Ask the Experts Recording – In-The-Box versus Out-Of-The-Box
In-The-Box versus Out-Of-The-Box
Join us for a webinar on recording and the pros and cons of mixing in the box or out of the box. This webinar will focus on both ways of recording and discuss the pros and cons of each. This is not a debate on what sounds better or is better.
This is your chance to get your questions answered by Jess Fenton, Vira Byramji, Jasmine Chen, Lenise Bent, and Christal Jerez
Jess Fenton is a Producer/Audio/Mix Engineer based out of Brooklyn, NY specializing in music and podcast productions. She is the creator of Proof In Music, a video series showcasing women working in music production who deserve to be seen but are often overlooked.PROOFINMUSIC.COM
Vira Byramji is an audio engineer specializing in studio recording and mixing. Vira’s entrance into the industry was through the legendary Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village, where she was the assistant manager and a staff engineer. There she worked with major labels and high-profile clients such as Patti Smith, U2, Lana Del Rey, Sara Bareilles and HBO to name a few. As an engineer and assistant studio manager, Vira gained a range of experience from the back end of the music business to the creative and technical workings of running sessions. Ultimately, these two full-time roles drove her to pursue opportunities as a freelance engineer. After leaving Electric Lady, she began working with LA-based producer Jonathan Wilson. With him, she traveled to Haiti and there worked with Jackson Browne, to LA for Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy album, and engineered remote sessions for Roger Waters and Lucius at the start of their world tour. She has also kept herself busy in New York with local artists like Maya Hawke, Emma Caymares, producer/songwriter Jesse Harris, producer Thomas Bartlett and Tamar-Kali (composer of Mud Bound and Come Sunday soundtracks). https://www.virabyramji.com/
Jasmine Chen is a GRAMMY-nominated audio engineer and vocal producer based in Los Angeles, CA. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, she moved back to Los Angeles and began interning at Forecast Recordings while working at IO Music Academy as their Partnerships & Studio Manager. During that time, she also freelanced as a production sound mixer & boom operator on film sets and helped sound design products for music software and studio furniture company, Output. From IO Music Academy, Jasmine was brought in as an intern for Heavy Duty Studios, where she honed her skills as a recording engineer and now holds the position as their house engineer and studio manager. Jasmine has worked on projects for Allie X, Berhana, Cass McCombs, Clairo, Conan Gray, Dove Cameron, HAIM, Jarina DeMarco, Johan Lenox, Jonah Mutono, Kaleena Zanders, Kelly Clarkson, Killy, Love Mansuy, Madame Gandhi, Snoop Dogg, Steve Jablonsky (film scores), and more. Jasmine on SOUNDCLOUD
Lenise Bent is one of the first women audio engineers & honed her skills on many iconic records including “Aja” by Steely Dan and “Breakfast in America” by Supertramp. She is the first woman engineer to receive a platinum album for Blondie’s “AutoAmerican” album which includes “The Tide is High” and the very first hit rap song with music, “Rapture”.
Lenise is also a post-production audio professional, specializing in recording and editing foley sound effects for many films and animated series and has traveled the world for Dreamworks supervising the foreign dialogue recording and producing the vocals for such
animated features as “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron” and “Shrek 2”. She also archives and repairs audio, instructs and consults for singer/songwriters.
Lenise is a long-standing member of the Audio Engineering Society, the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy and a voting member of NARAS. She is also a proud member SoundGirls, Women’s Audio Mission (WAM), Women in Music, the prestigious Hollywood Sapphire Group, The Blues Foundation, IASA (International Association of Sound Archivists) and ARSC (Assoc. of Recorded Sound Collectors). Though mostly working in digital recording formats, Lenise recently produced and engineered an all-analog recording with blues/rock/Indy band Primal Kings, recording to 2” tape, mixing to 1⁄2” and cut to vinyl from tape, all analog and completely out of the box.
To know more about Lenise Bent go to her website at www.lenisebent.com
Christal Jerez is an audio engineer with experience recording, mixing and mastering music. After studying audio production at American University for her undergrad and New York University for her graduate studies, she started working professionally at Platinum Sound Recording Studios in NYC. After 4 years, she moved on to work as Alex Tumay’s mix assistant at Do What Sounds Good Studios in Chelsea where she was able to work on records for PARTYNEXTDOOR, dvsn, Gunna, and more. Christal is currently working out of Los Angeles. www.christalssoniclab.com/
An Evening with Lenise Bent
SoundGirls will be hosting An Evening with Lenise Bent in Amsterdam and New York. A moderated discussion followed by Q&A. Bring your questions.
