first_img The Orville Brings a Much Better Trailer to SDCCHere’s What Disney Now Owns From Fox Stay on target Fox announced this week that Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek homage comedy/drama, The Orville, will return for a third season. That’s good news for anyone who feels that Star Trek: Discovery isn’t quite what they’re looking for out of the franchise, or who just wants some classic Next Generation-style adventuring in addition. After finding a good balance in Season One between wacky comedy and serious sci-fi drama, The Orville‘s second season went a step further. It went a little lighter on the laugh in favor of some genuinely well-written sci-fi stories. The humor is still present, as the ship’s personalities collide in the interstellar workplace, but story and character took centerstage. For any of this to work, the worlds on screen had to feel real. High-budget makeup and special effects do some of the work, but sound does the real heavy lifting.Sound Designer Jonathan Greasley and ADR Supervisor Joel Shyrack are responsible for making every scene sound the way it does. If someone runs down a hallway or opens a door, Shyrack is responsible for making it sound like it’s happening on a starship in the middle of space, rather than a studio set somewhere. He also handles the crowd noises. Usually, crowds are silent during filming. Shyrack records crowd noises separately, so they can have total control over how a scene sounds. Sound is such an important part of making a science fiction show feel real, and when done well, we barely notice all the work that’s gone into it.Mark Jackson and Jessica Szohr  (Photo Credit: Kevin Estrada/FOX)The ship, for example, has all sorts of sounds not found in the natural world. The doors can’t sound like TV flats sliding into place. A low engine hum pervades each episode, reminding us that we’re aboard a moving vehicle. Those sounds aren’t happening while the actors are on set. “To a certain degree you have free reign, like ‘what do i want this to sound like,’ There aren’t any actual real world rules.” Greasley said. Of course, with science fiction having been around so long, especially with a show like The Orville that’s such an homage to the classics, they have to follow some established conventions. “Things that were established in the original Star Trek or Star Wars movies. So if you deviate too far away from convention, people start saying, ‘That’s not what a laser blast sounds like!’ You know what I mean?”The Orville does offer more freedom than you might expect, though. Despite its clear influences, Greasley said there are technologies we haven’t seen before, and he got to decide how they’d sound. “Like they have a Quantum Drive on the ship, that was their answer to hyperspace or warp speed. It was based on an actual scientific theory, you know quantum physics and how that might help them come up with propulsion. So that element of it was original and somewhat a blank slate.”He doesn’t create all the sounds on his own, though. The producers usually have some kind of idea of how they want certain things to sound, and give Greasley direction. The example he gave was that The Orville had to sound sleek and not obviously mechanical. “You know, you shouldn’t hear moving parts, it should be kind of this deep soothing thrum that takes place in the bowels of the ship. There’s nothing clanking and banging around,” he said.(Photo Credit: FOX)Though that philosophy is the basis for most ships we see on the show, he does ensure every ship sounds unique. “I do like to try to give each of the individual ships from the different species and races their own sounds. You can kind of pick things apart. You have the Moclan ships sound a certain way, different from theThe Orville sounds. So when the two of them are flying around each other, you actually can pick them apart.” By comparison, the Krill ships’ sound are inspired by the way those characters act and look. They have a much more aggressive sound. Greasley said he tried to make the ships sound as pointy as they are. And they do. Try it. The next time you’re watching The Orville, and a Krill ship is on screen, close your eyes. You really can kind of hear the shape.As for how those sounds come to be in the first place, a lot of them come from a big sound library Greasley has at his disposal. After coming up with an idea for what he wants something to sound like, he searches through the library for things manipulate and combine to create something new. Sometimes, as big as the libraries are, that doesn’t get the entire job done. “The libraries are very extensive, but sometimes you have something in your head that you can’t find or don’t have the time to spend hours combing through all these terabytes of sound effects. I do like to use synths to create sounds. I use keyboards and synth to play around with certain things and use filters and that kind of stuff. So you get these musical elements that you can then manipulate.” Greasley uses music in his work quite often. “I’m a musician too, so I’ll sometimes use a guitar to just make weird sounds with lots of effects pedals and things like that, and layer those in.”Seth MacFarlane (Photo Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)It’s also important that a sound contains a natural element too. Even for something as futuristic as a Starship, if you rely entirely on synthetic sounds, you can end up with a very fake feel. Like many sound designers out there, Greasley often turns to animal sounds to give everything a more natural feel. “A lot of the sounds I’ve used for some of the bigger ships to give them this big natural-sounding weight is tuned down whale vocals that were in the library. They sound really cool and you can manipulate them and they have this presence to them that you can layer into some of the more high-tech sounds and it creates a cool effect.”Naturally, that extends to the alien worlds The Orville encounters. We got to see a few of them in Season Two. Often, it’s not written into the story what kind of animals or birds occupy these planets, but it’s always on Greasely’s mind when he’s trying to imbue the scenes with a sense of place. “You take cues from what you know. Like, if there are a lot of trees and wooded areas, I’ll try to find bird sounds and manipulate those, pitch them down to make them sound otherworldly. Or maybe you’ll go with boggy, weird froggy type things if there are a lot of marshes and swamps around.”The simulation room is where the sci-fi nature of the show really affects Shyrack’s work. Like the Star Trek holodeck on which it’s based, the Simulation room takes the ship’s crew to all different time periods. He’s in charge of making sure the crowd sounds of those scenes match what’s on screen. “So if they go to the 1940s, then I just play it very straight ahead as the 1940s. I put all the crowd people and the newspaper boys and all that stuff. Very much in the vernacular and time. Or if their in a disco, there’ll be more dancing,” Shyrack said.Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki (Photo Credit: Kevin Estrada/FOX)What sets The Orville apart from most other shows on TV is its uniqe blend of comedy and drama. That’s provided its own challenges in the sound department as well. Moving from one episode to the next can mean you’re making an action show one week, a sitcom the next and a character drama the next. “Striking a balance between them is tricky sometimes,” Greasley said. “You always have to think about how to play certain moments and how comedic to go with the funnier moments. And always support what’s being said and what’s happening story-wise rather than trying to lead it too heavily… So obviously if they’re having space dogfights and laser battles, I really take the forefront with that. But if a scene is driven by the characters, and whether those are drama moments or lighter moments, it’s important to me to not tread on what’s being said.”That’s especially true of the stranger elements of the show, like Yaffit, who got some good heroic moments this season. Making a character sound like a mobile ball of snot was definitely one of the stranger things Greasley’s had to do, but he couldn’t take it too far. Too many squishing sounds as he’s talking can ruing the joke and overshadow Norm MacDonald’s dialog.Similarly, the episode featuring Bortus’ annual urination sparked probably the longest conversation about pee I’ve ever heard of. “Basically, he’s pissing over the side of a cliff. So, do we hear it land? Or if we don’t hear it land, then what else can we do? Do we hear the stream blowing away in the wind? Then you have this whole conversation of what his pee should sound like,” Greasley said. “Then you also have to factor in, is there going to be a Standards and Practices opinion about the sound of pee hitting the bottom of the canyon. That took a while to make a choice on that.” They eventually decided that realistically, you couldn’t hear it land. Instead, they focused on the sound of Bortus undoing his tunic, and let Bortus’ vocalizations speak for themselves.Guest star Blesson Watson, Chad L. Coleman and Peter Macon (Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX)Even a scene like Gordon’s leg crashing through the ceiling in Season One (still my all time favorite gag of the show), they took care to make sure it wasn’t too slapsticky. The visual gag was funny enough on its own, the added sound didn’t need to be too heavy handed, though it was constructed after the scene was shot. Any sound that would happen on the set, might sound too 21st century anyway. Shyrack says he’d have to clean up any recorded sounds that were too present day. Everything, including Gordon’s amputated leg falling through the ceiling, had to sound like it was happening in the 24th century for Greasley’s sound effects to shine.The episode that took place on Isaac’s planet, Shyrack said, was the hardest to clean up. “”It’s all these artificial beings. And they had to go shoot these exterior [shots] in Los Angeles. So we did a lot of filtering, a lot of clean-up to get as much of… any airplane, any helicopter, and knocked out as much traffic as we could. Those early 21st century sounds of Los Angeles weren’t appropriate on that planet. That one episode, that was the most challenging cleanup we had in the whole season,” Shyrack said. And that was before the artificial sounds of the planet had to be added in.(Photo Credit: FOX)Most of the time, the sounds are made before the final visual effects are in. Concepts can evolve throughout shooting and editing. Sometimes when the final product comes back, they have to reevaluate whether the sound they created still fits what ended up on screen. One example Greasley gave was an episode this past season where Captain Mercer and his Krill captor ended up stranded on an alien planet. “They had another race of people with these guns that looked more like 20th century-style weapons. As the visual effects came in, they didn’t really change too much from the props they were holding. So I went a lot more typical ordinance shotgun vibe,” he said. “Then really late in the game, they decided it wasn’t working visually or conceptually for the time period. It wasn’t so much that the weapons themselves changed, but the visible projectiles they were firing changed completely and the sounds didn’t work anymore. I had to go back to the drawing board and make it more timeline appropriate.The Orville will return for another season next year, resolving the cliffhanger Season 2 left us on. (That can be a good way to push the network into giving you another go.) Greasley described the last two action-packed episodes as “movie-level complicated,” noting that the scope of the show dramatically increased between Seasons One and Two. As for what’s ahead, “I’m excited and slightly wary about how they’re gonna want to step that up for Season Three. I think they will want to take it even further and expand the universe more. I can only imagine what new situations they’ll come up with. The scale of the show is massive at this point,” he said.Shyrack agreed. “There was almost a season arc with the Kaylons and I think there’s still story there they can wrap up. But they’ve started a lot of other new threads. There could be new aliens, it wouldn’t surprise me. As John says, they just keep broadening they’re horizons.”The Orville will return for a third season on Fox. A date has not been announced.More on Geek.com:‘The Orville’ Coverage on Geek.comRemembering ‘Babylon 5’ 25 Years After Its Debut2019 in Sci-Fi: What Movies, Games, and TV Told Us Will Happen This Yearlast_img read more