes too cartoony and that takes you out of what you’re seeing.

OB: It would become too Hanna-Barbera.

KW: Luke Gibelon and Brandon Proctor were integral to those sounds and their placement in time and the space of the action.

 

[tweet_box]Crafting the Fun, Colorful Sound on ‘Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey'[/tweet_box]


BIRDS OF PREY (2020) Clip "Hair Tie" HD


Fun House Fight

The fight scenes must have been challenging to keep under control. The music is really kicking and there’s so much action happening. Can you tell me how you were able to keep that sense of punchiness in the fight sequences without making them feel chaotic?

KW: We worked a lot on that.

OB: It got loud very quickly. We kept pulling it back. What could we do so as not to blow out everybody’s eardrums?

KW: Fatigue was a big concern too. Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight just becomes fight, fight, fight, fight, fight. It becomes loud and gnarly.

One way we helped with fatigue was to give every implement its own sound — the crossbow sounds different from Harley’s mallet.

One way we helped with fatigue was to give every implement its own sound — the crossbow sounds different from Harley’s mallet. There were particular sounds associated with the layers we put in. We’d have a wooden mallet hit on a skull crack, and that sounds very different from a crossbow bolt impact.

BOP_sound-4

But it was a delicate balance as Onnalee said; it was a challenge to create those scenes so they didn’t get loud and abrasive. You want the audience to enjoy it. We were very judicious about playing what we saw on-screen and choosing what we really needed to hear in each moment. We pulled back a lot of things we didn’t want to hear. It was a less-is-more approach.

OB: Especially with the music being so busy that made it difficult to get clarity in certain sequences…

KW: …because it was covering all of the frequencies. Our main concern was not to fatigue the audience because then they switch off.

We also found some moments to let the music totally dominate, for example when they’re on the carousel that’s spinning around towards the end of the fight. We hand it off to music so it can have its triumphant moment.

 

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Can you tell me about your approach to Harley Quinn’s ‘fun gun’ that she took to the police station? Her shotgun fired bags of glitter and smoke bombs of colored gas and slime instead of real ammo…

KW: It was a team effort with sound effects editor Phil Barrie and some elements supplied by Alan Murray (co-supervising sound editor).

One of the things about that scene was to keep it very “Harley Quinn.” We were not in any way to promote killing cops. The idea was that the gun should be non-lethal. It’s supposed to be fun so the impacts have to contain something fun.

For the gun itself, instead of a standard gunshot sound, we went with more of a low air punch, “phoonk” sound, more like a mortar and rocket launcher.

For the gun itself, instead of a standard gunshot sound, we went with more of a low air punch, “phoonk” sound, more like a mortar and rocket launcher. We matched the gun’s proximity to the camera — the closer we were the more we heard the “phoonk” sound. Also, we had some whistle sounds on the glitter just to make it more fun.

 

What was your favorite scene for sound in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey?

OB: My favorite part was during the roller skate chase at the end. Harley Quinn jumps up on the car and starts hitting the guys. We pitched up their group hits and impact reactions so that they were more like squeaks, and at the same time, Harley is hitting the driver’s head on the car horn and it’s making a quick “beep.” That moment is my favorite part of the movie.

KW: I liked that too. That was a scene that always made me laugh, every time it went by.

OB: Katy really liked when there were guys flying from one side of the screen to the other. She really made the most of those yells, pitching them up.

We had a lot of fun on the mix stage trying to make certain things like that. Some people would catch them and that made the mix a fun time for us. There were those hidden nuggets all over the place.

 

BOP_sound-7

There was a great scene in the jail when Harley goes to free Cass but can’t get the door open. She’s hitting all the buttons on the control board trying to unlock the door…

KW: Most of those sounds were created by Phil Barrie.

OB: And also the assistant sound editor Sarah Bourgeois, Katy recorded her saying, “Access denied.”

KW: Then Luke Gibleon processed that to get a particular sound, to make it sound analog. The panel has buttons and switches; it’s not high-tech.

We went to town on that. At first, I was expecting them to peel back some of those layers because I thought maybe there was too much. But for this film, we just threw everything at it, and then it all stuck!

