Emmy Contenders for Sound Create New Aural Landscapes

Sound in television has, arguably, always played second fiddle to the images. And as with other sound professionals on the top contending shows in the sound categories, Dean Hurley, supervising sound editor on Showtime’s “Twin Peaks,” worked hard to craft a cinematic aural landscape despite challenges ranging from “the usual technical ones,” as he puts it, to the accelerated post schedules of today’s TV shows.

“David Lynch likes to take his time with sound, and it was hard working within the conventions of a TV series and allowing him the usual freedom he enjoys,” says Hurley, who’s worked for Lynch for 13 years. “We did all the picture editing and sound editorial at his home studio, mixing in 5.1 and taking about a week per episode — and we had 18 episodes. It’s a very fluid process, with lots of improvisation and experimentation, and David’s very hands-on. He’s also the sound designer on the whole show.”

Craig Henighan, sound designer on the atmospheric Netflix show “Stranger Things,” relied on his background in movies and what he calls his “cinema-all-the-way” approach. It was “the natural and obvious way to go,” he says. “When I met [show creators] the Duffer brothers and read their scripts, I realized there was really no other way to do it. And they both wanted a very cinematic soundscape that worked with the images, supported the story, and sounded cool.”

The Duffers, says Henighan, gave him “a lot of leeway to experiment right from the start, and I’d send them ideas while they were shooting, and build it from there.” The eerie, synth-heavy score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein “was also a big help, as it left a lot of room for me to create stuff in.” Henighan and his team mixed at Technicolor in 5.1 “and also in stereo, as you have to design it for people who are watching on iPhones, iPads and so on.”

Branden Spencer, supervising sound editor on Netflix’s “Lost in Space,” agrees that TV sound is becoming “more cinematic,” and stresses that the rebooted show “isn’t TV in the old sense — we’re streaming it and we did 10 long episodes, so it’s more like doing five two-hour movies — a huge workload.”

For Spencer and his sound colleagues, including sound designer Benjamin Cook, the big challenge was “trying to create an aural backdrop for a new environment, one that doesn’t sound like Earth, that’s sort of abstract but at the same time, not distracting.” It helped that the show is “very music-driven,” he adds. “The score’s there the whole way through, and we worked very closely with the composer, and mixed in 7.1 native, and also in 5.1 and Atmos.”

A cinematic approach is also a key element in Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Based on the best-selling “Lemony Snicket” children’s series, which spawned the 2004 movie version, the show is mixed by Paul Ottosson, who won Oscars for “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker,” and who also designs the sound.

“[Director] Barry Sonnenfeld treats the sound like he’s on a movie, and we mix in 5.1 and true stereo on a feature dub stage at Sony,” he says. “They’re more suitable formats for the way a lot of people watch it on hand-held devices now.”

(Pictured above: “Lost in Space”)

More Artisans

  • Crawl Movie

    'Crawl' and Other Disaster Movies Pose Unique Obstacles for Production Designers

    The rampaging fires, earthquakes and storms of disaster movies present unusual challenges for a production: On top of the normal work of creating a film’s lived-in and realistic locations, designers must build sets that the forces of nature can batter, flood and ravage into something completely different. Take “Crawl,” in which a Category 5 hurricane [...]

  • Costume designer Michele Clapton

    Costume Designers Fashion a Plan to Fight for Pay Parity in Upcoming Contract Talks

    The Costume Designers Guild Local 892 is gearing up to fight for pay equity in its 2021 contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, establishing a pay-equity committee to raise awareness of the scale disparity between the mostly female CDG membership and the mostly male membership of the Art Directors Guild Local [...]

  • This photo shows composer Hans Zimmer

    Hans Zimmer on Recreating Iconic Score: 'The Lion King' 'Brought People Together'

    Composer Hans Zimmer is seated at the mixing board at the Sony scoring stage, head bobbing to the music being performed by 107 musicians just a few yards away. He’s wearing a vintage “Lion King World Tour” T-shirt, frayed at the collar. On the giant screen behind the orchestra, two lions are bounding across the [...]

  • On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los

    On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los Angeles in Second Quarter

    Held down by a lack of soundstage space, total on-location filming in greater Los Angeles declined 3.9% in the second quarter to 8,632 shoot days, permitting agency FilmLA reported Thursday. “Although our latest report reveals a decline in filming on location, local production facilities tell us that they are operating at capacity,” said FilmLA president [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content