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“D-TEC” Creators Develop a Second Screen Narrative – and it’s Awesome

dtec4Tech advancements in the entertainment industry introduce “first of its kind” in more ways than we think – especially when we’re speaking in terms of image resolution. But the creators of D-TEC, a TV series that integrates narrative second screen content to expand the viewer’s experience, is a remarkable progression in how we could consume content in the near future. The idea is for viewers to watch on a TV in conjunction with a secondary device like a tablet or smartphone, which introduces new storylines and interactive materials that are synced to the main content. With its premiere in New York last October and another one in Los Angeles April 3rd at Regent Theaters, it’s an idea networks and studios should keep their eyes on.

The creators, Stephen Interrante, Joseph Saroufim, and Peter Saroufim, were presented with developing content for a second screen when Samsung introduced a contest at the New York Television Festival. After securing a spot as a top five finalist, the team pitched their pilot and won the $300,000 grand prize to produce their show. The narrative is a futuristic, neo-noir crime thriller about two partners at Outlook PI, a high-tech private detective agency. Andy Dearing (Casey Graf) has finally achieved his dream of becoming a private investigator. However, when assigned to his first murder mystery, Andy is forced to team up with the legendary Frankie Powell (Marguerite Moreau), an instinct-driven detective with a strong distaste for new technology. Ideologies quickly clash and the two gumshoes find that working together will be as complicated as the mysteries they face.

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50th CAS Awards: Gravity, Frozen, Game of Thrones among Winners

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  • February 22, 2014

casAs we live tweeted tonight, Warner Bros’ Gravity was honored for Best Sound Mixing for a motion picture and Disney’s team for Frozen took the award for animated feature film as the Cinema Audio Society awarded prizes for sound in six categories plus separate awards for technical achievement in production and post.

The storytellers for Behind the Candlelabra grabbed the nod for TV movie/miniseries, and Game of Thrones won in the one-hour TV series category. It was a blissful evening for Thrones‘ production sound mixer, Ronan Hill, CAS as he flew over from his hometown of Belfast for the first time in three years he’s been nominated to celebrate with post mixers Richard Dyer and Mixers Onnalee.

The statue for mixing in a half-hour television series went to production mixer Steve Tibbo, CAS and re-recording mixers Dean Okrand and Brian Harman, CAS, the team behind Modern Family for the second year in a row.

The 50th Annual CAS Awards were hosted by Doug McIntyre at downtown LA’s Millennium Biltmore Hotel.  Oscar winning Edward Zwick (Shakespeare in Love) was presented with the CAS Filmmaker Award. Past honorees have been: Quentin Tarantino, Gil Cates, Bill Condon, Paul Mazursky, Henry Selick, Taylor Hackford, Rob Marshall and Jonathan Demme.

18 time Oscar nominated re-recording mixer Andy Nelson  received the 32nd Career Achievement Award from composer John Williams (which a lot of us geek’d out seeing him), Ted Gagliano and CAS President, David Fluhr. “Receiving this award from the CAS is such an honor because it’s from my peers…” said Nelson, “people who love this craft as much as I do, and I am humbled by their generosity and commitment to excellence.”

The society also paid tribute to one of the legends in sound Ray Dolby. His pioneering work in noise reduction and surround sound will be greatly cherished.

The complete list of winners follows:

Live Action Film:
Gravity
Production Mixer Chris Munro, CAS;
Re-recording Mixer Skip Lievsay, CAS,
Re-recording  Niv Adiri
Re-recording Christopher Benstead
Scoring Mixer Gareth Cousins
ADR Mixer Chris Navarro, CAS
ADR Mixer Thomas J. O’Connell
Foley Mixer Adam Fil Mendez

Animated Picture:
Frozen
Dialogue Mixer Gabriel Guy
Re-recording Mixer David E. Fluhr, CAS
Re-Recoding Mixer Gabriel Guy
Scoring Mixer Casey Stone
Foley Mixer Mary Jo Lang 

Television Movie or Mini-Series:
Behind the Candelabra
Production Mixer Dennis Towns
Re-recording Mixer Larry Blake
Scoring Mixer Thomas Vicari
Foley Mixer Scott Curtis.

