South Africa scores big for sound and music, Pressure Cooker delivers world-class animated feature ‘Seal Team’

A major win for SA’s post-production industry; with both the sound and music handled by top local audio company, Pressure Cooker, for this Netflix film. We go behind the scenes with their Co-Founder, James Matthes, to find out how this big-scale animation project was completed and what it means for the South African post-production industry.

‘Keeping South African work in South Africa is very important to us. Proving that we can be trusted to do work on this scale also leads to more international work being sent here. A lot of people think they can’t get projects like this done at the highest standard locally, and this proves they can.’ Pressure Cooker’s Co-Founder, James Matthes.

Produced and animated by Triggerfish and directed by Greig Cameron, ‘Seal Team’ is about a fearless seal named Quinn who loses his bestie in a shark attack. Seeking revenge, Quinn goes on a mission to prove that in this shark-eat-seal world, sometimes the food bites back. He assembles a group of seal misfits, comprised of the brave, stupid and the crazy. Together they enlist the help of Claggart (an ex-navy seal, we know 😂) and they are soon whipped into shape and ready for some flipper-to-flipper combat, all of which culminates in an epic underwater battle.

On top of producing the sound and music for this film locally, the Pressure Cooker team was faced with the monumental task of completing the project during severe lockdown restrictions. Working on ‘Seal Team’ from April 2020 to May 2021, meant they were smack bam in the middle of the pandemmy, which meant their entire team had to uplift their studios and work from home for a major part of the post-production. Flippen awesome team!

Some of the Pressure Cooker team making ‘Seal Team’ magic for our ears.

With over 20 movies on their reel already and extensive experience working alongside some of the best orchestras in the world, Pressure Cooker can safely say that they are at the top of their game when it comes to cinematics and storytelling through music. We spoke to the company’s Co-Founder James Matthes about what it took to deliver ALL the sound and music for the film and what the effect will be on the South African post-production industry.

Q: What was Pressure Cooker’s role in bringing ‘Seal Team’ to life?
James Matthes (Pressure Cooker Co-Founder): We handled the entire audio process – all the composing, sound, mixing and ADR of the voices; which meant that most of the actors were recording their voices in a studio in Los Angles while the director was directing them from our studio here with us in South Africa. The musical score was recorded with the Budapest Scoring Orchestra, a brilliant 60-piece symphony orchestra. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to be in Budapest for the recording due to travel restrictions, but it was still amazing watching them on screen in our studios with the team.

Budapest Symphony Orchestra recording for ‘Seal Team’.

Q: What was the music brief for this film?
The brief was pretty extreme; 80s action rock ‘n roll synth-wave. Think of all those 80s action movies we grew up with, like ‘The Rock’ or ‘Predator’. It was our job to make the sound for ‘Seal Team’ still feel authentic and not like rip-offs of that time though. We are very lucky to have some of the best composers in the industry who specialise in cinematic composing, paired with incredible song writing skills for the rock ‘n roll, so the job was in safe hands.

Q: What does a big scale project like this mean for the local post production industry?
At Pressure Cooker, we want to use every opportunity to grow the industry in South Africa. Even if the animation is done here, often the music and sound ends up getting sent overseas to produce. Keeping South African work in South Africa is very important to us. Proving that we can be trusted to do work on this scale also leads to more international work being sent here. A lot of people think they can’t get projects like this done at the highest standard locally, and this proves they can. We have hired three new people since we finished ‘Seal Team’ – that’s always my goal, to grow local talent by creating opportunities.

Q: It’s pretty unusual for one studio to handle the music AND all the sound on a big project like this, right? So, how did it all come about?
We had already won the pitch to do the music for ‘Seal Team’. Having worked with ‘Seal Team’ director Greig Cameron for many years on a show called ‘Supa Strikas’, for which we handled all the sound and music, he knew we were more than capable for doing the same on ‘Seal Team’. I believe the original plan was to do the audio overseas with Warner Bros De Lane Lea, however, things changed during 2020 and the bid was put out to local studios and we won. Having one studio handle all the sound and music really streamlines the process and knowing that it’s all handled in one place gives the producers peace of mind.

Q: What kind of team does it take to pull off the sound and music on a film like this?
A big one! Our team consisted of two composers and two additional-composers, a lead orchestrator, an assistant orchestrator, various instrumentalists, three sound designers, our foley team at Sound and Motion, one final mix engineer and his assistant. I was supervising sound and mix, Dan (Pressure Cooker Co-Founder Daniel Caleb) and I were score supervisors, Astrid (Studio Producer Astrid Iverson) was managing the studio. We had two ADR recordists, a consulting sound editor Adrian from De Lane Lea, Fuzzy (Sound and Motion) and his assistant were score mixing and he was the supervising facility mix engineer. And then we had an orchestra of 60 players and their conductor and recording engineer. All in all a massive collaboration of incredibly talented individuals that all brought this project to life.

As if there aren’t enough reasons to love this action-packed underwater comedy, guaranteed you will LOVE the fact that Dolph the Dolphin is voiced by Dolph Lundgren and the singing Seal is played by the actual singer SEAL! ♫ Quinn is never gonna survive, because he is a little crazy ♫ There are also some great local actors behind the characters like John Kani, Sharlto Copley, Julia Anastasopoulos (aka Suzelle DIY), Rob van Vuuren, Louw Venter and Zolani Mahola. Oh, and did we mention the film made it to the top 10 most-watched Netflix movies GLOBALLY!?

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Studio Producer: Astrid Iverson

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Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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