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How Sound Team Set Murder Tone on Andrew Scott Series

How Sound Team Set Murder Tone on Andrew Scott Series

During Steven Zaillian’s Ripley, the viewer gleans a lot from things that aren’t said, whether that’s through telltale props, intricate sets or fabulous 1960s fashion. But it’s the show’s sound mixing that really becomes a key player in the Netflix series, adding tension and mystery to scenes with little dialogue or score.

“Steve clearly planned the show with sound in mind and really left room for the environments and ambiences to breathe and support a tone,” says sound designer and rerecording mixer Larry Zipf. “We had many long stretches with little dialogue or little music, and wherever there was opportunity for sound to give the impression of life outside the frame, whether it’s diegetic or in Tom’s mind, Steve was always looking for that.”

Ripley stars Andrew Scott as con man Tom Ripley and is based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, which spawned the 1999 movie with Matt Damon as the titular character. Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn and Eliot Sumner star alongside Scott in the series.

Zaillian, says Zipf, really used sounds as props, whether it’s through Ripley’s footsteps echoing in a church, the clacking of his typewriter, the waves crashing against the beach in Atrani, or the mechanical sound of the elevator moving up and down in Ripley’s Rome apartment building. Where sound really takes a front seat is during Dickie Greenleaf’s murder in episode three: the tail end of the scene is predominantly filled with Ripley’s labored breathing as he exerts himself physically to deal with the consequence of what he’s done — paired beautifully with the sound of the water hitting the hull of the boat and the motor whirring.

Zipf says that scene was actually one of the more difficult larger sequences that he worked on. “It was 25 minutes,” he explains. “That, for me, was certainly the biggest challenge because, particularly after Dickie has been murdered, we basically just have the picture and sound effects and Foley, and also efforts and breathing from Tom that was very important to keep us with him. We felt the responsibility to help make that work.”

Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX

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Zipf, whose film credits include 21 Bridges, Halloween Ends and Don’t Worry Darling, worked on Ripley from November 2022 to March 2023 — much more time than he would usually spend on a project. Ripley was “constructed” in a different way than his previous TV projects, like The Gilded Age, The Deuce and Succession, had been. “There was a lot of revision of the work ahead of our final mix with Steve,” says Zipf. “It was a little unusual for a television show. Usually you’ll put an episode to bed and move on to another one, but with this show, every episode could potentially be tweaked at any time. There were always multiple plates spinning.”

For Zipf, that process took some time getting used to, but it did have one specific benefit: “It allows for a lot of continuity across the episodes, with the approach to specific sounds of objects,” he says. “You can develop them and refine them across episodes. We had the ability to be consistent.”

This story first appeared in a June standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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