Oscars: Meet the Man Responsible for the Live Sound

Paul Sandweiss describes a busy week of rehearsals and says he "won't censor anything."
Thom Brekke/Dolby
Paul Sandweiss

Paul Sandweiss, audio director for the Oscar broadcast, has a nail-biting job on Sunday.

He'll be responsible for the live mixing of all of the sound elements in the Dolby Theatre for ABC’s broadcast, including the speeches from the podium, the audience response, video packages, music and effects — ensuring that tens of millions of viewers around the world can enjoy the ceremony in 5.1 Dolby audio. And, he promises, "I won't censor anything."

“It’s running on heavy adrenaline — it’s fun,” Sandweiss says of his role. “You’re working with the best directors, producers, talent, crew ... but it’s still a little crazy. Everyone’s watching!”

The six-time Emmy winner was the audio director for the Oscars from 1992-1996, and then returned in 2012. He also recently mixed the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

“We typically start with technical rehearsals on Wednesday and on Thursday go through the acts with stand-ins. There are 15 acts,” Sandweiss said of the Oscar week show preparations.

“On Thursday, we also brought in [host] Jimmy Kimmel. And on Friday is musical performances. Justin Timberlake (who'll perform his nominated song "Can't Stop the Music" from Trolls) rehearsed in the morning, and John Legend (performing "City of Stars" and "Audition" from La La Land) after lunch. Saturday is presenter’s day. Every presenter comes in for a run-through. Sunday is a final rehearsal.”

Sara Bareilles will deliver this year's “In Memoriam” performance. “People are asked to hold their applause so there’s no favoritism, and that’s usually what happens," Sandweiss said of the segment. "If something happens, I don’t try to censor it, so the viewers have the same experience as those in the room.

“I wouldn’t censor anything, though that could happen downstream," he said of audience reactions during the show as a whole. "I don’t want to change history."

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