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Open letter to production managers about on-set sound mixing principles
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ART DEPARTMENT

1. Confer with the sound department when adding noisy set furniture, computers and machinery.

2. Try to consider overhead mics before building low covered ceilings, hanging lamps and cross beams.

3. Inject foam into constructed stairs and steps to get rid of hollow footsteps over dialog.

4. Whenever possible, carpet the sets to deaden echo and live rooms. Especially consider taking this step in rooms where the majority of dialog takes place.

ASSISTANT DIRECTORS

None of these implementation plans will succeed if the ADs don't support YOUR sound on the film. Sometimes they don't! The crew will take their cue to stop co-operating if it's clear the ADs react at the expense of getting good sound. Derogatory statements like "waiting on sound" and "just loop it" are unproductive and sap our spirit.

1. If are paying police, use them. Have them lock down traffic when possible.

2. Get quiet lock ups on set. Do not allow any walking or talking. Station your PA's at key locations outside, and most especially under windows. (Keep the PA's from talking too.) "Lock It Up" means that we should not hear any work noise from our crews. No engines, talking, etc. Have your walkie set up with priority override function so as to announce the roll across all walkie-talkie channels being used by all departments.

3. Please allow the sound department to make quick corrections that are reasonable without announcing that we are "waiting on sound" unless you also yell out "waiting on camera" when a D.P. adds a light. We do not want to intentionally hold up production when factors out of our control necessitate fast action. If we need another take, don’t announce "going again for sound" unless you also yell out "going again for focus" when the A.C. needs another take.

4. Enforce silent pantomiming from the background extras.

5. Allocate a reasonable time and place for an actor to get wired. It won't help you go quicker if you push the sound crew to wire faster when the actor insists on getting wired at the last second on the set. Conversely, don't make a sound person sit outside a star's dressing room just wasting valuable time that could be used to work out other sound problems on set.

6. When there are closed rehearsals, make sure the boom operator gets to see at least one rehearsal before the actors leave the set.

7. Honor wild line and wallah requests before releasing the actors and extras.

8. Honor room tone requests before breaking the set up, and stop all talk and movement. Room tones are very important to do immediately, before the ambient sound changes.

9. In plane or traffic infested locations, roll as soon as the engine noise tails otherwise another plane or bus comes in and the window of opportunity is lost. Keep the set quiet enough to determine the status of the incoming and outgoing planes. Too often, we are not ready to roll as the outbound noise abates and the purpose of waiting was defeated.

10. Be sure to inform the Sound Department at least two days ahead of scheduled playback days so the proper equipment can be ordered. Have the office send a post approved tape with sync. Don't expect that a CD or cassette will suffice.

11. Have all walkie-talkies, cell phones and pagers turned off during takes and final rehearsals. They can wreak havoc on wireless microphones.

12. Every time there is a new set-up, announce out loud what kind of shot will happen and the direction we are looking. It is a common mistake to keep the crew in the dark. It only adds chaos as the crew sets up in the wrong places and have to move again. Take the guesswork out of it.

 

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