EntertainmentSyllous Mai and the International Aspect of Sound

Syllous Mai and the International Aspect of Sound

  Netflix viewers are consuming content with a voracious appetite. Since films like Parasite and Everything Everywhere All at Once raised interest of American viewers to Asian filmmakers and stories, the demand for these types of productions has brought an awareness of the immense talent from these production industries. The need to make them more accessible to US audiences requires many skilled professionals like recording engineer and sound editor Syllous Mai. While the demands of her career take Syllous from on-locations film sets to live performance events, her work for recently released Netflix productions like Sanctuary and Daily Dose of Sunshine are focused on enabling these productions to intuitively feel, or rather sound, like American ones…at least in terms of the spoken language. It’s a delicate balance to retain the emotional and sonic identity of these productions while still making them sound natural, which is why Syllous was enlisted for them. Audio wizardry might seem to be a hyperbolic term for what she achieves, until you see the results she delivers. Thankfully, both Sanctuary and Daily Dose of Sunshine are available on the US Netflix presently. Wildly different in content, both shows are remarkably captivating.

  Daily Dose of Sunshine presented Syllous with what might seem intuitive challenges found in preparing a South Korean spoken language series for American viewers, as well as some highly non-intuitive aspects. The story is dedicated to the exploration of mental health issues. Its main character, Jung Da-eun, is portrayed by actress Park Bo-young (winner of the Seoul Award for Best Actress, the APAM Star Award, in addition to awards at the Korea Youth Film Festival, Seoul International Drama Awards, Korean Association of Film Critics Awards, Blue Dragon Awards, and Grand Bell Awards). This twenty-something nurse diligently endeavors to aid in the recovery of her patients whom have found themselves in need of professional help as a result of work stress, family issues, and relationship struggles, etc. Achieving synchronization for English dubbing during scenes is only the most obvious requirement of the work that Syllous did in delivering this series to the US Netflix platform. In addition to ensuring the dialogue seamlessly matched the actor’s lip movements for a natural and visually coherent viewing experience, there were other elements of clarity to address from an audio perspective. In scenes where groups of disturbed patients would be shouting at the same time, it was crucial for Syllous to emphasize certain vocal performances. This intricate task demanded a careful orchestration to ensure that the right lines were visibly attributed to the correct characters, ultimately enhancing the overall visual cohesiveness and comprehension of the scene for the audience. As a sound editor, Syllous had the opportunity to create distinct vocalizations which reflected the individual character traits as well as integrated them seamlessly into the overall sound design of the show.

  The recently premiered series Sanctuary is one of the most eagerly anticipated additions to the American Netflix lineup. Lovers of sports dramas are enticed by the unique setting of professional sumo wrestling. The production originated in Japan as well, adding to its decidedly unfamiliar tone for American audiences. Earl Bayon stars as Enno, a young wrestler who is unprepared for the benevolent and detrimental accoutrements that attach themselves to professional sumos. This series also stars familiar faces to US viewers such as Koyuki (of Oscar nominated film The Last Samurai), Ren Hanami (of the Primetime Emmy Award–winning series Star Trek: Picard), and Tohuro Masamune (of the nearly half billion dollar WWG Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the People’s Choice Award–Winning series Never Have I Ever). Most of us would not perceive the importance microphone selection can have on the emotional impact of a scene, which is what makes the insight Syllous offers so illuminating. She describes, “The challenge lies in the necessity to closely monitor the microphone’s placement to ensure optimal sound quality. In this complex dynamic, where the actor’s actions are instrumental in conveying the scene’s intensity, it’s vital to maintain a balance between capturing the raw, authentic energy of the performance and maintaining audio quality. In Episode 1, the moment where Enno bursts into his mother’s apartment with overwhelming anger presented a substantial challenge, as this scene carried a high degree of emotional intensity. It was not only a demanding task for me but also posed a significant challenge for the voice actors involved, given the profound emotional depth and complexity required to convey the scene’s emotional strength.” 

  It might seem to be a stretch to connect these two productions with immensely different storylines and characters, but Syllous Mai finds it natural. As someone who dedicates her professional life to giving emotional form (audibly) to the stories and characters of film and episodic series, Syllous relates to the universal human struggle and remarks, “I think storytelling at its best helps us to see reflections of ourselves in others. I see the struggles of someone like Enno and I am intrigued to know more about his world. I also admire that Daily Dose of Sunshine is increasing public awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Being a part of a show that promotes knowledge and understanding of mental health issues has gone beyond my role as a sound editor. It allows me to contribute to a socially significant cause through meaningful work. That’s a sense of fulfillment that I want to continue to experience throughout my entire career.”

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