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March 2013

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in the mix The sounds of Banshee B By RANDI ALTMAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mad action equals fun sound. Pro Tools and a Harrison console are just a couple of the tools used on Banshee. 16 URBANK — Cinemax's new series Banshee is quite a ride, both visually and aurally. The show focuses on a man fresh out of prison, who tracks down his old love to a small, corrupt, Pennsylvania town on the outskirts of the Amish country. Thanks to an act of fate, and some bad guys with anger issues, he is able to take over the identity of the never-seen-before, and now quite dead, new sheriff. There are chase scenes, fist fights and shoot-outs, but there are also images, and sounds, of the serene Amish life, complete with horse and buggies. It all adds up to a bounty of environments that the Universal audio post team — supervising sound editor Brad North and re-recording mixers Elmo Ponsdomenech and Bill Freesh — gets to create, heighten and embellish upon. While the multiple environments and edge-of-your-seat car chases of this HBO Studios production might be challenging, twothirds of the audio post crew have a history with Banshee's creative team. North worked with executive producer Greg Yaitanes on House, and Ponsdomenech worked with executive producer Alan Ball on Six Feet Under and True Blood. Having that shorthand has been invaluable during the process. "Greg and I hit it off really well when he took over House," explains North, who was the supervising sound editor on that show as well. "From a creative standpoint, he can tell me something that maybe other people might not understand exactly, but since I've been working with him for such a long time, I know just what he wants. That has paid off hugely this show." While the two shows are very different, there are some very basic things that Yaitanes and North have brought over to Banshee, which is "the hot and cold" dynamic, where a scene comes to a quick stop. "That's always been a thing for Greg. Play up hot and cold and figure out how and when to make those shifts." Ponsdomenech, who mixes dialogue and music, says thanks to that prior relationship between Yaitanes and North, the trust level is high. "Greg comes in knowing it's taken care of when he gets here. That relationship has been very helpful with his attitude toward things," he says. And Ponsdomenech's relationship with Ball has also had its benefits. He says the lack of micromanagement "is not only welcome, but it elicits an incredible amount of creativity on our part and makes it fun to go Post • March 2013 Post0313_016-17-in the mix2MLV4finalread.indd 16 to work every day." The guys, minus Freesh, who was out of the country at the time of this interview, sat down with Post not long after wrapping up the show's first season. POST: The show has a very filmic feel. ELMO PONSDOMENECH: "Very. It's shot cinematically, with big opening shots of fields or a motorcycle coming down a highway.They are not afraid to take a minute to let you feel where you are. To me that's what makes something feel filmic — giving things a minute to develop rather than story, story, story, cut. That's one of the things the producers and directors have done that has been really great. "There are very big builds, and to speak to the filmic aspects of the show, when we are in reality in the show (ordinary day stuff), we try to play it very real. The perspectives are very important. Even in the chase scenes, if you are behind somebody or they jump ahead, or if you have a perspective cut, we try to stay true to the locations and the pans perspectivewise, so it's a big job for the dialogue editor to put that stuff together in a way that's mixable for me. Tiffany Griffith, our dialogue editor, has done a really great job with that." POST: Banshee has a lot of different environments and storylines. So that means lots of different sounds. BRAD NORTH: "It's all very thick. The atmospheres, as Greg Yaitanes says, are very visceral. The environments were a big deal from the beginning. As far as the sound effects are concerned; it's all larger than life. They wanted it to have a feature film feel to it. So we designed and cut it that way." POST: The show is shot in North Carolina, but set in Pennsylvania. How did you prepare? NORTH: "Our sound effects editor Luis Galdames went to the East Coast and recorded a lot of those tracks we use in the atmospheres, like the cicadas, other bugs and the birds. He did a great job giving us a library of different atmospheres so we could match the production sound." POST: On the outskirts of Banshee is where the Amish community is. How do you bridge those two worlds? NORTH: "Lots of horses, lots of buggies, we had more of the birds in their area. We had to make sure there were no outside sounds that would sneak into the track, like airplanes. We had to make sure the Amish theme was serene and quiet. We go to that part of Banshee throughout the season, and I love it. It has this calm/zen feel." L-R: Brad North, Bill Freesh and Elmo Ponsdomenech at Universal. POST: Have you created signature sounds that you keep going back to? NORTH: "A lot of the environments that we go back to do have a signature thing in there. We play up the train while we are in town and have more bugs and birds on the outskirts of Banshee. It all has a common theme of feeling like a small town. Another signature sound we have involves the flashbacks [the main characters have]. Elmo and Bill created a specific way to mix those — some design-y things, some breathy things, and the treatments to the dialogue. Hot and cold is one of the signatures of the show. Greg loves the track to have dynamics throughout the episode." POST: Can you elaborate on the hot and cold a bit more? PONSDOMENECH: "Greg Yaitanes is a big fan of slam cuts to silence — playing up the big action scenes and the serene scenes of regular life, because it's such a great contrast. It gives you a place where you take a breath and get some air. Loud/soft/action/no action. A sudden drop that keeps you hanging in the action in a way. It's like a ride. "One of the things that Greg said was that he really liked contrast. When we first screened the pilot with him we would stop on scenes and talk about how we wanted to enter other scenes. You go from this beautiful serene Banshee, Pennsylvania, Amish town to 3/4/13 3:59 PM

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