When approaching the sound for FX/Hulu’s The Bear, showrunner Christopher Storer had a clear vision of what he wanted: utter chaos. That directive for the series helped propel the sound editing and mixing teams to two of The Bear‘s 13 Emmy nominations this year.
Production sound mixer Scott D. Smith, responsible for recording sound on set, had his work cut out for him. “Working in the kitchens is definitely a challenge [in part] due to the amount of noise being made during the scene. There really isn’t too much you can do about it,” he explains. “The pots and pans and all the props that they need — those aren’t things you can fake easily with something that’s a little quieter. They’re pretty much doing what they’d normally do in a kitchen.”
Additionally, Smith says there are very few rehearsals on the show. “Chris likes to really keep things fresh,” he notes. “He likes to keep the actors off-keel and on their toes a lot of times so that their surprise in a scene is sometimes real. He likes to keep that edge.”
Typically, actors wear microphones. The sound team also plants mics and uses booms. “On the larger scenes, we have three booms operating,” says Smith. “Basically, our goal during production is to try to get as much material as we can.”
Dialogue editor Evan Benjamin adds that for him, “handing that off usually means trying to make something sound like it’s all one continuous piece, even though if you looked at the work I’m doing, it’s many little pieces that are stitched together.” He continues, “Syllables from other takes might be used, [or] you might use a piece of software to remove a pot clank that comes down right in the middle of one line that you really wish wouldn’t be there. There’s plenty of Foley that gets added, but there’s a ton of stuff in production.”
Supervising sound editor and rerecording mixer Steve Giammaria says that his colleagues jumped in with “surgical precision” to refine and prepare the material for the mixing stage. “In season one, there were only something like 86 lines of ADR [automated dialogue replacement] for the whole season, and a lot of that was creative adds,” says Giammaria. “That’s really an amazing feat attributed to Scott and Evan.”
Giammaria adds that as the series was shot in a kitchen, sound was “baked in but always enhanced by the effects team.” FX editor Jon Fuhrer and a Foley team led by Leslie Bloome provided clanks, chops and all of the sounds needed to complete the scenes.
When it came time for the final mix, Giammaria notes that the biggest challenge was balancing the elements in the hectic scenes. “On a typical show, I try to only have two things going on at once in a scene: music, dialogue, effects — pick two. But with The Bear, that wasn’t really an option in the show’s more chaotic scenes. Dialogue is king on TV, and I wanted to make sure you could understand the dialogue at all times. Additionally, I wanted to keep the loud parts under control while still making them impactful.”
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.