OB: There used to be tons of music right through there, with heavy guitars, but we took all that out so you can hear the circuit board and all the system loops. It was a nice little carving moment for the mix.

 

What were the most challenging scenes or sounds to design?

KW: There are two very challenging sound effects I’d like to mention. One was the ‘Canary Cry.’ I’m happy with where we got to on that. It took a lot of deliberation. It was a non-literal concept that wasn’t illustrated precisely, not even in the comics. Also, everybody has a different idea when it comes to a non-literal sound, or they have no idea at all. So this really was the case of trying a lot of different concepts that director Cathy Yan wanted us all to explore — what it should do, how it should feel, what it should be comprised of in a more esoteric sense. And then we implemented that into a sound effect. It was very challenging!

Sound designer Paula Fairfield came up with a lot of different options for us. At the same time, we wanted to make sure it had an element of Canary’s voice, so I brought actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell in to do the ‘Canary Cry.’ It has this wind-up sound as she comes around the corner in the movie and then she goes for it. That gets taken over by some sound design.

One thing Paula and I wanted to have in there, apart from her voice, was the element of a real canary…. because we can. So it does have that. A lot of the sound that’s in the cry is a real canary. In addition, Phil Barrie made some elements for when it hands off to the design — it’s a long sound — and so he did the impacts that it created on the environment and the push of air and power, and then we trade off back to the canary. That was a team effort.

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Sound Designer Paula Fairfield

Paula Fairfield (PF): Katy and I spent a lot of time exploring ideas for the ‘Canary Cry,’ some from the director and some of our own. For me, first of all, I wanted to see if an actual canary sound could be used because, “why not?” and “of course!”

Finding the right sound is the first challenge, and blending is the second. I got lucky and found a canary sound that blended really well with pitched versions of Jurnee’s voice. Her voice is very pure and was wonderful to work with and this provided a good base.

We also talked about the power of women’s voices, the possibility of Canary unleashing a choir of screams, as well as the singular force of a woman channeling her anger.

We also talked about the power of women’s voices, the possibility of Canary unleashing a choir of screams, as well as the singular force of a woman channeling her anger. A little bit of all of these ideas are woven into the final sound.

A little bit of all of these ideas are woven into the final sound. It was a really awesome thing to be brought in for and it’s always fabulous to work with a top creative team dominated by women. It still happens so rarely, so it was fun to channel our collective power into this one fantastical scream.

KW: The other sound that was challenging was Bruce the hyena. He’s entirely CGI. Alan Murray and I recorded a geriatric hyena out in the desert here in L.A., because that’s where you keep a geriatric hyena. We had to go at dusk when Fonzi (the spotted hyena) was the most vocal. He does the classic, identifiable laugh and all the myriad of hyena sounds. We wanted to bring a lot of personality to the animal, and the filmmakers wanted him to do things that hyenas wouldn’t normally do vocally. So we had to tread the line there. We tried to keep him as real as possible, and, at the same time, chatty. Luckily, Fonzi made a lot of sound and so that’s all him you hear in the film.

BOP_sound-9

 

What was your most challenging scene in terms of dialogue editorial?

KW: They shot a lot in downtown L.A., so the dialogue itself had a pretty high noise floor all the way through it. That became challenging throughout the film, to be honest. Of course, we always want to use minimal ADR.

Some more problematic scenes were the taco stand at the end, where they’re all hanging out after the big fight. That was challenging because it was so noisy and the only part that has ADR is the first little bit. The rest is production. I hit it with everything I could, and so did Onnalee.

The fight scenes were tough too. They’re always tough. There is the odd yell you can use from production that works well because it has a real impact feel to it. But we went through all of the fight scenes in the film trying to figure out who we needed to hear, precisely when, and then found the right impact for that moment. When you record actors on an ADR stage doing efforts and impact reactions, some are better at it than others.

The fight between Canary and the two guys outside the club — as she’s rescuing Harley, who is completely wasted — was all production. That’s totally production and it all worked fantastically.

But a lot of the other fight scenes were predominately ADR, and they required a lot of chopping and changing to make it work.

 

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What was the most challenging scene in terms of mixing the dialogue?

