If you’ve had the good fortune of seeing Roma on the big screen in a well-outfitted theater, you’ll hear every detail of the magnificent sound design of Cuaron’s masterpiece film, Roma. Sergio Diaz worked with Cuaron for the first time as Sound Editor and he says Cuaron’s vision was so specific that it helped him with his task.
Spending eighteen months on the shoot, Diaz went out to capture the sounds of the various environments, from birds to traffic, delivering the precise sounds Cuaron needed. The challenge to recreating the authenticity was remembering that the film was set in the 1970s and not modern-day Mexico City.
Read our brief chat about how Diaz worked on the sound design of Roma
This is the first time you’ve worked with Cuaron. It’s such a personal film to him so what did he say to guide you?
From the beginning, I knew he wanted to use the latest technology for the sound environment. His vision is so specific. I did my own research for the film. I worked with a lot of material around the house and the city sounds. I spent a long period recording the sounds just so we could have a lot of options for him in each scene.
We did that because he had the exact idea of what he wanted in every scene. So, it was a huge challenge to get all the atmospheres because right now Mexico City is so industrial but back then we had more birds and trees and less cars. The cars also had different engines. So, I had to pick specific sounds and separate them to get to the final mix.
What helped you find the right sounds for the film?
I had a good idea and that was to start recording the city on Christmas Day. I started at 6am to 6pm on December 25 because the city was so quiet after Christmas. There was no one on the street and I actually recorded a lot of city sounds that day.
Also, I used a lot of organic sounds. I’d record the cars outside the house to get one sound on one street and then I’d go to the avenue to get the sound of traffic and work with that.
You talk about time and preparing. How long did you have to record the sounds?
I spent around 18 months, working every day. I needed to show him different sounds every day. There were sounds for the house, the hospital. I did all the preparation continuously over that time.
How did you work with Cuaron to find the perfect sounds?
I was in my studio building the atmospheres and started editing again in Quick Time. I’d send him the scenes and sound in context and he’d give me his feedback and I’d either come back with more options or layer in more sounds for him.
I live in Mexico and know how hard it was to get those scenes. The idea was to have every sound be natural.
You talked about the birds earlier and capturing their voices. Were those easy to find?
I actually recorded a lot of those sounds out of the country because we have so much industry and cars so I had to go out of the country to get the right sound for those birds. I couldn’t get them in the city.
What about capturing the sounds of the planes at the beginning,? I can only imagine how hard that was because planes now compared to the 70s are so different.
The planes that you hear at the beginning just because planes now are 747s and those planes have a different sound entirely. They were propeller engines so I had to go and find those.
The street vendors were another thing that was difficult to capture. We had to find those sounds there, outside the cinema and outside the cinema, those were a big challenge to capture and to find the correct sound for.