Weekly Feature

2007-10-24 / Lifestyles

Amherst grad wins Emmy for sound


M any don't realize the vast number of people it takes to make a TV show.

Amherst native Peter Nusbaum is not one of them.

Nusbaum is a re-recording mixer for NBC Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

"We're the last stage in the production process," he said. "We get the show last before it goes on the air."

Nusbaum and his partner, John Cook,

along with their production mixer John

Foglia, are responsible for mixing together a TV show's dialogue, music, sound effects and human sounds so they are correctly balanced.

The sounds are prepared by the sound department about four days before the show is aired, then sent to the re-recording mixers, who put it with the video images of the show.

"We're spending hours and hours on tiny little details of sound," said the 1983 graduate of Amherst Central High School. "It's normally something you do just because you love it, not for the recognition."

But recognition he has.

Nusbaum, Cook and Foglia were winners at this year's Emmy Awards.

"We won for Outstanding Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (half-hour) and Animation," Nusbaum said.

Nusbaum and Cook were also recognized for their work on a musical episode of the NBC comedy "Scrubs."

"That was a unique episode because about 80 percent of it was songs performed by the cast," Nusbaum said. He noted that a normal episode takes about one day to mix. "This particular episode took quite a bit more time because of all that music. We worked really hard, so it was nice to get nominated because of all the time and effort. We were really proud."

But "Scrubs" isn't the only show that Nusbaum works on. He and Cook were nominated in the same category for an episode of "The Office."

"We were up against ourselves," Nusbaum laughed.

His other shows include three new comedies on ABC: "Cavemen," "Samantha Who?" and "Carpoolers."

"Five shows is a lot, especially when three of them are new shows," Nusbaum said. "Everyone's nervous to get the shows off to good start, so it's long hours right now, but once it gets on air and ratings are good, everyone relaxes."

Nusbaum's career started as a student at Smallwood Elementary School, where he began playing the trumpet. He then took part in musicals at both the junior high and high school levels and writing his own music,

Amherst native Peter his mixing partner, John Awards for their work "Scrubs."

eventually heading to Boston to attend the Berklee School of Music.

At Berklee he discovered an interest in the technical aspect of sound and music. He graduated with a degree in audio engineering.

"I went to LA to become a record producer in the music industry," Nusbaum said. "But I found steadier work doing sound for TV and film, so I went down a different path."

While the majority of Nusbaum's work has been in television (earlier credits include "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the pilot episode of "The Sopranos," as well as many trailers and promotional work) he and Cook have the feature film "Garden State" to their credit. The movie was written, directed and starred "Scrubs" actor Zach Braff.

"Feature mixers are known for being feature mixers, so it's difficult to make the transition," Nusbaum said. "I'm aspiring to do more film, but I'm busy and happy to do TV."

As far as his favorite shows, Nusbaum cited "Scrubs" as his favorite from a sound standpoint and "The Office" for comedy.

"I like them all for different reasons," he said. "'Scrubs' is very creative and there's a lot of sound involved. There's a lot of fantasy sequences and flashbacks and fun sounds so it gets more into sound design."

"'The Office' doesn't have that much sound because it's supposed Nusbaum, right, with Cook, won Emmy to be documentary," he the NBC show continued. "But I love working on the show because of subtle humor. We have to watch one half an hour TV show in one day and we see scenes over and over again, so sometimes we can pick out what other people don't notice."

Nusbaum went on to note that, as part of his job recognition is sometime elusive because the sound is not supposed to stand out.

"A lot of times with sounds, and in comedy especially, you don't want sound to be realistic," he added. "You want to punctuate or augment the comedy so you can do things that are more outlandish just to help the joke."

e-mail: etaufa@beenews.com

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