How the ‘Maestro’ Sound Team Used 22 Microphones to Capture the Party Scene

How the ‘Maestro’ Sound Team Used 22 Microphones to Capture the Party Scene

Oscar-nominated sound mixer Steve Morrow has recorded quite a few party scenes in his career, in movies such as “Don’t Worry Darling,” “The Prom” and “Babylon.”

When it came to Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” Morrow had to figure out how to capture the sound in a prominent party scene that takes place at the Bernstein family apartment in the Dakota Building in New York. It’s a key moment that transitions the film from black and white to 1970s color, anchored by Carey Mulligan’s Felicia smoking a cigarette, staring out the window at Central Park while a bustling party surrounds her.

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Morrow knew how the film would transition visually, but his team was tasked with capturing sound from both Felicia’s and Lenny’s (Cooper) circles. “We filmed it at the same time,” explains Morrow. “I’m listening to both parties happening and trying to understand who’s saying what and when.”

The idea was influenced by a film he had previously worked on, Jason Reitman’s 2018 thriller “The Front Runner.” Cooper had seen the film, which also featured a busy party scene, and asked Morrow how he had pulled it off. So Morrow mic’d everyone up and told them to talk.

The idea was for the scene to feel like a real party. “If you don’t talk over the next person, you’re not going to hear yourself, and they can’t hear you,” says Morrow. “There are overlaps everywhere. A lot of time in movies what goes wrong is that we make everybody quiet, and let the actors act. Then we add in some of that noise later. It is nearly impossible to ask the actors to yell as though they’re at a loud party and not feel foolish. If you’re in the middle of a quiet room and you’re yelling over nothing, it just feels silly.”

To pull it off, Morrow used 18 lavalier mics, three plant mics and two booms. “There’s a lot to pick from, but the idea was to have everybody be loud.” he says. “I always try to give the sound team an avalanche of information and whatever they want to ignore they can ignore, and whatever they want to use they can use.”

By placing mics on everyone in the scene — and subsequent scenes including the grand Ely Cathedral performance — Morrow points out that there was no need to capture ADR later on, besides one line change that Mulligan recorded on her iPhone and sent into post-production.

Watch the party scene above.

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