Music, technology, and the Super Bowl: In the studio with Ted Marcus, Sound Designer at DEFINITION 6
Behind the Talent: Ted Marcus
Ted, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you, and where are you from?
My name is Ted Marcus. I am a sound designer and mixer. I’ve been working here in New York City since the early 90’s. I lived in Connecticut and moved to New York City to make the big change and get a job in audio.
Tell me a little bit about your background before you came over to DEFINITION 6?
Before I came over to DEFINITION 6, I’d moved around quite a bit in New York City. I started off at a large postproduction facility at National Video Center, where I cut my teeth sitting beside Doug DiFranco and from there branched out to other studios throughout the city. After a while, I ended up at Clack Sound Studios and developed a relationship with MTV, and eventually moved over to MTV Studios for few years. After working at several places throughout my career, I found myself at DEFINITION 6.
Throughout your career, who has been your strongest creative influence?
My strongest creative influences throughout my career, I think, are the people that I started off with. Again, I mentioned Doug DiFranco; I got to sit next to him for three or four years at the start of my career and watching Doug through the creative process, how he would manipulate sound, and his attention to detail, has stuck with me throughout my career. Just being able to do amazing things with new sounds and change the whole feel of a spot. It’s really been a huge influence on me creatively as well as with quality. It’s an opinion that always sits in the back of my mind at the end of a mix, sort of what would Doug do? And it’s a good thing to have somebody to sort of keep you real.
What led you to your career? Was there a moment when you just knew this is what you wanted to do?
What led to my career in New York was a moment I was living out in Connecticut in a house with a bunch of people that was not an ideal situation. I was helping a friend out at a local university television studio doing audio over there, and I came home one day and just looked at the situation and said, “I got to get out of here. I got to be in New York.” And I had been teasing the idea for a while, but I just made the decision. And I got an interview at a large postproduction facility, and I moved, and I left a lot of stuff behind and just moved to New York City. I found a place quickly and sold my car, that’s the last time I’ve owned a car, 1993. That became my first and last month’s deposit. And I didn’t look back.
What are some of those tools, technologies, innovations that you’ve been playing around with recently in your career?
So each new spot or piece that we work on can offer you an opportunity to use a new tool or technique that may be something that you hadn’t used before or a technology that keeps growing. So, for example, we now have tools at our disposal for manipulating or cleaning up audio in ways that would not have been available to us even five years ago. So a piece of audio that might have been the most perfect soundbite for a promo, but everybody says, “Oh, unfortunately when we were recording that, an ambulance went by and there was a siren in there, but wouldn’t have been great if we had that?” We can now say, “Well, let me give it a try. I’ve got tools where I can actually analyze and almost like Photoshop paint out the unwanted sound.” So it’s allowing us to get in there and use everything that we want to use, match things in at almost like a forensics level. You can clean things up and make things usable. It’s powerful, and it’s fun to get that result.
How would your coworkers describe you if you were hanging out over a beer?
So I think my coworkers if we were hanging out over a beer or after a session, would describe me as somebody that’s funny and fun to hang out with. We like to share a lot of stories from the old days or where we started out. And that’s a lot of fun. Hopefully, people would describe me as somebody that remembers a lot from the past and tries to bring those connections into what we’re doing now.
Love it. Okay. What’s your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?
What’s a possible favorite project I’ve worked on is a tough question. There’s a lot that comes to mind, but usually, specifically, a favorite project will be something that’s more current because it’s fresh in my mind. And I would say a current favorite project is we had the opportunity to work on the Super Bowl during a pandemic. And that was a very rewarding piece to work on. Specifically, I worked on a piece which was the 45 seconds right up until the moment that the game kicks off. So we’re told that the viewership of something like that lies around 33 million people, and that’s a nice place to be, to think that you’re doing something that’s going to have the attention of so many people when they need it, something that feels normal, like the Super Bowl.
And I think we achieved the kind of amped-up hype and fun feel of a Super Bowl event during a pandemic to give people this feeling of normalcy and to do that remotely and to do that in such a high profile piece, as we did a number of these pieces was really rewarding. And that’s a favorite moment of mine.
How does music cross-pollinate with what you’re doing now in your work?
So music and my background in music have played a shared role throughout my career. I’ve been a drummer since I was eight years old. And I’ve found that that background cross-pollinates very well into music editing and sound editing because it’s really about rhythm. And when you work with good editors, they understand the rhythm of the cut, and they understand timing and pacing. Having that background in drums and rhythm really has allowed me to understand how to edit music and cut music in an accurate and musical way. It also allows me to collaborate with a lot of editors who feel the same way. And I think you’ll find a lot of sound designers and mixers have a background in music.
Do you have any closing remarks you’d like to add? Any words of wisdom to leave for the future?
Let me think. So, I think in editing and sound design and music, there’s so much growing and so much technology, we’re able to do things in ways that we weren’t able to do 5, 10, 15 years ago. The concepts and the basics haven’t changed, but the tools keep growing and allow us to do more. And I learned early on from the guys, my predecessors, and the people that I looked up to that we need to embrace new technology all the time. And that keeps things fresh. There’s always a different way you can do something. There’s always a new tool you can explore. And that, for me, keeps things interesting, and it keeps you in the game.