Producer/engineer LENISE BENT is a groundbreaker, She has worked as a recording engineer working on many iconic records including “Aja” by Steely Dan, “Breakfast in America” by Supertramp and “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac. She was also the first woman to receive a platinum album for engineering on Blondie’s AutoAmerican.
Since then Lenise has moved into post-production audio, beginning with creating the foreign music and effects tracks for the entire Disney cartoon catalog, and eventually specializing in recording and editing Foley. She has worked on several films and animated series, such as “Robo Cop,” “Street Sharks,” and “Extreme Ghostbusters.” She has traveled the world for Dreamworks supervising and producing the foreign dialogue and vocals for “Shrek,” “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” and “Shrek 2”. This rekindled her love of recording music, and she is now engineering and producing up and coming musicians as well as seasoned artists. Currently, one of her projects, a blues/rock band called the Primal Kings, is all-analog, recording and mixing to tape and cutting vinyl.
This is open to intermediate recording engineers that wish to learn to analog recording techniques. Session will be taught by Lenise Bent.
This second workshop will include:
In this workshop we will be taking the next step in analog tape recording, mixing to tape using a large format recording console and outboard gear.
We will be at the world-class Sphere Studio in Burbank, CA. SoundGirls will have a quick hands-on review of the first workshop, “24 trk. analog tape recording”, in which you will each thread the 2″ 24 trk. tape machine and run the transport.
We will also review:
Tape alignment and tones
Cleaning and de-gaussing of the heads and tape path
Editing and splicing of tape and leader.
Definition of “safe”, “sync” and “record” modes on the tape machine
Arming and recording onto the tape machine
Proper labeling protocol of the tape box (metadata)
We will use the song recorded to 24 trk. tape from the first workshop to practice mixing down to 1/2″ 2 trk. stereo. This will include:
Alignment and recording tones on the 2 trk. tape machine
Mixing through a large format recording console using automation
Using the patchbay to access outboard gear in the rack
Editing and splicing mixes together.
Career Paths in Recording Arts
Panel Discussion on Career Paths in Recording Arts.
Join us for a panel discussion and Q&A featuring some talented women working and succeeding in the world of recording arts. The evening will end with a casual mentoring and networking session.
Moderator:Erika Earlhas been working in the professional audio industry for over 15 years. She has worked as the Director of Hardware Engineering at Slate Digital and has held key positions in the audio industry: Chief Tech at The Village Studios, working in live sound, and quality control and repair for leading audio manufacturers including Drawmer, Focusrite, Tube-Tech, and Daking.
Producer/engineer LENISE BENT is one of the first women recording engineers and has worked on many iconic records including “Aja” by Steely Dan, “Breakfast in America” by Supertramp and “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac. She was also the first woman to receive a platinum album for engineering on Blondie’s AutoAmerican.
Jett Galindo began her engineering career in the world-renowned Avatar Studios in New York as the recording engineer for producer Jerry Barnes. As Barnes’ engineer, Jett engineered for veteran artists such as legendary singer-songwriter Roberta Flack, Nile Rodgers and Latin Grammy-winning Brazilian rock band Jota Quest.
In 2013, Jett joined The Mastering Lab family as the sole right-hand man to pioneer mastering engineer and Grammy Technical Achievement awardee Doug Sax. Under the steady mentorship of the late Sax, Jett burgeoned to become the newest mastering engineer in The Mastering Lab roster. In 2014, Jett’s work with Brazilian rock band Jota Quest garnered the group a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Brazilian Contemporary Pop Album.
With engineering credits spanning different genres and legendary artists (Bette Midler, Randy Travis, Nile Rodgers, Roberta Flack, and Gustavo Santaolalla, to name a few), Jett Galindo carries on the legacy left behind by her late mentor, mastering legend Doug Sax (The Mastering Lab). She now works as a mastering engineer alongside Eric Boulanger at The Bakery, located at the Sony Pictures Lot in Culver City, Los Angeles.
