Re-Recording Mixers (or Dubbing Mixers in Europe) are the sound engineers who create the final version of the audio for a feature film, commercial or TV show. They do this by mixing all the audio elements–recorded dialogue, sound effects, ADR and music–together. The final version must be what the director and sound designer want and must also comply to applicable laws (the CALM Act in the US or EBU R128 loudness protocol in Europe) so they ensure that the sound is correct, stylistically and technically.
Lisle Engle is an experienced re-recording mixer whose recent work includes the TV shows Riverdale, Quantico, Falling Water and Code Black. PIX recently got the chance to ask him a few questions about his work and how he got to where he is today.
What career did you envision when you were growing up?
In grade school, I don’t think that I ever even considered such things. I always liked singing, and then computers and video games when I was in middle school. I bought my first computer in 9th grade after four years of saving up. I loved video games but figured that I could make my own if I purchased a computer. By 11th grade, I had joined my first real band, and I suppose that I had dreams of being a rock star. Those dreams continued into college in Boston, and then upon graduating four years later, I moved the band out to LA seeking fame and fortune.
What was your path to becoming a re-recording mixer?
This path eventually brought me into the recording studio with a spec deal, and I asked the Producer/Studio owner if I could get a job as a second engineer. He said that was a crappy job and all I would be doing is running coffee at 3 a.m. He said that he was going to start working on movies at his other facility and needed a Sound Effects Editor. A light bulb went off in my head. I had a Mac II which I used to make money doing desktop publishing for club listings around town, and it also could be used as a platform for a digital audio editing system.
I bought my first system in 1991: 2 tracks of Digital Audio, Sound Tools / Sound Designer, 8meg SampleCell card and Opcode Studio Vision sequencer. This system was all brand new technology yet the smartest and cheapest way to getting a capable Digital Workstation when the rest of the world was still working on tape or mag. I did editing and sound design for 20 years before I got my first mixing chair at TODD AO in 2004.
What do you contribute to a TV show or movie?
A re-recording mixer takes all of the elements of a film, including dialog, music, sound effects, foley and backgrounds and combines them all to create a smooth and richly detailed tapestry that is the sound for a movie or TV show. I think my background as a musician and sound effects editor helps to make me a valuable collaborator.
What’s the difference between working on a TV show and working on a movie?
Mixing for TV is a much faster-moving animal than mixing a movie. Most feature guys couldn’t keep up. Those guys get the accolades (and they deserve them) but if you want to move at a snail’s pace, then sit on the feature stage. Technically the gear and process are very similar. It’s the time and pressure and multiple playbacks eating up your day that make mixing for TV way more challenging than significant feature work.
Tell us about a typical day working on an episodic TV show like Riverdale or Quantico.
I usually show up at 8 a.m. for setup, then we roll at 9 a.m. On a show like Riverdale, it is a 2-day process where my partner and I work through the material on our own and set it where we think it is sounding good, then we do a playback at the end of the day for the Associate Producer. Then on day two we do fixes in the morning and the final playback is in the afternoon where the suits come and give the final approval. Most TV shows mix 40 minutes in two days whereas features mix 90 minutes in five to seven days on average.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?
I’ve worked on so many projects that it’s hard to say, but the first season of I’m Dying Up Here for Showtime was really a great show.
PIX is a valuable post-production team collaboration software system for people working in audio production and post. It is used every day by professionals like Lisle Engle to securely view previews of shows like Falling Water and Code Black before the sound mix begins. Interested in learning more about PIX’s file collaboration system? Call or email us at +1 (415) 357-9720 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a demo and learn more!