‘American Crime’ Sound Editor ‘Stresses the Reality’ of Prison

American Crime Regina King Season 2
Courtesy of ABC

“The show’s unique — it’s such a big-scope series with a big cast and landscapes, so there’s much work in Foley, ADR and dialogue,” says supervising sound editor Vince Balunas of Starz’s “Outlander.”

He cites the witch trial scenes. “All the courtroom reactions were shot, then we augmented that with Gaelic speakers and English ones,” he explains. “And you have old wooden architecture, cobblestone streets and so on, and every little sound has to be just right.” To keep it authentic, Balunas and his team “recut and rework the mix constantly — and (composer) Bear (McCreary)’s beautiful score helps a lot.”

Michael Playfair, production sound mixer on “Hell on Wheels” (pictured above), AMC’s period saga about the building the first transcontinental railroad, says that almost 100% of last season’s shows were shot on location in the West. He captured much of the sound by putting body mics on all the actors, noting “period costumes and materials are very friendly in terms of hiding them.”

He also used a boom mic “on every shot, to get the ambiance of the locations,” and then a blend of wire and boom tracks to create the audio landscape.

Walter Newman, supervising sound editor on the ABC drama “American Crime,” says his approach was to mirror all the elements of the show itself: “It’s a very raw, gritty, emotional show, and obviously our sound couldn’t be over-the-top. We stress the reality and the actual sounds of prison, and tenements and juvenile hall.”

Newman and his team were also careful “not to sweeten and enhance stuff that doesn’t belong and might overtake the story. It’s so well-written that you don’t want to get in the way of the dialogue.”