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Open letter to production managers about on-set sound mixing principles
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SOUND PROBLEMS ON THE SET

The majority of events that ruin sound tracks are totally predictable and happen over and over, show after show, year after year.

These are obstacles that are clearly identifiable and quantifiable. The difference between getting good sound or bad sound is often determined by how many of these predictable negative factors take place on your particular show and how they are handled.

There are few problems that don't have solutions if proper diligence can be taken in advance. The sound mixer is your advocate here.

Let's try to identify the audio problems which each craft brings to your film.

PREPRODUCTION

Good sound begins by anticipating the outcome well in advance. Communicate early and often with your mixer in pre-production. Pay the mixer to go listen to potential problem sets ahead of time. Let the mixer make a mock recording to see what noises can be removed in post, just as the DP does with camera tests. Do this before the locations are locked in and before the scouts with your key department heads. If the mixer is still on another show, have the mixer designate a trusted associate to go for them. In the end, it's cost effective.

LOCATIONS DEPARTMENT

More can be done here to save a film's audio than any other department!!!

Set selection should consider sound. At least try to weigh-in environmental noise factors! We just ask that a minimal amount of consideration be given to potential audio problems. Often, we shoot in a place which could have easily been substituted for another location or on a weekend. Many times we film at a location which has construction, traffic, schools, airplane patterns, and other obvious background noises. Only shoot in those kinds of locations when it's absolutely necessary and essential to the film.

Lock down all the noise problems before we get to the set.

· Always consider the control of the air conditioning. This is a must! Without a/c control, the audio background will change from shot to shot as the air goes on and off. If it is a large building, have someone standing by with a walkie-talkie to turn the air back on after each shot. When filming in exterior locations, it can be just as important to kill a/c units that are near the set.

· Have control of all noise makers in locations like bars, offices and hospitals. All refrigerators, computers, ice makers, x-ray and other machines must be able to be turned off.

· Try to schedule filming during non-work times in locations such as bars and restaurants.

· Avoid tin roofs during rainy season.

. Make sure the electric department can cable the set and still keep the windows, doors and openings closed.

 

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