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Inside American Horror Story’s Dynamic Sound

The show may be horrific, but production mixer Brendan Beebe helps ensure that the sound is not with the aid of Lectrosonics transmitters.

Production mixer Brendan Beebe uses Lectrosonics transmitters on the set of American Horror Story.
Production mixer Brendan Beebe uses Lectrosonics transmitters on the set of American Horror Story.

Los Angeles, CA (June 3, 2020)—Production mixer Brendan Beebe, CAS employs Lectrosonics transmitters, receivers and IFBs on FX network’s American Horror Story, which has featured Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Lady Gaga and recurring star Sarah Paulson, who brings her personal Lectrosonics SSM Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitter to every shoot.

The show can be a challenge to capture, due to the sometimes unexpected dynamics of dialogue. “There are intimate scenes that explode into big drama on a dime,” said Beebe. “Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters might be the two most dynamic actors I’ve ever recorded in that respect. They can go from a whisper to a loud scream very naturally. But thanks to the gain range and the 30 dB limiters on the Lectrosonics transmitters, I rarely if ever run into issues with clipping. Sarah carries her own SSM everywhere, as did Lady Gaga on the Hotel season.”

Innovations: Lectrosonics’ DPR Digital Plug-On Transmitter

Lady Gaga’s prowess as a singer directly informed her turn as the vampire queen of a haunted hotel, and to record it all, Beebe got creative. “There was one scene going down a hallway where I asked her, ‘Are you going to whisper or scream here?’” he recalls. “She looked at me slyly and said, ‘You never know!’ That’s legit — an actor might decide right in the moment what works best for that scene.

“So, we flew two booms above her, each with an HMa plug-on transmitter on the mic. I set the gain on one between 40 and 45 for whispering, and the other between 12 and 18 to get any screaming. It was flawless. One mic or the other always had a signal the editors in post could use, so that became our way of working with her for a lot of scenes.”

When Paulson shows up on set, says Beebe, “Her first stop is our department. She soundchecks whispers, screams, and everything in between, and then goes on to rehearse dialogue. When she’s done shooting, we put her SSM to sleep using the [LectroRM control] app.

“[I]t’s refreshing to work with an actor who’s so aware of audio. Sarah always tries to make sure we get what we need, and she even had the wardrobe department make little silk transmitter pouches that match her clothing, so the SSM totally disappears.”

Lectrosonics •