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Audience Sweetening/Laugh Tracks Multi-Ef­fects Plugins
Old 31st December 2010
  #1
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Audience Sweetening/Laugh Tracks

Hello,

This is just a field of curiousity for me being a young filmmaker. I'm at the age where I still watch some kid shows, and I always notice the sound effects of people laughing in the background at jokes. For some reason it got me interested in researching laugh tracks.

My basic understanding is this:
1. Charles Douglass is the creator of the laugh track, and used it for many shows through out the 50's and into the 70's
2. After he passed, his son (Rob) took over his fathers buisness
3. Laughs are recorded fresh and new every so often, but some old ones are still used today
4. There is not one audience sweetener, there are dozens

When I learned about that last fact, it kind of got me going on different questions and I was hoping the professionals could enlighten me on how the process works, and who are the top people running the buisness now? To go into further detail on their projects, sitcoms like "King of Queens" or "My Wife and Kids".

Thanks,
Colby
Old 31st December 2010
  #2
Gear Head
 
PostFade's Avatar
 

The phrase 'laugh tracks' implies a 'totally manufactured' audience reaction track. In reality, at least here in the UK a sit-com is recorded with a real audience.
It's a major part of the sound mixers role to capture their laughter without ruining the dialogue pickup of the actors. The audience is covered by hanging mics over them and mixing this in via a suitable 'group fader'. This is perhaps sitting at say -20 and lifted rapidly when a laugh is starting and then pulled back to allow the dialogue to continue without excessive coloration. Obviously compression/limiting is used on both the dialogue group and the audience laughter to keep tight control on the dynamic range. A really good sit-com mixer wasn't afraid to 'go for a laugh'...although if you were'nt careful this could become taken for 'a canned laugh track' because the rapid up/down fader technique could become noticeable. It helps if the actors 'wait for the laugh' before continuing.
The dialogue is fed back to the audience via small PA speakers, for many years 'line column' speakers were used but a new range of directional speakers now available, help keep the spill levels low on the dialogue mics.
The later are usually Fisher boom mounted and these can be perhaps Neumann U-87 or AKG 460's or for a slightly more directional mic, the Senny 416.
Boom operation for sit-coms is an art in itself and requires careful script reading as often 2 booms are used on a scene to achieve good close pickup with the mulitcamera shooting always employed.
Applause can often be improved by adding in a high mics output to give a 'bigger' sound.
Post production will require the replacement of some laughs that were 'cut off' in the final edit and also the careful addition of laughs, usually when the audience didn't laugh on a the retake of a scene.
When I worked at London Weekend TV, the producer's always maintained that they didn't 'dub' the laughs on their shows....but we did add laughs of course!

David Taylor
www.postfade.co.uk
Old 31st December 2010
  #3
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jahtao's Avatar
I do a lot of 'laugh work'. It is very subjective. One man's too much is another's not enough. Always get the person who has final say in as early as possible to OK your work. Get a solid and definite: "that's how we want it". And always make sure your laughs are totally flexible to any kind of changes that have to be done quickly at the last minute.
Old 1st January 2011
  #4
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Henchman's Avatar
Here in LA, even though the shows are recorded with an audience, additional laughter is added.
This is done by just a couple of guys in town, and they can do a much much better job, in less time, than it would take to get someone to cut it in from a library.
They watch the show, and have a special box they trigger a variety of crowd laughs and reactions from.

Then you have a couple of guys who mainly do gameshows, and fill in crowd reactions and applause in the same way.

Do not underestimate what these folks add to a show.

I mixed a show 2 years ago, that had live performances in it. And the production company didn't want to pay for the "clapper" guy. The produce saw the final mix, and the "clapper" was brought in. It completely changed the excitement level of the performances from dull to exciting.
Old 1st January 2011
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thanks a ton, guys! This really helped, and I never really realized how some simple cheering and applause could really change the mood of a live performance!

This stuff seems really interesting, I should look into recording my own laughs and applauses heh

Thanks again,
Colby
Old 1st January 2011
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

my sex life has one of those.
Old 4th January 2011
  #7
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Having worked extensively with sweetened tracks (what we call laughs/audience added by the laffers), I have to say it's really amazing stuff. It routinely saves rough dialog edits on game shows, and can completely change the mood/feel of scripted content.

Keep in mind that sitcoms are both written and acted with this additional track in mind. The actors know to basically add a pause after a joke to give room for the sweetened laughter to play.

This stuff is really tremendously valuable, and the guys who do it are true performers. While I've done my share of cutting in bits and pieces from a library of pre-recorded stuff, it always sounds better and comes together MUCH faster to have the professionals come in and "sweeten" the show.
Old 4th January 2011
  #8
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cubivore's Avatar
 

Smile

cool thread! i always hate the obvious fake audience tracks. dancing with the stars comes first to mind. you hear all this clapping and whistling and they do a pan over the crowd and everyone is sitting there like mannequins. another memory is seinfeld. i don't know how many seasons i heard the same woman and her 'ohhh!!' expression every time kramer fell asleep with butter sun tan lotion or the time jerry knocked over the gas can in leapin larry's!
Old 8th January 2011
  #9
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Yeah, I've noticed the same here. Sometimes the same laugh is repeated over and over again in a show, but all in all I've learned a lot here. Laugh tracks add ambience to sitcoms and help them flow correctly.

