MPSE Wavelength

Spring 2020

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44 I M PS E . O R G reference mixes on headphones. On the mix stage, we were primarily monitoring in 7.1. A few of us did a couple of listening passes on headphones when we had time in between playback days to see how the stuff was playing. EM: In terms of phone playback, you mentioned a few di‚erent Apple devices. Did you experiment with lots of di‚erent devices or favor any in particular? For instance, older iPhones or other brand smartphones? MD: Yes, we experimented just to cross-check how the mix sounded in different environments. We used a variety of devices and I think that was the key. For example, you could hear more bass frequency on the new iPhones compared to the older ones. I think phone variety was huge for us, because once the show is released, people are going to end up listening to it on all types of devices. EM: Would you say the same thing about headphone or earbud brands and models? MD: Yes, all headphones aren't created equal. They are good to reference, but you can't mix perfectly for everyone's various listening device. You can't chase headphones or speakers too much. On a normal broadcast show, the mixers are not going to switch between a bunch of different 7.1 setups in their studio. I have found it most helpful to pick a primary speaker setup that we were comfortable working with, and we mixed primarily to that. Then we'd test those mixes on various devices and headphones. EM: You mentioned e†ciency and simplifying sounds for e‚ect. In this format, how did your track counts compare to broadcast shows you've supervised in the past? MD: Pretty similar. As sound editors, you can't help but give detail and separation in your elements. We intended to be efficient with the tracks, but we were really lucky to work with two mixers that have great taste to begin with and could get through our tracks quickly. EM: As you honed in on what worked well for the show, did you find any sound frequencies that were best to avoid in this format? Or alternatively, any frequencies that you found to be sweet spots? MD: I think the biggest one was staying away from relying on overly low frequencies. When we did use low frequencies, we supported those frequencies with other sounds. It was important to support those moments with mid or high frequnecies to make sure that the story point was still being communicated. Everyone loves the power and effectiveness of low frequencies, it's one of the reasons we love going to the cinemas. The inability to accurately exhibit low frequencies is the biggest bummer of exhibiting in primarily mobile formats. You can't just let low frequencies drive a moment and stay away from the other frequency ranges—you have to include little bits of other frequencies too. EM: How did your team approach editing distant sounds for this format? MD: I think it's recognizing that it's nice to have little details, but you shouldn't get too caught up in them. There are scenes that warrant more happening around you, and then there are scenes that you really just want to have a single ambience and that's it. In the mix, we found some sounds would poke through more on a phone, like crickets because they're also in the frequency range that is close to the clarity of the human voice. It was a balance of playing some things softer than we would on a 7.1 mixing stage, and even removing some sounds altogether in order to preserve clarity in the mix. EM: That's really interesting. It sounds like it took a lot of experimentation and collaboration to really find what works best. MD: Yes, our team is very open and honest about what works and what doesn't work. That kind of environment really got us to trust our instincts collectively as a group. EM: You've talked a lot about the creative team. Had you worked with this team prior to The Stranger? MD: No, this was my first time working with everyone aside from the sound editors. This was my first time working with the mixers, the picture editor, and also with Veena. But our sound editorial team was fantastic—I love working with sound effects editor Mitchell Lestner and dialogue editor John Green. EM: One last question. Was there anything you learned from working on this show that you wish you knew when you started on it? MD: Sometimes I can be a little hesitant about communicating with a new team because everyone is so busy with other shows and life. I think communication can always happen earlier and be improved upon. I feel like we hit a happy medium on this one though, where we had the chance to start designing sounds while they were picture editing. I would take that opportunity again. Doing that really helped us in the mix. EM: Marcello, thank you so much for your time. MD: Yes, of course! Thanks for having me.

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