The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Apr 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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Lily Allen and DeGeneres perform as part of the

Lily Allen and DeGeneres perform as part of the "Bathroom Concert Series."

“The best part is that it is all located in one box. That box is a computer, and since you are already in a computer, you can choose whatever editing software you like. I use Adobe Audition as my main 2-channel and multitrack editor. The music and SFX are all in there, so dragging and dropping is a simple task.”

The Ellen DeGeneres Show usually shoots four days a week — single shows Monday through Wednesday and two shows on Thursday — and there's typically just a one-day lag between when a program is shot and when it airs (except for the second Thursday show). Even so, it's shot in real time — which is to say, in an hour — beginning at 4 p.m.

Of course the day begins much earlier for the audio team. “A typical day starts with a production meeting at 9:30 a.m.,” Fountain says. “Using the show rundown, the producers and staff go through the show segment by segment.”

“We come to work daily with a blank canvas of a show in front of us,” Sciarrotta adds. “I get the preliminary rundown for the show that day and I pre-build whatever music, SFX or voice-over cues I need within SpotOn. After I am pre-built, I contact various writers and producers and continually update, change and create cues throughout the day. The most common event for me is acquiring a popular music cut, editing it for playback and loading it into SpotOn.

“As the day goes on, updating of the show elements continues as the writers and producers decide what works and what doesn't: Change this music, or make that SFX shorter, or pick a new edit point — those are all common things that we deal with each day. Timing might change and kinks are worked out. Sometimes it's fine just the way we rehearsed. Sometimes it's not.”

Stevie Wonder visits Ellen.

Stevie Wonder visits Ellen.

The bulk of the show is unrehearsed except, of course, for the soundchecks for the musical performers. The Ellen show has become a “must” stop for acts plugging their new albums, and over the years has presented an incredible array of bands and singers, including such “names” as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Prince, Elton John, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Kanye West, Earth Wind & Fire, Garth Brooks and Mariah Carey, as well as scores of mid-level and up-and-coming acts. Over the course of the month or so when we were preparing this story, musical guests included Wonder, Lily Allen, the Jonas Brothers, The Bird and The Bee, Fall Out Boy, Matt Nathanson, The Fray and Raphael Saadiq; lots of variety, and it always sounds good.

Fountain says he feels right at home mixing the bands for broadcast: “I worked for Showco back in the '70s and I mixed countless concerts. I was on the road for six years and I did front of house for George Benson for the last two years on the road. I started doing TV sound at ABC in the mid-'80s — everything from Lawrence Welk to American Bandstand. When I started mixing music on TV, I felt like it should sound like a concert instead of a TV show, and this is my approach.

“When I get to the music part of the show, I want to feel like I am mixing on a large P.A. system, so I turn it up a few dB. I find that when I listen a little loud — some would say really loud — it makes my program mix record just under the point where the affiliates' compressor/limiter might affect the mix. So when you watch at home and listen on your TV speakers or your surround system, you can turn it up and that concert feel is there for you quite nicely. My wife, Kim, always says, ‘Nice drum mix!’

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