When Dolby’s name replaced Kodak’s on the home of the Oscars in 2012, that put Dolby Labs on the hot seat. The company had to ensure a superior aural experience to the movers and shakers in the room and to viewers at home.
That’s where Steve Venezia and Dolby’s team of sound engineers come in.
Venezia, Dolby senior director for content services, has been one of the company’s “golden ears” at the show since it moved into its current home in 2002, the year the telecast shifted to high-definition video and 5.1 sound.
The transition is long past, but Venezia’s experience remains invaluable to the sound mixers at ABC, which broadcasts the show and uses sound to try to to make viewers feel as if they’re sitting among the nominees.
“If I walk into the mixing truck and give (production audio mixer Paul Sandweiss) a thumbs-up for the over-air broadcast, he knows it sounds the way he wants it to sound, because he trusts I know how he mixes, I know what he’s trying to achieve and I know how it’s transmitted.”
Since the 2013 Oscars, though, Venezia has focused more on in-theater sound. During the show, he moves around the venue, making sure things sound good in every area, especially in the upper mezzanine — a former trouble spot. He visits the quality control truck, where every step of the broadcast is monitored, including KABC’s over-the-air signal. But during most of the show, he’s in one of the upper boxes where spotlights and sound-control racks are positioned.
He has offered to step aside, as he feels the show is in good hands. “They usually say to me, ‘No no, you’re not going anywhere,’ ” he says. “ ‘When there’s an issue, we want to know where you are, because you’re going to bring some clarity, and know how to solve it.’ ”