Q&A: Hall of Famer Frank Scheuring Talks the Art of Sound Mixing & Editing

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

A 2001 graduate of Full Sail University, Frank Scheuring has worked in sound for television and film for nearly 15 years.  During that time he has been a part of over 1,300 programs for clients such as Discovery, the National Geographic Channel, FOX, TLC, PBS, G4TV, the Smithsonian Channel, and a slew of independent directors and producers. In addition to his long form work, he has worked on hundreds of commercials and marketing videos for clients such as the Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Pfizer, Ford, and many political candidates.  In 2014 Frank stepped into the world of producing with a TV series pilot called "Speed Freaks: The Science of Speed" and in 2015 produced his first feature length documentary, "Blood and Steel: Cedar Crest Country Club".

This year, he was inducted into Full Sail University's Seventh Annual Hall of Fame ceremony, which recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment, media, and the arts.

He talked to ProductionHUB about landing his first sound editing job and how he continues to be successful doing what he loves. 

ProductionHUB: What did you do to land your first big sound editing job?

Frank Scheuring: I interviewed four or five post houses in the DC area before I graduated from Full Sail back in 2001. I found the one that I wanted to work at and asked them what I needed to do. They told me they had no positions available in audio but that if I learned a bunch of stuff about video I might be able to come in as a QC Tech.  

So, I went back to school and borrowed friends’ books from video classes and learned what I could. After I graduated, I called them up and said “I learned what you asked me to learn. Can I come in to show you?”  

They brought me in for an interview on Monday and I started on Tuesday morning.  I wasn’t doing sound work, but I had a foot in the door.  About 4-5 months later I started assisting my boss in his sessions and learned a lot from him.  After about a year of assisting and doing small sessions for him, he gave me his room and I took over from there.  I don’t remember what my first big sound editing job was, but chances are it was for National Geographic or Discovery because we were doing a ton of shows for them at that time.

PH: What made you want to be a sound editor/mixer?

Frank Scheuring: I’ve been a musician since I was 10 and really wanted to work in the music world.  But after I looked at all of my options, I wanted to get into post-production sound because I thought it would be less difficult than working in the music world. I loved movies and television shows, so it made sense to me. When I graduated I was already married and had a son, so I was thinking that working in post would be less hours than in the music world and I would have more family time. Of course, I was very wrong about that. 100 hour weeks are not uncommon and I learned that the hard way.

PH: How is working with big companies such as Discovery and National Geographic different than TLC or Dog Whisperer?

Frank Scheuring: Well, Dog Whisperer was a show I worked on for National Geographic and TLC was owned by Discovery. However, comparing working for Nat Geo or Discovery to smaller independent companies is easy. I treat them all the same. The independent companies want the same level of quality and service as the big companies and they deserve it!  I put just as much hard work on a :30 spot as I would for an hour long doc. The amount of time is different of course, but the approach and attitude is the same.

PH: Is there a certain set of skills you should equip yourself with prior to applying for these jobs?

Frank Scheuring: To be a sound editor or mixer there are a number of skills that will help you immensely. Communication, organization, a great attitude, a willingness to work hard, being open to suggestions and critiques, and of course learning how to edit or mix.  When you’re working with a client you need to be part psychologist part friend part bartender part editor or mixer.  When you’re working unsupervised you need to have the ability to manage your time and be efficient so that you can deliver when you have to.

PH: What are some of the biggest mistakes you can make as a sound mixer/editor?

Frank Scheuring: Really the biggest mistakes you can make as a sound editor or mixer are the same ones you can make working in any other position. Don’t over promise, don’t miss deadlines, don’t be a jerk!  Specifically speaking to sound editing/mixing – always make sure your monitors are calibrated properly. If you aren’t monitoring your work correctly you have no way of knowing what it will sound like when it leaves your room. This bit me in the butt one time after a power outage at the studio.  I was using JBL LSR monitors and when power came back up my settings for the calibration and levels were gone but I didn’t check it.  I was in a hurry to deliver this show on time and had already faced some hurdles with it.  Because I didn’t check the settings and verify everything my mix went out messed up and it cost me dearly. That’s one mistake that you’ll only make one time.

PH: Are there definitive differences between sound mixers and sound editors? What are they?

Frank Scheuring: There are certainly definitive differences between the roles of sound mixers and sound editors and the tasks that each needs to accomplish.  However, in the end both are trying to reach the same goal – telling a story through sound. Whether that is making sure the dialogue is clean in an interview or designing and building an entire scene from scratch; the intent is to help tell the story.  As a sound editor you need to build these scenes using sounds recorded on location, creating sounds, utilizing library sfx, or however you’re getting the sounds you need.  You build up this world and pass it along to the mixer who’s responsible for making sure it all sounds the best it can.  That may mean removing pieces that the sound editor created, or simply adjusting the levels.  It most likely will involve dialing in EQ and compression settings and panning sounds to different locations.  

All the while the mixer must accommodate the desires of the director and/or producer and make sure they’re meeting the delivery specs that are required. Both need to be meticulously detailed and organized.  In some cases both roles are performed by the same person.  A lot of sound editors that work in television, particularly documentary television, are also mixing the shows they cut.  I’ve been doing that for 15 years now and usually I love it because I know exactly what’s going on in the project and I can plan the mix as I edit, but sometimes I feel like I’m too close to the show and need to pass it on to someone else to mix.  It can be a hard decision to make, but you have to consider what’s best for the story.

PH: What are a few lessons you've learned about being a sound mixer/editor? 

Frank Scheuring: The most important lesson I’ve learned is that developing relationships is the most important part of working in this industry. If people don’t like you, they won’t want to work with you. Along the same lines, communication is extremely important. You need to know how to talk with an editor, director, colorist, any role that is involved in the production and/or post of the project you’re working on.  Being able to communicate in terms they understand is very important. Doing that requires learning outside of your craft; which is another important lesson I’ve learned. If you know a little about editing and a little about lighting or whatever it not only helps you communicate with others it also helps you understand why they may be doing something a particular way. Always keep learning. Keep learning about your own craft first and foremost. If you just stick with the same way of doing something you won’t advance your skill set and build up your tool box for the future. The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to not let your job take over your life. I spent many years working 80-100 or more hours a week and I missed out on a lot of family time. You can’t get that back. Now that I work out of my house, that problem is solved for me but that’s not an option for everyone.

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