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Centralization May Be Post Audio’s Gambit

Supervising sound editor and sound designer Wylie Stateman oversaw four teams working on the recent Netflix hit The Queen’s Gambit.

 The Queen’s Gambit.
Supervising sound editor and sound designer Wylie Stateman oversaw four teams working on the recent Netflix hit The Queen’s Gambit. Charlie Gray/Netflix

Los Angeles, CA (February 12, 2021)—A recent online panel discussion hosted by Mix magazine considered the unification of picture and sound in the evolution of post production. Ideally, those post production processes might be becoming more centralized, yet the global proliferation of talent and resources is pushing in the opposite direction.

“I think what we’re looking at is the decentralization of post production,” said veteran supervising sound editor and sound designer Wylie Stateman. The webcast also included editor Billy Fox and Adobe audio product manager Durin Gleaves. Mix content director Tom Kenny moderated.

 Wylie Stateman
Wylie Stateman

“While it would be nice for us all to move in together, we really need to take advantage of talent and resources on a global level,” said Stateman, whose team works out of his 247SND facility in Topanga Canyon, CA. “We just did [Netflix series] The Queen’s Gambit, where we had a team in New York, another in Los Angeles, a team in Miami and another team in upstate New York.” The Queen’s Gambit was shot in Germany, with Berlin standing in for Kentucky.

In the past, a sound team would essentially start over with a weeks-long mix once picture was locked. Now, the mix is a continuous process beginning far sooner, focusing on frequent previews. “What used to take 12 weeks, we now break down into bite-sized pieces with approvals that take place earlier and in parallel with the picture cut. It’s a constantly rolling learning experience,” said Stateman.

To ensure consistency as the mix is passed between the sound and picture departments, he said, “We calibrate everything at 79 dB. Working at 85 dB [the industry standard] all day long is painful and ear fatiguing.”

Also important is the mix template or mix desk, he said. “You can begin with the first track that’s laid and go all the way through the final mix and the deliverables,” with the entire sound team—dialog, sound effects, Foley—working in the same mix desk.

Stateman’s team uses the Resilio and Aspera peer-to-peer platforms as well as Zoom to connect and share with global collaborators. “Source Connect is a great tool for sending a 5.1 mix and timecode, with local picture on systems wherever they are,” he said.

“I feel like a lot of us are doing the best work of our careers right now,” said Stateman. “It’s thanks to the kinds of tools available to us, and also to the global push of talent, trying to tell stories in more novel and innovative ways.”

Roland Winke on Capturing The Queen’s Gambit

Fox, who was editor and co-producer on HBO’s Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning Band of Brothers mini-series, noted at least one unresolved minor drawback, to the back-and-forth of a rolling cut. When a preview mix comes back to him from the dub stage, “It sounds a lot better, but now [if] I need to go back to the dailies to add a line I had cut out, I put the two lines together and they don’t sound anything close. I have to figure out what was done so it sounds the same. It’s a labor-intensive pain in the butt.”

Stateman suggested one potential solution: “By having standard templates, and staying in automation and not rendering, we can quickly copy whatever automation we did to the bulk of the scene and attack those lines.”

In the case of The Queen’s Gambit, there was no big dub stage; the re-recording was done at 247SND by Eric Hoehn, said Stateman. “I find the dubbing stage I have, which is about 25 by 30 [feet] with Meyer speakers in the front, JBLs for surrounds and a 32-fader Avid S6 console, gives us a tremendous amount of horsepower.”

Again noting that talent can be located and contributing from anywhere, he said, “We’re looking at a process that is about best practices derived from almost any place in the world. I find that really exciting.”

“As a product guy,” said Adobe’s Gleaves, “I love designing and building tools. But we can’t always fix what we can’t identify, so from the working side, I’m excited by the new growth of participation. The new perspectives are helping everybody. I’m energized by the growth of women and minorities who are coming in and bringing new perspectives and new methods and telling us, ‘I would love it if it worked this way.’ And finding out that’s better for everybody.”

Adobe • www.adobe.com

247SND • www.247snd.com

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