Invincible series sound design Asbjoern Andersen


Amazon Prime Video's Invincible is an animated superhero series from creators Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cory Walker. Here, Boom Box Post sound team members Brad Meyer, Jeff Shiffman, and Jacob Cook talk about building powerful fight scenes and crafting emotional scenes, and they give insights on using sound to connect the audience to larger-than-life heroes and villains. With the S2 finale 'I Thought You Were Stronger' currently competing for 2024 Emmy nominations for sound editing and sound mixing, the sound team focuses on what went into the sound of this episode's action sequences – like a brutal fight between hero Invincible and villain Angstrom, creating sounds for multiverses (including a Spider-Man-esque reality, a talking-dino-verse, zombie world, and more), designing intelligible vocal treatments, and much more!
Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
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The S2 finale of Invincible – Amazon Prime Video’s animated superhero series from creators Robert Kirkman (co-creator of comics The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead), Ryan Ottley (comic book artist and writer who’s worked on Marvel Comics’ Amazing Spider-Man) and Cory Walker (the Invincible series’s lead designer) – is an action-packed and emotional ride that offered enormous opportunities for the sound team at Boom Box Post.

Season 2 Ep. 8 “I Thought You Were Stronger” (competing for 2024 Emmy nominations for sound editing and sound mixing) takes the audience on a journey through the multiverse. There’s a version of Spider-Man known as Agent Spider who takes on nemesis Prof. Ock (a version of Marvel Comics character Doctor Octopus), a zombie world that pays homage to Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic, a world with talking dinosaurs, and more. There are battles with organic-based robots, and a devastating fistfight between Invincible and his nemesis Angstrom, which creates an emotional dilemma for Mark Grayson (i.e., Invincible).

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L to R: Katie Jackson, MPSE (Sound Effects Editor), Noah Kowalski (Sound Effects Editor), Carol Ma, MPSE (Foley Editor), Jeff Shiffman, MPSE, CAS (Re-recording Mixer), Mia Perfetti (Sound Effects Editor), Brad Meyer, MPSE (Supervising Sound Editor), Natalia Saavedra Brychcy, MPSE (Sound Effects Editor), Jacob Cook, MPSE (Re-recording Mixer), and Logan Romjue, MPSE (Dialogue Editor)

Here, Supervising Sound Editor Brad Meyer, MPSE, Re-recording Mixer Jeff Shiffman, MPSE, CAS, and Re-recording Mixer/sound effects editor Jacob Cook, MPSE, talk about creating powerful fight scenes by augmenting impacts with cannon blasts and 808 kick drums and accentuating fight choreography using signature character sounds like Omni-Man’s cape, designing sounds for different worlds in the multiverse, creating vocal processing for a telepathic exchange between Omni-Man and Allen the Alien, building the sound of techno-organic robots, and so much more! Plus, they talk about their approach to mixing the visually intense show to guide the audience’s focus.



Invincible Season 2 Part 2 - Official Trailer | Prime Video


Invincible Season 2 Part 2 – Official Trailer | Prime Video

What were the showrunner’s goals for sound on Invincible? How did they want this show to sound? And what did the sound team want to bring to this show creatively?

Sound Team: The showrunners of Invincible emphasized believability and storytelling. The overall goal is to get the audience to invest in the characters, their relationships with each other, and the drama they face. We want to draw people in.

The show strikes a stunning balance between over-the-top action scenes and emotionally intimate moments…

With a lot of superhero or comic-inspired content, especially in animation, it’s easy to go a little too cliche with the soundtrack. Invincible has a self-awareness – a certain sense of humor. It’s almost a commentary on the superhero media we consume today, and the approach from both the showrunners and our sound team reflects that. We go big when needed, yet don’t hesitate to relish the smaller, quieter moments. The show strikes a stunning balance between over-the-top action scenes and emotionally intimate moments, allowing us to highlight both our sound design chops and hyper-focus on some of the more subtle sound details. From the sounds of Mark drenched in Angstrom’s blood to Debbie Grayson slamming cabinet doors out of anger toward her murderous husband, some of Invincible’s most impactful moments are also some of the most intimate and visceral. In contrast, we’re not afraid to go big when the story warrants it – like buildings getting destroyed, planetary wars, or a horde of evil Martian squids. You name it.

