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Reopening Phase 3.05: Trying to Figure It All Out

Well, We Made It Through Another Month....

The story lineup in this month’s issue changed a number of times over the past two weeks. The Gaga story is in! Let’s run it now. It’s supposed to be the Live Sound issue, but there’s no real “live, in-person” events. Let’s do that feature next month and bring in a piece on Audio Education. Everybody wants to know what’s going to happen come fall. And, wait, Mike Stern just called about this amazing video he mixed for “I’m Standing With You,” the Diane Warren song reimagined spectacularly as a worldwide unifying anthem. Remotely produced. Robyn Flans? Can you get the story in a week? Excellent. Thanks, Mike. Snowpiercer? Well, that’s still running fresh every Sunday night on TNT. We’re good with new TV. Anything else?

Well, we made it through another month, a month where on the side we’re also building out a transition from our September in-person Sound for Film & TV event on the Sony lot to a two-day virtual event online. Nothing seems regular anymore, and it just keeps on going. But we all do our best. Looking through the editorial lineup and proofreading the final pages, I realized: We’re all just trying to figure it out.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in education, in our case Audio Education, which brings its own peculiarities as Steve La Cerra details in his excellent feature story. Having an online education platform, no matter the subject matter, is not the same as providing an online education, we find out. Of course, much can be done online, and educators across the board are exploring those parts of the curriculum that translate to a virtual platform and those that don’t. In some cases, it’s been eye-opening, but it hasn’t been easy. How do you offer remote instruction in areas that almost by their nature require a common tracking and listening environment, with students and instructors in the room? How can you get students inside a broadcast booth? At FOH for a festival? How does each perceive a fader move when listening on headphones in a small apartment? 

Meanwhile, Hollywood and a large part of the production/post-production community are busy implementing new work protocols as they try to determine what this summer and fall’s release schedules might look like. That doesn’t mean work has stopped. Soon after the shelter-in-place orders started coming down, music director/arranger Sharon Farber and video director Gev Miron called Diane Warren about creating a global remote production of her Academy Award-nominated song as a beacon for global unity, through music, much in the spirit of “We Are the World” or Band-Aid’s “(Feed the World) Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Mix engineer Mike Stern called Mix. It’s a spectacular music and video production, shot on cell phones, with 170 artists from six continents. Nobody in the same room. I still can’t figure out how Stern made it sound so cohesive. So good. 

And then there’s Joe Bear. You don’t know his name, but he is certainly representative of the passionate Mix reader, and he’d just opened his Carl Tatz-designed Reaction Vessel Studio, his decades-long dream facility, in his Colorado home just weeks before the shelter-in-place orders came down. 

Now Bear has an advantage, in that he has time on his hands and has no intention of hanging out a shingle. He just wants to learn to mix. But he plays in bands a couple times a week (pre-coronavirus), as he has for 40 years. He retired from his day job in data storage about a year ago, early for his age, but he’s made it work. And he interacts with music on a daily basis. His goal for 2020 is to become a better mixer, and with the down time, he’s taking advantage of every online tutorial, Webinar, how-to video and whatnot. There are plenty available right now, and Bear is hardly the only one taking advantage of educating himself during these odd times. 

Everybody I know is doing what they can to improve themselves personally and professionally, whenever and wherever they can. Some are chomping at the bit to return to normal, “just like it was.” Well, that’s not happening any time soon. Others, like my daughter Jesse, are building their collection of personalized masks and hunkering down for the long haul, waiting on a potential return-to-work date from the SFO airport museum. 

There are better days ahead, and there will undoubtedly be new protocols, workflows and creative problem-solving incorporated into our lives. No matter who you are or where you’re sitting right now, you’re likely in the same boat as the rest of us: Just trying to figure it all out.


Tom Kenny