Even 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
“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
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 PleaseMr. 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
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.”
Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC; Jeremy Benning, CSC; Jonathan Freeman, ASC and Blake McClure earned top honors in the four competitive categories at the 28th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Awards for Outstanding Achievement. The ceremony was held here tonight at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. Lubezki won the ASC Award in the feature film competition for GRAVITY. Benning won the TV movie/miniseries award for KILLING LINCOLN. Freeman took home top honors in the one-hour episodic television category for GAME OF THRONES, and McClure was the recipient of the half-hour episodic series award for DRUNK HISTORY.
The ASC Award for best feature was presented by Caleb Deschanel, ASC. Lubezki has won the organization’s top prize twice for THE TREE OF LIFE (2012) and CHILDREN OF MEN(2007), and was also nominated for SLEEPY HOLLOW(2000).
The other nominees in the feature film category were Sean Bobbitt, BSC for 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Barry Ackroyd, BSC for CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Philippe Le Sourd for THE GRANDMASTER, Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC for INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, Phedon Papamichael, ASC forNEBRASKA, and Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC for PRISONERS.
Debbie Allen presented the Television Movie/Miniseries Award to first-time ASC nominee Benning for National Geographic Channel’s KILLING LINCOLN.
Also nominated in the Television Movie/Miniseries category were David Luther for Starz Network’s THE WHITE QUEEN (“War at First Hand”), and Ashley Rowe, BSC for Starz Network’s DANCING ON THE EDGE (Episode 1.1).
Actress Niecy Nash presented the Outstanding Achievement Award in the one-hour episodic television category to Freeman for his work on “Valar Dohaeris,” the third season premiere episode of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES. This is the fourth statue for Freeman who previously won for BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2012, 2011) and HOMELAND SECURITY(2005). He has also earned nominations for another BOARDWALK EMPIRE episode (2011), as well as TAKEN (2003), STRANGE JUSTICE (2000) and PRINCE STREET (1998).
The other nominees in the one-hour television series category wereSteven Bernstein, ASC for Starz Network’s MAGIC CITY (“The Sins of the Father”), David Franco for HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE (“Erlkönig”), Pierre Gill, CSC for Showtime’s THE BORGIAS (“The Purge”), David Greene, CSC for The CW’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (“Tough Love”), Anette Haellmigk for HBO’s GAME OF THRONES (“Kissed by Fire”), Kramer Morgenthau, ASC for Fox’s SLEEPY HOLLOW (“Pilot”), and Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC for NBC’s DRACULA (“The Blood is the Life”).
Cheryl Ladd presented the half-hour episodic television category award to McClure, also a first-time ASC nominee, for the “Detroit” episode of Comedy Central’s DRUNK HISTORY.
McClure’s fellow nominees in the half-hour TV category were Peter Levy, ACS, ASC for Showtime’s HOUSE OF LIES (“The Runner Stumbles”), and Matthew J. Lloyd, CSC for Amazon’s ALPHA HOUSE (“Pilot”).
Acclaimed filmmaker John Carpenter presented the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award to Dean Cundey, ASC. Cundey first attracted widespread attention when he teamed with Carpenter on HALLOWEEN(1978). The two filmmakers went on to collaborate on THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING, HALLOWEEN II andIII, and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Cundey’s work on Robert Zemeckis’ landmark, live-action film WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988), garnered him both Oscar® and BAFTA nominations. Cundey’s credits include the BACK TO THE FUTUREtrilogy,ROMANCING THE STONE, DEATH BECOMES HER, HOOK, APOLLO 13, JURASSIC PARK, WHAT WOMEN WANT, GARFIELD, THE HOLIDAY, THE SPY NEXT DOOR, JACK AND JILL, CRAZY KIND OF LOVE, and the upcoming releases WALKING WITH THE ENEMY and CARRY ME HOME.