Catharine Wood – Producer, Engineer and Owner of Planetwood Productions
CatharineWood is an established Los Angeles-based composer/producer & studio owner. She launched her versatile career engineering on high profile commercials – including the first Apple iPhone spot. As a mix/mastering engineer, she has delivered over 500 (both original & client) commercially released songs airing on many major networks. Catharine is a Grammy®️ Voting Member, P&E Wing Member and holds positions on the LA Recording School’s Professional Advisory Committee and the California Copyright Conference Board of Directors. Her facility, Planetwood Studios, LLC specializes in production & composition services for the Film & TV Industries.
Ali ” A MAC” McGuire is a Los Angeles based Mixing/ Recording Engineer and Music Producer with a background in live sound. Ali moved to LA in March 2017 and has been working with artists and studios around the LA area since. Ali has worked with artists such as Kelly Rowland, Fetty Wap, Post Malone, Kira Kosarin, Skinnyfromthe9, Joji, PNB Rock, Shining Rae, Lizzo, Daxz, Matt Paris, A.M.O., Whitney Peyton, Big Daddy Kane, Schoolly D, Hed PE, The Misfits, etc. As well as record labels, Atlantic, G.O.O.D. Music, HitCo, 88 Rising and more.
Missed this Week’s Top Stories? Read our Quick Round-up!
It’s easy to miss the SoundGirls news and blogs, so we have put together a round-up of the blogs, articles, and news from the past week. You can keep up to date and read more at SoundGirls.org
Producer/engineer LENISE BENT is one of the first women recording engineers and has worked on many iconic records including “Aja” by Steely Dan, “Breakfast in America” by Supertramp and “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac. She was also the first woman to receive a platinum album for engineering on Blondie’s AutoAmerican.
Lenise is a native of Los Angeles and comes from a musical and technical family. She studied piano and played flute in the Compton Festival Orchestra and at the age of eight was enrolled in the Screen Children’s Guild, working in film and television. This lead to studying film and TV production in college until one day she was invited to a recording studio. With her love of music, she was hooked, dropped out of college and enrolled in a recording school the very next day. Fortunately, her parents were supportive.
After graduating from Sound Masters Recording Institute (this was one of the only schools in Los Angeles at the time), she was hired as an assistant engineer at The Village Studios in Los Angeles, eventually working her way up to engineer. It was at The Village that Lenise furthered her education in audio recording, working with and being mentored by many legendary engineers and producers, most notably Roger “The Immortal” Nichols and Roger Linn. Lenise then became chief engineer for hit producer Mike Chapman, working with several artists including Blondie, Cher, The Knack and Suzi Quatro. Together they recorded in several iconic studios such as The Record Plant Sausalito, Air London and United Western, which is now United Recording and EastWest Studios.
Lenise’s first session as an engineer was April 1977 at the Village Studios (formerly The Village Recorder) Studio A. The equipment was a Harrison 3224 console, Ampex ATR 100 2 Track, Technics ¼ Track, and M-79 2” 24 Track tape machine. The Artist was Americana musician (and uncle) Willie Wilson. The Village encouraged all the assistants to use un-booked studios when they weren’t working on their own projects.
Lenise moved into post-production audio, beginning with creating the foreign music and effects tracks for the entire Disney cartoon catalog, and eventually specializing in recording and editing Foley. She has worked on several films and animated series, such as “Robo Cop,” “Street Sharks,” and “Extreme Ghostbusters.” She has traveled the world for Dreamworks supervising and producing the foreign dialogue and vocals for “Shrek,” “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” and “Shrek 2”. This rekindled her love of recording music, and she is now engineering and producing up-and-coming musicians as well as seasoned artists. Currently, one of her projects, a blues/rock band called the Primal Kings, is all-analog, recording and mixing to tape and cutting vinyl.
Lenise believes in giving back to the audio community and is a sought-after lecturer at colleges throughout the country. She holds workshops and consults with singer/songwriters to learn basic recording techniques and is currently creating a workshop for recording and editing analog tape. She taught Production Sound, Post Production Audio and Studio Protocols and Procedures at SAE-LA and conducts “History of Audio Recording” presentations at The Grammy Museum. She also works in audio restoration and repair, including restoring the audio for the photo exhibit “Who Shot Rock n Roll” for the Annenberg Space for Photography.
