Soundtrack: Apple TV+'s <I>Ted Lasso</I>
Issue: July/August 2021

Soundtrack: Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso

Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso is a comedy series that’s based on a character Jason Sudeikis initially portrayed in a series of NBC Sports promos. The show began streaming its second season in July, and has been renwed for a third season.

Developed by Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly, the show follows Ted Lasso, an American college football coach, who has been unexpectedly recruited to coach an English Premier League team, despite having no experience. Ted Lasso recently received an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour) And Animation”. Here, supervising sound editor Brent Findley and dialogue editor Bernard Weiser share insight into the show’s soundtrack.

How did you get involved with the show?

Brent Findley: “Post producer Kip Kroeger and I had worked together on many projects in the past, including multiple titles with Bill Lawrence. Kip thought this show would be a good fit for me considering what he knew to be the demands of Ted Lasso and what we've accomplished together on those prior projects. I'd like to think I've confirmed his decision.

“Included in the specific demands of Ted Lasso is the geographic situation: shooting entirely in England (some sets, and a lot of locations), with cast from all corners of the planet, meant that we would have multiple countries and timezones to account for in arranging ADR sessions, and getting it done within the schedule dictated by Apple.”

Bernard Weiser: “I met Brent Findley through a recommendation from Warner Bros. Post Production. As often happens in our industry, we connect through reputation and community contacts.”

Photo: Bernard Weiser

What were the sound needs for the show? Did the pandemic affect/change this?

Brent Findley: “The sound needs for the show are dictated by the story... This isn't a show about football, it's a show about people and relationships. We had to protect and serve the story and performances, so in many instances of large crowd scenes, we purposefully go extreme in reducing the presence of the fans to get out of the way of what the principals are doing. The stadium fans undulate much more dramatically than what happens in real life. We use that to drive focus and attention to what's important in a scene at any particular time.

“A UK-based setting requires specific elements that help the audience feel the locations. The needs for backgrounds and atmosphere didn't change because of the pandemic. We'll include small-engine cars, Vespas, European sirens, and British-accented English walla, to name a few things. What we don’t include is crickets at night. They don't chirp at night in London like they do in America. It was an interesting thought process of how to sell time-of-day (especially interior) when we can't use one of the staple go-tos for that, as we can with North America-based shows. The fundamental solution was to have more air at night than during the day, and make the traffic and walla a bit more sparse, with the voices being a bit more rowdy on a Friday night.

Photo (right): Brent Findley's studio setup

“A component strongly affected by the pandemic has been creating large groups of people. As a function of production necessity, the stadium was not actually full of people during games. Folks had to be computer generated, both visually and sonically. Pre-pandemic, we could assemble a large group of people and record them performing the chants, for example: ‘Wanker! Wanker! Wanker!’, and the Jamie Tartt chant sung to the melody of ‘Baby Shark’. The lockdown demanded that we find another solution. We put together a small group of actors that would work from home, to do multiple passes to create the core of the crowd reactions as source material for imposing on library recordings of true stadium crowds. This required taking a couple weeks up front to vet each person's recording space and equipment, modifying rooms and upgrading gear for remote collaboration. It also required us to teach the actors a bit of audio engineering to support their own setups.

“ADR with single principal characters was much like the group process.  The primary difference is that we shipped specific equipment to the main cast. Being forefront in the final mix means the quality of their recordings is much more vital, rather than the wash of a stadium crowd.

Bernard Weiser: “The sound needs for a show are always dictated by the story. Is it action oriented, or is it filled with dialogue? Is it a comedy where sight gags and humor drive the show, or is it the characters? In this case, although Ted Lasso is definitely a comedy. Its story is driven by the characters and as one gets into the storyline, you discover that they are deep and reflect us all, which is why I believe Ted Lasso has become such a hit. So having so many characters to follow, making sure we follow the story’s dialogue as it pertains with that episode’s storyline, even in scenes with bunches of characters all bursting with lines, is critical for the audience to stay engaged.

