New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Beyond NYU: Enhancing sound in film and television

Ryan Cole channels his love for music to create sound for movies and shows like the Emmy-award winning show “Stranger Things.”
Max Van Hosen
(Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

Steinhardt alum Ryan Cole was always captivated by the world of music and film, yet he initially struggled to find a way to transform his passion into a career. His journey eventually led him to sound editing for film and television productions, some of which include “Stranger Things,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Halloween.”

Cole earned his master’s degree in music technology from NYU in 2007. He later joined the team behind “Stranger Things” during the show’s third season, earning him two Emmys for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series in 2020 and 2022. Cole also won a Golden Reel Award in 2019 for his contributions to the film “Extinction.”

In an interview with WSN, Cole shared insights into his career, his role as a sound editor for “Stranger Things” and the recognition he earned for his work on the show. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: What was your favorite part of attending NYU? 

Cole: My whole class, everyone in our class, because we were a pretty small group in music tech. I liked all of it, and I loved living in New York, obviously. It was a fantastic experience, and I’d happily move back there again. 

Cole laid the foundation for his musical career by majoring in music as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After earning his master’s degree at NYU, he moved to Sydney, Australia, where he worked as a recordist at Deluxe StageOne Sound. He crossed paths with award-winning sound mixers Andy Nelson and Anna Behlmer there, who hired him to work as a mix tech at 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles for nearly eight years. 

WSN: What is a project you particularly enjoyed working on in your career?  

Cole: When I was at Fox, we had a lot of big films come through with great directors that were really exciting. As a mix tech, recording “Stars Wars: The Force Awakens” was really fun because I was a big Star Wars nerd. Now, as a sound editor, the big one that always ends up coming up is “Stranger Things,” just because it’s such a wonderful group of people and it’s a really fun project. I love that genre of horror, science fiction and thriller with comedy and family adventure. Honestly, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with lots of wonderful people, and, for me, it’s sometimes the people that you work with over the films themselves.

Following his time at Fox, Cole moved to northern California to spend a year focusing on his family. His wife, who shares Cole’s passion for sound editing, collaborated with him on numerous projects and even helped with his sound editing training. When Cole joined the “Stranger Things” team, he was involved in crafting dialogue tracks and enhancing audio. Since 2017, the show was consistently nominated for an Emmy in sound editing and has taken home four of the awards. 

WSN: Can you describe what your days typically look like as a sound editor?  

Cole: I’ll be on the stage with the picture editor and the mixers, and we’ll be watching the film down and doing fixes as we go. If the picture editors are like ‘oh, I don’t like that line, can we swap it out?’ I’ll switch it and do that. Everyday, it’s seeing where we’re at with the schedule, what’s going on with a project that might be recording automated dialogue replacement with some of the actors or just sitting down and editing the film. With something like “Stranger Things,” you have such a huge cast — with some of these scenes having eight or nine people in it. The production mixer will have boom mics and then a lavalier mic for each actor, so you need to go through and pick the right mic for every shot. 

Currently, Cole is working on the sound for the upcoming films “All the Light We Cannot See” and “The Bikeriders,” which will both come out by the end of this year. He also hopes to continue working with the “Stranger Things” sound crew for their upcoming season. 

WSN: What did it feel like to discover you won an Emmy?

Cole: We finished “Stranger Things” the summer of 2019 and then COVID-19 hit, so the Emmys were all on Zoom. We were all at home and in lockdown when we won our Emmy for season three, that was a bit surreal. When we were nominated again for season four, we got to attend the Emmys in downtown Los Angeles, which was very, very fun. We were lucky enough to win, which it would have been fun either way, but it was definitely fun winning.

Contact Bruna Horvath at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Bruna Horvath
Bruna Horvath, News Editor
Bruna Horvath is a sophomore studying journalism and English at CAS. When she’s not a News Editor, she’s a "Gone Girl" enthusiast, a Goodreads lover, and a Barnes & Noble frequenter. You can usually find her ordering an iced mocha, telling people her name is “Bruna” not “Bruno,” or on Instagram @brunaahorvath.

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