CAS Quarterly

Spring 2018

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MEET THE WINNERS Coco by David Bondelevitch CAS MPSE Coco is the 19th film from Pixar. It is also the fourth film from Pixar to win the CAS Award for Animated Feature. The film tells the story of the Mexican "Day of the Dead" festivities. Animation is always a worthy challenge for sound design, and in this film, music also takes a central part as the main character wants to be a musician against his family's wishes. The original dialogue for the film was recorded by Vince Caro. Vince was born in New York and moved to the Bay Area for his job at Pixar. "Some of my earliest memories are of lis tening to records on my dad's stereo. The smell of the glowing tubes, the sound of Sinatra's It Might as Well Be Swing, The Beatles' Abbey Road, or the RCA Living Stereo classical records— that set the hook. Then I started playing guitar and bass, and in my early teens, started building my own amplifiers." Vince went to the Berklee College of Music where he was a music production and engineering major. He also studied composition and arranging. "It comes in handy once in a while on sessions or in creating temp music at Pixar, and I still enjoy composing or writing a song now and again. Having a background in music raises your ability to edit dialogue and sound effects to a very high degree because so many of those tasks involve rhythm and intonation. Being able to read a score or chart is still enormously helpful on a scoring or music recording session." Vince has been involved with every Pixar feature since Toy Story, and all the Disney animated features from 1991 to 2011. Vince explains the dialogue recording process at Pixar: "I became involved with Coco very early on, when it was being developed by the director Lee Unkrich. Not long after the first temp scenes (or script pages) were written, Lee was in the recording studio directing what we call 'scratch dialogue.' Basically, this dialogue is a placeholder for what will eventually become the final script. These dialogue recordings are put together in editorial with storyboards. Then we add temporary music and sound effects to create what we call 'reels' that we screen fairly often, and then iterate, iterate, and iterate! The script lines that come out of these years of work shopping will eventually be read by professional actors in what we call 'production dialogue recordings.' Production dialogue usually happens in the last year-and-a-half to two years of the film's production. Scratch dialogue also continues almost until the very end, when it is finally replaced by the last of the production DX. As you can see, this entire process takes years to get the story where we want it to be, which hopefully pays off with a great story. It's a thrill for me to see these simple ideas go from pencil sketches and temp sound to something as amazing as Coco." Asked about his mic'ing, Vince explains: "My usual setup is a Neumann U87 for the primary mic, a Brauner VMA for the backup mic, Focusrite Red 7's are my preamps, and the recorder is Pro Tools. Everything is subject to change depending on needs, taste, or if you're trying to replicate a sound from another time. In those instances, I might use an old tube mic preamp from the 1930s or '40s and a mic of similar vintage. Or sometimes a mic might add a little color or roundness to a particular actor/singer's voice." Vince occasionally records multiple mikes, the U87, and the Brauner, and maybe another for the director's mic or even a boom (like a Schoeps CMIT-5 or Sennheiser MKH-50) if required. Asked if he does any processing, he responded: "Once in a while, I'll be asked to add a process like a pitch shift or make something sound like it's coming out of a radio or whatever, but if I do, I'll also deliver the original unprocessed recording. When I'm given the time and the heads-up, I prefer to 'worldize' audio on the spot. For example, if someone is talking from behind a door, I have a setup for that. If the character is speaking through a tube or pipe, I have various tubes that I keep handy. If the character is speaking through a phone-answering machine, I keep one of those handy too. But day to day, it's mostly unprocessed, as clean and unprocessed as possible, but if a pop sneaks through, I'll remove that for sure." Every film has unique challenges. Coco was slightly different from past Pixar films in that there were more musical elements. Vince says, "On many scratch and production dialogue recording sessions, I would have to jump into music mode and record that character singing to a track or, in some instances, with a studio guitar player or pianist." The main challenge was getting Miguel recorded before the actor's (Anthony Gonzales) voice changed. Vince adds, "We had a young voice actor (Emilio Fuentes) recording the scratch dialogue for Miguel for a few years, and his voice changed before we got to the production dialogue stage. Lee Unkrich cast Emilio in a part in the film for all his hard work. I thought that was great!"

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