Thanks to all!
Old 8th January 2011
  #10
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soundboy's Avatar
I remember when they dropped the laugh track for an episode of MASH. They actually advertised in the promos, for the episode, that they were doing this. The show played very differently without it.
I have had my butt saved numerous times by Boyd or Bob coming in and laughing over impossible edits.
Old 8th January 2011
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by soundboy View Post
I have had my butt saved numerous times by Boyd or Bob coming in and laughing over impossible edits.
+1, Boyd has saved entire shows for us.
Old 9th January 2011
  #12
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Lol, pardon me for asking but who exactly is Boyd? I'm pretty sure I know who Bob Douglass is, but who's Boyd? And in another thread Craig Porter was brought up too...
Old 9th January 2011
  #13
Gear Nut
 

I've worked with some of the "laff guys" in town and they are SCARY TALENTED at what they do. It's a trip. They'll "laugh" a 22 min sitcom in real time. Just amazing. thumbsupthumbsup
Old 9th January 2011
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Which shows currently use laughtracks ? The only one I can think of is 3 and a half men but anything to distract from the actual show is probably an improvement. That show has always been such a paradox for me. I hate very few things and would quality something as complete garbage with restraint but that show is the worst thing I have ever seen on TV. To the point where I've done research on the ratings to see if people actually watch it which they do. Quite strange. That show is right up there with everyone loves Raymond and fanny packs people used to wear in the 90s. Boggles the mind.
Old 12th January 2011
  #15
Gear Head
 

A few more shows that I know of are shows like American Idol & similar competitions and many reality TV reunions.
Old 12th January 2011
  #16
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cubivore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by emf1138 View Post
I've worked with some of the "laff guys" in town and they are SCARY TALENTED at what they do. It's a trip. They'll "laugh" a 22 min sitcom in real time. Just amazing. thumbsupthumbsup
are you kidding me?! i need this job!!!
Old 12th January 2011
  #17
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Fajita's Avatar
Are they using 360 Systems Instant Replay boxes or something else to drop in the laugh tracks?
Old 12th January 2011
  #18
I've seen them use home-built gear to control some sound playback application. I've also seen one use an M-Audio Trigger Finger. They play the audience in like an instrument, it's simply fascinating to watch.
Old 12th January 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cubivore View Post
are you kidding me?! i need this job!!!
It's certainly got my attention lol. Could be a really fun job...
Old 12th January 2011
  #20
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Henchman's Avatar
I love 2 and a half men. And I know quite a few women love it as well
Old 26th April 2011
  #21
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First off, my apologies as this is a very late post and I didn't want to start up another one in the gallery.

I stumbled across this forum while also doing research on laugh tracks and have also become quite interested in them. I already know about the whole Charlie Douglass "Laff Box" story and that's all you can seem to find about laugh tracks on here.

I'm quite curious about the laugh tracks that have originated later.
I know that Frasier, Cheers and Just Shoot Me use the same laugh track with some of the laughs from the 60's.

However...I've noticed a completely different set of laughs that were all on shows like Perfect Strangers, Saved By the Bell, Blossom, Alf etc... and newer updated laughs from the the same group on shows like Seinfeld, Home Improvements, 3rd Rock From the Sun , That 70's Show etc...


Anyway...I'm just wondering if anyone has noticed these other laughs before or know which ones I'm talking about? Who does those laughs? (Not the Douglass laughs)

Just something I've wondered about for a long time.
Old 26th April 2011
  #22
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soundboy's Avatar
The guys I work with get material from on set recordists all over town. They mix and master this material, add it to their libraries, and use them on multiple shows. There is no one set of laughs and applause. There are a limited number of people doing this job, however. So they may trigger some "favorites" more than others. Thus the "familiarity" of some audience responses.
Old 26th April 2011
  #23
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Ah ok, so that would explain why I hear certain distinctive laughs on Seinfeld for example and then hear those same laughs on 3rd Rock from the Sun. I know this was kind of a random question. Sound Effects has always interested me and for some weird reason, Audience laughs and reactions interest me the most.

Nice to know I'm not the only one who notices this stuff.
Old 29th April 2011
  #24
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I could also tell for many (unfunny) years of Saturday Night Live they had a standard set of clappers and laughers trying to boost the studio audience.
Old 4th May 2011
  #25
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I also noticed that the tv show House of Payne does not use the same laugh tracks that have been used on most of the other sitcoms over the years. They use the Hollywood Edge Audience Reactions library. I could recognize a few of them being mixed in with the other laughs.

Probably the only sitcom I've noticed with that laugh track.
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