Over the last 13 years, Recording Arts grad Jason Muñoz has spent a lot of time following his boss around. In 2003, Jason landed a job working as a Field Audio Engineer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Six years later, Jason and his family moved from New Jersey to California so that he could work on The Tonight Show. When Conan left NBC for TBS in 2010, Jason went with him. Last month, Jason had the opportunity to follow Conan on yet another adventure when the cast and crew of Conan traveled to Havana to film the show’s “Conan in Cuba” special. The special, which airs Wednesday, March 4 at 11 p.m. EST on TBS, marks the first time an American talk show has filmed in Cuba in more than half a century.
“This was a great experience,” says Jason. “The people there are amazing—very welcoming and very genuine. I’ve never felt so much love from people I’ve just met.”
Check out the gallery below to learn more about Jason’s experience filming in Cuba.
"They were a band called D'Eva, and they sounded beautiful," says Jason. "They were playing in the restaurant next door to the area that we used as a backdrop, so we asked if they would like to come sit in for Conan's bump ins and bump outs between commercial breaks, and the wrap arounds between video segments."
"It's so varied from day to day," he says. "I never know what they're going to throw at me. For instance, in Cuba it was mostly just two to three track recording. We'd have Conan on one track, and if he was talking to someone we'd have them on a lavaliere microphone on a second track. I also use a shotgun microphone that's recorded and isolated on a third track."
"We had a couple of set-up beats that we did, but a lot of it was just Conan traversing the city on foot, taking everything in," says Jason.
"Always be willing to learn from your experience and adopt it into yourself. Static is dead. An object in motion tends to stay in motion," he says.
"For instance, the Havana Club Museum is this palatial building with huge ceilings, a huge open courtyard in the middle, and a huge echo. So I worked with my roll offs to isolate the echoes. We moved into another room and there were huge industrial fans moving air around, because the building is an actual working distillery. In that situation, you're dealing with constant machine noise and having to work your roll offs to help facilitate a good, clean signal. Inevitably, because it's television, there's going to be some compression put on the audio, so you have to make sure that you're not bringing up that fan noise."
"We all pitch in in different departments to try to get a good product in the end. It’s a group effort. It’s never unilateral, whether it’s the writers working with us on set, or us as the remote crew working with the editors in post-production, or working with our production manager in the field." he says.
"We all know that we’re part of the same machine working toward the same goal."