Emmy-nommed mixers satisfy home, live auds

A live telecast can jangle any technician’s nerves. But on some of the top-rated — and now Emmy-nominated — live events of the year, the people sweating the most are those charged with creating the audio mix.

That’s especially true for the mixers working on top-rated shows like the “American Idol” finale, the “Grammy Awards” and the “Super Bowl Halftime Show” that benefit from the excitement of a live audience. The mixers must ensure the performance sounds great in the house, not just to viewers at home.

After all the preparation is done, the state-of-the-art gear is in place and rehearsals are over, the rest is up to the talents and the teamwork of the front-of-house and broadcast mixers, many of whom have worked on these shows for years.

“It’s a fine balance,” reports Andrew Fletcher, “of putting enough energy in the room to get people on their feet, cheering and clapping but not getting in the way of the broadcast.”

Fletcher, who is nominated for his work on “Idol’s” finale, is quick to point out that when push comes to shove, the broadcast is king. “There are millions of people watching at home and maybe 500 in the studio,” he admits. “So, you sacrifice the people in the (live) audience to a certain extent to make it sound good at home.”

Mike Stewart, nominated for his work on the Grammys, says the musical performances, where the house sound can be cranked to concertlike volumes, are actually less challenging than the dialogue portions of the show.

“What impacts the broadcast is when you have three people standing around a sensitive microphone and you turn it up (in the house),” he says. “It becomes very reverberant and washes out what we are trying to get on air.”

Stewart and the Grammy team solve that problem by placing speakers under seats so the audience can hear but the broadcast microphones don’t pick up the sounds.

Adding aural excitement to a broadcast falls to production mixers like Edward J. Greene and John Harris as well as audience sweeteners like Christian Schrader and Klaus Landsberg.

According to Harris, who works out of a broadcast truck, Landsberg had about 30 microphones scattered around Staples Center during this year’s broadcast of the Grammys. His job is to capture audience reaction and then provide a 5.1 mix to Harris for broadcast.

The extra step, Harris says, is done for a simple reason: “It’s all about what the viewer looks at on TV and what they expect to hear.”

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