Television Series – One Hour
Game of Thrones: The Rains of Castamere
Production Mixer  Ronan Hill, CAS
Production Mixer Richard Dyer
Re-recording Mixer Onnalee Blank, CAS
Re-recording Mixer Matthew Waters, CAS
Foley Mixer Brett Voss.

Television Series – Half Hour:
Modern Family: Goodnight Gracie
Production Mixer Stephen A. Tibbo, CAS
Re-recording Mixer Dean Okrand
Re-recording Mixer Brian R. Harman, CAS

Television Non Fiction, Variety or Music – Series or Specials:
History of the Eagles – Part One
Re-recording Mixer Tom Fleischman, CAS
Re-recording Mixer Elliot Scheiner

Technical Achievement Awards:
Production: Sound Devices, LLC – 633 Mixer/Recorder
Post-Production: iZotope – RX 3 Advanced

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Gravity takes Sound, Cinematography, & VFX Awards at BAFTA

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  • February 16, 2014

BAFTA-LogoDirector Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity won six of their eleven nominated categories at 62nd BAFTA Film Awards. The sound team of Glenn Freemantle, Skip Lievsay, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri, and production mixer Chris Munro were acknowledged along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and the visual effects teams rep’d by Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould and Nikki Penn. 12 Years a Slave nabbed the evening’s Best Film award and Dan Hanley and Mike Hill won in Editing for Rush.

The complete list of winners follows:

Best Sound
Gravity – Glenn Freemantle, Skip Lievsay, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri & Chris Munro

Best Cinematography
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Visual Effects

Gravity – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould & Nikki Penny

Best Editing
Rush- Dan Hanley and Mike Hill

Best Music
Gravity – Steven Price
Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Best Film
12 Years a Slave

Best Animated Film
Frozen – Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee

Best Foreign Language Film

The Great Beauty – Paolo SorrentinoBest British Short
Room 8

Best British Animated Short
Sleeping With the Fishes – James Walker, Sarah Woolner & Yousif Al-Khalifa

Best Documentary
The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer

Best Production Design
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin and Beverly Dunn

Best Makeup and Hair
American Hustle – Evelyne Noraz, Lori McCoy-Bell & Kathrine Gordon

Best Costume Design
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin

Best Actor
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi -  Captain Phillips

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema
Peter Greenaway

Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle – David O. Russell & Eric Warren Singer

Best Adapted Screenplay
Philomena – Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope

Carl Foreman Award
Kieran Evans – Kelly + Victor

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VES Awards – Gravity & Frozen take Honors

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  • February 13, 2014

ves12Last night the Visual Effects Society handed out it’s 12th Annual Awards in support of all things visually awesome in the post realm. Gravity won in 6 of its 7 categories including the night’s big prize Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture. The film’s director, Alfonso Cuaron, capped off the evening with the VES Visionary Award while Frozen managed to sweep all four categories. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug snagged a win for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture, and Game of Thrones picked up three in the television categories.
The complete list of winners are as follows:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Gravity

Tim Webber, Nikki Penny, Neil Corbould, Richard McBride

Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Frozen
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho, Lino Di Salvo

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones: Valar Dohaeris
Steve Kullback, Joe Bauer, Jörn Großhans, Sven Martin

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
The Lone Ranger
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Shari Hanson, Kevin Martel

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program
Banshee: Pilot

Armen Kevorkian, Mark Skowronski, Jeremy Jozwik, Ricardo Ramirez

Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Mark Rubin, Richard Kriegler, David Johnson, Alessandro Nardini

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
Call of Duty: Epic Night Out
Chris Knight, Daniel Thuresson. Nick Tayler. Dag Ivarsory