OB: There were two. The first was when Roman and his colleague Victor Zsasz were having breakfast. That morning scene was really challenging because it’s shot in a loft and there is tons of noise but it’s supposed to be a quiet interior. There was a fine line on how much noise reduction we could do and what sounded natural and what kinds of backgrounds we could play that would be good for the morning. That was a challenging scene to mix, dialogue-wise.

The other challenging scene was the taco stand scene at the end. The actors were kind of nasally and pitchy. There was a lot of nasal and noise in that scene. At the end of the day, it sounded great because it all blended together. If you cut back and forth between ADR and production that would have made the scene sound worse.

KW: We also spent a fair amount of time getting the ambiences to assist, finding just the right kinds of ambiences that had similar quality, that helped to cushion the dialogue really well but at the same time not muddy it up.

 

Any tips on how to find a great ambience track to cushion the dialogue?

KW: I think you have to be very judicious about what you are hearing in the dialogue track and then find that same sort of desirable sound in the ambience track. You listen to what’s in the dialogue and then find the similar and/or complementary frequencies in ambience tracks you are selecting. This is in addition to creating the background environment you see on-screen and following the director’s notes as to what ambience they want to feel. Then you just need to tweak and adjust things to find what will help. It’s really trial and error.

You listen to what’s in the dialogue and then find the similar and/or complementary frequencies in ambience tracks you are selecting.

OB: That’s why temp mixes are good.

KW: Yeah, you can hear that you need a track with more blowing air or a bit of movement that we can feather in and out.

The other thing that helps is cutting the dialogue tracks well, so that they’re filled out and the mixer has a snowball’s chance in hell of making it sound nice and smooth instead of giving them really choppy tracks with different backgrounds on every angle.

OB: I’ve gotten very used to Katy’s wonderful dialogue editing. When I mix other projects, I miss Katy!

 

BOP_sound-8

In terms of sound, what are you most proud of on Birds of Prey?

KW: The fact that it came together so well with a fantastic team!

OB: I loved the sprinkler sequence in the jail. That came a long way. The music is cool in there and the action is fun.

KW: In that scene, it was all ADR for the guys’ yelling. There were particular lines that Cathy suggested they should say. A lot of them get buried except for, “You stole my chinchilla!” That’s one that made us laugh. These guys are all supposed to recognize Harley and be mad at her for different things she did, but we wanted to keep it funny.

Usually, you don’t put effort sounds in slow-motion sequences because it seems too goofy. But we did do some for this film because it has that edge of goofiness to it. You have these long, drawn-out reactions and efforts in with the sound effects, and Brandon did a great job of mixing it.

We all really enjoyed working on this film. It was fun. And we had a great time with Cathy; she’s awesome.

 

A big thanks to Katy Wood, Onnalee Blank, and Paula Fairfield for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the sound of Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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    Witness the terrible and wondrous sounds of the long gone rulers of Earth, with our new library, Dinosaurs, containing audio brought back from 65 million years in the past.

    Our Audio Craftsmen have captured the roars, rumbles and groans of a variety of Dinosaurs, from Triceratops to the King himself, T-Rex!

    All sounds were recorded in our acoustically treated Foley suite in 24Bit 96kHz allowing further sonic manipulation. We then meticulously edited and tagged the files with extensive UCS compliant metadata for ease of use.

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  • Vielklang Instant Harmony 2 is an instrument for easy generation of harmonies from an audio or MIDI melody. The utilization of voice leading and harmony progression models allows vielklang to create harmony parts in a more musical way than traditional harmony processors and makes it a versatile and creative tool for musicians, songwriters and producers.

    vielklang utilizes zplane´s widely-used élastique SOLOIST engine for high quality pitch shifting and time stretching.


    The new version introduces the following features:

    • advanced pitch editing with direct tool access
    • new sleek interface
    • vibrato and tremolo generator
    • hybrid view for score-like harmony visualization
    • MIDI harmonization
    • multiple file harmonization
    • Instant Harmony V2.0 & Advanced Pitch Editing
    • Harmonize your melody with one single click – loading a single-voiced audio file – and create natural-sounding background choirs and brass arrangements.


    vielklang Instant Harmony generates harmonies with 2-4 voices. It is packed with musical intelligence and music theory: it detects the best fitting harmonies for each individual input melody, and automatically synthesizes up to four voices with the voices not merely running in parallel but with their voicings selected to sound most natural (voice leading).

