NEW YORK, NY—Every year, fans debate the relative merits of those included—or, worse, excluded—from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee list. But one thing not up for debate is that the HBO broadcast of the awards ceremony will most likely be mixed by Sue Pelino, vice president of audio post production at Broadway Video in New York City.
In mid-September, Pelino won a Primetime Emmy Award—her third—for her work on the Hall of Fame broadcast, filmed and recorded at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 7, 2017, that featured performances by inductees including Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam and Yes. The late Tupac Shakur was also inducted.
According to Stephanie Rutkowski, vice president, Broadway Video Post Production, “Capturing the spirit of the irreplaceable events of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is just short of a small wonder, but it’s a feat that Sue Pelino has been mastering for years. Following the six hours of live performances of music legends at the 32nd annual ceremony, Pelino and team had less than two weeks to do their magic to mix a three-hour broadcast.”
“The show this year was magical, although every year I say that,” laughs Pelino, who spent her early years playing guitar in rock bands and recording music in an 8-track studio at home. “It’s my most favorite show to mix.”
Pelino’s resume includes working at the now-defunct Sony Music Studios, where she was involved with such projects as VH1 Storytellers and Sessions at West 54th. “I’ve been mixing the [Hall of Fame] show in some respect since the early nineties, she says. “When we first started, it was just a few inductee packages; sometimes we would get some music remixes and insert them and do some nice sweetening to smooth out the transitions.” Initially, the shows weren’t televised but were archived and documented for the artists and producers involved.
It takes a village to produce a music concert show for television: “It was really great to get the award and share it with the team that I’ve been with for so many years. Two of the guys with me on the sound team with me, John Harris and Jay Vicari, and I have been working together since then.” Pelino also shared the award, for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special, with a team including Al Centrella, Dave Natale, Erik Von Ranson and Simon Welch.
“Both John and Jay work for [remote music recording company] Music Mix Mobile; they do the live record and much of the 5.1 music mixing,” she continues. “I put everything together and do the final re-recording mixing. But the three of us have really been a team for all those years. We’ve done many, many of the big concerts for TV and specials, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame especially.”
Pelino also credits the Hall of Fame show’s production team, including director and producer Alex Coletti, co-executive producer Frank Garritano and supervising producer Barbara Dannov, whose Show Shop company co-produced the show, Playtone and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. “We’ve all been working together for 20 years. I did many of the Unplugged and Storytellers shows for VH1 with Alex. It’s really fun to be hanging out with my friends while we’re doing this.”
Bringing a uniformity to the mix with such disparate types of music is a challenge, she says, “But we know what it’s supposed to sound like. We’ve worked with many of these artists before, and the goal is really to have the overall sound as if you are in the tenth row at the Barclays Center. We approach it more like a concert than individual artists; it’s very much of a concert event.”
She recently completed the latest episode of Landmarks Live in Concert, which will air on PBS in November 2017 under its Great Performances umbrella. This episode features Foo Fighters live at the Acropolis in Greece, with show host Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “The band gets to pick a landmark—a place they always wanted to play or is important to them,” explains Pelino, who has previously mixed Alicia Keys at the Apollo Theater and Andrea Bocelli at the Palazzo Vecchio in Italy for the program. “It’s about 30 minutes of travelogue and the other half is a 5.1 concert.”
She doesn’t only work on music, however. The job also involved a lot of sound design, especially backgrounds and ambiences, she says, and the programming includes various longform documentaries and performance specials.
A CNN series, The Wonder List with Bill Weir, had her reaching for her plug-ins. “Bill Weir was exploring the Alps and it was extremely difficult weather conditions. His lav was buried under a heavy parka but we cleaned it up a lot using iZotope; we recently upgraded to RX6.”
She is currently gearing up to work on a project—with no picture attached—for Audible audio books and podcasts: “It gives us the opportunity to record and mix audio-only documentaries and original programs, including comedy content. We’re hoping to incorporate music, sound design and Foley effects within some of that programming.”