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Inside the Sound Design of 'Stranger Things'

"Light bulbs don’t make a lot of sound in real life, so I had to find a way to augment those sounds but not go too synthetic with them," says sound designer Craig Henighan.8/23/2016 2:00 PM Eastern
A scene from Stranger Things. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Stranger Things supervising sound editor Brad North and sound designer Craig Henighan speak to A Sound Effect about how they created the retro, otherworldly sound of Netflix's hit supernatural show.

The show centers on a young boy named Will Byers who goes missing. Though the police start out investigating it as a traditional missing persons case, Will's mom (Winona Ryder) becomes convinced that her son is trying to communicate with her through the lights in their house. She decks the entire house in Christmas lights to try and understand Will's message.

Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo and Finn Wolfhard. Photo by Curtis Baker/Netflix.

"For most of the electrical sounds, I recorded little electric things around my house, and things I had in my garage," Henighan explains about getting the sound of the lights just right. "I don’t ever throw out old electric things that make noise. I keep bins of old toothbrushes, shavers, phones, etc. The one main thing I used was my battery charger, which has a 50 amp setting on it. I recorded that and then took little pieces, to which I added light bulb filament sounds. I broke some light bulbs and Christmas lights and I recorded the sound that the filament makes when you shake it a little bit. Of course, these are such low-level sounds – so I had to crank the heck out of them just to get them at a volume that I could use. So that was the two core sounds and then the other main thing I wanted to do, either when Joyce or the little girl was following the light bulbs, was actually have a little tone play. So I found a little tone in a synth patch and I used it for a little touch...Light bulbs don’t make a lot of sound in real life, so I had to find a way to augment those sounds but not go too synthetic with them. I try to root my sound design in real sounds. It was a nice opportunity to record real sounds and then give them a musical nature."

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