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Open letter to production managers about on-set sound mixing principles
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THE PROBLEM

We, the sound crew, are the ones that you depend on to create and protect YOUR original sound tracks during production.

Unlike the work of the majority of the people who are working for on-camera results, the mixer's efforts can not be "seen" on the set. Almost no one hears what the microphone picks up. Too few are even sure just what it is that we do. Only the most obviously bad noises are brought up for discussion.

Included in our job is to monitor the sets for unnecessary, accidental, ignorant, and sometimes even malicious actions (or lack of actions) that may compromise your sound track. We are too often frustrated by the state of conditions that now exist on most sets. Many times we are expected to solve all sound problems alone.

Instead, solving these problems should always be a cooperative effort with the assistant directors and other crafts, some of whom create these problems for us.

Sound mixers are often perceived as pests or even a hindrance to the film's progress. We don't like being put in this untenable position because it is humiliating and unnecessary. We don't like to be considered adversarial to the rest of the production, and we certainly don't want to be the "sound police"!

A mixer on a tough show, who fights alone as a black sheep trying to get you good sound, stands a good chance of burning out from all the excuses and defenses put up by others.

It's hard to put it all out there without the above-the-line support. The temptation is to cave into the pressure and just go with the flow. No good can come from this.

The problems that we face may lead you to believe that good sound cannot be achieved without set disruptions and added costs. This would not be necessary if reasonable measures are anticipated and endorsed by you, both in pre-production and production.

We know the limitations of our equipment. For example, microphones are just tools. They don't make miracles happen by themselves. If on-set audio problems are not dealt with immediately, they will only be back to haunt you again in post production.

Good sound can most often be achieved by using reasonable preparation to avoid pitfalls. You can help us do a better job for you. We need your understanding and your backing.

 

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