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This week we talk 3d audio and audio innovation with one of Broadway’s leading Sound Designers Nevin Steinberg. Nevin has designed sound for over 45 Broadway Productions including Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, In The Heights, and the recent Broadway smash hit Hamilton. He is Tony Award nominated, Drama Desk and Lucile Lortel decorated and overall the best Broadway musical designer I have ever had the pleasure to work under.

Nevin won a Lucile Lortel Award for Best Sound Design in 2015 for Hamilton.

1) What is one thing in film sound design you wish you had in theatre sound design?

NS: The quiet and predictability of a controlled listening environment.  All of our live theater technology is pretty noisy, the rooms are reflective and audiences are restless.  It’s very difficult to do the kinds of subtle transformations in the theatre venues that you can accomplish in cinema.

2) What is the one tool you’d refuse to work without?

NS: Well, I’m not really at liberty to refuse to do anything, but…at the risk of calling them “tools”– I’d be very uncomfortable without my excellent teams.  Associates, mixers, and deck crew—they are the most important part of my designs and the greatest source of pride for me.

3) What is you favorite microphone, microphone brand and why?

NS: It changes every few months!  I just love encountering microphone designs that make me think about new ways to use them.  I’m about to deploy some Sanken guitar mics that I heard in the studio during the recording of a recent cast album.  And I’m dying to find a way to use a DPA d:facto handheld vocal mic on something.  I heard Sting sing into one at Carnegie Hall last year and I was pretty excited by the results.

Nevin pictured with the legendary sound designer Abe Jacob (middle) and West End/Broadway Sound Designer Jonathan Deans (right)

4) What innovation in theatrical sound design over the past 5-10 years has been your favorite?

NS: Remote software control of consoles and loudspeaker processors has become really slick and reliable over the last decade.  Positive-action, wireless, real-time adjustment of the sound system is my—nerdy– favorite thing.

5) In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being payed to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?

I like that we continue to try to find ways to use sound to enhance storytelling.   The immersive and reactive qualities of these audio methods are enriching the experience of the end-users—and as they shake out and become more refined, they will find their way into live sound as well.  So I’m keeping a close eye on you all.

Thanks to Nevin Steinberg for this opportunity to learn more about theatrical sound design. Make sure to check out his website and IBDB page too.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder