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April 2013

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Audio for TV Series Well-tuned pipelines helps turnarounds stay fast and efficient. By Jennifer Walden We are a creative bunch, and the reality of our work is tight deadlines. The trick is to keep a balance between working quickly but carefully without sacrificing creativity. So how do we do that? The key is to make our workflow as efficient as possible, so we don't waste time on the process of getting the job done. We make templates with our go-to reverbs and compressors so they're ready to go. We customize our control surfaces. We database our sound effects. We spend a little time doing the not-sofun tasks, so we can spend more time doing what's really fun... being creative. At the end of the deadline, that's really what it's all about. (Let's face it — we're not in this for the money.) COMMUNITY Turning around an episode of Community, a half-hour comedy centered around a close-knit group of community college students, in just two days is possible (it actually has happened on the rare occasion), with the help of a customized Avid Pro Tools template designed to meet the show's audio needs. Mark Binder, supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, has been working on the NBC sitcom since day one. He and cosupervising sound editor Nick Shaffer created a workflow that allows all the audio elements to be fed to the dub stage as efficiently as possible. "All my editors working on this are building into an infrastructure, a tree system, that feeds the stage flawlessly. Every audio food group — effects, backgrounds, ADR and so on, has an element of that root system — so when it hits the stage, it's immediately entered into the mix." Using this workflow, Binder and his team are able to spend more time being creative. "Our template is king. It's catered around this show so we can just plug the elements in and play." Another time-saving technique was to build audio kits, with the convolution reverbs, ambiences and other sound effects, for the main environments on the set. "We went out and shot convolu- 34 Post • April 2013 Post0413_034-36, 38-40,42,51-AudioRAV5FINALREAD.indd 34 tion reverbs for everything we could," says Binder. "We did a tremendous amount of location recordings." While there are common locations in each episode, like the study room, almost every Community episode has a new location. Having a streamlined template with pre-made audio kits gives Binder and his team a good starting point. "We know how it's all going to fit in at the dub, but what goes on those tracks isn't a constant. That is where we are able to spend more time, in figuring out the right sound and the right world to build for that show. We can take advantage of the technology to help us spend more time being creative. " Community is in its fourth season, but there have been a lot of changes this time around. For starters, show-runner, Dan Harmon, is no longer at the helm. Working with new creatives has been a bit of a learning curve, but Binder says, "To a large extent it's exciting to have new blood to feed off of. It kind of freshens things up a bit. Even if Dan Harmon was still at the helm, it wouldn't be the same. Dan hated to repeat himself. We always anticipated a change happening, but now we are learning someone else's gate and pace." In the past seasons, the audio team contributed a lot to the show, and Binder feels that even with the changes in personnel, the audio team still has a say when it comes to creative audio ideas. "Not to say that we're writing scripts," Binder clarifies, "but with audio, we can find a couple more laughs in the world of Community." It's not an easy job to record Community. It has an ensemble cast, sometimes with improvised lines, and the set has some reverb issues. Also, every episode has a new location. ADR is usually a last resort, so the goal for Community is to not have to do it at all. Since production mixer Tom Stasinis didn't return for Season 4, says Binder, "We had the challenge of finding a new production mixer who was the right fit for the show. We had to find someone who could out-think the production, someone who could find the right mics, and find mic placements that would diminish the reverbs instead of just throwing their hands up and saying, 'Well 3/26/13 7:40 PM

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