'Pitch Perfect 2' Sound Mixer Reveals How He Made the Bellas "Sound Even Better"

Kevin O'Connell also discusses working with Elizabeth Banks, whom he calls "one of the sharpest directors" he's known.
Richard Cartwright/Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Kevin O’Connell, the re-recording mixer and 20-time Oscar nominee who recently worked on musical blockbuster Pitch Perfect 2, says he was thrilled to collaborate with Elizabeth Banks on her directorial debut. The Universal film has already earned a $125 million domestic gross since its May 15 opening.

“Elizabeth is one of the sharpest directors I ever worked with,” says the veteran sound pro, who's worked on films such as Spider-Man 2Transformers and the original Pitch Perfect, and who hangs his hat at Sony Pictures Post Production Services. “She’s smart, and knew what was important and what to spend time on. It was a pleasure working with her.”

For the sequel, which this time finds a capella group The Bellas in a tense international competition, the mix involved making the competing German team sound “big and bold, but then make The Bellas sound even better,” O'Connell tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The songs were very complicated."

All tracks were kept separate, about 98 channels per song, to give them as much flexibility as possible during the final mix.

"A challenge was to make it feel real, particularly when the dialogue would go right into a song. We took great effort to try to achieve that," O'Connell says. "That also meant re-creating the feel of hearing the music in different environments, including inside a school auditorium, an interior concert hall, an exterior stadium, a recording studio, and even at a campfire."

O’Connell, who emphasizes that this was a team effort, worked with re-recording mixer Bob Beemer (effects) and supervising sound editors Sean McCormack and Erin Oakley. The team also included Joseph Magee, recording engineer/mixer; Amanda Goodpaster and Snacky Pierce, music editors; and Harvey Mason, Jr., recording engineer/producer.

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