With all the talk about streaming platforms and pay cable providing the best content and grabbing the lion’s share of Emmy Awards during this era of Peak TV, traditional network shows sometimes tend to be overlooked. To remedy that omission, here are five greatly anticipated network programs that spare neither tools nor talent to deliver top-notch production values — in this case creating high-quality sound to support their equally excellent visuals. The sound pros here who push the envelope comment on their creative vision.
The Brave (NBC) 9/25
Building heart-pounding tension is key for this hour-long drama series that follows a group of soldiers who carry out dangerous missions behind enemy lines. Anne Heche stars as the head of their tactical command center. “It’s a very unique environment where we wanted the sound perspective to be more vocalized rather than filled with the familiar sound effects you’ve heard in the ‘Bourne’ movies, for example,” says supervising sound editor Jay Nierenberg, who will continue with the series after the pilot. “It was important to focus on the lifeline to these soldiers risking their lives, and to create sounds that form a human connection as opposed to just using beeps and bops from the technology in the room.”
Marvel’s Inhumans (ABC) 9/29
Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this series was partly shot on Imax cameras, since its first two episodes will be shown in Imax theaters. That meant the sound had to meet particularly high standards. For rerecording mixer Joe DeAngelis and crew, it was important to find the right way to combine the viewing needs of those watching the show on the giant screen and those watching at home on the small screen. “We premixed the show in 7.1 with a 5.1 ceiling and sent it to rerecording mixer Scott Millan to do the full theatrical version,” DeAngelis says. After everything was approved, they had the tricky task of “squeezing a very big, dynamic soundscape down to spec for ABC air.” The biggest challenge, he adds, was dealing with the changes in frame-rate speed from Imax to video, and combing through each scene to find out what sounds should be played. “TV doesn’t really want very low or very high levels,” DeAngelis explains. “We had to go in and see what elements were important to the story and make sure it really cut through and could be heard at home.”
Wisdom of the Crowd (CBS) 10/1
After the murder of his daughter, tech innovator Jeffrey Tanner, played by Jeremy Piven, develops a crowd-sourcing app that he hopes the public will use to help identify her killer. The sound team focused on creating the aural elements of the tech-based drama. “There’s a lot of information flowing in from the public that our characters need to sort through,” says supervising sound editor Darren King. “We wanted to build up the angst in the room so you feel like you’re inside Jeffrey’s head when he’s fighting within himself. It’s subliminal and varies from scene to scene.” King and crew made sure the audience can “feel the heaviness of the room” and sense the protagonist’s emotions.
The Gifted (Fox) 10/2
Set in the “X-Men” universe, another sector of Marvel’s empire, the series follows ordinary parents on the run from a government government agency after they discover their two teenage children possess mutant powers. Critical to the story was the development of unique character profiles for the superhuman kids. “If you close your eyes, we wanted you to be able to recognize who they were just by hearing them,” says sound designer Jeff Brunello, who collaborated with co-producer Andrew Cholerton and supervising sound editor Brent Findley to define these unique sounds. Notes Findley: “The mutants have very specific powers that are part of their genes, so we wanted the sounds to come from an organic place.”
Valor (CW) 10/9
Cinematic realism drove the audio language for supervising sound editor Patrick Hogan and crew. “Valor” stars Christina Ochoa (“Animal Kingdom”) and Matt Barr (“Sleepy Hollow”) as elite U.S. Army helicopter pilots who perform clandestine missions. The drama includes multiple flashbacks to a mission that went terribly awry and that haunts the characters. “Creating realistic moments so you feel like you’re there was key for us,” Hogan says. “Then, in specific dramatic places, we stretched them for a bigger impact.” Instead of creating contrasting sounds between missions and life at home, the series was shaped documentary style so the characters continue to carry the weight of their assignments through their everyday lives.