From left: Joe Franco, Matt Longoria and Jeff Malinowski
Beatstreet Productions, a full-service audio production facility in New York City, recently completed audio post-production for 35 episodes of a new version of the children’s educational TV series, The Electric Company, produced then (1971-77) and now by Sesame Workshop for PBS. “We do a lot of children’s television shows and have developed a great rapport with lot of the producers,” says Joe Franco, the owner of Beatstreet Productions, who first gained widespread notoriety as the drummer in Twisted Sister. “So when they put the show together, we were called on to do audio post. We’re actually juggling seven different children’s series right now—for PBS, Nickelodeon, Noggin and Sesame Workshop. It’s a small community.”
Beatstreet Productions also mixes the PBS series Word World and has started the tenth season of music and post for Between the Lions, for which Franco also plays the drums. Beatstreet also contributes to Sesame Street by doing music and audio post for “Bert and Ernie's Great Adventures” and provides music for the hit Nick Jr. show Ni Hao Kai-lan.
The Electric Company combines a 15-minute narrative storyline—which is shot mostly on the streets of New York City—with segments that include curricular clusters of music videos, sketch comedy, animation and short films. The Electric Company’s special guests have included Whoopi Goldberg, Tiki Barber, Jack McBrayer and Wyclef Jean, as well as original songs from Ne-Yo.
“Recording Ne-Yo was a real treat,” notes Beatstreet engineer Jeff Malinowski. “Often, tracking high-profile talent can be hit or miss, but he was a true professional and was genuinely excited about the project.”
“All of the songs and 90 percent of the underscore were delivered to us,” Franco explains. “We did a little music, recorded the ADR and some of the vocals, and provided sound design and final mixing. Our sound designer/mixer, Matt Longoria, provided the glue that tied the many elements of the show together.
“Before the entire shows were delivered to us, we worked on a lot of the [episodes’] modules,” Franco continues, “the short animations for which we created a soundscape. Sometimes there was music; sometimes it was just sound effects or ambience. We worked on all of these first, until the full shows were assembled. Then we took the stems that were created for the modules and conformed them to the finished show. At that point, we just had to mix the live action section of the show.”
Beatstreet Productions’ Matt Longoria handled sound design and mixing for the series. “The show's polished camera work, slick graphics, and beautiful animations demanded a compelling soundscape, which we were happy to provide,” Longoria says. “I am especially proud of the transition segments. They feature cool grooves, beats, and fun sound effects that mesh with the animations perfectly to segue the show between segments. The transitions, and many other segments in the show, heavily utilize Spectrasonics Instruments Plug-ins: Stylus RMX and Omnisphere. I have found them to be indispensable tools for composition and sound design. We made the sound design as rich as possible, while at the same time using sound effects to focus kids’ attention on the lesson at hand. An indispensable item is our Digidesign ICON D-Control. The D-Control has many useful and intuitive features that allow me to mix quickly and efficiently.
“We also had great collaboration amongst the production and post-production crews,” Longoria elaborates. “Production sound mixer Dan Johnson provided us with great dialog from the set. We worked closely with [Sesame Workshop’s] graphics department in designing the superpower sounds. The graphics guys gave very specific physical properties to the super powers, which we sought to reflect in the sound design. Post-production producer Ryan Cunningham was instrumental in keeping everything moving. We had 35 episodes to mix in a short time, and show-lock was still months down the road. Ryan kept us working piecemeal, premixing segments as soon as they were shot and edited. When the full episodes were locked, we were able to assemble the shows from our premixed stems.”
Beatstreet Productions' Suite C
Franco mentions that Beatstreet mixed The Electric Company’s first season in its newly opened studio, Suite C, a surround mix room that features an ICON controlling a Pro Tools HD Accel system. He adds, “The show basically took the room over from Oct ’08 through March ’09. Executive producer Karen Fowler kept the mixes lively, often jumping into the booth for walla and general attitude adjustment.
“We're really proud to have worked on this series,” Franco says. “It takes the essence of the original show and really connects with today’s kids, with lots of singing, dancing and super powers—kind of like High School Musical meets Harry Potter. It’s an inspiring series to work on, as it looks amazing! It was shot so well in HD. Right now it’s played only one day a week, but I think starting in the fall it will be a daily show, and I think it will catch on a lot more.
“We just finished 35 shows and we’re diving right into the second season,” Franco adds. “We already started doing voice-overs for the animations—we did about a dozen of them last week. Like any other show, the more you work on it and bond with the team, the more the elements of music and sound design come together, and I’m really looking forward to the next season.”