Lenise is a long-standing voting member of NARAS and the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy and is on the advisory board for the TEC Awards at NAMM as well as the executive committee of the Los Angeles chapter of the Audio Engineering Society. She also belongs to SoundGirls, Women in Music, ARSC (Assoc. of Recorded Sound Collectors), the prestigious Hollywood Sapphire Group, The Blues Foundation, and Women’s Audio Mission (WAM).
SoundGirls interviewed Lenise on her long career
What do you like best about your job?
I love working with musical creatives, inspiring and capturing their performances.
What do you like least?
The few times I got stiffed. Valuable lesson: always count your pay in front of the person paying you.
What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced?
Fortunately, very few. I was told once that I wouldn’t be working on a project I really wanted because they preferred to work with a guy but I eventually got the gig, and it was great.
How have you dealt with them?
Honestly and professionally.
Advice you have for other women and young women who wish to enter the field?
To me being a recording engineer is a genderless skill, I think the individual who is passionate about recording and producing and does the hard work to learn well will succeed. I learned early on that on a session my required skills were why I was there, not because I was a woman. In the studio, I am an engineer/producer.
Yes, I realized that there might be obstacles when I started out, there were VERY few woman in the recording world at that time, so I made sure I did my job well and brought good energy on the project.
Be versatile. The more you know, the more valuable you are. Have a strong work ethic and be willing to do the jobs others aren’t, you will move up faster.
Value yourself. Working for free is being a volunteer and if that’s what everyone else is doing then okay. Otherwise, have your rate.
Do not say you can do something if you can’t.
Leave gender out of it. You are an audio professional; your gender is secondary. Dress appropriately.
Save your money. There was a time when being a recording engineer was a very lucrative career. Times have drastically changed. Be mindful of your audio opportunities. Join a union, work for a company that provides benefits and a pension. Start saving for retirement NOW. I know it sounds cold and unartistic, but it’s reality.
Don’t sleep with your clients or co-workers. Just don’t.
Have good social skills. You can be a ProTools wizard and know everything audio, but if no one wants to be in the same room with you for more than five minutes, it doesn’t matter. Be an asset to the project and the production team, not a liability.
Must have skills?
ProTools, basic recording techniques, signal flow, knowledge of electronics. Learn your gear and mic placement. I encourage learning what good audio sounds like. Have excellent social skills and hygiene. Remember that you are providing a service.
Neve 8068, 80 series consoles, Neumann U67, LA2A, 1176, DBX160 (Great on female vocals) limiters and compressors, EMT 140 plate reverb, Izotope RX 6, Burl converters, Prism converters, Altiverb. There is so much great gear out there that I love!
Do you ever feel pressure to be more technical or anything else than your male counterparts?
No, I don’t think more, but I better be at least as good. I prefer to be better. : ) When I started, I knew if I was more technical and did my job really well I’d have more credibility and work.
Is there anything about paying your dues you wish you would have paid more attention to that came back to haunt you later in your career?
Yes, I wish I had better electronic knowledge. When I started out studios had maintenance departments, and assistants and engineers weren’t required to know how to solder or build mic cables, etc. Good stuff to know.
When the DAW came along were you an immediate adopter? Or did it take you a long time to convert?
I was already doing post when it came along (SoundTool!), and it was a welcome tool for fixing audio right away. I was working on Foreign M, and E’s (Music and Effects) tracks so if there was any English it was so easy to remove it. Also editing foley was a breeze, everything could be synced so easily. The foley artist still had to have good sync though, still, do.
What part of analog engineering practices have you maintained?
I still record to tape. The main thing I apply to digital recording is the style of recording, making commitments to performances and moving forward, like recording to tape. I like to work quickly and in the moment while the emotion is still high and not wait until later when I can’t remember what nuance I liked. I record and comp, boom.
What are your favorite plugins?
I like the UAD bundle and Altiverb. I try a new plug-in on every project so I can learn it. I admit that I don’t use many plug-ins as I am usually in a studio with the outboard gear that I’m used to. The most important thing about plug-ins is to understand how to use them and why you are using them. I’ve received tracks that I’m hired to mix, and there will be five or six plug-ins on one track!
Do you have a few stories you can tell that have taught you valuable skills? Whether industry people skills or tech skills?