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
Space Shuttle Atlantis
Daren Ulmer, John Gross, Cedar Connor, Christian Bloch

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Smaug
Eric Reynolds, David Clayton, Myriam Catrin, Guillaume Francois

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Frozen: Bringing the Snow Queen to Life
Alexander Alvarado, Joy Johnson, Chad Stubblefield, Wayne Unten

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
PETA: 98% Human
Vince Baertsoen, Jimmy Gass, Dave Barosin

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: Exterior
Paul Beilby, Kyle Mcculloch, Stuart Penn, Ian Comley

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Frozen: Elsa’s Ice Palace
Virgilio John Aquino, Alessandro Jacomini, Lance Summers, David Womersley

Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones: The Climb
Patrick Zentis, Mayur Patel, Nitin Singh, Tim Alexander

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Tim Webber, Emmanuel Lubezki, Richard McBride, Dale Newton

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Commercial or Broadcast Program
The Crew
Dominique Boidin, Rémi Kozyra, Léon Bérelle, Maxime Luère

Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: ISS Exterior
Ben Lambert, Paul Beilby, Chris Lawrence, Andy Nicholson

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: Parachute and ISS Destruction
Alexis Wajsbrot, Sylvain Degrotte, Horacio Mendoza, Juan-Luis Sanchez

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
Frozen: Elsa’s Blizzard
Eric W. Araujo, Marc Bryant, Dong Joo Byun. Tim Molinder

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Commercial or Broadcast Program
PETA: 98% Human
Vince Baertsoen, Jimmy Gass, Dave Barosin

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Mark Bakowski, Anthony Smith, Theodor Groeneboom, Adrian Metzelaar

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program
Game of Thrones: The Climb
Kirk Brillon, Steve Gordon, Geoff Sayer, Winston Lee

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial
Call of Duty: Epic Night Out
Chris Knight, Daniel Thuresson. Nick Tayler. Dag Ivarsory

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
Rugbybugs
Matthias Baeuerle, Carl Schroeter, Martin Lapp. Emanuel Fuchs

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64th ACE Eddie Award Winners

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  • February 11, 2014

“Captain Phillips” (edited by Christopher Rouse, A.C.E.) and “American Hustle” (edited by Jay Cassidy, A.C.E., Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten, A.C.E.) won Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic) and Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy/Musical) respectively at the 64th Annual ACE Eddie Awards where trophies were handed out in ten categories of film, television and documentaries.

The black-tie ceremony was held in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel with over 1,000 in attendance to celebrate the year’s best editing.

“Frozen” (edited by Jeff Draheim) won Best Edited Animated Feature Film and “20 Feet From Stardom” (edited by Douglas Blush, Kevin Klauber & Jason Zeldes) won Best Edited Documentary (Feature).

Television winners included ”The Office – Finale” (edited by David Rogers & Claire Scanlon) for Best Edited Half-Hour Series for Television, “Breaking Bad – Felina” (edited by Skip MacDonald, A.C.E.) for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Commercial television, “Homeland – Big Man in Tehran” (edited by Terry Kelley, A.C.E.) for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Non-Commercial Television, “Behind The Candelabra” (edited by Mary Ann Bernard)for Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television, and “Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown: Tokyo” (edited by Nick Brigden) for Best Edited Non-Scripted Series. In the Best Edited Documentary (Television) category, which was newly created last year, “The Assasination of President Kennedy” (edited by Chris A. Peterson) took top honors.

The Student Editing Competition winner was Ambar Salinas of Video Symphony who beat out hundreds of competitors from film schools and universities around the country. Oscar® winning film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, A.C.E. presented the ACE Eddie Award to the Salinas.

Award-winning director Paul Greengrass received the ACE Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year honor presented to him by his “Captain Phillips” star Tom Hanks. Greengrass joins an impressive list of filmmakers who have received ACE’s highest honor, including Norman Jewison, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, Alexander Payne, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner, among others.

