Sound mixing is one of the less discussed aspects of film production, but a convincing soundscape can elevate a film to another level. This is particularly true is boxing films, where actors and directors attempt to capture the gritty reality of the ring on film.
Apparently, the folks behind the Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Southpaw, which tells the story of fictional middleweight Billy Hope (with a little help from real boxer Victor Ortiz), went beyond the foley studio to build the sounds of their film. Via The HollyWood Reporter:
Even before production began, the team was at work, recording elements in gyms, boxing rings and arenas, which were blended with music and dialog.
Winter, Esparza and a small crew even made a trip to Las Vegas to capture crowd sounds at live prize fights, including the 2014 Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves bout. They positioned a 5.1 microphone above the press-box to record surround ambience, while recordists sat in different sections of the arena to capturing individual perspectives. "When we brought the recorded elements back to the lot, we lined them up and panned them around the mix stage to create a full spatial environment," said Esparza. "We also captured bell rings, ten second warning clappers and referees' whistles. We ultimately used all that stuff."
If they were going for the feel of a gritty, ugly contest, it's hard to imagine they could've picked a better fight.
In addition to the live fight experience, Southpaw's sound team went to gyms to record some of the audio elements in the film--not unlike the process composer Hans Zimmer used to come up with the Premier Boxing Champions theme that we're all a little sick of by now.
With realism as their guide, Winter and Esparza also chose to record footsteps in gyms rather than on a Foley stage. This is because boxing rings are covered in mats and have suspension systems so footfalls tend to be muted. To make the punches "big," Esparza related that if a punch was coming from the right side, they would place the impact on the right side of the theater."
Southpaw is just the first of four major boxing films to be released this year. Time will tell if upcoming features like the Rocky spinoff Creed and Robert DeNiro's Duran biopic Hands of Stone will measure up.