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Ashland man earns Emmy nomination for sound effects

Ashlander Eric Raber, a home-based sound designer-editor for Showtime’s “Homeland” spy-thriller series, has been nominated for an Emmy and will attend the televised celebration with his wife Vanessa in early September.

Raber is part of Sony’s giant production system, working from his simple-looking sound studio (two MacBooks and a big touch-screen). He puts in a week of six-hour days on each episode of the popular espionage show, which features Claire Danes as a high-level intel spook who happens to be bipolar and, says Raber, has honed her manic side so she can “embrace the shadow” in her work.

Raber’s job is to fish through his vast sound library or record new sounds to enhance the meaning and impact of the story, which, as an action series, has an assortment of guns, fights and car chases for him to work on.

Producers send him a file of each episode, to which he augments, replaces or applies entirely new sounds. He says he works with the premise that any show is about dialogue, music and sound effects, in that order, and he wants the effects to enhance the other sounds, not overpower them.

“They send me a QuickTime file of the show with almost nothing (sound effects) in it. It’s raw and jagged,” he says.

“It’s a dark show and as I work on it, at times I find myself not breathing. Sounds carry emotions. With sound, you can convey if a door is being opened in anger or in stealth. Each kind of wind can have a totally different emotion. I look at this job like I’m being a painter or a cook.”

Raber shows how the original “bang” in a gunfight is rather flat and doesn’t trigger an emotion, but after he’s worked on it, it has a beginning, middle and end — and it creates emotion.

A native of Snohomish, Washington, Raber, 38, graduated in music engineering from the Art Institute of Seattle. He started work in music in 1998 in a mobile recording truck and by 2004 had found his way into post-production sound editing.

He’s worked on several consciousness-raising films, including the 2010 documentary “Unity,” which explores the possible evolution of humanity with interviews of scores of notable thinkers. Another such film was the 2012 “Shift of the Ages,” which looked at shamans and Mayan prophecy.

Mainstream productions he’s worked on include “Ray Donovan,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Bloodline,” “Justified” and “American Idol.”

Raber was nominated in 2017 for the same Emmy, “outstanding sound editing for a comedy or drama series of one hour,” but lost out to “Stranger Things.” He notes the voting is done by all members of the Television Academy, most of whom are not experts in sound, “so it’s kind of a popularity contest.”

The awards for sound will be part of the Creative Arts Emmys, done before the more popular and familiar acting awards, he says. The awards will be presented Sept. 8 and 9 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The televised show for acting awards will be Sept. 17.

Raber and his family moved to Ashland last year in large part to merge their spiritual practices into creating a “food forest,” a sustainable plant-based food system that integrates forest-type plants and trees into agricultural crop sites.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Andy Atkinson / Daily TidingsEric Raber works on editing sound effects for the Showtime series "Homeland" from his Ashland home studio.