20 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Daytime Emmy Nominated Sound Editors Steve Maher & Peter Blayney Talk with IFTN
16 Apr 2019 : Nathan Griffin
Steve Maher & Peter Blayney
IFTN caught up with Irish sound editors Peter Blayney and Steve Maher to get a better insight into the sound industry in Ireland and to find out more about their Daytime Emmy nominated projects, ‘Angela’s Christmas’ and ‘The Stinky & Dirty Show’.

Steve Maher is a sound edit supervisor/re-recording mixer for Number 4, Windmill Lane. With 10 years’ experience working in sound, Maher has already worked on a number of high profile projects including Brown Bag Films’ three-time Daytime Emmy winning children’s show ‘Peter Rabbit’ (2015-16), and most recently Hasbro Studios’ ‘Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy’ (2019). Steve is a six-time Daytime Emmy nominated sound editor and mixer and was also nominated for an Emile Award in 2018, which he shared with Blayney.

Peter Blayney is a freelance sound editor with over 20 years’ experience and over 140 production credits. These include the Academy Award nominated drama ‘Room’ (2015), Golden Globe nominated comedy ‘Sing Street’ (2016), HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ (2011), Virgin Media Television drama ‘Blood’ (2018), and Jim Sheridan’s ‘The Secret Scripture’ (2016). Blayney is a two-time IFTA winning Sound Editor and was also part of the team that received the Golden Reel Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors for their work on ‘Game of Thrones’ in 2012.

‘Angela’s Christmas’ and ‘The Stinky & Dirty Show’ were both edited and mixed during Maher and Blayney’s time at Mutiny Post.

IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin caught up with the pair to find out more about their nominated work and how they got into the profession.

IFTN: How did you get started in Sound Post-Production (Editing and Mixing)?

PETER: “I trained in music production and engineering at Berklee College of Music in Boston, then began my career at a studio in Atlanta that did audio post work by day and music work by night. I found I preferred the work (and the hours) of audio post. In the 28 years since, I’ve done sound editing and mixing for just about every format (ads, documentaries, reality, comedy, drama, animation, etc.) for both the big and small screens.”

STEVE:  “I studied Music Technology and Sound Engineering at Bray Institute of Further Education (2004-2006) before completing my college education at Pulse Recording College (2006-2007). From there I just about tried everything involving sound until I found my way into audio post-production as an assistant sound engineer at Number 4, Windmill Lane (2008). After a few years of learning the ropes, I started editing/mixing many different formats and eventually found myself working predominantly in animation. I immediately loved the creative freedom it gave me. Being able to give a character unique sound design that enhances their identity is something I've always enjoyed more than anything. The “rules” are different… you can make a cow bark in animation and nobody bats an eyelid, it's just funny!”

IFTN: How did the opportunity to work on ‘Angela’s Christmas ‘and ‘The Stinky & Dirty Show’ come about?

PETER: “Both jobs were put out to tender by Brown Bag Films. As part of the team at Mutiny Post, we had to put together a creative pitch, working to a short sample of animation from the show. We were fortunate to be selected for both of these wonderful productions. I wasn’t actually involved in the Stinky & Dirty Show pitch, as I hadn’t come on board yet at Mutiny Post.”

STEVE:  “What Pete said... Tom Slattery and I worked on the Stinky & Dirty Show creative pitch in Mutiny Post. Luckily we were selected to work on the show. I remember celebrating with a shot of Middleton, which we both thought was horrible! (laughs)”

IFTN: You each feature as Supervising Sound Editor on both projects, respectively (Peter – Angela’s Christmas, Steve – The Stinky & Dirty Show). How exactly is that decision made when approaching a project?

PETER:  “As these projects were put out to tender, part of the pitch involved naming the Supervising Sound Editor. Steve had already successfully supervised two seasons of Peter Rabbit for Brown Bag Films (and he got Daytime Emmy nomination for season 2), so naturally he was named Supervisor for The Stinky & Dirty Show.”

STEVE:  “Angela’s Christmas was smack bang in the middle of the Stinky & Dirty Show schedule so it made sense for Peter to supervise given his enormous experience. Director Damien O’Connor had said from day one that he wanted more of a “live-action” soundtrack so Peter was the obvious choice. Pete brings molecular detail and a wealth of experience to every job he works on so everyone knew Angela's Christmas was in the safest of hands.”

IFTN: In terms of the audio style, what are the key differences between The Stinky & Dirty Show and Angela's Christmas?

PETER: “The shows are quite different by nature — Stinky & Dirty being a pre-school animated series in which all the characters are talking vehicles and Angela’s Christmas being a one-off film set in the 1910’s that required quite a realistic feel.”

