LOS ANGELES, CA—Every day begins with a blank canvas for Dirk Sciarrotta, playback mixer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But regardless of the work he’s asked to perform each day, from the simplest edit to the most complex processing, Sciarrotta’s favored software, Adobe Audition CS5.5, is up to the task.
Sciarrotta, together with production mixer Terry Fountain, has won two Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Live and Direct to Tape Sound Mixing for his work on Ellen, and has 11 nominations. About to launch into his sixth season on the show, Sciarrotta is currently working his 13th season on Family Feud and also includes The Price Is Right on his resumé.
Sciarrotta relies on Audition to prepare music and voice cues, which he plays out of a CueLogic SpotOn setup. The touch screen-triggered, PC-based, real-time system can simultaneously play multiple cues, complete with fades and other features. Sciarrotta, along with Tom Evans, established CueLogic in 2006, developing software written by David Markie into a product that has since been used on the Grammy and Golden Globe Awards telecasts as well as various game and talk shows.
“Any piece of music, voiceover or sound effect that I play out of SpotOn goes through Audition first,” Sciarrotta reports. “It is trimmed, edited, created, normalized, processed, etc. It all depends on what we are doing at the time.”
On a day-to-day basis on a show such as Ellen, he continues, “We edit and prepare voiceovers and music cuts for specials as well as just fine-tuning the normal show for timing and the director’s needs.” That work might involve basic cut and paste or normalization operations, but can involve rather more complex tasks, he says, “From using the vocal remove feature to cut out a curse word, to speed and pitch changes, to recording new sound effects that I did not have before and building them from scratch.”
He adds, “I never know what we are going to try to do that day. Anything can happen, and that’s how I like it.”
The effects available within the application also allow him to get creative when he needs to. “Many times I use effects for voiceovers— reverb for a large-arena effect, or a phone filter for a phone call or elevator effect, or pitch and speed control for changing key signatures or compressing for time.”
There is a lot to like about Audition, according to Sciarrotta: “I love the fact that you do not need hardware to run the software. Also, the multitrack side lets you edit in a whole other way. Sometimes, depending on the music you are cutting, simple cut and paste works well. But most of the time, if you want to get it just right, the multitrack side editing, along with using envelopes and other tools, lets your performance accuracy transpire into the perfect edit.”
Those multitrack capabilities are also useful now that 5.1 has become ubiquitous in broadcast. “Another great use of the multitrack feature is the ability to mix down to a 5.1 file,” he explains. “This is great for 5.1 playback out of SpotOn on a single button.”
Audition offers extensive interoperability with other formats, he continues. “On any given day, producers and writers may drop music or sound effects or whatever into my dropbox. I can open almost anything and save anything to whatever format I desire. In all cases, I seem to be the one location that has the flexibility to turn anything into whatever format someone needs.”
Sciarrotta has even put his Audition skills to use in his personal life, he reveals. “I have three little girls, and they all take dance classes. Every year I partner up with the dance studio owner and instructor, and I edit all the music for her enormous dance recital. It takes us about two months to finish, and there are about 50 cuts of music when it’s all said and done.
“I cut anything she needs and blend and match different types of music together and add elements and speed up and slow down music and so on. I also save everything I do and am always going back one version and adjusting something until it is just right.
“I know it’s not a big TV show or a giant award show, but it’s important to the people who are involved. My family as well as many others can sit and enjoy their children in a dance recital where the music sounds great and does not make you cringe at every single cut made (and we have all heard those before!)”
He concludes, “Audition gives me the ability to be flexible and do just about anything I need. It does it quickly, it sounds clean, and it does it well. And by ‘it’ I mean everything!”