The ASC International Award was presented to Eduardo Serra, AFC, ASC by director Edward Zwick. Serra earned his first Academy Award® nominationfor Iain Softley’s THE WINGS OF THE DOVE(1997), which also netted him a BAFTA Award. In 2004, he received Oscar® and BAFTA nominations for Peter Webber’s GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING. His work on such films as JUDE, MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and FUNNY BONES is highly acclaimed. Serra has over 50 features to his credit, including A PROMISE, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 and PART 2, BLOOD DIAMOND, BEYOND THE SEA, UNBREAKABLE, and THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE, among others.
The Career Achievement in Television Award was presented to Richard Rawlings, Jr., ASC, by John C. Flinn III, ASC and Michael O’Shea, ASC. Rawlings’ first TV series as a director of photography was in 1978 on CHARLIE’S ANGELS. He went on to shoot such memorable series as MATT HOUSTON, STINGRAY, L.A. LAW, BOSTON PUBLIC, GILMORE GIRLSand DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, among others. He earned Emmy® nominations for the series OHARA(1987), PARADISE (1988), REASONABLE DOUBTS (1991), and the television movie BIG DREAMS & BROKEN HEARTS: THE DOTTIE WEST STORY (1995).
IDA, shot by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, won the inaugural ASC Spotlight Award. The organization created this award to recognize outstanding cinematography in features and documentaries typically screened at film festivals, internationally or in limited theatrical release. ASC members submitted entries for consideration which went before a Blue Ribbon panel that chose the nominees. All active members voted on the winner. Also nominated for a Spotlight Award was Mark Lee Ping Bing for RENOIR, and Camille Cottagnoud for WINTER NOMADS.
The ASC Bud Stone Award of Distinction was given to Beverly Wood, EVP of Technical Services and Client Relations for EFILM, a Deluxe Digital Studios company. The award is presented to an Associate ASC Member who has demonstrated extraordinary service to the society and/or has made a significant contribution to the motion picture industry. In 2012, the organization bestowed the honor to Milt Shefter, owner of Miljoy Ent. Inc., and a motion picture industry consultant on the preservation of moving images, recorded sound and high intrinsic value objects.
Last year, Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC won the ASC feature award for SKYFALL.
The ASC was chartered in January 1919. There are more than 300 active members of ASC, and 150-plus associate members from sectors of the industry that support the art and craft of filmmaking. Membership and associate membership is by invitation based on contributions that individuals have made to advance the art of visual storytelling.
The 2014 Oscar nominations were announced at 5:38am PT by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Chris Hemsworth. After the more beloved categories were unveiled, the remaining were sent to via release which we were happy to see more than a few friendly names.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins received his 11th nomination. His first; The Shawshank Redemption (1995) which John Toll took home the Oscar for Legends of the Fall. Oddly, Deakins has never won and is getting close to Greg P. Russell territory who has 15 Oscar noms for sound mixing, but no wins. Maybe Prisonerswill put him over the top.
Emmanuel Lubezki received his sixth following up his most recent for Tree of Life. Bruno Delbonnel chalked up his fourth nom lensing Inside Llewyn Davis. While first timers Philippe Le Sourd and Phedon Papamichael also received an ASC nomination this year for their work. In fact, all of the Oscar noms in cinematography received an ASC nomination.
In sound editing and mixing Lone Survivor, Gravity,“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”and Captain Phillips received recognition in both categories. Wylie Stateman tracked his 7th nom for Lone Survivor. This makes it back to back years for Wylie, but he’s still looking for his first win.
Award season favorite Gravity was edited by Oliver Tarney and mixed by Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro. While the team of Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland from No Country for Old Men received a mixing nomination for Inside Llewyn Davi.
For picture editing and visual effects, Gravityis the only one to honored in both. Christopher Rouse racked up his third nomination for Captain Phillips who won previously for The Bourne Ultimatum. Joe Letteri and his team return for visual effects in the Hobbitseries. While Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger and Star Trek Into Darkness round out the category.
The post sound-mixing teams from Gravity, Captain Phillips, and 12 Years a Slave were nominated for the MPSE Golden Reel Awards in both Sound Effects/Foley and Dialogue/ADR categories announced Wednesday. The 61st annual awards will be handed out on January 16th at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles.
Nominees in the animated categories include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Frozen and Monsters University, and Planes.
Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects and Foley in an English Language Feature 12 Years a Slave All Is Lost Captain Phillips Fast & Furious 6 Gravity The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Iron Man 3 Lone Survivor
Best Sound Editing: Dialouge and ADR in an English Language Feature 12 Years a Slave American Hustle August: Osage County Captain Phillips Gravity Her Inside Llewyn Davis Lone Survivor
Best Sound Editing in an Animated Feature (English or Foreign Language) (Includes ADR, Dialogue, Sound Effects and Foley) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 The Croods Despicable Me 2 Epic Ernest & Celestine Frozen Monsters University Planes
Best Sound Editing in a Foreign Language Feature (Includes ADR, Dialogue, Sound Effects, and Foley Blue Is the Warmest Color The Grandmaster The Past Wadjda
Best Sound Editing – Music in a Musical Feature (English or Foreign Language) Frozen Inside Llewyn Davis Justin Bieber’s Believe Metallica Through the Never
Best Sound Editing – Music in a Feature (English or Foreign Language) 12 Years a Slave 47 Ronin American Hustle Gravity The Great Gatsby The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom World War Z
Best Sound Editing in a Feature Documentary Feature – Foreign Language “1” 20 Feet from Stardom CinemAbility Dirty Wars Good Ol’ Freda Muscle Shoals Rising from Ashes Sound City
The CAS released the nominees for their 50th Annual Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing today. Award season favorites Gravity and Captain Phillips landed themselves in the motion picture category alongside Inside Llewyn Davis, Iron Man 3 and Lone Survivor.
The 1/2 hour television categories have familiar faces gracing a nom including Steve Tibbo (Modern Family), Ben Patrick (The Office) and Daniel Church (Californication). One the hour long side, Frank Stettner and his team are back for Boardwalk Empire. The same for Larry Long with Homeland. Production sound mixer Darryl L. Frank makes another appearance for his work on Breaking Bad and Michael P. Clark receives recognition for The Walking Dead, which is his first nomination.
For the 10th Annual Technical Awards, Sound Devices pulled in two nominations for the PIX260i and 633 Mixer/Recorder, Zaxcom for its Maxx, PureBlend Software for Movieslate and K-Tek for its Nautilus Suspension Mount. Post production nominees include Avid, iZotope, FabFilter, Exponential Audio, and Zynaptiq.
The awards will be handed out Sat. Feb. 22, 2014.
The full list on nominees:
MOTION PICTURE – LIVE ACTION Captain Phillips
Production Mixer — Pud Cusack, CAS
Re-recording Mixer –- Michael Prestwood Smith
Re-recording Mixer — Chris Burdon
Re-recording Mixer — Mark Taylor
Scoring Mixer — Al Clay
ADR Mixer — Howard London, CAS
Foley Mixer — Glen Gathard
Gravity leads the feature film nominations; Frozenand The Croods are top animated film contenders; Game of Thrones Leads the broadcast field for the 12th Annual VES Awards.
The awards recognize outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation in film, animation, television, commercials and video games and the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and hands-on-the-keys artists who bring this work to life. Nominees were selected by VES members via concurrent events in Los Angeles and within the eight Global VES Sections – New York, Bay Area, New Zealand, Sydney, United Kingdom, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The VES Awards will be held on February 12th at the Beverly Hilton.
As previously announced, the Visionary Award will be presented to Alfonso Cuarón, acclaimed filmmaker and director/producer/co-writer/editor of the film Gravity. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to John Dykstra, award-winning visual effects pioneer and innovator.
The complete list follows:
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Iron Man 3
Star Trek: Into Darkness
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
If you haven’t seen the film yet – stop. This piece is littered with SPOILERS. Bookmark the page. Go watch it this weekend. After the credits roll, pull out your phone and finish reading before leaving the theater. If need not apply, carry on.
Lone Survivor is based on the bestselling memoir of Marcus Luttrell, who was part of a military operation called Red Wings where a four-man SEAL team (SDV-1) was sent in to take down an Al Qaeda leader in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Penned and directed by Peter Berg, Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell alongside fellow SEALs Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster).