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Q&A: Serbian broadcast mixer Mirko Sukovic on how digital has changed the day job

Serbia’s Mirko Sukovic has carved out a career as one of his homeland’s top TV broadcast audio mixers. PSNE catches up with him to find out how he established himself as one of the sector’s top talents…

You mix high profile performers for one of Serbia’s top channels. What career path did you take to end up where you are today?

I started like most of us, with a passion for music and sound. I worked as a music composer for a theatre when I was younger and I decided to go to the Academy of Arts to become a sound designer. I started learning about sound madly, working on audio for some student movies, making some cool sound effects, composing music during the day, and in the evening, I was playing keyboards with my band. This gave me a unique view of sound from both sides – on and off stage.

I worked in a music studio for some time – and then the digital revolution came. Bands started to record music at home on their computers. So, there I was, looking for the next challenge when an opportunity came to work on TV. It was a small TV station with big plans, and I became a broadcast audio engineer. After some time, I joined a big national TV station and suddenly I was mixing music for high profile performers. I got involved in the Late Night Show with Ivan Ivanovic, the most successful TV show in Serbia.

What are the biggest changes that have affected the way you work?

The move to digital. Digital consoles and software plugins redefined this game. The idea that you have it all “in the box” revolutionised the industry. Software and plugins have started to sound really good, which they did not until recently, but now you can have really good sound out of ordinary laptops, even phones. Other things that digital brought is a greater number of inputs, the ability to have many layers, many subgroups, but maintain control of them with just one fader – everything is bigger, better, and more organised.

What are the main challenges you face when mixing? And how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge in the TV industry is time. In The Late Night Show with Ivan Ivanovic our setup goes up to 64 channels of live audio sometimes. Those audio signals are split between the monitoring console and a Calrec Artemis, which is the main console for audio output. Then they are routed to DAW via MADI, so we can eventually use the ‘replay’ option to mix a bit more.

This particular show is recorded ‘as live’ in one continuous take, so it’s very rare that the recording has to be stopped.

Also, audio post-production of the music is minimal. Working as a broadcast music mixer, my game is a crossover between studio and live, with audience expectations to make release-quality CD-style mixes in a matter of minutes.

What are the benefits of mixing on the Artemis? How does it differ from previous consoles you have used?

The ‘replay’ option is a game changer. Artemis gave us such an advantage, and that extra five minutes to tighten up the mix when a band ends rehearsal is an essential function when you work on TV. Previously it was not imaginable – but with the Artemis now I don’t need a band physically to mix. When a band plays one song, you can’t ask for many runs of the same song – or you will miss their best performance to record for the show. Artemis gave me the option to have just one run, record that on multi-track, and set the band free – and I can tune the mix for myself.

Has the way you mix changed to cater for an audience that now watches on mobile and tablet devices, often while on the move?

I was amazed with the newer smartphones and tablets and the way they translate my mixes – it is far better than I expected. When it comes to mixing, it is all about bass and phase issues – those tiny speakers have problems reproducing bass if you put it too low, and they won’t forgive phase issues either.

Digital consoles and software plugins redefined this game. The idea that you have it all “in the box” revolutionised the industry. Software and plugins have started to sound really good, which they did not until recently, but now you can have really good sound out of ordinary laptops, even phones.

Mixes must be mono friendly for those devices, but I suspect it won’t be too long before stereos become standard on smartphones and tablets.

What can you do with today’s consoles that would have been impossible to do when you first started?

The great number of inputs and processing capabilities of today’s consoles wasn’t imaginable when I first started. The fact that you can record, produce and publish a song with your tablet and a budget microphone wasn’t even in somebody’s head back then.

If you read the technical documentation of any budget home studio sound card, you will be amazed to see that it has better specs than a lot of professional gear from 20 or 30 years ago. Consoles have become way better, the sound is crystal clear, you can add software plugins and finally, digital can sound as good as best analogue.

What do you think the future holds for broadcast audio technology?

A closer relationship between programmers making software for engineers is essential. Together they will invent new wireless protocols. I believe that the next step is removing wires from microphones and stages, and that wired setups are things of the past. In the not so distant future (10 or 20 years) I believe consoles will lose all physical faders, and go completely touch screen.

With Internet speeds expanding and all those gadgets, doing shows remotely will become standard practice.

Television must fight with the Internet these days, so shows will be bigger and more complex and will require more inputs, more processing power, more routing capabilities and more and more quality sound-wise. TV sets will reproduce audio even better, so mixing live bands will never go out of fashion – or at least I love to think that way.

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