I appreciate the relationship we’ve built with the showrunners and creators of this series. A huge part of what makes this show hit as hard as it does is the creative freedom we are given. There’s trust there, which is key to playing into the story’s narrative and creating something that audiences will respond to.

 

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What went into the sounds for the opening scene, in which Omni-Man goes through a training simulation with drones and soldiers?

Sound Team: This scene was the first time we saw the Viltrumite prison guards, so it was important to establish them strong off the bat. However, they are no match for Omni-Man. So we knew we wanted them to feel cool and imposing, but to easily crumble when they go toe-to-toe with a Viltrumite of his strength.

Wronking metal, nuts and bolts, and shards of glass paired with the sounds of bursting internal organs, oozing guts, and dripping blood make for a great mass-death scene.

The guards are technically techno-organic beings, with a robotic exterior and an organic, almost human-like interior. Because of this, we didn’t go with overly cheesy robotic leg servos or anything like that. We played them almost like humans wearing metal armor, which allowed us to downplay them in the mix when needed, but lean into both the sounds of their metal exterior and organic interior when Omni-Man destroys them.

6 sound facts about Invincible:

 

Q: Who did the sound design and mix for Invincible?
A: The sound team on Invincible – at Boom Box Post – were Brad Meyer, MPSE — Supervising Sound Editor, Katie Jackson, MPSE — Sound Effects Editor, Noah Kowalski — Sound Effects Editor, Mia Perfetti — Sound Effects Editor, Natalia Saavedra Brychcy, MPSE — Sound Effects Editor, Carol Ma, MPSE — Foley Editor, Logan Romjue, MPSE — Dialogue Editor, Jeff Shiffman, MPSE, CAS — Re-recording Mixer, and Jacob Cook, MPSE — Re-recording Mixer.

Q: Who composed the music for Invincible?
A: The music for Invincible was composed by John Paesano, known for his scores on Marvel’s The Defenders series, Sony’s Spider-Man 2 video game, and DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk series.

Q: What makes the superhero fight sounds so impactful in Invincible ?
A: To make the fight sounds for the superheroes in Invincible stand out from ordinary punches, the sound team added cannon blasts and 808 kick drum hits to the impacts.

Q: Who handled the foley on Invincible?
A: The foley on Invincible is recorded as needed for the show by the sound team at Boom Box Post. They record everything from wet food and human spit for gore and guts, to custom vocal recordings of crowds panicking, footsteps on appropriate surfaces, and even cloth – like Omni-Man’s cape which has tons of movement and is used to accentuate his fight choreography and flying.

Q: What’s the most surprising story behind the sound of Invincible?
A: Invincible is as emotional as it is action-packed. The sound team spends just as much time crafting quiet, hyper-focused details for the emotional scenes as they do for scenes of destruction and conflict. Some of Invincible’s most impactful moments are also some of the most intimate and visceral.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the sound on Invincible?
A: Invincible often has big, climactic moments, and the show’s re-recording mixers are always looking for ways to focus on the narrative. For instance, the “Atom Eve” special has so much happening visually and sonically, so the mixers had to carefully pick and choose what sounds to feature while still keeping the focus on dialogue. Their primary goal is to ensure that the viewer follows the story by directing their attention using sound since sound has a huge sway in what the viewer looks at on screen.

Wronking metal, nuts and bolts, and shards of glass paired with the sounds of bursting internal organs, oozing guts, and dripping blood make for a great mass-death scene. Omni-Man kills so many of them so fast that it’s a great opportunity to highlight some of these sounds in quick succession to get the point across.

