Soundtrack: Score mixer Ryan Sanchez
January 19, 2024

Soundtrack: Score mixer Ryan Sanchez

Echo Lane Productions’ CEO/score mixer Ryan Sanchez is a frequent collaborator of Emmy-winning composer Bear McCreary. The two have worked together for more than a decade on 400-plus television episodes, including The Walking Dead, Outlander, Foundation and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Most recently, Sanchez and McCreary collaborated on Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a new tween fantasy adventure series that premiered on Disney+ on December 20th.

“I’ve had a long and consistent working relationship with composer Bear McCreary and his team at Sparks & Shadows since 2013,” Sanchez explains. “Bear took a chance on me early in my career and helped shape me into the score mixer I am today. I was thrilled when I was asked to mix Percy Jackson and the Olympians! Right away, it felt like it was going to be a magical experience and I knew it would be an exciting challenge. I was able to dial in the sound of the score mix at Blackbird Studio C, a gorgeous mix room that immediately inspires creativity the second you walk in. Bear and his team at Sparks & Shadows wrote a fantastic score, so it was important for me to isolate myself in a new environment where I could really explore treating the sonic palette.”

Sanchez also recently collaborated with composer Jon Chau. The pair worked together on Baby Shark’s Big Movie, which began streaming on Paramount+ on December 8th. The “major ocean picture” follows Baby Shark as his family moves to the big city, where pop starfish super villain Stariana attempts to steal his music. The feature’s characters are voiced by Ashley Tisdale, Enhyphen, Lance Bass, Cardi B and Offset.

Like McCreary, Sanchez has known Chau for nearly a decade, and has collaborated with him frequently over the years, leading to this most recent partnership. 

“I was honored when Jon asked me to co-produce and mix the score for Baby Shark’s Big Movie,” says Sanchez. “We had an absolute blast working on it! Jon and I were fortunate enough to have the time needed to experiment and bounce ideas off each other throughout the whole project. It was a really refreshing experience and I’m super proud of how Jon’s score turned out.”

While Sanchez’s focus is specifically on mixing the scores for projects like these, he is often involved during the pre-production stage of the music, where he can help iron out logistics with the composer. 

“Every score has a unique approach, so it’s important for me to understand what the composer is looking to accomplish early on in order to establish a template and effective workflow on my side,” he explains. “My goal is to always represent the composer in the best possible way throughout the entire project. My team and I do extensive quality control, from the steps leading up to the recording sessions, all the way through to the final music mixes and delivery. I start by watching the picture and listening to the mockups in order to understand the style of the score. The majority of the projects I work on require recording an orchestra and soloists, so I like to reach out to the recording engineers that will be responsible for recording the live musicians and discuss how we should capture the performances. Since the sound of the recordings has a big impact on the quality of my mixes, it’s important for us to be on the same page.”

Once a score has been recorded, Sanchez and his team meticulously sort through the best possible takes across all of the compositions. During the editing process, he says it requires a great sense of rhythm and an ear for pitch to represent the compositions as highly as possible. From there, the mixing begins. 

“I take the stems that aren’t replaced by live musicians and combine them with the live recordings,” he notes. “We refer to these stems as ‘synth masters,’ which are programmed layers of synths, percussion, basses, etc., resulting in a ‘hybrid score.’ The mix sessions I work on have hundreds of tracks as a result. Once I’ve mixed the music, the composer and I review the mixes together closely to ensure the intent of the score is preserved, and fine tune any revisions before delivering to the dub stage.”

Sanchez says the score-mixing process requires immense attention to detail, using both the technical and creative sides of his brain. 

“My job requires me to honor the composer’s sonic vision, while simultaneously improving and enhancing it with my own creative tastes. I am mixing in a variety of different formats depending on the project, but for most TV and film scores, it’s usually in 5.1 or 7.1, while also providing a stereo mixdown of each cue. These formats are determined by the re-recording mixer, so it is important for me to mix the music in surround, while constantly considering the dialogue, SFX and picture.”