    The advanced pitch editing controls (full version only!) give you fast and easy access to pitch, timing, vibrato control, formant shift, and to many more editing options.

    DOWNLOAD THE DEMO HERE
    WIN | MAC

Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Animal Sound Effects The Animal Symphony – Watusi Play Track 183 sounds included, 10 mins total $12

    The Animal Symphony will be a series of animal recording libraries, created to offer a wide variety of authentic animal sounds. Over the next few months, each installment in this series will capture the essence of different animal species.

    General description:
    The Animal Symphony – Watusi” features a total of 52 audios, with 183 individual sounds of Watusis mooing, all recorded in exceptional quality. Using two high-end microphones, the Sennheiser MKH 8050 and an EM258 capsule microphone, we have managed to capture every detail and nuance of these natural sounds. Each recording was made at a 192 kHz, 24-bit, ensuring professional clarity and depth.

    Featured Features:
    – Variety of Watusi Sounds: Enjoy a wide range of Watusi sounds, from soft moos to powerful calls, perfect for adding realism and authenticity to your projects.
    – Diversity in Recordings: With multiple takes and variations, with long, short and group moos, so this library offers the necessary flexibility for any type of production that requires this type of animal.
    – Careful Editing: All recordings have been carefully edited to eliminate any external noise, such as birds, wind or people, ensuring pure, clean sounds.

    This collection is ideal for a variety of applications:
    – Video games: Add realism and depth to the natural environments of your games.
    – Cinema and Documentaries: African environment and scenes that require authenticity in fauna.
    – Educational Applications: Use these sounds in educational projects to teach about wildlife and animal behavior.
    – Multimedia Projects: Ideal for any project that seeks to enrich the user’s listening experience.

    Technical details:
    – Total Audios: 52
    – Total Sounds: 183
    – Format: 192kHz/24bit
    – Equipment Used: Sennheiser MKH 8050 Microphone and EM258 Capsule Microphone

    License:
    The sounds from “The Animal Symphony – Watusi” are available under a royalty-free license, allowing their use in multiple projects without additional costs or royalties. You can use these sound effects in your games, trailers, Kickstarter campaigns, and more, as many times as you like.

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  • This library covers the sounds of the Trabant 601, equipped with a two-cylinder, two-stroke Otto-type engine from the late 1980s.

    The driving section contains 48 tracks with a total length of about 36 minutes. These tracks include engine ramps and driving sequences at various constant RPMs, suitable for game implementation. Additionally, there are takes featuring more common driving and pass-bys, which are better suited for linear media usage. Interior and exterior mixes are also included.

    The foley section comprises 23 tracks with a total length of 8 minutes. It covers all basic sounds, such as opening and closing doors, hood and trunk, gearstick shifts, handbrake usage, and horn sounds. These sounds were primarily captured from a close perspective using a shotgun microphone.

    Microphone setup:

    • Sennheiser MKH8040 (ORTF) – Cabin
    • Neumann KMR81i – Cabin / Foley
    • Neumann KM184 – Exhaust
    • Shure SM11 – Engine bay
    • Shure VP88 (M/S) – Exterior
    • Tascam DR40 (XY) – Exterior
  • Sports Sound Effects Pool Play Track 351 sounds included $5.99

    This is a sound library containing the sounds of cue sports games such as pool or snooker. Includes a range of sounds such as ball interactions, potting, breaking, and more, with sounds from both a standard set of 2″ pool balls and a smaller set too.

     

    Features: 

    • 350+ audio files in 24 bit 96kHz quality WAV format
    • “Multi” and “One Shot” files provided for most sounds
    • All files are metadata-tagged, allowing for easy searching in sound library management tools
    • UCS compliant file naming
    • Available for commercial or personal use without attribution

     

    View a summary of included sounds here

    View a full list of included files here

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  • 30 Alicante sound effects recordings of urban street life from a southern Spanish city.

  • Soar across the skies with Boeing 737 jet airliner interior clips from idling, taxiing, flying, landing, and others.


   

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