Here’s a good one…do not get stoned, high, drunk, etc. during a session. I was working with the group The Band, and we were recording basic tracks to 2” tape. I’m not a pot smoker but their keyboardist Garth Hudson kept insisting that I take a hit of his pot, that it was different and would help me really focus. After several refusals, I finally took that hit just to get him off my back. We had done three takes of a song, and now it was time to comp the track. Robbie Robertson and the others decided they wanted the first verse from take 2, the first chorus from take 3, the bridge from take one, and well you get it. Remember this is 24-track tape, folks, totally destructive audio, razor blades and splicing tape, requiring focused experience and skill in the finest of times. Thankfully, the group took a long dinner break, allowing me to spend all that time juggling take-up reels, going back and forth, as I put the track together. Yes, there was major panic. When they returned from dinner, I had just finished. We played it back, and it was all good except the bridge was upside down. They all laughed like crazy except for Robbie who was not amused. I was amazed I got it as right as I did. Ugh.
From “Girl Engineer” to Re-Recording Mixer – Sherry Klein
Sherry Klein is an Emmy-nominated re-recording mixer and a pioneer of women in audio in both music and television. Sherry became a recording engineer at Larrabee Studios in the late 1970s – one of a handful of female engineers in Los Angeles at the time and possibly one of the only female re-recording mixers in town when she moved into post in the early 1980s.
Sherry’s television credits include Bull, Queen of the South, Burn Notice, Sons of Anarchy, Falling Water, The Shield and Arrested Development. She mixes dialogue and music with her partner Scott Weber, who handles sound effects and Foley.
What’s your music background?
I took all my music classes in Manhattan. Growing up all I ever wanted to do was study music and play guitar. I would travel to the city to learn blues fingerpicking style at the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village. And on weekends played small clubs and coffeehouses in the NY and Jersey area. After High school I went to College in St Louis, Missouri to major music composition.. 6 months into mornings filled with classical counterpoint and fugue, I decided I would rather study jazz. There was only one school for me, and that was Berklee College of Music, in Boston. I got accepted and then spent the next six months hitchhiking cross-country before moving to Boston.
While attending Berklee, I was pretty much a monk to music and composition, and after a few semesters, I found that I was having difficulty writing and composing. I could analyze a Charlie Parker solo on the subway, Ace my exams .. but I just couldn’t innovate anymore. Learning the nuts and bolts of music theory seemed to limit my creativity. I went on to study independently at Boston School of Electronic Music and took various classes all over town… basically whatever interested me in the areas of sound and music. Even audited (snuck into) an acoustics class at MIT… I did crazy stuff to get a little bit of everything in.
What I realize in hindsight is that I have a very technical and organized mind. While in college I memorized all my scales and theory exercises using mathematical formulas, but in reality, I sucked at math and practically flunked it in high school … it just wasn’t presented to me in a way that I saw any use for it in my life, but as soon as I was able to make sense of it in my life, i.e., in music… math and I got along much better!
How did you get into sound?
I started hanging out downstairs at the 2-track studio at Berklee and became fascinated with sound. Soon after leaving Berklee I got a job working for Hub Recording Studios. I was the girl in the front who handled phone calls and stuff. Eventually and begrudgingly, the boss ” allowed” me to become an assistant engineer. I also began working live sound in clubs around Boston and working for a few local bands. One night a couple of guys came over to the studio to do some wiring work. We talked for awhile, and they said they were building a 16-track recording studio. They asked me if I would be interested in joining them … that was a no-brainer. I said “Hell yeah! It proved to be some of the best times I ever spent during those early years.
We wired everything in that studio. We built a shell within a shell that sank within the first year. Physically I was the smallest one, so I ended up doing much of the wiring between the ceiling and the shell. I could wire and solder anything at that point. We had to make many compromises because our funds were very limited.
For a DDL: we used our concrete basement and would put a Neumann U-87 in bidirectional mode catching the bounces off the wall and feeding it back upstairs. That was our DDL because we couldn’t afford to buy a real one.
Hammond Spring Reverb
Our reverb unit was a bastardized set of Hammond springs that sat under our little homemade console; we would change the reverb time by putting small pieces of fiberglass on the springs. (Above examples of Hammond Springs, not exactly the ones used by Sherry.)
