Michael Abbott is an audio mixer and producer for television. For the past 25 years, he has worked in some capacity with the Grammys, the last 12 of those years spent as the prestigious awards show’s audio coordinator. He has also worked on The Voice, Shark Tank, The X Factor, and many more shows.
As part of our Ask Me Anything series from NAB 2014, Michael agreed to answer some questions from the audience and via twitter. Here are some highlights from Michael Abbott’s session with Audio-Technica.
Q: With all the changes you’ve seen in audio thus far, where do you see audio going from here?
MA: Where it’s come from in the past 10 years to where it is now – quantum leaps. For broadcast, you have an economic issue and a technical issue. And the two are in separate orbs. Events like this – it’s about nurturing relationships with the manufacturers. We need to coordinate with the manufacturers for them to produce the devices we need for real-world applications. Most manufacturers have software or firmware embedded into the products now that are not fully developed. So down the road there will be firmware upgrades, licensing, what have you. In terms of the business, I think licensing is the way it’s headed. In terms of IP and 4K, I can’t predict it. That would be foolish.
Q: What technical issue do you find popping up again and again?
MA: For me, for dialogue mixing – I call it spontaneous dialogue or just completely ad-libbed dialogue. Trying to stay ahead of the curve, if I have enough video images, camera shots of the action… A friend of mine once told me never take your eyes off the monitor, because if you do, you’ll miss the action. In that time that you’re focusing, you have one person talking, and I have nine cameras in front of me watching all the other actors on the stage, leaving them open in the middle of an arena, so there’s a lot of room ambience. Bringing up a microphone, it seems simple, but there’s a lot of noise that goes along with it. So pushing that fader up without hearing it come up is the challenge.
Q: For miking bands live in close quarters with lots of overlap, any tools you recommend?
MA: The relationship we have with Audio-Technica has allowed us to do the show that we do. We average, on a three-hour show, about 18 to 21 live performances. This last year, we had four or five locations we did performances on. The inventory that Audio-Technica provides us to provide the same microphones for each act really makes that possible. Having the same type of microphones on every instrument allows the mixer to build a template and start from the settings of the previous band. All these basic tools with the support of the mic manufacturer and others has made it possible to do what’s seemingly impossible.
Q: What’s the worst Grammy performance you’ve ever had to sit through?
MA: Probably Milli Vanilli. You gotta realize I had the ability to hear the microphones, but the world was hearing the prerecorded tape. I think that was the beginning of the end for the record business having acts manufactured and propped up there like that.
Thanks, Michael! You gave us a great look into the complicated, behind-the-scenes stuff of producing a live show. We’re grateful to have had someone with so much experience helming this session.
Watch the full AMA below.