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How Editors and Mixers Create the Right Sonic Landscapes

As audiences crave more immersive storytelling, sound has become an important tool in capturing our attention. This year’s crop of Emmy contenders bolsters creativity through ingenuity, finding new ways to subliminally impact our experience through subtext and pronounced aural landscapes.

In “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” production sound mixer Mathew Price, a six-time nominee for “The Sopranos,” used period microphones to authenticate its 1950s soundscape. “Our budget improved in season two, so we were able to modify the vintage shells Miriam [Rachel Brosnahan] uses during her comedic routines with elements to make them working microphones,” says Price. “Then Ron Bochar, our supervising sound editor, and the post team were then able to spatialize it to make it sound like the place she’s performing in. It’s subtle but improves the viewers’ experience considerably.”

During the filming of Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora,” production sound mixer Tom Nelson relied on bodypack microphones to capture performance and placed surround sound mics to record the reverberant echoes of prison life. “We set out to capture the realism of the locations,” says Nelson. “The cell doors, the background conversations, the noises made by inmates — we wanted the audience to feel as if they were there.” The result allowed re-recording mixers Bob Chefalas and Jacob Ribicoff, who also served as supervising editor, to combine production sound with other recorded elements to immerse viewers in the seven-episode limited series that dramatizes the real-life story of two inmates breaking out of the Clinton Correctional Facility.

Emmy-winning production sound mixer Benjamin Patrick of HBO’s “Barry” says requesting “paint out” approval — shots where a boom microphone is plainly visible but will be digitally removed later — can go a long way in improving scene dynamics. “When a complex, multiple camera shot calls for sound to break the frame of one shot in order to capture the perspective of another shot, we are the only voice on set to ask for it,” notes Patrick. “Producers are more involved, as they need to consider the production value between boom mic dialog versus bodypack dialog, but I’m a firm believer that the boom captures all the nuances of a performance and connects actors in their environment better than anything else.”

Supervising sound editor Trevor Gates and the close-knit sound team behind Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” developed a sound track rich in atmospheric overtones to propel the terrifying allegory. “We had to be very articulate and specific with the choices we made from a design standpoint while finding the right moments to do some creative things to draw the audience in,” says Gates.

For Fox’s version of “Rent,” due to a lead actor’s unforeseen injury, only the last act was televised live, while everything else was broadcasted from a previous rehearsal. Veteran sound mixer Mark King understood the importance of actors finding their full emotional range even during dress rehearsals. “We struggled with that early on as the performers were trying to save their voices for the live show, but as we drew closer, we asked them to give us everything they had.” Doing so not only allowed the sound to refine the resonating performances but the request might have saved the show from not airing.

For Hulu’s six-hour limited series “Catch-22,” supervising editor Jerry Ross, sound designer Christopher Assells and re-recording mixers Todd Beckett and Dan Hiland set out to detail the aural psyche of a WWII bombardier. “We treated the mix like a feature film, but we didn’t want it to feel overdone or too polished. We instead sought a very natural and visceral track,” says Ross.

Four B-25 aircrafts were recorded on location in Italy by production sound mixer Maurizio Argentieri. “With the library of sounds Maurizio created, we were able to detail different interior and exterior perspectives of the plane for each mission, adding authenticity and subtext,” notes Ross, who called the project a total team effort.

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