SFP: Pixar's Vince Caro

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Barbara Schultz



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Vince Caro's recent projects include Pixar's short film

Vince Caro's recent projects include Pixar's short film "Presto."

Were you happy with your career taking that direction away from music?

I missed being part of the music, but at that point [after RCA closed], I was a freelance engineer, so whatever work I was getting was great. And I still had other music clients, like Harry Connick.

It sounds like you were keeping busy as a freelancer. Tell me how you ended up making the bold move to join Pixar on the West Coast.

When Pixar started Toy Story [1995], they called Disney, and said, “Who does your voice recordings in New York because we need to record Wally Shawn for [the dinosaur character] Rex.” So I got to do a bunch of recordings for Toy Story, and that started my relationship with them.

Then during one of our recording sessions for probably Cars, John Lasseter said to me, “We're building a new building and with a recording studio. Have you ever thought about leaving New York and moving to the West Coast?” I said, “No, I hadn't,” but he said, “Well, once we get this up and running, we're going to need someone to run it, and we've always worked with you so think about it.”

Well, that was before 9/11, and the results of 9/11 were that the business in New York basically collapsed. More studios closed, and all of these great engineers I knew couldn't find work. I scuffled around for a few years, taking whatever gig I could, and some of them were horrible. It was one gig after another of, “I want it fast, I want it cheap, I don't care about the quality,” and I was thinking, “This is not working for me.”

Then out of the blue, [Pixar post-production supervisor] Paul Cichocki called, and said, “We built our studio and we're trying to build a sound department here at Pixar.” I was thinking, “This is a godsend” — not just because I needed the work, but also because whenever I worked for Pixar, they never said, “I want it fast and cheap.” It was always, “We want it the best it can be.”

Tell me about the studios there.

We have a decent-sized room, where we record to Pro Tools. Normally, we do one or two people at the same time. We have a Sony DMX-R100 digital console that we're replacing next month with a Digidesign D-Command and custom monitor section. When I came here, I brought in good Focusrite Red 7 mic pre's, which is what we've been using since Mulan. That came about because Eddie Murphy goes from a whisper to a scream, and the first session I did with him, at his house, he could easily distort the microphone or the mic pre if I wasn't careful, so I brought those pre's along on my second Eddie Murphy session, and I got everything and I've never had a problem since.

Do you still use those U87 mics?

Yes, and one of the other things Doc Kane and I have agreed on is what we call the “scream mic,” which is a [Neumann] TLM 170 back about four inches from the 87. We place it a little lower and on its side. The TLM170 goes up to about 134 dB, whereas the 87 is about 118, and so it gives us that much more headroom. What will often happen is the director will say, “We want this fairly quiet, in a stage whisper,” and if it's someone like Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal, they'll give you that, but then they'll also give you one where they're screaming. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we get it with the 87 and the Red 7 mic pre's, but there's that one percent you just miss and the TLM always catches it.

What type of guidance do you give to actors you work with to get a great take?

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