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The audio team at Sony Pictures Post takes on Netflix’s ‘Bloodline’

By Jennifer Walden

For many in the country, this past winter was a rough one. In fact, at times it felt never-ending. While spring now limps toward us just a little too slowly, you might want to imagine yourself in a tropical climate. May we recommend settling in with a refreshing drink and binge watching Netflix’s new drama series Bloodline. Shot on-location in Islamorada, a six-island section of the Florida Keys, Bloodline unravels the story of the locally renowned Rayburn family, whose children engage in a bit of Floridian fratricide.

Re-recording mixer Joe Barnett at Sony Pictures Post notes, unsurprisingly, that bug sounds were swarming all over the production tracks recorded at night, while wind, traffic and ocean sounds littered the tracks during the day. Instead of squashing the tracks with heavy-handed noise reduction, Barnett left the environment play a supporting role in accordance with the producers’ preferences. “The overall effect was to make it lifelike and real, more of a vérité approach,” says Barnett. “The producers really enjoyed filling up the track with real world sounds like traffic, or radios, or music. They don’t like it to sound like it’s on a set.”

Barnett’s approach was to do as little to the production tracks as possible, bringing out the dialogue enough that the audience wouldn’t be distracted by the environment. “For my taste, it’s better to have a bit of noise in the track and have it sound authentic rather than actually hearing the hand of the mixer. Anytime I hear the processing it just pulls me out of the story. I think sometimes the ‘cure’ is worse than the problem,” explains Barnett.

He uses the Waves Q10 for notch filtering and the Waves C4 for multi-band expansion. When a particular scene requires a deep cleaning, he has two Cedar DNS 1000s set up as a loop on the console, allowing him to record the output of the DNS 1000 back into his system. Some of the production tracks were so challenging they were processed using the iZotope RX4 before they even got to Barnett. But he always had access to the original unprocessed tracks, he says, “thanks to the world’s greatest supervising sound editor, Tim Kimmel. Anytime I wanted to I could just go back to the original, so it was never a problem.”

Joe Barnett

Joe Barnett

Kimmel was also responsible for delivering sound effects and backgrounds to re-recording mixer Christian Minkler, who for the first few days of working on the pilot experimented with how to set the tone for the series. “The biggest challenge for me was to figure out what style the producers waned to go with on Bloodline. I find it gratifying and exciting to be able to set the tone of the entire series when I am able to be a part of the project from the pilot on forward,” says Minkler.

After presenting the producers with different options, they chose a direction that Minkler could use as a map for other episodes. “We were pretty much set from there,” he says.

Minkler and Barnett have mixed enough projects together over the past five years that they can just dive into a new show knowing and trusting each other’s creative judgments. “I feel very comfortable with Joe [Barnett],” says Minkler. “I respect and admire his work.”

The Mix and ADR
They mixed Bloodline on a Harrison MPC3D digital console in the Anthony Quinn Theater at Sony Pictures Post in Culver City with elements being delivered to them from across the country. “The entire production crew, director, producers, editors and composers were out of state, so the only direction we had was from our supervisor/co-producer Lori Jo Nemhauser,” states Minkler. Producer Nemhauser was their liaison, handling picture deliveries from Sony’s ColorWorks in Culver, music from composers Tony Morales and Edward Rogers in New York, and ADR deliveries from Outpost Audio in Miami. All materials were digital deliveries sent via Aspera. “We would get an email saying there was a fix or new content. We could download it from Aspera and drop it in,” says Barnett. “It’s the new way.”

Barnett reports that there was a substantial amount of ADR on Bloodline to clarify story points. Early sessions were recorded in Florida while the actors were still on-set in the Keys, but the ADR facility was on the mainland in Miami. “The actors had to drive two hours one-way to get to the ADR studio,” says Barnett. As a result, he says, “The ADR would just come in all hours of the day. Eventually, as the production progressed, they would go to different places, sometimes coming here to LA.” All ADR not recorded in Los Angeles was monitored at Sony via ISDN. Barnett would often begin working without having the ADR, using the production dialogue as a place holder against the music on the first pass of the mix. Then, around the third mix day, he’d dedicate half a day to adding in the ADR loops. They typically spent four days mixing an episode.

Bloodline was mixed in 5.1 but the composers delivered stereo music tracks. Barnett experimented with a few different solutions, ultimately choosing the TC Electronic UnWrap plug-in for the stereo to 5.1 upconversion. “I never used it before but the way it sounded was just dynamite. It has very low latency, a very nice spread, and it’s really tweakable,” he says. Though he admits to having to control the low-end a bit more than expected, he still really liked the sound. “When I played it for the composers, they really dug it too.”

Anthony_Quinn_MD1_3984_Comp
The Anthony Quinn Theater at Sony Pictures Post featuring a Harrison console. 

Sam Shepard’s character Robert Rayburn is often seen playing a ukelele; it’s an extension of his character. The ukelele music in the mix incorporates production sound, particularly on the close-up shots accompanied by Shepperd’s singing, with wild tracks and source material from the music editing department on the wide shots and off-camera shots. A dreamy ukelele rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” eventually transitions into a nightmarish version that’s supported by the score, which was handled by the composers and the music editor. “The present day ukelele morphs into a psycho drug addled version fused with the nightmare of past horrific events which is signaled by the sound design wave of terror,” describes Barnett. As for the catalyst of that ukelele nightmare morph, you’ll have to watch the series to find out.

Christian Minkler

Christian Minkler

Since the show takes places on an island, Minkler and Barnett were careful to avoid having one scene blend into another, becoming a constant wash of ocean, bugs and wind sounds. Their challenge was to make sure each location felt unique while remaining low-key. The producers wanted to hear the ambience and hear the music, but without it ever becoming too intrusive on the dialogue. “It was a fine balance we were trying to maintain. For example, in terms of walla, a lot of scenes happen at the inn on the beach. You wanted to know there are people around, but you don’t want to really hear them. You just want to feel them rather than hear them,” says Barnett.

Minkler points out that while they were mixing Bloodline, the Sony computer hack was happening. He says executive director of post services Duke Lim was a key player in keeping the operation running smoothly amid the turmoil. “Duke came through in a big way to make sure we were taken care of in every way,” he says. “In fact, He’s the reason I had the opportunity to interview for the job, so I owe him a big thanks.”

Netflix recently announced Bloodline was picked up for Season 2. So next winter’s end may hold another staycation salvation and the promise of a TV tan.


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