How did they accomplish this multi-person musician jam
April 6, 2020 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Hi all, I know we've had many very helpful threads about how live music jamming "in sync" is virtually impossible without insane university-level internet connections, so I was wondering if anyone knew how the Hamilton cast accomplished this "live from each performer's apartment" rendition of Alexander Hamilton.

Is it all recorded and then done in post-processing? It seems live (judging by how they all say goodbye at the end, in the same rooms/clothes), but is it more likely that it was just recorded and spliced together right before calling in?
posted by katecholamine to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It says Zoom on the video, but the consensus among my friends is that it must have been edited together. You really can't just get the video to do that with Zoom or anything. And of course the timing is not something Zoom can do.
posted by aubilenon at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2020 [9 favorites]

They're performers and are listening to the 'background track' while they are doing their part. The syncing is done later by simply aligning them together. Totally different from a free-form jam session.

You could send an orchestra a video of a conductor and have them listen and play their parts on cue and put them all together later. It's a scripted performance.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:04 PM on April 6, 2020 [8 favorites]

I would bet that that's actually a recording of the live performance laid over people lip-syncing their parts. The music is too much the same across all, and the sound quality is too much the same across all to make it highly improbable that every member had the setup to do that quality of audio at home in their random locations.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:13 PM on April 6, 2020

Adam Savage Explores the Sound Mixing of Hamilton!

I have little doubt that they aren't all listening to a recording and singing their parts... which are thrown away while the recording plays like it's a live thing.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:19 PM on April 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much! :)

zengargoyle: The sound quality and reverb seem different enough from part to part (like Daveed's part in particular) that it seems like it's been recorded in different places..but appreciate all the thoughts and links!
posted by katecholamine at 8:40 PM on April 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

They all have at least one headphone in, definitely syncing to the orchestra track. As far as I can tell (big Hamilton nut), the orchestra track's the OBC, while the singing is live (differences in reverb, emoting etc) including the chorus parts. This is the original Broadway cast and they've done it several hundred times onstage, they could probably do it in their sleep - live musical theatre is the definition of scripted and repeatable.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:28 AM on April 7, 2020 [12 favorites]

I think they must have done at least some part of it live for the kid. There's a difference in video quality that jives with Zoom recording vs "regular" recording/editing together. And her unscripted reaction when LMM pops up is hands-down the best part of this.
posted by basalganglia at 4:55 AM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

"which are thrown away while the recording plays like it's a live thing"

But where does that recording come from? The performances by the priniciples are very different from the cast recording or any other live, original cast performances. They, at least, are not lip syncing at all. If you're not Hamilton-obsessed, maybe it's not obvious that they're not lip syncing to anything known, but I assure you they're not.
posted by donnagirl at 5:35 AM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

The new recording is easy enough (easy for me to say, as not-a-sound-editor but) it's the same thing podcast editors do with phone interviews to make them sound good—each person records themselves and they edit it together.

I think the key to grokking the rest is that whatever the kid experienced IRL was
1. Different from what we saw in the final edited product, and
2. Unknown
posted by lampoil at 6:22 AM on April 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

Oh, they could just play the soundtrack CD for the disposable track -- anything will serve, but likely one musician used a keyboard and sang, or something equally simple.

Musicians sometimes use a machine-generated "click track" in their headphones to play along with if they need a metronome that won't be on the final recording. Everybody uses the same one, so they're all in sync.

The producer just imports the separate performances into their software, aligns the start & end, and viola! you have your perfectly-synchronized-yet-geographically-dispersed group performance.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:24 AM on April 7, 2020

It would be totally unsurprising to learn that everybody in the cast already owned pro-level recording equipment (necessary for auditions, demos, voiceover work) which is why it sounds way better than recording yourself on your phone mic. The video is also way way better than anything I've experienced on zoom which suggests they filmed in person and then submitted video files to an editor separately from zoom -- this is true for the kid, too, who is shown both laptop POV and in vertical-video mode from a different phone cam. My guess is they assembled the video and when it was "go time" they replaced Krasinski's cam feed in zoom with the pre-edited video, then did a final edit after gathering the kid's reaction shots. It would be pretty normal remote-broadcasting practice to give instructions to the kid's grownups about how to capture locally -- in normal times that would include mailing equipment to them ahead of time but right now maybe not.

You can see little bits of this in the first post-pandemic BA video where they all talk about their home setups.
posted by range at 6:28 AM on April 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

Zengargoyle surely has it. That is the easiest way for musicians to accomplish this...a background track that each performer plays along with, and it's edited together later. I am a musician and that's absolutely how I would go about it.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:35 AM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

And yes zengargoyle's explanation has got to be it. The youth orchestra I teach with is putting together something similar and along the way we've learned from primary sources that that's how the Rotterdam Ode to Joy video and basically all the others have been done.
posted by range at 6:41 AM on April 7, 2020

The Hamilton Instrumentals (Apple Music) is likely what they used as their backing track. But even with everyone pressing play at the same time to sync up what they're all listening to, I doubt this was accomplished without some video editing. Still impressive, though.
posted by emelenjr at 7:28 AM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, OK. Maybe not lip synced. It's impossible to tell in the big chorus section. But definitely somebody did some sound engineering to make it sound that good. From the video about the stage sound production, they are always miked all the time. No doubt there are giant multi-track recordings of every performance at least until they decide they don't need to review something. If they went all crazy, they could have sent each person a track with everybody except themselves on it. Also hinting at edited after the fact is trying to imagine somebody trying to manage Zoom and pop-up all the right people at all the right times and keep all of that switching happening in real time.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:04 AM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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