 

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Angstrom sends Invincible through portals to different times/places in the multiverse: talking dinosaurs world, zombie world, Agent Spider world, desert/wasteland world, etc. Can you talk about some of the unique sounds you created for these different places?

Sound Team: During the Season Two finale episode, the idea is that Angstrom is trying to strand Invincible in a dimension he would likely not survive in. So most of the portals take us to desolate, dead places. In these instances, it was important to hear no signs of life – no birds, no insects, and certainly no other humans. This allowed us to focus on some of the more intimate details we could hear in these locations. Granules of sand blowing in the wind, a light breeze blowing through abandoned structures, and so on. Even in a more intense scene, like when Mark is beating Angstrom, we play off of our surroundings. When Mark (Invincible) lands a particularly hard punch, you’ll hear the sounds of the metal beams from the rubble of destroyed buildings reverberating through the desert.

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For more active locations like the dinosaur or zombie worlds, we had to get the point across quickly, since we weren’t in these locations for that long. I wanted to place a handful of sounds that were obvious ear grabbers in these scenes to set the tone early and give a clear sense of place in each location – a few distant dinosaur roars, a volcanic eruption, and specific tropical bird callouts in the dinosaur world, for example.


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The zombie world was a fun nod to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. We leaned into the horror aspect of this world with designed accents, stabs, and stings. You’ll hear tons of broken glass and signs of struggle, as well as some distant chaos like police sirens and helicopters.
R

The Agent Spider world was particularly fun to cut sound for. If you know you can’t get your hands on Spider-Man, why not play off of the idea that we’re in the multiverse anyway and riff on it? It’s another great example of Invincible‘s self-awareness and sense of humor. Audibly, we took much of our inspiration from Ultimate Spider-Man, storyboarded by our very own Dan Duncan. I even read on one of the forums that we fooled people into thinking we used the Sam Raimi Spider-Man sounds! I got a kick out of that one.

 

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What went into the sound of Angstrom’s portals?

Sound Team: After discussions with the creative team, we knew we didn’t want to lean very magical with the sound of Angstrom’s portals. It’s easy to go in a chimey, Harry Potter-esque direction for things like that.

Instead, we wanted to go more sci-fi with it, using sounds like bowed cymbals and metals, and vibrating crystal glass, as well as tonal synth elements.

In the mix, we tried to play the portals subtly, as if to imply characters in the world wouldn’t hear a portal close by. Since Angstrom is sneakily using his portals as a weapon against Invincible, we wanted it to feel like he might not notice if a portal opened 5 feet away from him, and could accidentally slip in.

 

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How did you create the sound of Angstrom’s mind glitches (when he’s watching Invincible in the alternate universes?)

Sound Team: For Angstrom’s mind glitches, we incorporated a good amount of his own portal sounds, since they are both visually similar and the idea is that he can’t keep straight what is reality and what is a different dimension.

In addition to some of his signature portal SFX, we used glitching tech and scratching vinyls, as well as some tinnitus-style ringing SFX. The goal with his mind glitches was to show that he’s going mad with the thoughts and feelings of hundreds of alternate versions of himself.

 

Invincible_sound-08

What went into Cecil’s ‘materialize’ sound?

Sound Team: Cecil’s teleportation sound was established by a different sound crew on Season One, so it was more detective work on our part than anything. In terms of coming up with a soundalike, we used mostly digital glitches and designed electricity sounds. There’s also a slight tonal element that rings out when he teleports, which allows us to effectively pitch the sound around as needed to get different reads depending on the situation and how his portals are being used. Luckily, we had some pretty great references from Season One.

 

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What was your approach to the sound of the fights? Were there any helpful indie sound libraries you sourced for sound elements? What about foley or custom recordings?