Lifetime Career Achievement Awards went to industry veterans Richard Halsey, A.C.E. and Robert C. Jones with the Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television Teri Schwartz presenting to Halsey and Warren Beatty presenting to Jones. The very special Heritage Award, which has only been presented a few times in the organizations history, was presented by ACE President Alan Heim, A.C.E. to Randy Roberts, A.C.E. for his lengthy and unwavering commitment to the organization. The Heritage Award is not presented every year, only when warranted by an outstanding individual.

Among the evening’s presenters were Warren Beatty, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Will Forte, June Squibb, Peter Krause, Hamish Linklater, Sarah Paulson, James Wolk, Walter Murch, Michiel Huisman and Steve Coogan. Serving as Master of Ceremonies was actor Bob Odenkirk.

The complete list of winners:

Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic):
Captain Phillips
Christopher Rouse, A.C.E.

Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy Or Musical):
American Hustle
Jay Cassidy, A.C.E., Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten, A.C.E.

Best Edited Animated Feature Film:
Frozen
Jeff Draheim

Best Edited Documentary (Feature):
20 Feet From Stardom
Douglas Blush, Kevin Klauber & Jason Zeldes

Best Edited Documentary (Television):
The Assassination Of President Kennedy
Chris A. Peterson

Best Edited Half-Hour Series For Television:
The Office: “Finale”
David Rogers & Claire Scanlon

Best Edited One-Hour Series For Commercial Television:
Breaking Bad: “Felina”
Skip Macdonald A.C.E.

Best Edited One-Hour Series For Non-Commercial Television:
Homeland: “Big Man In Tehran”
Terry Kelley, A.C.E.

Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture For Television:
Behind The Candelabra
Mary Ann Bernard

Best Edited Non-Scripted Series:
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Tokyo
Nick Brigden

Best Student Editing
Ambar Salinas, Video Symphony

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Defying Gravity with Sound Designer Glenn Freemantle

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  • February 10, 2014
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Director Alfonso Cuarón with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney

“We wanted to do something different that pushed boundaries,” explains Glenn Freemantle, the sound designer for Gravity. “Director Alfonso Cuarón wanted to make the kind of film with the biggest picture and the best sound – a true cinema experience you can watch over and over again.” Different? Check. Pushed boundaries? Check. Something I would watch again nearly immediately? Check.

From the film’s opening sound treatment that’s layered over the Warner Bros. logo, to its final fade, moviegoers are inundated with innovative sound design and imaginative visuals. “Gravity is a huge emotional journey. That’s how Alfonso imagined it, and we were lucky enough to have the support from the studio and producers,” notes Freemantle.

Glenn was tapped in December 2010 when he was asked to design sound for a 45-minute pre-visualization that would be screened to Warner Bros. “It was before anything. Before they shot any Sandra or George, Alfonso wanted to design a sequence to show the studio,” says Freemantle. It was here Glenn created a 5.1 mix with Cuarón that helped establish the film’s sound design rules and principles. “In our very first meeting, we came out of it with the concept to create sounds through touch and vibrations. At the heart of it, Gravity is a survival story, and the sound had to be as big as what you’re seeing on screen. We wanted to portray it emotionally instead of action-packed. It was a great idea, but I thought to myself; ‘How are we going to do it?,’” admits Freemantle.

GRAVITYCreating sound for a 7.1 mix was always the initial concept for Glenn and his team, which consisted of Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Nina Hartstone and others, but it was up until the advancement of the new Dolby Atmos technology that pushed the film to a new level. “I was under an NDA at the time, and I reached out to Dolby and I told them I have the perfect film for this medium,” says Freemantle. “With 7.1 you can constantly move, but only through the dimensions you have. In Atmos, you can mix smoothly while you move and a viewer can become even more a part of it. When Sandra turns her head from left to right, so did the sound. When the whitepaper came out on Atmos, Cuarón was all for taking the step further to accomplish something great.”

