Re-recording mixer Nick Offord has contributed to a number of recent streaming hits for both Hulu and Paramount+. In addition to Hulu's Pam & Tommy and
Dopesick, he also worked on Paramount+'s
The Offer. Offord recently took some time out to discuss each show and their unique soundtrack challenges.
PAM & TOMMY
Pam & Tommy follows the story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's relationship, going back to their whirlwind romance that started with them marrying after only knowing each other for a few days in 1995.
“Ryan Collins and I mixed [Pam & Tommy] together.” Offord explains. “He handled all of the effects, while I mixed the dialogue and music. The music in this series was an absolute blast! The story went to so many different locations, and we used every kind of music source you could possibly have — radios, televisions, composed music, live music, needledrops. Sometimes it was back to back to back. Making it all feel cohesive in a singular episode and over the course of the whole series was a big challenge.”
The eight-episode show was mixed on Dub Stage 6 at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA, in full Dolby Atmos using an Avid S6 console running Pro Tools.
“This particular show was a blast in Atmos,” he recalls. “I was rather bold in using the room to open up the score and create movement all around us.”
One of the show’s biggest challenges was its music.
“There was so much, it took quite a while to go through all the tracks and place everything where I felt it needed to sit,” he explains. “There were a lot of themes in the score, and I wanted to make sure all those little details were going to transfer over to broadcast. As far as the source music, it was a challenge to make all of the different locations sound real. We had to keep a certain amount of energy alive to push the scenes forward, all while making room for the dialogue and effects to sit in the mix. I’m very happy with where the show ended up and how we were able to make it all flow so well.”
Offord says he keeps his setup pretty simple, with FabFilter Pro-Q3 EQs and Avid compressors.
“One thing I really had to lean into a lot on this show was reverbs and delays in order to make the music feel natural in the space.”
One example he points to is when Tommy Lee is playing drums in his garage, or during the Motley Crue concert.
“Those tracks are all pre-records, so we manipulated it quite a bit to get more of a natural sound. I used Stratus 3D for reverbs and Slapper for delays, sometimes simultaneously.”
Offord says this show provided a great opportunity to go back and look at what it the internet was like in its early stages.
“In the beginning of the show, we are very focused on the tape. There are Hi-8 camcorders and VCRs. Even Matt Margeson’s score had a lot of chunky analog sounds. Tape machines locking up and winding up and down. As the story progresses into the internet era, we transition the sound to modems and dialup. Matt followed this theme in the score as well. It created this great transition in time through sound.”
Hulu’s Dopesick is an eight-episode series that depicts how the opioid crisis started in the United States, and how Oxy-Contin was touted as a non-addictive pain killer. The show stars Kaitlyn Dever, Rosario Dawson, Michael Keaton and Mare Winningham, and recently won a 2022 Peabody Award.
“I was in charge of the dialogue and music, my mixing partner Ryan Collins handled all of the FX, backgrounds and Foley,” Offord recalls.
“The production dialogue was very clean, so we did not need to do a lot of ADR, which was great! Lorne Balfe was the composer, so we had an amazing score to play around with. I tried to be very subtle with the music and use it for tension and support of the scenes. The acting and writing was so good, I wanted to protect that as much as possible.”
The show was mixed in Dolby Atmos on the newly-renovated Dub Stage 6 at Sony Pictures.
“Sony is my home base, and the upgraded stage sounds fantastic! There were some great opportunities to take advantage of Atmos with the music, but especially when we were with the miners underground.”
Offord says that in the beginning, it took time to figure out how the music was going to sit in the mix. The mix team didn’t want the music to take anything away from the dialogue, but rather, support it.
“There are times where it can get big and help us with some transitions, but everything was about the dialogue and what the characters are experiencing,” he explains. “We also put a lot of attention into what is going on around the characters. The timeline of the show moves a lot. We go from past to present quite a bit, so we focused on trying to make it clear when we are moving into a different moment in time.”
The Dolby Atmos mix was performed using an Avid S6 console.
“My setup usually involves the FabFilter Pro-Q3 EQ, Harrison AVA De-Esser, and McDSP SA-2 dialogue processor. I try to keep the setup fairly simple. That helps with consistency between shows. This also helps when we need to work quickly. I know exactly what I want to use and where to find it.”
One aspect of the series that Offord is proud of relates to how the team was able to follow the arc of the characters through their addiction struggles with sound. In the beginning — especially with Dr. Finnix — he is very lively, and bright. Once he is introduced to this drug, his quality of life starts to diminish. They were able to reflect that by creating a darker world around him.
“Episode 4 was a pivotal episode — not just for the characters, but for the soundtrack as well,” he recalls. “We were able to use the song ‘Like Spinning Plates’ by Radiohead to establish a theme that would carry throughout the episode. This is where Dr. Finnix's life really starts to spiral, and we had an opportunity to bring the viewer into his mindset and his struggle using a combination of this song and very interesting sound design.”
Paramount+’s The Offer is an original limited event series based on Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s experience making The Godfather. The 10-episode series premiered in April and stars Miles Teller as Albert S. Ruddy, Matthew Goode as Robert Evans, Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt, Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo, Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola, Burn Gorman as Charles Bluhdorn, Colin Hanks as Barry Lapidus, and Patrick Gallo as Mario Puzo.
“Ryan Collins and I have been working together for almost five years now, so we have a great feel for what the other one is wanting to do in the mix,” Offord explains. “I worked with the dialogue and music. Ryan was the effects, backgrounds and Foley mixer. The dialogue in this show came with its own challenges. The actors would talk so fast they were sometimes hard to understand, so we ended up using quite a bit of ADR to help with clarity.”
This show was mixed in Hollywood at Deluxe, where they have an Avid S6 and Dolby Atmos setup on Stage 6.
“We were able to take advantage of the Atmos abilities for some of the music, but more so for establishing environmental sounds,” he recalls.
“The biggest obstacle was establishing our environments. We wanted this to be a very full soundtrack, but we also needed to be very clear to the viewer where our characters are, all while not having the sound build up and be muddy in the mix.”
Offord says he tries to keep the same setup going from show to show, making it easy for him to be able to move quickly.
“I like to use the FabFilter Pro-Q3 EQ Avid compressors. On this show in particular I used a lot of the speakerphone plug-in, as well as MCDSP Futzbox, and some tape saturation for the music to help recreate the analog tube sound from the ‘70s.”
Offord explains how the soundtrack was also used as a contrast element. He points to a scene where Francis Ford Coppola is talking about how they are going to use lighting while shooting The Godfather, and the importance of the contrast between the light and dark.
“I feel like we were able to achieve something similar in the soundtrack,” says Offord. “We tried to be very conscious of the sounds for LA versus the sounds of New York, or when we are with the mobsters, and what their world might feel like. The contrast between the buzz of Hollywood and the darker, grittier life of the mob world worked very well.”