Grad Marc Fishman on Mixing Audio for Hit Comedies

Recording Arts graduate (and Full Sail Hall of Fame inductee) Marc Fishman has handled film audio from one extreme to the other. Last Halloween we spoke to the veteran sound re-recording mixer about his experience crafting audio for horror franchises like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and this April Fool’s Day we checked back in with him to discuss the differences in mixing for comedies.

An expert of the genre, Marc has handled the soundtracks for Bridesmaids, This is 40, The Heat, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, among many others. Not as straightforward as you might think, he explained the unique challenges that come with working on audio for big budget comedies.

Full Sail: From the outside it seems like comedy would be easier to mix than action or horror, but what are the challenges we might not think about?

Marc Fishman: Comedies are great because they’re actually very challenging. It’s a much different mindset as far as how you deal with the dialog because you don’t have as many elements to lean on and cover things up with. A lot of comedy directors don’t like to crowd their dialog, so you have to play those tracks with very little support. You really need to make sure when you mix dialog for a comedy that it can stand on its own. That’s probably the biggest challenge.

FS: Silence in comedy is almost more important in some instances. The laughs can come from the pauses between dialog and the reactions of the actors.

MF: That’s right. We spend a lot of time keeping out of the way of things – the integrity of the dialog track and picture edits. It’s all about maintaining the rhythm and performance of the jokes, and you spend a lot more time trying to be transparent and not interfering with what was captured on set. It’s a lot more detail-oriented than other types of films.

FS: What about when you’re doing something that’s more of an action-comedy hybrid, like The Heat?

MF: Usually those pictures are cut in such a way that you can feel out the rhythm, so it actually becomes more about how you do the music transitions. That was a big thing in The Heat, all these bigger sections where they had shootouts – and making the transitions into action as seamless as possible. It just takes time to make sure you work the rising and falling of the music during those moments and keep that intensity going. Then you dial it back again for the quieter scenes.

FS: You also worked on Anchorman 2, which is hitting home video for April Fool’s Day. How was it working on a project that blended so many different film elements – comedy, music, and action?

MF: Anchorman 2 was great for me because it had really good musical numbers, which was fun, and the director was very much into keeping the energy up throughout. Working on it was about how we could make it feel big and full. I’m really proud of that, the way we worked everything in. It’s a good example of 80% of it being dialog driven, and the other 20% was adding sound effects and music in a creative way.

There’s actually five different versions of the film we cut, and three of them will be on the Blu-ray. One is called the ‘Super-sized R-rated Cut,’ which is about a half hour long. They changed out almost every joke in the movie, and it has different musical numbers in it. It’s perfect for April Fool’s Day, you definitely need to watch it.