Sunday, August 5, 2007
A Monster Crew Interview: Phillip W. Palmer, Production Sound Mixer
Phillip W. Palmer, C.A.S., is the current Production Sound Mixer for Jericho. For a list of his credits please go to IMBd.
I want to thank Phillip for taking the time to do this interview because, as you will read, the set of Jericho is one busy place.
It is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Phillip W. Palmer.
1. How did you get started in sound mixing?
I studied Film and Television Production at Southern Methodist
University in Dallas. But playing in a band was more fun in the 80's
and I ended up being a sound engineer and touring, doing larger acts
in the mid 80's. I got a call to work as utility sound technician on
a Movie of the Week for a well known Production Sound Mixer in 1987.
I was tired of the music business and touring, so I gave it a
try...it's nearly 20 years later. I was a sound utility and boom
operator for 12 years and have been sound mixing since 1999.
2. What have been the challenges in mixing sound for Jericho as opposed to other projects?
All projects have their challenges, Jericho had some built right into
the story. For one, we're set in Kansas not Los Angeles. Our sound
stages and the Main St. backlot are in Van Nuys, CA, in a fairly
industrial area. Lots of machine shops, trucks and warehouses. If
you're ever in an industrial area, close your eyes and listen to all
the background noise. You'll hear all sorts of things like
machinery, back up beepers (my favorite), sirens, trucks, radios, and
all kinds of chatter. During the day, this is what you hear on Main
Street Jericho. In order to give a good clean track for editorial,
there is a lot of noise to keep down while recording our dialog.
It's quite a challenge sometimes. Oh, did I mention all the air
Every project has these same challenges, make a noisy place sound
like a quiet place. Sometimes we pull it off...and sometimes not.
3. Why does sound mixing seem to be one of the most overlooked aspects of entertainment?
Wow, good question. Many people don't realize how many people it
takes to film a television show or movie. We have sometimes 80 or
more crew people like camera, grip, electricians, hair stylists, make
up artists, wardrobe, set design, set decorating, construction,
painters, and props all working to capture the image on set, ...and 3
people working to record the sound. It's a tough game at times.
Only a select few wear headphones and are listening while we are
filming. Those are myself and my crew, the director, script
supervisor, and a small group of producers and writers. If the sound
department doesn't record the dialog successfully while on set, the
actors must replace their dialog later in a process called ADR. This
is often referred to as looping.
In major motion pictures, usually they budget for a large amount of
looping or ADR. Looping is expensive and time consuming to do
properly, and not always a good match. In television, we have added
pressure to get the dialog while filming due to time and budget
concerns. We do a little looping/ADR, but not nearly the amount you
would find on a movie.
I also think that listening is something we don't train ourselves to
do...we just do it. When we take pictures, make home videos, go to a
movie, we're using our eyes but usually not listening very closely.
Sound becomes something that we just expect to be there, not
something that is manipulated and controlled, often more than the
image. There are a lot of people involved in the post sound process,
just look at the credits the next time you go to a movie.
4. Are there any advantages about your job as opposed to being in front of the boom or camera?
I don't know about advantages, it's just different. The sound mixer
position is a very creative part of the process, just behind the
camera. I have a lot to do with how the show sounds and feels, or at
least I hope I do. In fact, the actors are in only parts of the show
and I have something to do with the whole show...every word. Would I
like to be an actor, or perhaps show up in Jericho someday? I wont
lie...sure. :) But I really like my job and how I contribute to the
5. Of all your experiences, what has been your most memorable moment in your career? On Jericho?
Got to think about that one. I seem to get some of those shows that
people say, "oh, sound is gonna be tough to get on this one, so don't
worry about it and we'll fix it later." In most of those cases, I've
been able to deliver completely usable and often really great
tracks. I love it when they say, you can't do it, and we do. That
sort of thing really makes my day. It happened a lot on Entourage
season 2. We did some stuff that still blows me away. There's this
scene on the floor of a Lakers basketball game, we used all original
dialog. The actors were sitting right next to the Lakers bench. It
Perhaps it's been meeting some of those people and actors that seem
bigger than life. While working on Any Given Sunday, I turned around
and there was Charlton Heston coming over to introduce himself. I
thought, that's pretty cool...wouldn't happen any other day. Just
happened again while working on National Treasure: Book of Secrets, I
looked up and there was Jon Voight coming over to say hello and
welcome me to the crew. What a job...
On Jericho, it might have been when Gerald McRaney and Michael Gaston
came to us one day and told us that they don't know how we are doing
it, but they hadn't been to looping yet (or much) because of sound
related problems. They really understood how difficult our show was,
and were very happy that we worked so hard to capture their
And definitely when Karim Zreik and Dan Shotz called me to tell me
Jericho is back for Season 2.
6. Does the cast and crew do anything together after the work is done? What do you do? (Hobbies?)
We have been known to get together every once in a while. We are
pretty tired after a hard week at work, so most of us run home to our
families. There is the occasional screening party, wrap party, and
BBQ. We have a regular get together as the Jericho Gun Club, always
I spend my free time with my wife Kathy and dog Oliver. I love to
train in Martial Arts, and spend a lot of time doing that. Then
there's all that time I spend on the computer, which I enjoy.
7. Has the tightened production created any challenges for you?
I thought it might in the beginning, but so far it's pretty much
business as usual....though we have had a couple of pretty long
days. We have less time to re-do things, so we might move a little
faster. I think we will see more challenges later on in the
schedule. It's still early.
8. What is the one unique aspect of the show that you
think people don't notice?
I actually think you guys really get it. There's not much, if
anything that we can squeak by. The Jericho fans are a bright group
and there's not much our audience doesn't catch. What I think people
see is how much of a community we have developed. We have a lot of
fun both on camera and behind the scenes, and it shows. The
friendships on and off the screen are very real.
9. How long does it take to do sound mixing for one complete episode?
My part of the process coincides with the photography. I record the
dialog as we shoot it, and turn in my disks along with the film (or
tape) at the end of each day. Each episode takes 7 days to shoot (or
so). Then the picture edit process begins, which can take several
weeks. After the producers lock the show, which means no more
editorial changes (or at least major ones), they send the final
picture edit to sound editorial. The dialog editors then get busy on
cleaning up all the takes, removing noise, smoothing out the words,
and finding alternate takes and versions. Then, all the sound
elements are taken to a dub stage and mixed with all the sound
effects and music. This final mixing session takes about 2 days. So
depending on the deadlines and schedule, the process can take a
couple of months to complete. But by the end of the season, we
squeeze that down quite a bit.
There are a few more steps, but that's pretty close to the process.
Hope that didn't get too technical.
10. What changes have you noticed in the attitude of the cast and crew since the show has been renewed?
The attitude and overall mood is fantastic. Our first days back were
like the first day of school after the summer break. When the cast
and producers returned from ComiCon this past weekend, we all
gathered around to hear the stories. They were blown away by all the
fan support. We're so happy to have been part of this project, and
amazed by all the of fans. We stayed in contact with each other
after the cancellation, and during the Save Jericho campaign.
Constantly emailed links and YouTube videos to each other, in total
fascination of what was going on. The Jericho fans are really
responsible for bringing us back, it's your season.
Thank you, Phillip.
Don't forget to visit Phillip's blog.