From 'Jesus Christ Superstar' to 'Rise': Sound Mixers on Mastering Musical Mixes

10:30 AM 6/22/2018

by Carolyn Giardina

A 'Black-ish' re-recording mixer also weighs in on the challenges of bringing songs to television in a harmonious way.

Behind the Screen - Jesus Christ Superstar (NBC) - H 2018



  • 'Black-ish'

    The "Juneteenth" musical episode sees Dre (Anthony Anderson), upset about his kids' school's celebration of Columbus Day, create a song to raise awareness about the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the day slavery was abolished in Texas in 1865. For the Oct. 3 episode, the songs were prerecorded and delivered to the sound team "with instrument splits and vocals prerecorded separately so that each castmember had his or her own track," says rerecording mixer Peter Nusbaum.

    The approach to the mix, he explains, was to "sound like it was in the space that you see on the screen. We wanted to focus on the singers so that it came from their visuals." The team also mixed rhythmic banging on tables and other sounds that add to the experience.

  • 'Jesus Christ Superstar'

    Putting on a live concert is never easy, but when that concert is airing on TV, it creates some unique challenges. On April 1, NBC aired the John Legend-led Jesus Christ Superstar live from Marcy Armory in New York. Sound mixer Tom Holmes' primary objective was to "get the principals' and ensemble's vocals over the 14-piece live band and 18-piece live orchestra, and all of those over the very exuberant live audience."

    "Most live concerts use handheld mics, which have better isolation," adds Holmes, but the production chose to use omnidirectional mics. "They pick up everything around them. We didn't want the mics to get in the way of the performances. It was a delicate balance between the mix for broadcast and the mix for the venue."

  • 'Rise'

    The producers of NBC's high school musical drama "wanted live singing on set as much as possible," says production sound mixer Griffin Richardson, who reveals that songs were prerecorded as a backup. "But the emphasis was on recording live. We had the cast sing every song," and lavaliers were hidden in the costumes or sometimes an actor's hair.

    Filming occurred mostly on sets at Broadway Studios in Brooklyn. He adds: "It was probably the most complicated job I've ever done in my career. We had a band [in the shots] and up to 35 people wearing earpieces."

    This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.