In the Mix: Cox merges the creative with the technical
Ginge Cox is an artist who uses sound to paint a picture. She’s a re-recording mixer for feature films, including James Franco’s Actors Anonymous and Alex Buronova’s Pale Blue.
She takes dialogue, sound effects, and music, along with so-called “atmospheres” like falling rain, explosions, or squeaking chairs, and creates the film’s sound experience. In something of a paradox, the goal that Ginge shares with other sound engineers is that the sound becomes such a natural part of the movie experience that the audience isn’t aware of how hard she has worked.
Cox owns Auburn Audio in Los Angeles, California. Many re-recording mixers work freelance, and Cox started her company to provide production and post-production audio services for clients that include HGTV, 60 Minutes, Kendall Jenner, Mountain Dew, and Mindhive Productions, among others.
Her story as a sound engineer began with a bit of serendipity. There weren’t too many Democrats in the town where Cox grew up, so she and her friends decided to do something about that by starting a Democrats Club at the high school. Club Day—where club representatives set up tables in the gym to recruit student members— was a bust when the high school forgot to set aside a table for Ginge’s fledgling political club.
Undeterred, she and her friends decided to attract students another way—they’d throw a punk rock show. They booked the school theater and sold $4,000 worth of tickets. Ginge even talked her father, a former police officer, into being the bouncer, and then she booked the talent.
As the show date approached, one of the bands contacted Cox. “What are we using for a P.A.?” they wanted to know. “What’s a P.A.?” she asked back.
As a 15-year-old, that huge hole in the plan to have a punk rock show sparked what has become a heartfelt love affair with audio engineering.
For Ginge, audio engineering satisfies two different passions: she loves learning about new technologies, and she enjoys people.
A successful re-recording engineer has to keep up with advances in technology and up to speed with all of the different tools. Ginge still goes to bed reading manuals. And her own resume contains Pro Tools 10-11-12, Avid, Euphonix, and Digidesign. She is also Smaart certified. This proficiency has landed her numerous jobs, especially when she was just starting out.
“The real edge you can give yourself is to really work harder and know more than your competition,” she advises. For Cox, this includes knowing enough so that she can be a problem-solver, even during an interview. If prospective client has been struggling with a piece of gear, Cox frequently will solve their problem on the spot. Her goal is not simply to tell them what’s wrong, but to advise them how it can be better, “how you can fix it.”
With a BA in Interdisciplinary Computer Science and Music from UC San Diego and an MFA in Sound Design from USC, Ginge has the technical chops to solve even the most vexing of problems.
Still, the job of a re-recording engineer is “the creative merging with the technical,” and Cox also is skilled at the people side of the business.
She says she works with a lot of first-time directors who she says are a lot like first-time moms. “They are nervous and sharing a part of their soul with the world,” she says. Often, when the film comes to Auburn Studios, there are things the director doesn’t like about the film or is embarrassed about.
“’We just didn’t have enough money or time,’ they say. I love being able to assuage those fears and show them what the magic of sound can really add to their film.”
If there’s any downside, it’s that the field of sound engineering can still be a bit of a boy’s club. Still, she can rattle off the names of amazing women paving the way. She talks about Lora Hirschberg, who won an Academy Award for her work on Inception. Then there’s Midge Costin, sound editor for big-budget films like Crimson Tide, and Karol Urban, re-recording mixer on Grey’s Anatomy. Ginge is more than happy to join these women as role models for others; her own mother was one of the first women in the trucking industry. Thanks to this role models, Ginge has no fear when it comes to breaking barriers.
This article first appeared in IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine December 2017.