Uncut Gems: Sound Design And Producing The Score

Netflix launched the instant classic, Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler on their platform yesterday. The film, which originally hit theaters on Christmas Day in 2019, is an engaging amalgamation of airy uptown-luxury and mobster chaos set in hectic New York City.

The intense dynamics of emotion and energy in Uncut Gems is what many viewers either loved about the film or it is ultimately what would turn others away. Regardless of the bi-partisan reaction audiences had, the film undoubtably broke new ground by introducing a unique synth based soundscape that hadn’t yet been associated with a modern film like Uncut Gems. Similar to that of the Netflix series Stranger Things, Uncut Gems uses a retro-esque sonic pallet to get across its moments of insufferable intensity and ambient chillness.

Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never, was the composer for Uncut Gems and responsible for capturing the constantly changing vibe of the film in sound. In a short documentary by Moog on the scoring of the film, Lopatin discusses using and creating patches with his synthesizers to make the many different tones that would be used to build the films sonic pallet. Loptain also speaks about the process of finding influences and continuing to remold them until they become something new and original.

WATCH: Below is a short documentary by Moog that focuses on Lopatins and the Safdie Brothers journey to create the score for Uncut Gems. Throughout the documentary, Lopatin can be seen playing different synthesizers while showcasing parts of the films score. Lopatin also discusses how he used sound to accompany characters personalities.

The droning tones that gradually fade in and out throughout only intensify scenes and add to the commotion. Despite the films overall violence and feelings of chaos, Josh Safdie, co-director of Uncut Gems, says that a lot of the films score was inspired by meditation music. It’s evident that inspiration was drawn from meditation music as the score is mostly filled with ever-changing synth drones that have a trance-like quality.

Along with spacey drone music, lots of everyday sounds you hear in a city like New York were added in post production to further enhance the effect of the films sonic soundscape. As scenes play out, you can hear sounds of talking crowds, the rumble of distant highways, construction sites, and sirens that pull you further into the films setting.

WATCH: In this video, Josh and Benny Safdie along with Daniel Lopatin and Skip Lievsay, got together with Dolby to discuss the many elements and collaboration that went into creating the films score. They speak about mixing the film score in Dolby Atmos, inspirations, and the hard work it took behind the scenes.

The soundtrack of many modern films consist mostly of previously released songs by other musicians and artists not associated with the film. Uncut Gems however only features a short list of non-original music which makes up a very small portion of the films score. This list includes tracks by Meek Mill, Madonna, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd who, in the film, plays a younger version of himself before gaining his current pop-star status. With the lack of non-original music, it is even more impressive that the films score has become so highly regarded since its release.

The score to Uncut Gems truly is unique and an incredibly fresh take on what a film score can be. We look forward to seeing directors, composers, and sound designers use this particular score as inspiration for future projects and watching the evolution of sound in film.


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