This post was written by Chris Welcker ofCatgut Sound.

Working in the sound department on a music-focused series brings with it an added layer of complexity. I have a background in Music Media and performance, so when I was approached to work on Daisy Jones & the Six, I was immediately excited and my past experience motivated me to want to do more than just record the dialogue for this series.

I was informed that this would be a period piece about a fictional '70s-era rock band loosely resembling Fleetwood Mac. There would be a ton of music playback, but there was also a requirement of recording all of the live instrumentation and vocals during each of the on-camera performances.

Working on a show that is so heavily focused on musical performances affords us much more consideration when making requests that ultimately benefit the sound of the project in the end. I had been looking at some of the ways that Dante networked audio had been making its way into the production sound equipment over the past several years and had dreamt of using this as a solution to handling a high track count of audio bi-directionally over rugged cat-5e cable. This could greatly simplify our process for recording and delivering mixes to speakers, in-ears/earwigs as well as between the primary sound cart and the music playback cart. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to streamline our workflow and also record everything to one central recorder as opposed to splitting things across several systems and media. Providing a backup recording would be just as easy via Dante without the need for any more physical cables.

Sound Mixer Chris Welcker working on 'Daisy Jones & the Six'Credit: Sound Device

We had the biggest sound trailer I have ever been on to handle all of our needs. We were carrying six large PA speakers, a subwoofer, the main sound cart, follow cart, a music playback cart, a mini sound cart, as well as various cases of support equipment. My primary recorder for this project was the Sound Devices Scorpio and my mini-cart setup was based around their 833/SL-2. I also have a mix-pre six setup for recording MS Stereo and ambisonics elements.

I have been a loyal Sound Devices customer for years because their support is top notch and they are very responsive to feature requests. This provides us with so many great options to solve the challenges of each unique project.

Having worked on musicals in the past, the biggest challenge for our department is learning where to set up the gear so that we are able to get to work while not being in the shot.

Prior to Dante, we were running thick gauge audio snakes to send and receive audio as well as several interconnect cables between the main sound cart and the playback cart. When a shot changed, there was a major amount of work and the potential for time delays. Dante greatly simplifies this common situation. Now, you only have a couple of thin ethernet cables to re-route and then when you plug them in, everything is back up and running within a matter of seconds!

One of the other challenges of this '70s-era series is that we would need to provide floor monitors for each member of the band. These would need to be seen on camera. I had to work with the art department to get an approved design for enclosures that could house my modern-day self-powered PA speakers. I worked with a local vendor, Sound Hard, to build these custom enclosures in time for our first performance.

The sound mixing set up for 'Daisy Jones & the Six'Credit: Sound Device

We always try to provide a base level of what is expected from our department without ever holding up production. Then, we will begin working towards providing extra things like capturing ambiances and spatial recordings that can be useful to post-production. On a show like Daisy Jones & the Six, there were several opportunities for us to record ambiances from various perspectives of the crowd. We worked with Frankie Pine, our music supervisor, and our AD team to record the crowd cheering and chanting and the sounds of our crowd singing along to the songs. These are the sorts of sound elements that can be impossible to convincingly recreate from scratch in post.

There were also a couple of scenes in Episode 8 where we got creative with the sound capture for the scenes. One was a scene where The Six is in their rehearsal space and Daisy is reunited with the band for the first time since returning from Greece. There were several dynamic mics placed in front of the performers. In addition to recording the more traditional way of using boom mics, plant mics, and lavaliers worn by the actors, we recorded the dynamic mics in front of them. I fed those mics to my Sound Devices Scorpio and sent a bus mix out to a PA speaker in a room on another part of the sound stage and miked the speaker in that room.

This allowed me to “contaminate” the mix track with the sound of those stage mics for a more natural and real sound as if they were actually in a real rehearsal space. By not introducing these mics through speakers in the actual room we filmed in, we were also able to preserve the cleaner dialogue sound for post-production to mix to taste on their end.

The sound mixing team on set of 'Daisy Jones & the Six'Credit: Sound Device

My team and I labor to provide production sound mixes that embrace the acoustics of a space that preserves a natural-sounding perspective of each shot. While I know that things will get remixed in post-production, it is our belief that providing a good-sounding mix from the very beginning has the ability to influence the choices made down the pipeline. It is the production mix track that is primarily used throughout the picture edit until things get to the post-production phase and it is our sound that they will get used to hearing.

Being a sound team comprised of musicians and artistic-minded folks, this approach provides us with the personal satisfaction of being creative in a very technically focused craft. If we can help give a sonic fingerprint to what each scene could sound like and give the post team the ingredients and a recipe to recreate it, this is what drives us each day. This can hopefully free the post team to spend more of their time playing with fun things like spatialization and working music and additional sound elements into the final mix.

This was a very rewarding project to be a part of, and doubly so when our team received the Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for our work!

This post was written by Chris Welcker ofCatgut Sound.