Production Mixer Mathew Price and Re-recording Mixer Ron Bochar Discuss The Sounds Of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The sounds of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel are just part of what make this Amazon show such a delightful feast. The Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy episode was as close to perfection as it gets and Production Mixer Matthew Price and Re-recording Mixer Ron Bochar received nominations from the Cinema Audio Society for their work.
The episode’s core is the telethon which as both tell me involved making sure the sounds right down to the microphones all sounded authentic. That meant the group walla had to do authentic period sounds and the vintage mics needed to be enhanced with the right components to sound just right.
I caught up with Bochar and Price to talk about their different roles.
For the sake of our readers, tell us where you come into the mix as such.
I’m the supervising sound editor and final re-recording mixer on each episode. I get called in after they’ve shot it and edited it already. I take a look at what they’ve done within their Avid edit and picking music.
We figure out based on reviewing the episode what sound effects are going to be needed. What dialogue might need to be replaced or enhanced? How the tone of the club should sound whether it should be emphasized for women in this moment or the men laughing. By the time we get to the mix, I present a version of what we talked about and we review that and we finally get into a version of what gets put on Amazon.
What’s that typical timescale for you and how long does it take for you to work on an episode?
Their shows are rather complicated. They’re 80-page scripts that get condensed into these 50-minute shows. Your talent and the scenes are all moving pretty quickly. They’ve given us about seven days to prepare the dialogue and the ADR, foley, and sound effects. Within those seven days, I have three days to get it to a place to show them. We have a few more days to make changes and then a final approval screening.
Let’s talk about Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy and how you approached this episode.
It was pretty fun because it needed a lot of sounds. We had the control room with 1959 equipment. We had performers singing along with playback in some cases. You’ve also got the main talent doing their show and they’re not necessarily mic’ed on stage, but they’re mic’ed through the broadcasting system.
We had various places along the way that was coming out of some kind of 1960s style speakers whether it was at home, through TV, a bar TV, or the control room, and a lot of locations in order to hear it in different kind of qualities.
What about the sounds of the telethon?
There was playback for some of the musical moments that were there. What we had to deal with was people answering phones in one corner. Sophie was doing her performance. We had a crowd and our audience that was diminishing through the whole audience and getting more tired. When Midge gets up at the end, there was some excitement from the crowd.
We had to stage the group walla. It had to fit the time as well including up in the control room. We had to make sure everyone was speaking properly about the components that they were dealing with. The stage floor walla had to relate to what they were seeing and in context to the time.
It’s all built into the fabric of the show. We do that in every episode. It fits the time of the show.
What was your favorite moment to mix and work on?
There are so many different locations we have to cut away to. When we get to her father listening and he hears from another apartment, people listening, watching and laughing. There’s more laughter from people watching his daughter. It crystalizes the whole move of Midge moving into comedy as a profession. I loved that whole part.
Why do you think so many people love the show?
It’s really amazing when you walk around and people know you work on the show, they want to know what’s going on with it. The writing is extraordinary, it all starts with the words. The look of the show is phenomenal. It’s such a feast on the eyes between the clothing and production design. It’s hard to look away. I can’t say enough about Rachel. She is riveting every time she’s on camera and the rest of the cast are extraordinary. I’m not just saying this because I’m on the show. Everyone on set feels this is a special project.
For the record, I did The Sopranos for ten years. This is the first show I’ve done since then that I feel the same thing about. It was groundbreaking, but Mrs. Maisel is extraordinary.
It truly is a visual feast.
There are so many “comedies” that are so dark and dreary in some ways. This show is so refreshing and it pops with life. It’s easy to watch. The pace is extraordinary and it’s got that MGM musical feel to it.
Going from The Sopranos to Mrs. Maisel what made you say yes to this as such when you first heard of it and sound wise, where do you draw from?
I feel incredibly fortunate to be on this show. I got it almost by luck. I’d never worked with the people doing the hiring, but I had worked with Brian A. Kates who edited the pilot. I did a movie called The Savages ten years ago with Brian and last year, I did Private Life that Brian also cut.
I asked him about it when looking through the production listings and he said, “Don’t worry, I told them to hire you.”
I got the call and I’ve been on it ever since.
Amy and Dan are so great and so creative. They’re so challenging in the way they want to do things, especially Amy and I have serious professional crushes on both of them.
If you see the show, you’ll see the moving shots and there are the musical numbers especially in season two. Everything going on is so challenging and keeps us on our toes.
Technically, I treat it like any dialogue and my job is to keep is as clean and clear as possible. Our point of pride is keeping the cast from having to come in later on to do any dialogue.
As a production mixer, my main goal is to capture dialogue. We did change from season 1 to season 2 and we saw all these beautiful vintage mics but they just didn’t have the sound that I really wanted to hear. It was thin and crackly sounded rather than being warm, the way you’d expect it to sound.
It sounded like you were watching an old video on YouTube. I pushed and so did my Post-production to replace the elements within these vintage shells with modern microphone elements so they’d be useable.
We didn’t get them all up and running for season 2. But many of the live shows that we see were practical mics that I was using to record the practical comedy.
Talk about the workings for you with this episode. There’s a lot of sound in this episode.
That was more challenging. We had so many people talking. I had some episodes where we needed a second mixer because we had over 14 talkers. We had so many people talking with music playing in the background and we needed to have everyone in the background and we had a full band especially up in the Catskills.
In the episode, our cinematographer David Mullen, he lit everything with fairly hard lights. So everything that was on camera in the telethon stage was almost entirely radio mics. We were able to boom a lot when we faced away from the stage because the lighting was friendlier.
I wire most people most of the time because it gives Ron options when he cuts it. Most sound mixers prefer recording off the boom because it’s more open and a richer sound. I work with our costume people to make sure they’re not seen or don’t make noise.
The dance number was playback. The control room was wired, we couldn’t put a boom over it and make it sound full enough.
Talk about the control room sounds
There were four talkers when she comes in. I wired up all four talkers every time. With all that overlapping you can’t let anything go. If one person is talking and overlapping with someone else who doesn’t have a microphone, you can’t use any of them. I made the decision to have them wired so they could have separate tracks and clean it up. It worked out really well.
Talk about how you collaborate with the other departments, you mentioned costume.
Sound is more dependent on many other departments more than any other department. Sound has to play well with our wardrobe people so we can hide mics on our actors and make sure that the wardrobe people are happy with it. We have to interface with our DP and the lighting people because we need to work out boom position so we can boom. We have to count on the grips to put flags up where there could be possible shadows.
That’s the grip, electrics, and wardrobe. I have to work with our playback people. That’s I think the bulk of it.
Sometimes in the telethon, we hid mics in the phone banks when they’re answering phones. We worked with set dressing and the prop department in terms of moving things around. It’s a very cooperative set. The whole crew is extraordinary.