“The pandemic did not affect or change the needs of the show, but certainly challenged us as to how we met them. Working remotely, but communicating and collaborating to meet these challenges was vital, something that started from the top down. We all felt supported and able to put our best talents forward. I think, in a way, the pandemic helped clarify the importance of this and had the consequence of bringing us together all the more, from the production, to Apple and to post.”

What is some of the gear that you relied on?

Brent Findley: “The biggest change in gear was in what software tools we used to overcome the restrictions on getting together in-person. We tried multiple remote collaboration options, and the makeup of any particular remote session often was the combination of what everyone involved could understand and work with, while still protecting the security of the assets. The most ideal setup from a technical standpoint is often too complicated for non-technical people to effectively make use of. It is always a balance between functionality and usability.

“The communication core of most sessions has been Zoom for its ease of use, ubiquity and security. If the talent has the capability to record on their end, Zoom is all we need to simulate being in a room together. We engage all of the security features of Zoom, such as requiring everyone to have a login so audio and video watermarking can be enabled, plus blocking recording capabilities and enabling the waiting room. If the talent can't record on their end, we implement other options, like those from Source Elements, Cleanfeed, Audinate and Clearview.

“My local rig is a MacBook Pro, Pro Tools, Focusrite interface, Soundminer Pro, a host of design software from Avid, Boom, Cargo Cult, Hit’n’Mix, Izotope, Krotos, Sound Radix, Synchro Arts, Tonsturm and Zynaptiq. I don’t have endorsements with any of these companies, but I’m not opposed to the idea, since they make tools that I find indispensable.” 
Bernard Weiser: “Working remotely made us rely more on the software that connected us. And certainly the need to upgrade to the fastest internet speeds our area could offer. For the very first episode of ‘dialogue - ADR - group units’ for Ted Lasso that had to get to the stage, my upload to Warner Bros. took almost seven hours. Yeah, I knew right away that this couldn’t continue, so my first upgrade brought the upload speed to about two hours. Then, when my provider offered an even faster upload speed when we got to Season 2, it now allows me to upload under one hour. Then there is setting up for the various situations that can arise, besides just editing, but for recording and connecting to recording sessions around the world. For meetings, Zoom has become standard for its ease of use. For monitoring sessions, we used Cleanfeed, and then to wrangle specific needs, Source Elements fits in nicely. For editing, I use ProTools Ultimate, along with the array of plug-ins…Isotope RX, Cargo Cult Matchbox, Fabfilter, Syncro Arts Revoice Pro and Waves plug-ins. There is never just one plug-in that works 100 percent of the time, so having an array of tools is a must.”

Do you have a favorite scene from Season 1? Or, was there an sequence that was particularly challenging?

Brent Findley: “My favorite scene is different from the most challenging... My favorite is in Episode 109, when Rebecca comes to Ted's office to confess how she had been undermining him. The acting and writing is so good, once we set the stage with sound design, as she's leaving her office, it was easy to just get out of the way and let Hannah Waddingham and Jason Suedekis do what they do best, against an amazing score.

“The most challenging was the sequence of events in Episode 110, from the start of the game to the press conference. It is a continuous roller-coaster ride of excitement, energy, drama, comedy and heart. It's got everything: the gameplay action on the pitch, the play-by-play calling of the real Arlo White and Chris Powell, slo-mo sound design, interweaving score from two different composers along with the songs, the cheers and disappointment of the crowd, the world falling away for Roy and Keeley in the locker room, Jamie's dad railing on him for not being good enough...I get chills replaying that sequence in my mind. It’s all going on at once, yet we had to craft it so the story being told by each shot was the focus.”

Bernard Weiser: “For dialogue, the football scenes are always challenging and the Season 1 finale, Episode 110 was huge. Understand that group ADR was recorded remotely, from the actors connecting individually, and that we had to make the audience hear a 50,000 person crowd in the stadium, also going into a show-specific chant. The football scenes needed to reflect the changing perspectives to give us that feel of being there. All elements of sound are coordinated and balanced together. It didn’t matter that we were challenged to get there, it was important to achieve the feel of a believable event. Being in the middle of a pandemic, people needed an escape into a believable world, characters that expose who we are, and we definitely felt the challenge to deliver a sound track that accomplished this and one that supported the Ted Lasso story.”