Hub Studios Rate Card
There were so many crazy things we did to emulate the real stuff that we couldn’t afford. When we positioned amps and mics just right, in that basement, we could get some great sounds! It was an amazing learning experience because we had to create sounds in the most uncanny, but organic ways! After a few years, a new partner joined us and with him came a “real” console and that helped to prepare me for the next step I was about to take.
I left Boston in 1976 to move to Los Angeles and only knew a few people in town. The record business was a big and lucrative industry at that time. There were many recording studios, and I think I circumnavigated all Hollywood looking for a job as an assistant engineer. Larrabee Studios called me back first. I also got lucky because I had a client from Boston that gotten signed and was coming to LA to do an album. They contacted me and asked if I could do their demos for the album. When Larrabee called me, I said, “I’ve got this client from Boston, they’ve got a couple thousand dollars for a demo – can I do it here?” One of Larrabee’s engineers assisted me and right after that .. I got the job as an assistant engineer. As time went on, I was given some engineering work. I did a lot of the publishing demos and got some great clients and album work from that.
Leslie Ann Jones, Sherry Klein, & Lenise Bent AES
As far as I knew there was me, and three other women engineering in Los Angeles at that time (the mid-late 70s ) – The late Terry Becker at the Record Plant, Lenise Bent at Village Recorders, Leslie Ann Jones at Capital Records.
Did people treat you differently for being a female assistant or engineer back then?
There are lots of stories I could tell, but mostly I had good experiences once the client got to know my abilities and me. Sometimes, the studio wouldn’t use my name when assigning me to a client. One time, in particular, there was a very major British engineer that I was going to work, it was on a set of music festival recordings, Larabee’s owner, Jackie Mills, said “We’re not going to tell him your name or anything. When you come in to meet him be ready to spout every four letter word you know” When I walked in for the meeting the engineer looked at me and said, “Oh Fu… crap, Give me a break (and a few other choice words) !” Jackie gave me his look, and I just rapped off a whole paragraph of 4 letter words… the engineer just looked at me, smiled and said, “Ok, we can do this! Ready?”
I assisted on an album for Michelle Phillips; Jack Nitzsche was producing. I was working with an engineer who had to go do another gig out of town for a week, and he told Jack “Sherry can record the vocals and do some of the overdubs.” In the end, I got my first credit. Jack listed us as “Girl Engineer” and “Boy Engineer.”
It was Kim Fowley who gave me my first solo album gig., an all-girl group “The Orchids” for MCA Records. He taught me rock and roll history, and he was my mentor. He gave me my first, second, third albums – quite a lot of projects actually. I also credit him with helping to give me my backbone in the industry, and anyone who knew him would know what I’m talking about…. he was truly an amazing person, and he remained a friend until he passed away.
Kim Fowley playback party
Why did you leave the music industry?
Those were incredible days to be working in the music business, the late 70’s, early 80’s. The years before the bottom fell out of the record industry. That’s when I moved into post-production. A bunch of record labels went under, and I was only doing a few albums here and there. A mixer I had worked with on an album was working at KTTV. He called and said needed a sub while he went on vacation he said, “You know all this stuff – you know the consoles the machines, you’re familiar with gear, and you’ve got the ears. You just need to learn about the CMX and timecode synchronization, what do you think?” I said ok, and that’s when I moved to post-production… I went over there for four weeks and stayed for the next year.
I started mixing tv shows over there as a single mixer; it was basically “audio sweetening.” From there I took a lot of little freelance jobs here wherever I could find them. I met with EFX Systems, an independent facility transitioning from music to post, and was hired as their first postproduction mixer. That’s where I started honing the postproduction side of myself. When we picked up the show “30 Something” we went to a three-person crew, and I mixed dialogue. That was a big deal for me because it was a very high-profile show. I think that’s when people started knowing about me, even though I was still fairly isolated and didn’t know many post people in town.
Were there other women re-recording mixers in post at that point?
Not that I was aware of, at least in LA. I learned of Melissa Hoffman, who I believe was at Ryder Sound a few years later. I stayed with EFX for nine years until they closed their doors. After EFX, I began looking for another post facility I knew that I wanted to be on a team and not just work as a single mixer. Strangely, I found that the doors were open, but many studio managers who were ok with having a woman mixer said they just hadn’t found one with the experience and credits. Luckily.. I had some of both!
