AES Section Meeting Reports

Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences - June 13, 2022

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The presentation started with an introduction to CRAS graduate Drew Guy. Since graduating from the Conservatory in 2016, Drew has worked on various films, television shows, and video games as a re-recording mixer, dialogue editor, and sound effects editor. He currently works primarily at Conduit Post as the Re-Recording Mixer and Co-Supervising Sound Editor for Rob Dyrdek's MTV hits, "Ridiculousness" and its two spin-offs, "Amazingness" and "Merryness."

Drew's goal for the night was to elaborate on the intricacies of preparing, routing, and editing a Pro Tools session for an episode of "Ridiculousness." This included the overall session layout, the details of the tracks within, the mixing techniques used, and the delivery specs for bounced files. Drew explained that his team has been working remotely since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 and went on to describe the unique challenges presented by the virus. "Ridiculousness" had been filmed in front of a live audience for close to a decade, but the precarious nature of filming a dense crowd during a pandemic meant that the sound team needed a creative solution to maintain the energy of the show. To meet this challenge, Drew and his coworkers devised a method to retain the live audience through clever post-production trickery. Using a vast library of live audience reactions recorded over 26 seasons, Drew pieces together an audience for every episode, being certain to select appropriate audience reactions to craft an organic and seamless laugh track.

Expounding upon remote workflows, Drew discussed the Dropbox folder hierarchy and the pipeline for receiving content on a per-episode basis. Simulating a day-to-day scenario, he opened a project containing unlinked files. According to Drew, he typically receives shows with hundreds of missing files that require relinking within Pro Tools. He described project management and familiarity with the workspace browser as an invaluable skill in post-production, one that is liable to come in handy when projects lack organization.

With the Pro Tools session open, he began to walk the audience through a single episode of "Ridiculousness." He overviewed the number of tracks and delineated each track's specific role. Tracks included VO (narration at the beginning and end of each episode), music, dialogue, uncensored dialogue, 1kHz sine tones to obscure obscenities, "walla," or background voices, separate stereo channels for printing (including a Music & Effects track for international delivery), background sounds, mono effects (such as Foley) when required, audience clips, prelays (audio used in every episode that never changes), and "J clips" which comprise the audio from the online video clips featured in the show. Drew explained that he must deliver a general stereo mix, uncensored stereo dialogue, a stereo mix sans VO, stereo music, stereo VO, audio for Internet clips, censor bleeps, and a fully uncensored stereo mix.

While reviewing the components and signal routing of the project, he made certain to disclose the particulars of editing and mixing audio in post. Drew and his team always ensure that background noise, such as the omnipresent hum of air conditioning units, are EQ'd out. This process begins with an iZotope RX plugin aptly named "Dialogue Isolate," which divorces spoken word from the intrusive ambiance of the recorded environment. From there, EQ is applied in the form of high pass and low pass filters set to 150hz and 12khz respectively. These filters help to attenuate or eliminate cloth rustling, jewelry, and other distractions. For lavalier microphones, this method may assist in the reduction of chest-thumping.

For "J clips," the EQ is set to reproduce a tinny "telephone" effect that sells the idea of a video being played back from a lower-fidelity phone speaker. Drew personally attenuates 200hz to emphasize video dialogue without having to adjust faders. Automation is employed to guarantee that everything is audible, even in the most physically extreme situations.

Unlike mixing for music, the soundtrack for "Ridiculousness" is aggressively EQ'd so that the music never overpowers the dialogue. Every element requires its own place in the mix, and most of that balance is attained through subtractive equalization. According to Drew, this normally encompasses "...everything that makes me want to listen to the music." He attenuates 4-6kHz to control the high end, and dips 200Hz to excise the mud and carve out space for the "live audience."
When it comes to dialogue loudness targets, Drew aims for between -24 to -27 LUFS (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale). That provides the re-recording mixers with enough room for sound effects, music, and the crowd. He asserts that in post-production, mixers never want to exceed -24 LUFS. Every network and platform processes audio through their own compression prior to broadcast; if the mix is too loud, the audio will be squashed and the final output may become imbalanced—the wrong elements will be highlighted or attenuated.

Drew concluded by explaining the procedure of printing the various master stems, depositing them into the Dropbox, and what happens to the stems once they are retrieved by the machine room. After several quality control passes from various teams, the show is submitted to MTV for appraisal. MTV may then contact Conduit with a litany of requests—generally with two hours to airtime.

With that, the floor was opened to Q&A. Student questions covered inquiries over union benefits, key lessons learned at CRAS, what certifications Drew would recommend to current students, his internship experiences, and how he handles burnout. David Kohr thanked Drew for taking the time to be with us that night, the audience erupted in applause, and the presentation came to an end.

CRAS AES wishes to express its utmost appreciation for Drew Guy and his magnificent demonstration. We hope to see him again soon!

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