Did You Hear That? Peter Devlin makes sure of it in the movie “Black Panther”
By Natalie Benoit
They toil in relative obscurity. They are not household names. They’ll probably never be recognized on the red carpet. Yet they are the force behind the action on the Silver Screen. We’re talking about sound mixers. In this instance, Academy Award nominated sound-mixer Peter Devlin.
“A lot of people don’t understand all the different elements that go into doing a soundtrack in a film,” Devlin said. “My job is the production mixer and I’m there on location with the actors recording dialogue, but there’s a whole team that comes in the post-production phase.”
Devlin was the production sound mixer for the Marvel superhero film, “Black Panther.”
He has the distinction of being one of the top-grossing sound mixers both nationally and internationally. His experience with other action movies like “Star Trek” and the “Transformers” series helped him capture the sounds of the fantasy world of Wakanda.
Effectively balancing competing sounds was key when M’Baku (Winston Duke) challenged T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in the first waterfall scene. Not only was there the conversation between the two characters, but the different tribes chanted, sang and played instruments behind their confrontation. This build-up of conflicting sounds called for the trained ears of the film’s sound department. Devlin and the team were able to record and mix it all together to give audiences one of the most intense moments of the film.
Devlin also provided a glimpse into the difficulty behind micing the cast and capturing their dialogue. During the climactic waterfall fight between Black Panther and Killmonger, both Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan went shirtless for the scene. Concealing the microphone while ensuring the quality of the action-packed moment required some wardrobe creativity and negotiating when to take certain shots.
“When you sit in a movie theater you don’t think about those things. I think the post-production team of Brandon Proctor and Steve Boeddeker who share this nomination with me did an absolute phenomenal job of basically painting this landscape orally for the audiences,” added Devlin.
He says his top priority is preserving the actors’ performance. One of his main goals for the superhero-action film was to prevent the actors from being called back in for reshoots. That meant minimizing the external noise that could have potentially distracted audiences from fully enjoying “Black Panther.”
And their expertise paid off. “Black Panther” is vying for the coveted Oscar for Best Picture.