Sony was the first to call. They needed someone to replace a popular mixer (who was retiring) on a team with three mixers, he was mixing a show called “The Young Riders, ” and they needed someone who could take over for him. They offered me the dx chair. When I first came on, I asked the head of post-production, “Do you think the guys are going to be cool about this?” He said, “If they’re not ..screw em,” you have the qualifications.” As it turned out, I had a great fx mixer, who took to me immediately. The music mixer not so much. Since I wasn’t embedded in the “studio lot” culture and was the first and only woman on a dubbing stage at Sony, I didn’t want to make waves, I kind of rode it out and took some words and (shall we say) disrespect?. Unbeknownst to me, some of the clients weren’t happy with what they were seeing and started going to management.
One day management came to me asking how long this attitude had been going on? I said pretty much since a few months after I came on (about a year). He said, “Why didn’t you say anything?” I said, “I didn’t want to be a problem, I’m hard headed and can take a lot,..” He said, “You’re the lead mixer and the reason that clients are coming into that room. This is done!” He fired that mixer. I was really quite taken back. I had no idea that was going to happen, but the decision had been made before he even talked to me. When my original fx mixer retired I had to put together a new crew, we were together for almost nine years and still remain close friends.
Where did you go after Sony?
One of the reasons I left Sony was because I wanted to get into Protools mixing and at that time, they weren’t ready to use it on the dubbing stage. Prior to leaving Sony, I had been working on three shows, and two got canceled in the same week. My last remaining show was the final season of Dawson’s Creek, and I wanted to see it through.. I had lots of free time, and I started looking around for Protools classes. I found Chilitos Valenzuela and his company “Audiograph Intl” in Santa Monica. It was the best thing I could have done for myself, I signed up and took his class, it was three weeks and paid for by me … Chilitos and I became fast friends, and he truly helped me to learn Pro Tools. I moved over to Larson Studios the following season. They were one of the first full Protools studios in town, and that was a great place for me to begin what I call the 2nd phase of my career. Currently, I’m with Smart Post Sound– and they’ve been my home base for the last ten years.
In my choices for leaving one facility for another, I can honestly say that I’ve only moved when I felt was the right move for my career; I never moved just to get a few extra bucks. Just wasn’t where my priorities were set.
Can you explain your role working on a two-person mix team?
The dialog mixer is the lead mixer on the team. Usually, we’re the ones who get all the shit if something goes wrong. Rarely is there a situation where I’ve had to throw (lead mixer) weight around? It’s just not in my nature. I feel that we’re both equally important to the team and therefore equal in our mixing partnership.
How much time do you get for a mix?
An hour show is typically a two or three-day mix. We work from 9 am to 7 pm with a lunch break. On day one we get through the show. By the late afternoon, we’ll do a pass playing back together. Since we work separately, this is the first time we hear everything together so we can start to fine-tune it all. By the end of the day, we’ve done one pass on the main speakers. (Many of the execs still prefer their playbacks on small speakers… it drives us crazy..but that’s what they want, and so that’s what we do:-) So, the next morning we do playback on the small speakers and a pass with our co-producer. We all take notes and do our tweaks. Then if we have another chance, we can play it down again and take more notes. Usually, after lunch is when we get the execs. If we have three days, not much changes with the schedule except there’s more time for playbacks, tweaking, and just making it more presentable.
What happens when execs love something that you hate? How do you deal with creative differences?
The executive producers are the final word. If asked my opinion? I’m very honest. I’ve been known to say “I hate it.” Sometimes they will ask, “Are you happy with it? ”my answer can be as simple as, “It sounds better than it has any right to.” and it’s true! There are times when we’ve all worked on something and mixed in circles because of getting directions from so many people in the backfield that at the end of the day we walk out saying to each other we liked our version better. But that wasn’t the way the powers that be wanted it. There are days where I’ve been pulling my hair in frustration because the dialog was so noisy – bad locations, mumbly actors, or whatever. The truth is… I’m too close to it, and I just have to take a step back to hear that it does sound fine, and better than I thought. But always, it’s the execs that have the final say!!
Does it ever bother you to work on something where the dialog is terrible, to begin with, and then your name is in the credits for it?
