NAME: Cathleen Conte
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Sound Editor/ Recording Engineer
WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I use the sound recorded from production shoots, Foley and I also pull from SFX libraries. I clean up the sounds and place them in sync with the visuals. As a sound editor for film shorts and TV spots, I create and modify sounds to match and support the visuals. To create those sounds, I like to first get a feel for and gain an understanding of the story the visuals want or need to tell. I love when the story allows me to record Foley. There is something magical about interpreting what a visual would sound like.
For instance, rain sounds like millions of drops of water falling from the sky at the same time. Instead, I can create a soundscape that makes you feel like you can walk in between the raindrops and not get wet (I love that).
I’m grateful when an editor makes all the production soundtracks available. It makes the workflow much stronger by having the original sounds, being able to clean them up and either use them solo or tuck them under to build a SFX bed. When I don’t do Foley, I pull pre-recorded mastered sounds from a large database — sound effects libraries.
As a recording engineer, working with many different voiceover talents is always a treat. You never know what creative character just walked into your day (laughs). With just a very brief introduction, I can get a sense or tone of the talent and gauge their mood. I try to make them feel very welcome and comfortable in the booth and while on mic.
You don’t always get a chance to get a good mic check for levels. Some voice actors like to just get started. I get asked “are we rolling” while I’m still in the booth adjusting the mic, or with my hands still on the music stand. When you’re lucky, the talent will read through half the script at full delivery, which helps me track their golden voice. I like to take (what I feel) is a non-intrusive approach to small talk. From there I can put myself in a good starting place for levels and how much compression I’ll need to start with, if at all.
It’s important to make a connection with your talent in the booth. Establishing that connection will help capture the best reads, which is what the director wants and needs from the talent. Besides the technical aspects of working the gear and getting a good sound, it’s important to do the groundwork and make that human connection solid. From there, I let the gear do what it was made to do and record beautiful voices and sound.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Copywriting. Many times there are script changes that happen during a session for whatever reason — maybe a script is too long, too short or the legal department has flagged a line. They are almost always deadline driven. I’m often asked what do you think? What can we replace this line with? What will rhyme with it?
My first rule at the start of a session, in addition to establishing the human connection, is to not only become their engineer for the day but to become part of their team.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I have to admit, it’s the people. The clients and voiceover talents bring so much great energy to a room, it’s amazing! Regardless of whether we spend one hour together or 10 hours, everyone in the world is a creative at some level. Humans!
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite is when the gear decides not to work. It is not often, but it does happen. I’m grateful for tech engineers!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I have to say my favorite time of day is 3pm. It marks the completion of a successful and productive morning, and it’s also the best time for an afternoon coffee.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
This profession chose me. I’ve been tapping on random surfaces and making “noise” since I was a baby. When I was around 10 years old, I was finding ways to play my older cousin Leo’s Casio k10 electronic mini-keyboard. It had dog barking and wind sounds and I could manipulate the pitch. Needless to say, I was a noisy, misunderstood child who appreciated the sounds around me.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
While working at AE Media, I mixed the Monster headphones behind-the-scenes video for Super Bowl LI. It was such a fun piece to work on. Having Monster Products creator Noel Lee talk about creating the headphones. It was also fun working on set with Iggy Azalea, Aerosmith axeman Joe Perry, Internet personality Ricegum, Big Kenny, Yo Gotti, Jonathan Cheban and Nsync’s Joey Fatone.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
All of them! When I’m asked to work on a project, I’m committed from start to finish.
Regardless of what day-to-day events unfold, seeing a project to its successful completion is very gratifying.
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Zoom H4n Pro, Rode VideoMic Me, and my iPhone.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d be a veterinarian.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Breathing helps me to de-stress tremendously, and allows me to better focus on the task at hand. Breathing calms the body and helps maintain focus on accuracy and speed with a smile. I don’t allow deadlines to drive any project. Keeping a calm room and working together as a team will always help a session to stay on course and drive it to its destination on cruise control. My approach to stressful situations is nothing more than recognizing them as a challenge and finding a solution for them.