The Audio Mixer for #ImprovJam Gives Insight into Mixing a Live Multi-Track Performance

Blaine Rochester was the audio mixer charged with taking on the humongous task of mixing the 9-camera shoot for #ImprovJam, the live performance film we shot in October (the trailer went live last week). In this Q&A, Blaine gives some valuable insight and tips for those of you out there consider your own multichannel, musical performance shoot.

How long have you been doing audio mixing and how did you originally get into it?

I have been involved with audio engineering for about 6 years.  I originally got into recording music when I was in college at Eastern Washington University.  When I found out the campus had a studio that students could use my friends and I started recording horrible songs that we had written over hip hop instrumentals.  We fell in love with it and from that point I realized I wanted to know as much as I could about the whole process of making music.  Instead of just hitting record and showing your friends some stupid song you wrote, I wanted to know the process for A to Z about how to make a professional album cover to cover.  After graduating from Eastern I jumped head first into pursuing a degree in Audio Production at the Art Institute of Seattle Where I graduated in 2010.

Which audio software program do you use and why?

For the most part I use Pro Tools at home and in the studio.  Pro Tools is what format I was taught in school and for that reason I feel most comfortable when recording or mixing audio.  It also doesn’t hurt that it’s considered “the industry standard” for recording but thats only from my experience.

What was the biggest challenge for you on this project and why? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge for me in this project was the amount of bleed through that each microphone had from the surrounding instruments.  There wasn’t really much isolation on any of the instruments. This made it more difficult to mix each individual element of the recording without effecting every other instrument.  I could hear the guitar and drums in the lead vocal so If I wanted to bring that vocal more to the front of the mix and have it “pop” like I wanted, this also brought the guitar and drums up even louder and changed how I had mixed them originally.  My way of overcoming this issue was I brought more of the room microphone and drum overhead tracks to the forefront to give the songs a bigger sound and also mask the bleed through of the drums and guitar that were present on the vocal track.  I also added some kick drum samples to the original kick drum to give a bigger “thump” in the low end because you couldn’t really hear it at all over everything else in the mix.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give a filmmaker for filming a multi-track video shoot?

The best piece of advice I could give to a film maker trying to record a multi-track recording really comes down to isolation.  Although this may look funny on camera, baffles around each instrument/microphone and an Isolation booth for the vocalist would be ideal.  But if you want everyone in the same room all jamming in the same space you’re going to have to sacrifice some isolation to create that scenery.  Or you just have everyone play over the studio recorded track and pretend it all was live, but sometimes this looks extremely fake depending on the musicians/artists ability to sync with the recording.  Depends on what your going for really. [Editor’s note: we definitely wanted to have the look and feel of all the artists jamming together. Logistically speaking, I admit it wasn’t the best in terms of recording music. The artists didn’t have ear monitors, and like Blaine mentioned, there was no separation. As mentioned before, the budget on this was zero, so we went with what was available. Given the set-up, I think Blaine did a wonderful job isolating all the channels in post.]

The Oscars are fast approaching. Can you tell us what the heck is the difference between Sound and Sound editing?

I don’t watch them so I’m out of the loop. [Editor’s note: here’s a Deadline article on the subject for those of you who do really want to know the difference.]


Give Props to Our Sponsors

To make a series like this come to life when your budget is essentially zero takes the generosity of not only the skilled talent, but companies who believe in the work. Please give our sponsors some love and let them know you appreciate their support of SoundandSEA.TV. Read below and you may find some savings for your next project. 😉


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