Boardwalk Empire

Nov 11, 2011 7:18 PM, By Blair Jackson



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As for post, sound supervisor Rosenberg says, “The way each episode starts is that we have a screening [of the edited episode] with co-producer Steve Turner and the picture editor for the individual show, and they give me notes about what has been discussed with them and Terry Winter—their collective idea of how they want things to be. I make notes on everything except for music, which goes through different channels.

“When I come onto a show, 90 percent of the music has been decided, or where there will be music has been decided, if not the exact piece. So I’m learning about what kind of sounds they’re interested in, and when we’re spotting the show there’s some back and forth about ideas and what to do. They also have a list of ADR they want done, either for content reasons—like if a line has been changed—or they find that something is hard to understand or because some of the characters have accents, or if they need some group [ADR]. So I take those notes, I listen to the show carefully and add additional notes, and then distribute them to the various sound editors.” Jeffrey Stern and Alexa Zimmerman have been the primary dialog editors; Rosenberg himself does the ADR editing; Steve Visscher is Foley editor; the principal FX editor for the first season was Eugene Gearty, while Ruy Garcia has done Season Two.

When it comes to capturing the ’20s aurally, Rosenberg says, “We try to be as authentic as we can without being slavish about it. For instance, in the first season, Jimmy [one of Nucky’s henchmen] gives his wife a vacuum cleaner, and the prop guy for the show found this beautiful, working 1920s vacuum cleaner so we went to the set and recorded that vacuum cleaner. But I didn’t go and research that it still had the original, authentic 1920s motor in it.”

“What type of telephone ring do you use?” mixer Tom Fleischman asks. “And what do you do with the telephone voices? Because there are a lot of conversations that happen through phones. How squeezed, how futzed do we want to make the voice coming through the phone?”

Fleischman (and then Chefalas) mixed the show on Soundtrack’s Euphonix System 5 digital console, combining sessions from four Pro Tools|HD rigs loaded with dialog tracks, Foley, FX and music—a job usually handled by two re-recording mixers on most feature films.

Fleischman notes, “One of the biggest challenges for me was dealing with the music. The set pieces [in which singers are performing in front of bands in a ballroom/nightclub setting] were difficult because they were done in a studio with pre-recorded music, and the scenes were shot to playback. So integrating that and mixing it and making that feel like it was in a real space was a challenge. There’s the scene where Nucky dances with [his girlfriend] Margaret. It was hard getting the movement of the other people, the footsteps, the atmosphere in the club, the perspectives of the vocals and music in different parts of the club to sound natural. We also couldn’t treat any of it as if it was coming through a loudspeaker because loudspeakers hadn’t been invented yet. It had to sound as though it was being performed in the room. That’s a lot to juggle.

“It was also tough deciding how the source music should be treated,” he adds. “There are a lot of scenes where music is playing and it’s purportedly from a Victrola, even though it’s really being used as score. In the later episodes, when the character Richard Harrow is introduced, there are scenes where he’s got this scrapbook he’s putting together, and we hear these pieces of music…He doesn’t actually have a Victrola in his apartment, but we played it as that, in terms of EQ. I tried to put the music in the room with him, as opposed to letting it play as underscore or overscore.”

Then there are all the period cars, the haunting calliope music we can hear out the windows of Nucky’s office, machine guns and pistols, and other assorted mayhem. And ambiences ranging from the seaside to dank basements to large meeting halls. “This show has got a lot of sound,” Rosenberg comments. “It’s not just talking heads, people talking back and forth in a conversation. There’s a lot of different locations and showing things, and that requires a lot of sound.”

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