When Jeff Touzeau of Hummingbird Media emailed me late August with a subject that read “Wireless opera at L.A.’s iconic Union Station,” I didn’t think much of it. When he circled back a few days later wondering what my thoughts were… I began to take notice. I mean, most operas use wireless nowadays so what was this “huge deal” he was mentioning? I reversed, read it and realized what this stoic moment was about: Audio specialist Sennheiser was helping to create LA’s first opera where the audience would be able to wander around freely listening on wireless headphones. Experimental? Yes. But so was Ben Franklin and look where that got him? History books. Meh. Who wants that?
Coined as a “headphone opera,” artistic director Yuval Sharon took on Invisible Cities to pave this historic moment for his company, The Industry. Just their sophomore production, Yuval mentions the real credit for the idea belongs to sound designer Martin Giminez. “Martin came to me and said ‘what if we did an opera with headphones’… I liked it, but I wanted something bigger. More grandiose,” says Sharon. It wasn’t until Invisible Cities came along and grounded it to the architecture inside Union Station that it made sense. When Sennheiser stepped in to assist from a technical standpoint, they knew they had something.
Freddie (Lauren Mora) & Josh (John T. Woods)
From writer/director Marion Kerr comes the indie web series Misdirected. Currently debuting its first season, the show centers on Freddie (Lauren Mora) who’s struggling with a recent diagnosis of amnesia. Now spit back in to a world she can’t remember, her friends Josh (John T. Woods), Gerald (Ross Philips) and Cameron (Joel Kelley Dauten) try everything they can to help Freddie remember the life she once had or the life they think she ought to have…
The cleverly edited episodes by Emily Chiu paint a comedic canvas that are engaging and fun to watch. Short. Sweet. And they keep you wondering – a perfect mix for the I-don’t-have-time-for-this web watchers. While the 9 episodes were visually captured by cinematographer Alex Simon, it was Michael Flowe who found himself recording the five days of production audio. He later sat in the post mixing chair to design the sound for the project.
Michael Flowe on set
The Atlanta, Georgia native talked to us about starting out, being a one-man-band, and what it was like to re-record his own production audio work.
What attracted you to putting on a pair of headphones and recording sound?
I studied sound design in college and our first project was to create an audio scene of all of our own captured sounds. This experience really put a spark in me that sound can create and mold the way you see a picture. After that, I was working as a sound designer at a production house in Atlanta. Their production sound mixer moved so they asked me to fill in – which began my production sound career.
What is it about sound and being part of the storytelling that you like the most?
I enjoy collaborating with people who enjoy the creative process and understand that we all need each other to make a greater product of art.
With smaller budgeted projects like Misdirected, what do you look for so you can say yes to a project?
Normally, I always look to the people that are involved in the project. I have a pretty strong discernment when it comes to people and character off of the first meeting, so I use this to help me decipher which projects are worth taking a risk for.
The good people over at Gotham Sound teamed up with Tekserve and Avid to bring a behind the scenes look at the sound of Nurse Jackie with production sound mixer Jan McLaughlin, and Steve Borne supervising sound editor. If you have the time to watch, it’s well worth a look.
Production mixer Darryl L. Frank, CAS, on set of Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is one of those shows when you start watching it, you’re hooked. You’re not exactly sure why you’re hooked, and when you start to explain to your friend why they should watch it too, you end up just saying it’s awesome, watch it. Production sound mixer, Darryl L. Frank, CAS, is just one piece of the puzzle that helps make this AMC drama about a high school chemistry teacher turned criminal so compelling. Now Emmy nominated, we sat down with Darryl to talk meth, explosions and one of the more giving characters in the show – Albuquerque, New Mexico.
S&P: This isn’t your first time being nominated for an Emmy, but it is for a television series. Do you look at it any differently?
Frank: Last time I was nominated for the miniseries Comanche Moon in 2008, it was such a surprise. Now being nominated for Breaking Bad, it’s even better. It’s just a different beast. We shoot 8 day episodes and it’s grueling so it’s very rewarding to see my name up there with everyone else’s.
Stephen Tibbo, CAS
Already shooting its 4th season, Modern Family’s production sound mixer, Stephen Tibbo, CAS, is once again part of the show’s Emmy nominations (fourteen in total). Oddly enough, last year, when we talked to Tibbo about his workflow on one of TV’s most beloved sitcoms, he was wrapping season 3’s Dude Ranch episode. This year, he’s been nominated for it.
S&P: You’ve been nominated every year Modern Family has been on air. That’s a great accomplishment.
Tibbo: It’s surreal for me. It’s really cool. What can you say? I mean… It’s an amazing experience and an amazing feeling to get those texts early in the morning from friends. That’s how I found out this year, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Homeland's production sound crew - Jack Hill, Matt Fann & Larry Long
Showtime’s Homeland stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, an analyst for the C.I.A., who is willing to do anything to prevent another devastating terrorist attack against the US. Taking personal responsibility for what happened during 9/11, she now believes a returning POW soldier, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), has been turned against America and is an intricate part of a new attack. Production sound mixer Larry Long gave us the security clearance to check out his behind the scenes mix of this political plot driven drama.
S&P: You’ve been working in sound since the 90’s. What drew your interest to sound in the first place?
Long: I would have to thank my parents for this. I have always been fascinated with capturing sound. We had a console 1/4 reel to reel when I was a kid, and we traded tapes with my dad when he was in Vietnam.
My folks also bought me a computer in the early nineties and my head exploded when I learned you could record sound on it. I bought the then badass Turtle Beach sound card that also included the Emu Proteus chipset. This helped my hatred towards MIDI as recording became very frustrating to sequence with the earliest versions of Cakewalk.
Before then, I was playing in punk rock bands in the 80′s, trying to record on 4 track cassette decks, and buying studio time when we could afford it. I even helped record a buddy’s band at Steve Albini’s house in Chicago.
When I got older, I decided to direct and shoot a movie about a dream I had on my roommates wind up Rolex. It was then I learned about sync and timecode. It was a huge setback for me at the time.
One thing led to another and my curiosity about the process drove me to look for an internship and learn more. I eventually worked for and learned a lot from Carl Rudisill and branched out on my own as a production mixer in ‘95.
In a mix with Steve Morantz, CAS
S&P friend and production sound mixer, Steve Morantz, CAS, was nominated this year for his work on NBC’s Parks & Recreation. Part of the Thursday night comedy lineup, Parks stars Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman and South Carolina’s very own, Aziz Ansari. While working on his latest project in Puerto Rico, Runner Runner, Steve talked about this year’s episode up for consideration.
S&P: Puerto Rico sounds pretty nice right now. Do you have any production budget left to fly me out for a face-to-face interview?
Morantz: (laughing) I’ll be out here for another five weeks if you want to come, but I don’t know about this budget stuff you speak of…