Designing the elements for screen became a journey in itself. “We wanted it to be a powerful part of the film that you could immerse yourself in. Whenever Sandra was touching something or banging into an object, we wanted the viewer to feel it. When she stopped touching something or stopped using a tool, we dropped the sound and you don’t hear it,” explains Freemantle. Foley became an integral part of the process. With the help from Nicolas Becker, he and Glenn recorded some interesting sounds. One being a submerged acoustic guitar that they rubbed various items along the strings. They recorded the sounds with hydrophone and contact mics and manipulated them in post. Some of the recordings were used during the scene where Sandra is entangled with a parachute.

For the background radio chatter, Glenn turned to people who worked for NASA. “Our company was able to get a group of NASA guys together in Florida. Through Skype, we mic’d each one and walked them through scenarios without giving away any of the plot. We recorded about four hours of space talk and chatter and that became part of the track,” says Freemantle.

Other powerful parts to the design were Sandra’s breath and her heartbeat. “From the very start of the film, we wanted you to feel like you were going on a journey with her. The sound has tons of layers and everything we created aimed to be original. We wanted you to become attached to her right from the beginning. I remember watching one of the very first viewings and I saw people moving in their seat and holding their breath – I knew we made something great,” says Freemantle.

The production sound recordings were handled by Chris Munro and boom operator Steve Finn. “I’m sure Chris had many set challenges,” mentions Freemantle. “He was able to see the 45-minute concept video, so he knew what we were going for, but there was a lot going on. Sandra and George were in these boxes for most of the filming and there were these massive robots and things making noise. He was able to get great quality dialogue for us by micing inside the helmets and with an overhead microphone. Because most of the visual effects were done, they would have to trigger dialogue lines so  the visual effects would match perfectly. His team did a really good job.”

Score from Steven Price played to the emotion with unique tones as well. “Alfonso and Steve worked together relentlessly to come up with ideas,” says Freemantle. “Those two were brilliant and conceptualized towards creating an amazing cinema experience. Steve would record an instrument and treat them in a way that wasn’t recognizable. When sound wasn’t used traditionally, like an explosion, he would let the music become more like a ballet.” The score received the same type of panning as the dialogue and sound effects so everything moved together.

“We also used the score to help focus on things we weren’t describing with sound design. Even underneath the design and score, we had a subsonic layer of sound so the screen had a presence. The screen has to have weight. The picture has to have something to attach to. You don’t necessarily hear it but you feel it in your stomach. It’s like if you went to a desert or a massive empty stadium, it’s quiet, but you still feel something,” adds Freemantle.

In their final mix, for Glenn, it was the sum of all parts created. “We were a team. And this team was great. Everything was made for the good of the film instead of one single person trying to be great. We all worked together to create the best immersive sound experience we could. It was a true collaboration from start to finish.”

Besides receiving an Oscar nom for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, Gravity has been nominated in eight other categories.

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Inside Llewyn Davis with Production Mixer Peter F. Kurland

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  • February 3, 2014

inside-llewyn-davisEven with four Oscar noms, a handful of Cinema Audio Society Award wins, and being recognized by BAFTA for his work, production sound mixer Peter F. Kurland is as cool as the other side of the pillow. I don’t know what it is about sound guys, but they are just fantastic people to talk to – there’s never a harsh edge or doubts – they’re just determined storytellers who want to perform their best job.

It’s the same for Kurland when he teams up with the Coen brothers. His latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing alongside other creatives from Gravity, Captain Phillips, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Lone Survivor.

“With Joel and Ethan, we’ve known each other for most of our lives. It very much feels like a family situation,” admits Kurland. “Skip Lievsay (nominated re-recording mixer) and I have done all their movies. We’ve done many with 1st AD Betsy Magruder and script supervisor Thomas Johnston, he’s been on since Raising Arizona. It’s like a big reunion to work with them. The shooting schedule is brief and they only make one film every year or two, so it’s easy to say yes.”

The film shuffles us back to 1961 and follows Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as a young Greenwich Village folk singer struggling to make it as a musician. The first frame finds us on a stage and we are immersed in the tranquility of Davis’ voice and presence. As the story unfolds, we travel beside his life’s misadventures, which are methodically measured with melodic tones from music producer T Bone Burnett.

On set with  Kurland recording wild tracks

On set with Kurland recording wild tracks

“Joel and Ethan really know music. It isn’t like they decide to have music in the movie and figure out how to deal with it. Even on O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ethan was involved in the music editing early, and if something needed to be changed during shooting, to add a verse or a few bars, it happened. They are so deeply skilled they know what it needs to sound like and what’s possible. That provides me with a bit of a challenge, but a great level of support at the same time,” notes Kurland.

In addition to Kurland’s tech scouts, he took an opportunity to attend the New York recording session with Oscar, T Bone and the rest of the music producers. “They had a week of pre-recordings scheduled, but it turned out they weren’t really pre-records, but more rehearsals. It still was an opportunity to see how the pieces were going to be arranged and how all the elements were going to sound, which was very important to find out,” says Kurland. “T Bone is a genius. He finds ways to put musicians and songs and situations together organically that are unbelievable to me. He was with us for the club and recording studio scenes in the film – to get an opportunity to work with him – I knew we were accomplishing something great.”

Though a soundtrack was in the making, the Coens wanted to record everything as live as possible during production. “The great thing about visiting the recording studio was that it’s very much like a set. You have time to sit around and talk things out and see what’s going to happen. It gave us an opportunity to explore what the possibilities were going into production,” explains Kurland. “When we started shooting, Oscar’s pitch and tempo were very consistent which allowed the single camera coverage, shot beautifully by DP Bruno Delbonnel, to be cut together,” explains Kurland.

The singing of  500 Miles

The singing of 500 Miles

For the song 500 Miles, which was sung inside the Gaslight Café by a trio that included Jean (Carey Mulligan) and Jim Berkey (Justin Timberlake), with the use of earwigs, they would playback only the instrument tracks so the voices could be recorded clean. When Please Mr. Kennedy took center stage at a recording studio between Llewyn Davis, Jim Berkey, and Al Cody (Adam Driver), a different assortment of playback techniques were used, but all the vocals were live for every take.

With the exception of the Irish quartet singing Old Triangle scene, all the vocals managed to be recorded live. “The reason being there was that background players filled roles where music was sung by Timberlake and Marcus Mumford (associate music producer),” adds Kurland. All of Oscar Isaacs’ solo performances were totally live for vocals and guitar.

To help Peter with sound, he turned to long time friend and boom operator Randall Johnson. “We’ve been a team for many movies and Randy is a great boom operator and a master of the frame line,” says Kurland. For his third, Timothia Sellers was tapped with Julian Townsend filling in as well. “Timothia is a mixer in her own right, and it was helpful having her on. I have a set of Comteks that didn’t seem to work in New York, so she brought in hers till we could find a replacement,” notes Kurland. When playback became part of the workflow, Egor Panchenko was brought in to work from his Pro Tools rig.

Peter also designed a new cart for the production. “Interesting challenges we contended with were these incredibly narrow hallways. None of the sets were built. The entire show is practical locations with the exception of the bathroom where John Goodman falls down, and some of the office work,” mentions Kurland. “I built a special cart that was light-weight and slim. It was partly based on a Chinhda cart with a custom built box on top. It became a fairly extensive project as I wanted it to be as compact as possible. I did most of the wiring myself with the help of the crew over at Trew Audio in Nashville.”