STEVE: “They’re definitely very different styles for sure. The Stinky and Dirty Show required a lot of character sound design and had more of a traditional animation soundtrack.”

IFTN: How did you achieve the sound for each project?

PETER: “We approached Angela’s Christmas as we would a live-action drama. This meant hiring a professional Foley artist (the mega-talented Eoghan McDonnell) to perform many of the sounds to picture, mixing in 5.1 surround, checking playback in a large cinema, etc. But perhaps most importantly it involved a high level of collaboration with the director (Damien O’Connor) and the composer (Darren Hendley). I met with them before beginning on my edit to watch through the film together and discuss all aspects of the sound. Once the sound edit was finished (but before the mix), they came into the studio to hear what we had done and make any changes and/or suggestions, so that there would be no surprises during the mix. Then, when it came time for Steve to work his magic on the final mix, both Damien and Darren were present throughout the process. So it was quite a collaborative effort, which I think left everyone feeling satisfied. It’s a luxury that often can’t be afforded on an animated TV series like The Stinky & Dirty Show that might have more than 50 episodes per season.”

STEVE: “For The Stinky & Dirty Show the biggest challenge was constantly trying to source good SFX material so there was a tonne of location recording and foley. In the latest season, we had to create the sound of a roller coaster (which is hard to get without the sound of people screaming) so we ended up building a dolly with a large metal filing cabinet (amongst other things) on top while dragging it over a bumpy wooden base. It’s a brilliant show for going a bit crazy with the creative side and trying different techniques. Directors Dave McCamley, Shane Collins and Maurizio Parimbelli were all very accommodating in allowing us to go crazy with the sound so there were very little restrictions thankfully. In terms of the mix, the challenge was trying to find a home for all the engines, screeches, bounces, wronks, clanks, thunks... etc. without taking away from the dialogue as always.  As Pete stated the Stinky & Dirty Show mix has a super quick turn-around as do all animated series’ but we get a lot of detail in there in that short amount of time. Luckily I was helped a lot by having a very well organized composer in Jake Monaco and experienced sound editors like Peter and Simon Bird.“

“For the Angela’s Christmas mix it required a lot of different (reverb) spaces to enhance the realistic feel of the sound. So I recorded some impulse responses etc. which was fun even if most weren’t used in the end. It has to be said too that Darren Hendley’s music and input in the studio had a huge part to play in the final mix. It was great to have himself, Peter and Damien present to bounce ideas around the room and achieve a mix we were all happy with.”

IFTN: In the last three years, you guys have collectively received 10 Daytime Emmy nominations. Is this a reflection on how quickly the Irish industry is growing internationally?

STEVE:  “Yes! Ireland is and has been delivering world-class animation for many years now and we’re just massively thankful to be a part of it. Hopefully, we can bring something home (other than chocolate Oscars) and play our part in encouraging more fantastic projects into the country. Every year the standard gets better and better, it's amazing!”

PETER: “That 10 nomination tally would include two for the hugely talented sound editor Simon Bird, who was part of the team on both Stinky & Dirty and Angela’s Christmas. I suppose it is a reflection of the Irish industry growing internationally in the sense that shows that are screened internationally become eligible for international awards. But I’d like to think the nominations have something to do with the quality of our work too!”

IFTN: What advice would you give someone looking to pursue a career in sound?

PETER: “I can only speak specifically about post-production sound for film and TV, but I would say be sure that you are absolutely passionate about sound. It’s hard work with tight deadlines, and it’s not likely to make you wealthy. But it can be creative and a lot of fun too. Most people I know in the business wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

STEVE: “I'd say try a bit of everything until you find what works best for you. I didn't really think about audio post-production; I just fell into it… luckily for me, I loved it and never looked back. Keep practicing as much as you can and don't be afraid to push the boundaries or bend the rules, trust yourself.”

IFTN: What next?

PETER: “I have some live-action projects coming up later this year which, if all goes to plan, will include Tom Sullivan’s Arracht, Cathy Brady’s Wildfire and Season 2 of the Virgin Media One drama Blood.”

STEVE: “I'm currently working on Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy and My Little Pony with Boulder Media/Hasbro. Both are absolutely massive brands and I feel extremely proud to be working on them. I'm also just coming to the end of season 1 on MyaGo which has been great fun too so I’ll be sad to finish up on that. My colleagues in Number 4 are working on some amazing projects too including Transformers: Cyberverse, Butterbean’s Cafe and Bing. There’s a few great projects on the horizon too that I can’t share just yet. Number 4 also picked up 2 awards at the Dingle Animation Festival including “Best Sound Design” and “Best Music” so all in all there's a great team across the board.”

The 46th Daytime Emmy Awards take place on May 5th at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.

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