One of the great things about NSF was having a live studio audience for its programming. Genuine laughter is what makes a show a hit. Adding to that factor, laugh tracks and applause to a TV show is a bonus. In this interview, i talked with audio mixer Anthony Renda. He was responsible for using all types of sound techniques form shows such as Figure It Out, Double Dare 2000, Kenan & Kel and he has alot of fond memories from being at the studios. He takes it all as a learning process and loved every time of it.
1. What made you want to get into the entertainment business and then eventually Nickelodeon?
My father is musician, so I grew up watching him go to work in the evenings as opposed to going to an office job each day. That’s where I was exposed to the entertainment industry. When I finished high school, I moved to Orlando and enrolled in Valencia Community College and took an elective course in Radio & Television. The instructor talked a lot about Full Sail University, which was located in Orlando, and how they structured their classes and labs. I then made a decision to drop out of Valencia (after 3 weeks) and enrolled in the Audio Production course at Full Sail in January 1991. The year at Full Sail was a pretty amazing year for me. I made some great friends that I am still close with, and it introduced me to television/film post production. When the year was up I was lucky enough to get a job in the video tape library at The Post Group at MGM Studios. I spent 4 years there and ended up as an assist audio engineer. After doing some freelance work for a couple of years I ended up at Nickelodeon Studios. The audio engineer had moved on and Chris Silveria, the operations manager, called me and said they were looking for an audio mixer and asked if I would come in for some training on their gear with some other guys. I made the most of that opportunity, coming in when I had time off and making sure I was ready for when my chance came. Turns out a good friend of mine from Full Sail was working there freelance, filling the Audio Mixer position, and when he moved back to Miami the job was mine for the next 5-6 years.
2. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there? I thought is was a cool place to work. You walk through doors and down the hall is the Slime Lab. You get off the elevator on the second floor and ‘powdered toast man’ is painted on the wall as well as Ren and Stimpy. I had spent time on the Disney Backlot, and Nick Studios seemed a little more ‘relaxed’. Not sure if it was because I was older and had a different perspective compared to my time at Disney. But it was a fun place to go to work each day.
3. What was a typical day like being there? A typical day for me was pretty routine. Working in post production my days were spent in the audio room. The action was down on the stage. ‘Figure it Out’ started production in 1998 and those days were a lot of fun. Lots of animals, celebrities, and families coming in for tapings.
4. Was there a particular show there that you loved visiting the set of? Nickelodeon brought back Double Dare in 2000. That set was very cool. Lots of obstacle courses and fun contraptions for the contestants to weave their way through.
5. Is there a bit of a difference between working on a game show and then a scripted series? Working on a scripted series is completely different than a game show. The scripted series is predictable. All of the scenes are shot, multiple times, so you have everything you need (for the most part). Working on a game show was so much fun. We would get the show which was edited down to time, and then have to go back to the multitrack ISO recordings and replace all of the contestants audio. That’s where I learned how to build a ‘sound track’ for a show. Not only replacing the microphones, but build audience applause tracks that match, room ambiences, laugh tracks. etc…. It was a lot of work, but lots of fun as well.
6. At the time there was all of this talk about Orlando becoming Hollywood East but it slowly fizzled. Can you explain how great it was to have all the tv and filming going on in the area and why it has since decreased?
When I moved to Orlando in 1990, I remember the ‘Hollywood East’ talk. I remember a clip of the Disney CEO Michael Eisner making that statement. A lot, if not all, of the early productions in the studios (Disney, Nickelodeon , and Universal) were coming from California and New York. When the shows ended their run there wasn’t a lot of stuff to takes its place. Many of the people I met that came from out of town didn’t like being away from home to work for long periods of time. It was also hard to break the ‘theme park’ reputation. In the end more shows needed to originate from Florida.
7. How long did it usually take to produce all the audio production for one segment? I was able to mix an episode of Figure it Out in a half day. On a scripted show, wild spend a half doing dialogue editing. So it all depended on what I was working on.
8. Was there a noticeable difference between working at the studios from when you started to when you left in 2002? When I started in mid-1996, Nick Studios was coming out of a lull in production. There was a lot of talk about shows that were coming, and it was exciting to be a part of that. When I left in November 2002 the Studios were in shutdown mode. It was announced in March 2001 that the studios were going to be shut down over the next 6-8 months. There was some stuff going on in 2002, but not that much. I would come in for a few days here and there for some freelance work. So it was completely different when I left.
9. If you could take home any type of prop from the studios what would it be? I would have liked to take the walls on the second floor. I thought the paintings were cool.
10. Have you ever been slimed? Never been slimed.
11. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida? The Hulk and Dueling Dragons roller coasters. We were allowed to ride those during an employee preview and thought they were great.
12. How great were all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.
I met a lot of great people at Nick Studios, some of my best friends I met during my time there. In fact, I met my wife while working on Figure it Out.
13. Favorite behind the scenes memory. My favorite behind the scenes memory was just being ‘behind the scenes’. I always like being part of the show in some small (or big) way. I remember one time Figure it Out brought an elephant onto the stage, I thought that was cool.
14. Though the basics of audio technology have changed over time the Nick Studios used state of the art production for its’ television programs. Did that help you in the long run as years went by?
When I started at Nick, we did all of our shows in Protools. This was right at the time where Digital Audio Workstations were becoming commonplace in all audio rooms. Audio tape formats were still around for recording ISO tracks on stage, but all of the audio post production was done in Protools. It was a big help that I learned audio post on tape formats during my time at Disney. It made the switch to DAW’s very easy and allow me to produce a lot of work out of the small audio room at Nick Studios.
15. Do you think your experience being there was a learning process in terms of the work you do now in a beneficial way? My time at Nick Studios taught me how to be an editor, and not just the technical things an editor needs to know. I was fortunate to work with a lot of people from New York, California, and in Florida who when they came into the audio room were looking for answers. Nick Studios taught me how to work with clients and give them what they were looking for.
16. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special? The programming made it great, those shows were very popular. The people made it special.
17. Would you like to see it be re-opened? I would. It would be nice to be able to take my kids back to the place I used to work. They are at the age where they are starting to watch Nickelodeon. The enjoy the new Figure it Out.