At its heart, a Zaxcom Deva 16 recorder was paired with a Mix-12 control surface. Whenever they could Kurland preferred using his hard-line boom over radios. A Schoeps CMC641 was the workhorse on the film. A Schoeps CMIT-5U and Sennheiser MKH 60 were also brought out of the toolkit, but Kurland relied heavily on the 641 covering about 90% of the project. When they did look to radios, Zaxcom wireless and Sanken COS-11Ds were utilized. “We are pretty adamant about finding a place for the boom. But for some of the exterior scenes like the New York park, which had wider shots, we’ll put a radio on before moving in for coverage,” adds Kurland.

The era also introduced vintage microphones. Several scenes hallowed a Shure 55SH vocal mic provided by props. Peter and Randy managed to hollow out the instrument and place Schoeps microphone inside to match sound of the boom if Randy couldn’t be close.  “Randy and I have this philosophy of: ‘the best microphone is a smart microphone.’ What makes it smart is Randy Johnson,” laughs Kurland.

Since there was very little score in the film, effects had to be very specific to the city and time period. “Skip and Greg Orloff and the FX editor Paul Urmson did a fantastic job with what we were able to give them. We had to record the cleanest possible track in very hard Manhattan surroundings. Like in Jean’s apartment, there was heavy street noise, so we asked the art department to sound proof the windows. Besides the sound proofing, we ended up putting a piece of plexiglass there to block out the air conditioners which were right outside the window,” explains Kurland.

Another obstacle for sound was the Gaslight Café where much of the music was done. “The problem was the roof drains were running into the audio tracks. Production went through the trouble to re-plumb and silence them so we wouldn’t hear water running up there during shooting,” says Kurland.

Jean (Carey Mulligan) & Llewyn (Oscar Issac) inside the coffee shop

Jean (Carey Mulligan) & Llewyn (Oscar Issac) inside the coffee shop

One of my favorite scenes is when Jean and Llewyn have a conversation in a coffee shop. This provided some of the tighter working spaces. “That coffee shop was small. It was a funky building. There was a separate entrance. You couldn’t get behind the counter without using this weird secret passage. Just a little place where the compact cart really helped out,” mentions Kurland. The team also had to contend with the sounds of the neighboring street which played in the background. “Almost all the cars out there were period cars which mean they’re loud, and you can have RF issues. When we switched sides to shoot away from the window, the police wanted to open up regular traffic on the outside, so that can bleed into your track too.”

Part of the climax to the movie is when Llewyn travels to Chicago and ends up playing a song in front of Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) at the The Gate of Horn, which was shot in a Harlem theater. “It was quiet in there. We turned off the electronics and stage amps as much as we could, which allowed us to do the scene all with a boom,” notes Kurland. “The coverage was done with two slow push-ins. One of Llewyn. The other of Bud. For consistency, we just had Randy there holding the pole for the entire scene.” When the directors went to a wider shot high above, a plant mic was stashed underneath a table.

Peter has had a long term tendency to under record his tracks in the digital world, since there is little noise floor in the recorders he uses. “Working this way gives you an extra margin of safety in case an actor peaks. I’ll set a comfortable level for the bulk of the dialogue and for the people who do get loud, it won’t distort. And when there’s a particularly quiet scene, I’ll handle that separately,” says Kurland.

Behind the scenes of ILD

This methodology served particularly well near the end of the film when Llewyn goes overboard and starts yelling at Nancy Blake as she plays The Storms Are on the Ocean. “Nancy is singing and playing an autoharp and Llewyn is drunk and starts screaming at her. We were able to shoot the dialogue clean with singles, but there are two shots of them together. For this, we had Oscar do the dialogue at the same time Nancy was playing the song so the interruptions could be real and live,” explains Kurland.

Sitting in on the final mixing is one of Peter’s favorite things to do. For Inside Llewyn Davis, he was able to be there the entire time. “Skip and the guys can really astonish me with what they can do. A brilliant sequence in the film is Llewyn’s trip back from Chicago. We basically recorded that whole thing MOS, and what they managed to do was great. They built a score of music from car radios, the highway tones and passing cars. Sometimes we talk about things in advance about how they are going to play out, other times I’m surprised by it – and that was one of them.”

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