Sometimes what we do as dialog mixers is to make shit shine. Sometimes dialog is good, to begin with, so we can work to make it richer and fuller and just enhance it. The question for me is that when I walk out at the end of the day, do I feel creatively fulfilled? That answer would be yes, or I would have stopped doing this years ago.
What do you enjoy about being a TV dialog mixer?
I like the hustle of tv and the fact that it’s like a new mini-movie every week. Having multiple years on a show is always a treat because you have the opportunity to grow with your crew and the show, it becomes kind of a family thing!!
What skills/traits should someone have who wants to be a dialog/music mixer?
Patience – of which I have none! (I have the attention span of a 12-year-old) which is why I’m better working in television than features.
You need people skills – especially when you need to let everyone in your backfield argue (discuss) and do their thing while you wait till they’ve come to a consensus.
You need stamina and the ability to multitask. You have to be able to filter out what’s going on behind you and just do what you need to do up front. Sometimes it’s stopping and listening to what the people behind you are saying, and other times it’s continuing to work and then turning around and saying, “did I miss something?” It’s an intense balancing act. You have to move fast and move with preciseness and detail. You need to learn to gauge time and your activities within the time allotted to get something you’re happy with, and they’ll be happy with.
Izotope RX 6 – I got hip to RX a couple of years ago, and it’s fantastic. It’s saved my ass tremendously in a lot of things. If you get to know Spectral Repair, there’s a great number of things you can do.
Cedar (noise reduction) – I like to use it gently, and these days if I want to go in deeper, I can go to the RX.
Audio Ease Speakerphone – I use it on a lot of my ADR, not with the futzes but utilizing the rooms and other parts of the plugin. From my record engineer days, I know how to use the various mics to change the characteristics of the sound. There are also lots of other features within the plugin I like – it’s sort of my audio suite channel strip.
LO-FI – I’ve always been a fan of this one. Sometimes we just have to shmutz things up
Avid ProLimiter, Fab FilterDS, SA2 – we’re always fighting sibilance, and we have to keep our levels within network specs.
Those are some of my go-to plugins.
What advice would you give to women in the field or trying to get into the field?
I think there are a lot more opportunities than ever before for women moving into mixing positions. The field is open to it. I don’t believe it’s even a question of being a woman mixer – it’s a qualified mixer. Years ago people would say “she’s one of the best chick mixers etc.…” and I would say, ‘” Umm … I’m a mixer” I just happen to be a chick. We are mixers. Nuff said!!
As far as getting into it and coming up through the channels – it’s a long road. It’s a very satisfying road. Ultimately, you do have to learn how to have your life, while still devoting the time needed to have the gig. I don’t buy tickets for anything unless it’s a Saturday night or Sunday … and even then I don’t know for sure; travel plans are always meant to be changed. You have to be willing to sacrifice the aspects of “normalcy” that most people are accustomed to. I tend to believe that it can be a bit more difficult for women…speaking personally, in my past experiences sometimes the men in my life have not always understood that I just can’t get up and leave a session that’s going into OT because we had planned together that night. Oh Well. That’s why those are in my past!
How do you find work-life balance?
What balances me is being able to go and spend a couple of weeks at my home in Mexico – or as I call it “in my other world.” I will always try to get out of town when I’m not working. When I’m in town and have time off, I try and catch up with my friends, more time with my man and then there’s my other passion which is baking bread. I was informed almost nine years ago that I had to get off gluten. After asking wtf that was, I started researching on the internet and experimenting with baking. Now, I grind all my own flours and bake whenever I have the time. It’s just all mixing! Be it flours or eq’s or levels..it’s mixing to get what you want. It’s sort of like my out of the dub stage Zen place!
Cinema Audio Society Board
I think a mixer can only mix for what they hear, and that doesn’t always please everybody all the time. I’ve left shows because I’ve felt I wasn’t the right person for the job anymore.. and sometimes it’s the clients that want to make a change… shit happens, I’ve learned that you have to just roll with it.
At this point in my career I want to continue to work with people I respect and enjoy, and with people who allow me the freedom to be creative and fulfilled in my work. As far back as I can remember I’ve always tried to be as honest as possible and give 150% of myself to all my projects. I truly don’t know how to do it half-assed! My best explanation of what I tell people I do for a living is “I get to play in a big sandbox with a bunch of crazy people, and paint pictures with sound.” Gotta love that.