Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Adam Savage Explores the Sound Mixing of Hamilton!

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hey guys Adam Savage here from tested and I am standing in the beautiful lobby

of the Magnificent Orpheum Theatre in downtown San Francisco where Hamilton is

currently enjoying a least year-and-a-half long tenure and we're

here to cover something new for me we're here to cover the sound of

Hamilton we're gonna talk to sound mixer Kevin McCoy about how he manages dozens

of mics on dozens of actors every single night and keeps the show running

smoothly

alright Kevin this is your domain this is where you manage all the sound so

people think of theater as not requiring amplification but every actor in this

show is amplified is that right every actor all the other instruments if if I

miss a moment of amplification everyone knows the complete silent dance

libretto every word counts how many microphones are you managing for this so

all the actors have a microphone so that's about 25 I think Hamilton and

burr are wearing two microphones so that if one fails we can switch to their

other one immediately right every instrument in the pit the pit has ten

musicians but each of those musicians play a ton of instruments so like

there's four mics in the bass because he's got an upright bass that has a

couple mics and he's got an electric bass he's got a key bass the percussion

setup has probably 10 mics the drum setup has another 15 so a ton of mics

that's just from a from a signal management standpoint does that create

interesting headaches because each one has got to be on its own signal yeah I

mean you build you build a system to accommodate we have a ton of of analog

lines running from the pit into our room downstairs where they get digitized

right and they come into the system they come into the board here I have a I

have a ton of faders that come in and they all come into the board into

different channels and then they get managed here a lot of the band is sort

of managed on its own sort of in the programming uh-huh I don't have to touch

the man too much except for the band as a whole I manage the energy of the bands

ooh but I don't have to dig in and be like oh I wish there was more bass here

unless there's like something but off in that show or like right I'm

feeling it a little bit differently so this is a legacy show it existed before

you came on to it so obviously you knew how many microphones you were dealing

with how much of your job is just about doing what's been laid out and how much

is really custom to the house that you're working in there must be really

specific problems you have to solve with each house this gets loaded into totally

I like to talk about it like as a metaphor with cooking you know if you're

a chef and you go to another kitchen you have to learn where all the things are

but you still making the same food right and then you also have to deal with like

if you're using fresh ingredients they're gonna be different you might

have to salt differently you might have to do whatever differently and so like

I'm working with all the same ingredients but you know maybe one day

someone singing a little under or something like that

you gotta might have to help them out a little bit yeah and then each room of

course has different challenges we've been here for quite a while so I haven't

had to adjust to the room lately right but when the show moves you have to tune

the system to each room each room has different characteristics and you have

to sort of adjust for that we have a very versatile system so that's good for

that and now I know this cast came from the Puerto Rico performance shows are

there issues with receiving somebody else's like you have to wrap your head

around so much yeah I mean I did a quite a lot of training our company is very

good about because we are a legacy show as you say we have a lot of productions

we work to train our mixers in a way that we can all mix the same show from

from the various performances that we get does that mean you go in in bed with

another production for a couple of a few days exactly okay yup and then even here

during rehearsals I was often practice mixing sometimes I'll just you know a

blind makes just without without any sound just remembering how to throw

faders following my script is is there every show brings its unique challenges

and has its uniqueness to it what are the interesting challenges that this

show lends to your job sure well Hamilton is by far like an

order-of-magnitude the hardest show I've ever mixed really

it's it's constant if my script you can look into my script a little bit and

it's just like it's just constant I mean and if you ever heard the show you can

see that it's just like constant lines back and forth and we only ever want to

have a microphone on if it's in use so I'm following some people have told

me it kind of looks like I'm playing sound board hero because my god you are

so you're only turning on the mic for the line exactly oh my god so like you

know like it seemed like this looks like we've got three four five six and we're

just sort of like going three five three four six five three four six five like

that sort of a thing back and forth that would strike me as something that if you

had to sneeze it could screw up your job yeah I definitely want a time there

sneezes what a time you know i-i've mints you you know when

you can grab a mint you know and you can't grab a mint one interesting thing

that happens is when you're learning the show it's panic like it's just it's a

constant level of panic yeah and you just you know you're like the cartoon

with the character laying down the track right in front of the train right ooofff

um but then as you do the show as I've done for now a year and this has

happened with other shows too time expands right and suddenly I'm like

slows down a little yeah and in places before where I was panicking I'm like

man I could like I'm just gonna have a sandwich and I mean I don't really I

could do that sort of thing so it's a it's a it's an interesting phenomenon to

see are there still parts of the show that tasks you to the edge of your

abilities I'm at ninety percent might hold a hedge the whole time Wow

yeah this is a really hard show to mix in a really delightful way like it's

it's challenging in a way that I've never experienced and it's great are

there are there aspects to like this script is laid out but presumably if

another sound guy was some person was taking over this job they might make

small modifications to how this is written so I laid out this script Oh

myself and but like you can see the other person who makes is the show

Adriana she has her own script and she did her she does her script in a

different style she's a lot more handwritten so like it's a it's it's a

very kind of personal thing for each of us so I would also imagine that making

up this document is a key way you embed yeah I already of the show in your body

so true I do mine in LibreOffice like an open source document editing okay and

that's sort of like that time in the computer is like

it really it's it's like it's like rewriting the show right you're like

layering it in yeah yeah that's awesome um there are parts that you just like

you get thrilled to do every single night like a part of the show that kind

of that gives you a little extra energy yeah I mean like the whole show well

yeah and like there's also like rotating parts like um lately uh the woman who

plays Eliza has just been killing it on burn and I'm just like really excited to

get to that point and makes burn wait for it is really exciting every night

wait for it's interesting because we we do that um we do that Echo's live oh wow

so this is wait for it yeah and so like you know the song it starts out with

bird singing Theodosia writes me a song every day day day day and when he says

day there's a there's a fader that's on and muted here and when he says day only

for the word day I unmute day and it sends into a delay unit and goes day day

day day and then same for way way way way and then wait for it wait for it

wait um so that's super fun to do now when you say what I love about the

way you said that burn she's been killing it yeah the way you describe it

is is it's a collaboration I hear that in your voice that yeah you are helping

that performance be something yeah I super feel like you know I don't know if

they feel it but I definitely feel it I feel like I'm playing with them like

right you know just like the musicians in the pit are playing with them I feel

like I'm playing with them and I don't think many people think of the sound job

as being like that but of course it is yeah every aspect every way she's

inflecting is gonna require maybe some response from you too absolutely like

like I know the performers I know what syllables are gonna emphasize I know

what syllables are gonna drop down on so I can bump that syllable up and then

also they're all also gonna like change a little bit from time to time so then I

will also adapt to what they're doing that night yeah and give them feedback I

would presume that things are changing or the detector that finds their way as

they go yeah like there's some actors that I have conversations about that

with who want to have that conversation right right but you know I'm here I'm

here to let them do the show they want to do and they can do whatever show they

want to do and I'll deal with it I love how much nuance there

it scratch the surface of any of these levels of complexity and all this

amazing new on right it sounds like you have a lot of fun with it it's so fun

and it's funny because I talk about this with younger stagehands too that um you

know I'm thirty nine and ten years ago I was well into my career as a stagehand

and I didn't know this existed and I got my first job mixing of shows like yeah

that's easy just put the faders up when they're on stage right no you don't do

that and I was like I don't know if I can do this and so then they were just

like well either you do it or you know this job isn't for you and I turned out

I could do it but it's it's amazing to me that this job could exist and I just

didn't even know right it existed now I'm no in avionics on airplanes there

used to be individual gauges for everything but over the years they went

to what's now called a glass cockpit right all the instrumentation is on flat

screens it looks like the same thing hasn't been undergone with this kind of

equipment that's so true yeah we we have basically like a desk that's about six

times as big as what you see inside and everything happens on touch screens also

the knobs there's you know physical knobs but they're being assigned to

different parameters on the on the board which means you can adjust different

curves to these knobs yeah and the patch Bay is a lot easier to set up because

you can address it Paul does it all exactly right okay um yeah you can like

you can bring up an EQ and adjust it with look at that right holy cow

oh my god and you can do it same with some dynamics then it happened down here

with us oh and so the coding works so you know which ones you're working on

yeah this is a digit code sd7 it's one of the most popular consoles on Broadway

right now and so it's very it's very good for for this sort of stuff so

presumably the company that makes this they'll eventually make an upgrade to

this but because you know the previous you'll get to learn it but there's a

real learning curve to in starting up with a piece like this yeah in fact they

just released an upgrade not too long ago but um we're gonna you know we'll

stay with this because it's it's what the show is built on right um but you

know the thing about doing this job is that you it's not so much about like

knowing what this gear is and what this gear is it's about like being able to

learn like right get to the job and here's the manuals figure

out so learning how to learn is the key here it's it's beautiful thank you so

much is really really awesome awesome and I mean you get to watch the show

every night it's so great I love it it never gets boring

The Description of Adam Savage Explores the Sound Mixing of Hamilton!