Buttons Sound (www.buttonsny.com/) in New York City has been around for 20 years servicing the advertising, television and film communities. About a year ago, owner/ sound designer/mixer Rich Macar began to offer clients an alternative to the traditional hourly rate with a creative fee where the facility would handle and co-produce different aspects of the project.
"For example, if they are not going to use a custom music house, they will hire us to handle the music searching and music editing as well as the voiceover casting," he explains. "The reason it's good for the client is because the production company is able to delegate for a set fee so they can stay on budget when it comes to these heavily creative things." Macar came up with a fee that worked for both his company and their clients by doing some homework on how music houses charge.
Macar worked just that way on a recent set of spots for Health Net (creative was done in-house) with a Digidesign Pro Tools HD Accel rig and Final Cut Pro 4.5. "It involved voiceover casting as well as music casting and sound design and mix," he explains. "It was a big challenge coming up with a piece of music that everyone was happy with. I went through a good 100 pieces of music and we narrowed it down to 25 pieces of stock music."
Final selections are made on the client side via QuickTime movies that Macar provides them as part of the creative fee service. "By using the QuickTimes I could do some edits to give [the client] a good beginning and a good ending; it helps a person feel the emotional curve of the music," he says. "I was also able to edit the music as part of the search so they could feel a good beginning and a good ending."
ONE DONE, 41 TO GO
It's one thing to mix a campaign of three spots, but quite another to find yourself staring at a work order for 42 :20 spots. Yet that's what engineer Jack Sedgwick found when he came to work at the London-based Wave Sound Recording Studio (www.wavestudios.co.uk/). The campaign, out of agency CCD, was designed to introduce the new Mercedes B Class to European audiences, and each spot aired for one day only. "It's an interesting take," says Wave creative director Warren Hamilton. "We had to piece together all the sound effects and music."
While the music was fairly consistent from spot to spot, Sedgwick had other challenges while working on the commercials. "A big challenge for commercials like that is giving each of the 42 a slightly different personality than the others and just getting the job done in time," Hamilton explains. "It all had to be done in two to three weeks."
The spots featured the Mercedes B Class moving through a number of scenes, helping a variety of people (a canoeist, a traveler, some rock climbers and a musician) get through their everyday lives. For the Musician spot, the classically-trained Sedgwick added some cello strings into the core composition that echoed the flicking pages of sheet music.
Currently there are five rooms running at Wave that are stocked with Fairlight QDC and Soundtracs/Digico D4 consoles. The majority of the spots that Wave works on are mixed in stereo, Hamilton says, but they have outfitted Studio Three to be able to mix in 5.1 or 7.1. "We'll mix in either," he adds, "depending on the client's request."
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
There's no doubt that in most instances mixers will be looking at a :60 commercial as longform work, but when faced with trying to make a half-dozen tracks fit and make sense within a :15 spot, they must yearn for the extra time. That's just how Joaby Deal, senior engineer at the San Francisco-based One Union Recording Studios (www.oneunionrecording.com/) must have felt when he got to work on the Rhythm spot promoting NFL on Fox via Chiat Day.
"The four Fox Sports News guys were up on stage doing percussion with car parts. The challenge of it was that they had the stand-ins play a percussive rhythm and they recorded it that day," Deal recalls. "Then they cut together a bunch of different takes which weren't necessarily meshing musically. So, I had to sweeten the audio to make it sound a bit more realistic and then make sure the rhythms match. Then I had to cut it down to 15 seconds and have it make sense."
Rhythm was just one of four spots in the campaign. Andy Greenberg, another senior engineer at One Union, mixed the other three: Globe of Death, Colt and Taking Care of Business.
One Union's Deal used Digidesign Pro Tools|HD Accel 6.7 and the S-1 plug-in to make the audio feel right. "It's an imaging enhancer that spreads out the stereo image. I set it up so that when you were tight on [one of the four anchors] the stereo image was very narrow and the drums felt like they were coming from the center," Deal recalls. "Then when the shot backed up I used the S-1 to open up the space and make it feel like a big auditorium."