Sound Team: Invincible has some incredible fight choreography that lends itself to dynamic sound opportunities. Even something as simple as a punch can create a fun opportunity to infuse some personality into a sound. When some of the most powerful beings in the universe are fighting each other, a simple punch won’t do, so we have to get creative and think outside of the box like layering in cannon fire or an 808 kick drum sample.

…we have to get creative and think outside of the box like layering in cannon fire or an 808 kick drum sample.

I particularly appreciate the show’s ability to relish in the subtle moments, sometimes in the context of a larger fight sequence – for example, the moment when Invincible beats Angstrom in the Season Two finale episode. Once he pins Angstrom to the ground, you’ll notice that the music cuts out, almost reminiscent of the post-credits scene in Episode One of the series, perhaps to imply Invincible is more like his father than he’d like to admit. This is a moment where we cut out all the fluff and hyper-focus on the impacts, blood dripping, writhing on the ground, and vocal performances. The small details in this scene make it feel so jarring.

Blood drips were made from water, Jell-O, and pasta. Impacts were sweetened with bass hits and the sound of large stadium lights turning on. There are sudden cloth movements for Angstrom flailing around. The cherry on top is Sterling K. Brown’s vocal work. He makes you believe he’s actually getting his face beaten in and that just puts the scene over the top.

Omni-Man’s cape has so much movement and personality…and we often use his cape to accentuate fight choreography or flying.

In addition to bespoke sound design tailored to the specific sound palette of the show, we are big fans of the Boom Library here at Boom Box Post. They have so many wonderful building blocks and pieces available in their libraries that we can use to piece together larger builds when needed. I’m particularly fond of the construction materials and Debris the Boom Library has. Those sounds can come in handy for scenes where buildings are getting destroyed or a highway overpass is crumbling.

Hear about the sound of Invincible:

 
Want to learn more about the sound of Invincible? Hear Audio Podcast Alliance member The Tonebenders’ excellent interview below:

This show hits hard! Invincible may be an animated series, but it is definitely not for young kids. There are real consequences here, characters die, battles leave marks. The sound design has to be big and impactful to match the powers of the super heroes going toe to toe on screen. Punches are huge, explosions really go BOOM. Blood rains down. Supervising Sound Editor Brad Meyer, Re-Recording Mixer Jeff Shiffman and Sound Effects Editor Katie Jackson tell us the secrets behind the sound design of the punches, the endless blood, inter-dimensional portals and lots more:

Hear the interview here:


For Foley, we custom record on an as-needed basis. Everything from wet food and human spit for gore and guts, to custom vocal recordings of crowds panicking. Footsteps in particular are designed depending on the weight of the character, their footwear, and the surface they are on. A rule we’ve established in the universe of the show is that superheroes tend to have weightier footfalls than a typical human, regardless of size. We also like to have fun with some of the cloth in the show. For example, Omni-Man’s cape has so much movement and personality to it that it’s almost an extension of the character, and we often use his cape to accentuate fight choreography or flying.

 

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What went into the voice processing on Allen the Alien’s (and Omni-Man’s) telepathic chat on the Viltrumite prison ship? How about the mummy-spirit-creature’s vocal processing?

Sound Team: Allen The Alien’s telepathic vocal processing comes down to a simple phase technique, as well as a reverb that gives mostly an echo-delay. This helps to make it feel a little bit alien, without losing dialogue intelligibility.

The tricky part is that, during these telepathy scenes, there is no lip flap or mouth animation, which can be confusing upon first viewing. Any dialogue or sound editor knows that lip sync is a top priority in any sound edit, so the concept of speech without mouth movement can be quite jarring if done incorrectly.

Allen The Alien’s telepathic vocal processing comes down to a simple phase technique, as well as a reverb that gives mostly an echo-delay.

The wet/dry signal is our best friend in the mix for these telepathy scenes. With reverbs, the louder your signal gets the harder you hit the processing, so if you get two characters screaming at each other running through that effect, sometimes we have to pull it way back. In scenes with a lot of action and score, you have to really push the effect to get it to even come through. In general, we find a nice mid-level; clients will either have us dial it up or back depending on the scene.

