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Open letter to production managers about on-set sound mixing principles
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PRODUCTION MANAGERS

1. Budget in a third sound person and the proper amount of audio equipment. A third person provides invaluable support so that the other two can keep rehearsing or shooting. The impact is penny-wise and pound foolish. Time saved on set at the moment when every department is ready to shoot are dollars well spent. When blocking changes necessitate adding a second moving microphone operator, it can be done in a jiffy without stopping production to show someone else how to perform this skilled job. Would you ask a PA to pull focus on a second camera? Lots of other problems can be solved more quickly, from killing an errant fan to fixing a director's headset on the fly. In a pinch, the third person can keep production shooting in the event of a sudden emergency or sickness befalling a sound person.

2. Consider the post budget when making financial decisions on production.

3. Book and check that stages are quiet. Even the newest and most modern stages often have dimmer banks located on or so close to the stage that they are a terrible problem.

4. When you must call a warehouse a stage, please sound proof it so we can record clean sound.

CAMERA DEPARTMENT

Camera assistants:

1. When (not if) there is camera noise, make all reasonable efforts to contain it by using barneys, glass, blankets, tweaking, etc.

2. Don't turn the slate on and off as time code will then be wrong. Let the mixer know as soon as a slate shows any problems.

3. Let the sound mixer know what frequencies are being transmitted in case a frequency steps on wireless mics or comteks. Be prepared to kill the Panatape when it causes microphone interference.

Operators:

1. Hold only the frame size to be used and no more.

2. Communicate and work out any problems with the boom operator before the first team is called in.

3. Be willing to operate in a pinch with a cover or blanket over a particularly noisy camera.

Directors of Photography:

1. There is almost never a good reason to light a boom operator off of the set. An overhead mic in capable hands should be able to dodge your lights if there was a little collaboration working out the boom shadows during the lighting process. It is important to give the boom operator the space above the frame as the sound is never as good with wireless as it is with an open boom mic.

2. Don't use Xenon lights unless the director was informed ahead of time that the whole scene will have to be looped.

3. Don't ever say "loop it"! It's not the DP's prerogative! If the DP conveys to the crew that sound matters to the film, they will follow that lead and be more attentive to potential sound problems.

When shooting practical car scenes, try to consider sound problems. Try to light so that windows can be closed where possible.

 

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Jean Casanova
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