'Treme'

Jul 12, 2010 2:30 PM, By Blair Jackson

POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS GROOVES IN HBO SERIES

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Further complicating the show’s production sound is the fact that there are always two cameras rolling—two sonic perspectives to cover—and because of the importance of the music being performed live in so many scenes, musicians are usually playing continuously during scenes without regard to dialog that may be happening in the same room. “It was determined the music would be much better if it was allowed to flow,” Litecky says. “It also sort of ran contrary to the whole story line and the sense of what this music’s like.”

He adds that it was also a conscious decision to keep the grit and funk in the stage sound for the most part: “We could record our trombonist with a $3,000 ribbon microphone or we could use the same one they’re using onstage for the rest of the instruments, and that’s a gutsy call in some cases to ‘go natural.’ We could also go in there with a multitrack recorder and mike every instrument or every cabinet, but that’s not what the show’s about. It has to still sound good, or at least pleasing, but it’s not supposed to sound polished.

Another important component comes from the backgrounds, many of which are built up from 4-track recordings made around town by Jennifer Ralston and cut by Stuart Stanley, who also works on editing dialog. Kris explains, “When we were getting started, Jen was down there interviewing people, and asking, ‘What did the city sound like after Katrina?’ And the residents said, ‘Well, there were no birds for weeks; they left. So did the crickets at night.’ When we get the first cut from the picture department, they usually do a temp soundtrack, all the night scenes had crickets and all the day scenes had birds, and we decided, ‘No, that’s not right, we have to make it real.’ And we found out that helicopters were still flying weeks after the storm and humvee’s were still patrolling the neighborhoods, so we made sure we had helicopters and humvees in the soundtrack. We were trying to create this feeling that there’s parts of the city that are just desolate, and then elsewhere there are these pockets of life, in the bars and nightclubs.”

After each episode is edited—about six weeks after shooting—Ralston sits down with David Simon for a spotting session where he’ll determine if there are new lines he wants to add. He and Ralston will decide what sort of loop group work needs to be done to beef up certain scenes. Then, over the next week to 10 days, the ADR is recorded, the original mulitrack location recordings are conformed and cleaned up, background recordings are honed, and Foley is recorded and edited. “We do a lot with DigiDelivery back and forth between Sound One and New Orleans,” Kris says. “Jen will send her pass of backgrounds, and Stuart will fill in whatever Jen hasn’t recorded. We try to keep it right. We’re not going to pile 30 tracks of backgrounds for a scene in a living room.”

Blake Leyh does a premix of the music “on an HD rig at his house,” Kris says, “and he’ll take an editorial pass of weeding out tracks that we don’t need, or if something needs a little sweetening he might do that, too; bring a musician in or do some occasional MIDI.” Kris does the final mixing of the various elements within Pro Tools at Sound One.

In the end, “David Simon comes to every mix review and he has to sign off on it. We did 60 episodes of The Wire, and now we’re 10 episodes into this so we’re pretty much on the same page about what everybody expects to hear. David definitely calls all the shots, but we have full reign. We know what he wants, but it’s up to us to enhance that and make it shine.”


Blair Jackson is Mix's senior editor.






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