This telepathic approach is actually broadly applied to any scene that takes place in open space, which helped to inform our overall sound approach for scenes set in space, and helped establish the physics and rules of the universe the characters live in. We tailor our sound design in a space scene a bit differently than a scene on Earth, for example, since we know all sound will get filtered through the space processing chain.

 

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What was the most challenging scene for sound design?

Sound Team: In the season as a whole, a few come to mind. First, I think I’d have to choose the scene where Shrinking Rae gets crushed inside of Komodo Dragon’s body, and then crawls out of his neck cavity after he gets his head blown off. It’s such an absurd situation, and it’s fun to imagine what we would hear in a moment like this. Is it mostly flesh and blood? Any bones crunching? Would we hear Rae’s screams through Komodo Dragon’s chest?

When working on a scene that wild, you can get your creative juices flowing and imagine what something like that would sound like – what something like that could sound like. We went through several iterations of this scene to make sure we got it right. Finding the balance between Komodo Dragon reacting and Rae inside of his torso struggling to get out was the big challenge here. How much should we hear of what’s going on inside of his body, and how much should we hear the characters reacting to what’s going on?

I can’t even begin to describe the sheer amount of baby babbling, cries, and screams we had to cut together to make the scene work.

I also want to highlight baby Oliver’s crying when Angstrom is holding him and Debbie hostage. We often cut vocal sounds, like a baby crying, as part of editorial, and it was important for us to use Oliver’s crying as a storytelling and tension-building tool. We made a point of having Oliver react to things happening in the room, and intensified his cries over the course of the hostage scenes in the Grayson house. Like fire alarms and nails on a chalkboard, baby cries hit our ears right in the sweet spot to trigger an uneasy feeling, contributing to the tension of the scene. The tricky part is getting the performance you want out of baby vocals. Unlike adult actors who can perform a scene as directed, we often have to Frankenstein together unrelated baby vocals to create a faux “performance.” I can’t even begin to describe the sheer amount of baby babbling, cries, and screams we had to cut together to make the scene work.

 

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What was the most challenging scene to mix? (There’s a lot of music in this show! Composer John Paesano does a great job of scoring the action and emotion. Was it challenging to make that work with all the effects in the fight scenes?)

Sound Team: I have to call out the freeway fight scene in the “Atom Eve” special as a particularly difficult scene to mix. On the editorial side, the editors made sure to cover as much detail as possible, giving the mix team plenty of options for how to focus the sounds, especially against John Paesano’s driving, cinematic score. We covered it all: traffic whizzing by, highway overpasses crumbling, and semi-trucks exploding, all playing against an emotional conversation between Atom Eve and her siblings.

As with any mix, our primary goal is to ensure we are guiding the viewer through the story by directing their attention using sound.

As with any mix, our primary goal is to ensure we are guiding the viewer through the story by directing their attention using sound. Believe it or not, the sound team has huge sway in what the viewer looks at on screen. In the “Atom Eve” special, there is so much to take in visually and sonically, so we have to pick and choose what sounds to feature while still keeping the focus on dialogue. Invincible often has big, climactic moments, so we are always looking at how we can enhance that idea in a way that supports the narrative.

 

What are you most proud of in terms of your sound edit and mix on Invincible? What do you feel makes the sound of this show unique?

Sound Team: Invincible has proven to be such an exciting, behemoth undertaking, and I have to say I am truly proud of how much we have all learned throughout the process of making the show. I’m the first to admit that Invincible has taught me a lot about supervising a show of this caliber. I have also always appreciated art that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and believe that we can create something great while still having fun with it. I think that shines through in our work, and lends itself to the playfulness of the show.

The edit and mix are nothing without the team that makes the magic happen.

I also have to give a shout out to our incredible sound crew on this series. The edit and mix are nothing without the team that makes the magic happen. We have an eclectic mix of industry veterans and editors on the rise, and we pride ourselves on hiring diverse crews with a multitude of lived experiences and worldviews. Nothing is more valuable to the sound of any show than the crew that brings it to life. We have found time and time again that there is no replacement for representation and inclusion.

 

A big thanks to Brad Meyer, Jeff Shiffman, and Jacob Cook for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the sound of Invincible and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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    Chimney Wind will give you enough audio to give your project the authentic sound of wind from a chimney stack, boosting your project to the next level. Chimney Wind has been edited to allow a drop in ready and Royalty Free sample pack. These Samples can be used in a variety of projects from Sound Designing/Compositions for TV, Film, Documentaries and Video Games. UCS Compliant and Metadata is attached to the samples

  • Door Sound Effects Small Furniture Workshop Play Track 17+ sounds included, 52 mins total $15

    This library is recorded in a small furniture workshop where office furniture is sawn and created. We recorded the sounds of the factory so that they can be easily combined together to create a workshop of any scale.

    Here’s What We Recorded:

    • Large circular saw

    • Drill

    • Doors

    • General work noises

    • Industrial Spaces

    Microphones were placed at varying distances from the recording subjects. Many recordings were created using a LOM Geofon contact microphone.

     

     

    50 %
    OFF
  • Rolling thunder, rain in the city or in the countryside – these are the sounds that are included in the collection “Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1”.

    These sounds are well suited for creating a stormy, rainy atmosphere for movies, games and other audio-visual content.

    All sounds are recorded in WAV format, 96 kHz, 24 bit.

     

    The following sounds are included:

    • Atmosphere of Thunderstorm in City Outside Window
    • Drops of Thunderstorm Rain on Windowsill
    • Heavy Rain
    • Pouring Rain
    • Rain Hurricane Rattle Metal Plate Loop
    • Rain in the Gazebo
    • Rain In the Village
    • Rain on Windowsill and City Traffic
    • Rain Thunderstorm on City Traffic Background
    • Rainy Atmosphere with Thunderstorm in City
    • The End of the Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm
    • Thunderstorm Rain Intensifies
    • Thunder FX

     

    Product Details:

    • 82 GB
    • 96kHz/24-Bit
    • 73 WAV files

    Thunderstorm Rain Vol.1 – Sound List

  • “Sci-Fi Textures and Loops” are unique sound effects in WAV 24 Bit 96 kHz format that are suitable for creating a dark, mysterious, alien atmosphere when creating science fiction films, games, and music tracks.

    32 %
    OFF
  • The Reindeer/Caribou sound effect library has 150 audio files and over 500 individual sounds. Including:

    • Isolated vocalizations of adults, young calves, and newborn calves, including grunts and nickers
    • Isolated mouth and nose sounds, including breaths, exhales, inhales, snorts, coughs, smacking, swallowing, sniffs, burps, and gurgles
    • Herd activity, including resting, moving, herding and round-up
    • Real and foley bells
    • Antlers clashing
    • Footsteps, walking and running on different surfaces
    • Eating and drinking
    • Sleeping/Resting
    • Digging snow

    Reindeer/Caribou - Sound Effect Library

    Most of these sounds have been recorded with a collar microphone on reindeer, so the sounds are extremely intimate, isolated, and close-up. The collar microphone was attached to a female reindeer with a calf, which captured the most intimate moments. The collar microphone also recorded many other reindeer in the herd, so there are a lot of unique reindeer vocalizations.

    This sound effect library also contains all 33 files from my previous Reindeer sound effect library.

    Note regarding the naming of the animal: Wikipedia says that “Reindeer is the European name for the species of Rangifer, while in North America, Rangifer species are known as Caribou”. So, you can use the same sounds for each of them because, at least in terms of sound, they are nearly identical!

    20 %
    OFF

   

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