Sound Production - who do you answer to?

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Edward Grabczewski

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Aug 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/27/00
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In a Production Crew, who does the Sound Mixer/Recordist answer to when
recording:

a) Film
b) Video
c) TV

Additional information on who the Mixer liases with would be helpful

thanks
Eddy

dave

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Aug 29, 2000, 8:18:38 PM8/29/00
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In article <8obgc8$7q4$1...@lure.pipex.net>, "Edward Grabczewski"
<xy...@dial.pipex.com> wrote:

Eddy-

what do you mean "answer to"?

as far as your list goes, at the risk of souding a bit nit picky, film
and video are just mediums. Film is used for movies, documentaries and
television. Video is unfortunately just the same, where its staple was
once news and TV, it is now being a format that more and more people are
using for feature films. In the end, the protocol on a TV show, a
feature film or documentary style production is often very similar at
its foundation.

Outside of the people that hire you, there really isnt someone to answer
to, so to speak. During production the AD runs the show, but there is
generally not someone supervising the sound of the movie until after the
picture is cut. As a mixer, I would love for supervising sound editors
to come on during production to give me feedback on my track, but this
is wishful thinking and in so far as I know, definitely not the norm.
The average production mixer is his own boss when it comes to making the
decisions that are right for the track on a movie or documentary. TV
often has a formula to work with but still, as a mixer, you have to make
the best decision in a given situation to get the best sounding track
possible.

As far as liasons during production:

Everybody works their own way, but when there is a good script
supervisor, I work as close with them as possible in making sure that
the dialogue for the scene is covered appropriately, but this is hit or
miss from job to job.

The wardrobe supervisor or whoever is the on set rep from the wardrobe
dept is often your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to mic'ing
actors.

If you are on a job where there is a lot of wiring going on, depending
on how the production team works, I'm often in constant communication
witht he second AD making sure that I get the actors I need for wiring
before they are brought to set.

Hopefully these general responses answer soe of what you had in mind
with your question. If you can post a more specific query I'm sure that
that some of us here can attempt to get you the answerr you are looking
for.

dave raphael

-------------------
above email is dead. To contact me, use this:soundguy at glideonfade dot com

Edward Grabczewski

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Aug 31, 2000, 9:35:35 PM8/31/00
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Thanks Dave. I think you've pretty much guessed (from your reply) what I was
driving at. The only reason I asked is because I've seen conficting accounts
of who the sound mixer reports to.

For example, in his book "Directing", Michael Rabinger states the Sound
Recordist and Boom Operator is "answerable to" the Director of Photography!
In another book on Film Production Management by Bastian Cleve (all Focal
Press books) the answers to the Production Manager. However, in the recent
book by David Yewdall, "Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound" he fails to
mention exactly who the Sound Mixer answers to during production. So, as you
can see, it's a little confusing to say the least! I don't work in the
industry so it's difficult to determine the true state of affairs without
asking experienced people like yourselves.

Also, I thought that maybe TV studios are organized a little differently as
they don't appear to have DoP's but Lighting Directors etc. so I guessed the
organizational hierachy was different.

I'm still surprised that you're your own boss though. Who hires you in the
first place then?

If anyone else wants to venture an opinion then I'd be interested to hear
that too

thanks
Eddy


"dave" <tape...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
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dave

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Sep 1, 2000, 9:58:07 PM9/1/00
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Eddy-

I think the crux of the crucible here is the business of "answering to".
Film production is very similar to other team effort projects, a
favorite example of mine is highway construction. There's designers,
engineers, foremans, electricians, concrete specialists, steel workers,
etc. Each of these people essentially answers to whomever has hired
them, but ultimately, they are there to do a very specialized job and
they are surrounded by other people doing their own specialized job, but
everybody is there to a)get their individual task done correctly and b)
build the road. In a perfect world, each of these specialists would
help out the others when asked to be accomodating.

Our job is very much the same. It is true that a mixer can be
"answerable to" the DP, as the way we do our job is largely determined
by how the DP is going to shoot the film. You can't put a microphone
where the camera will see it. Every technician on a film set ultimately
is there to service the DP. Not many will admit to this, especially in
the sound department, but if the camera wasnt there, there would be no
movie... Everything that happens on a film set is designed around the
camera. Certainly the type of recording I make is --vastly-- different
when I am in a studio or in the field without a motion picture camera
around. When there is photography present, the mixers job is to make a
recording of what the camera sees, and have your recording contain some
kind of ambient relevance to the frame at hand. so in this sense, yes,
the mixer is answerable to the DP.

That said, if you are working with a nice DP, and production cares about
production sound, often the DP can be answerable to you. I have asked
certain DPs to reorganize shots for the benifit of the sound department
with great success. Less dramatic than that, it is not uncommon for
electrics to move lights, or shadow out areas to hide or eliminate on
camera shadows from a boom.

It is also true that we have to answer to the line producer or upm,
generally the person in charge of hiring the crew. Everyone on the crew
is responsible to these positions in a similar way, however.

I dont do a lot of TV work, but a TV show is very similar if not exactly
the same as a feature film when it comes down to the technical execution
of a job and that particular job's given responsibility. TV seems to be
credited differently than a movie.

See noah timan's response on this one. Its not so much that we are our
own boss, if anything, our bosses control our daily activity more so
than perhaps most other jobs, discounting a career in the military. A
mixer might not be his own boss, but he is responsible entirely for all
the sound that is recorded on set. One way to look at it is this:
mixers are the boss of sound. If a producer, director or on a good day,
DP put in a request for the sound deparetment to change something, the
mixer is under obligation to meet their request, while maintaining the
integrity of the track. There are few other departments, however, that
could on a daily basis really give us a list of demands that we would
have to meet for them.

Many departments share this degree of autonomy, with the director and
producer sitting in the middle overseeing. I've never worked outside of
the soudn department professionally, but I imagine the relationship the
sound department has on this issue is probably similar to hair/makeup,
wardrobe and even production design.

If you are really interested in learning more, I cant stress the value
of on set experience. After a few days on a feature, this will all
become very clear. Certainly here in NYC, if you are willing to work
for free, there are several low budget movies that would love the help.

dave raphael

In article <8oocks$590$1...@lure.pipex.net>, "Edward Grabczewski"
<xy...@dial.pipex.com> wrote:

-------------------

Glen Trew

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Sep 2, 2000, 8:07:37 PM9/2/00
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Guys, Guys.... let's take the bull by the horns and record! On the set,
regarding sound recording, the buck stops with us, the mixers.

The director controls the direction, the AD controls the set, the production
manager controls the budget (and ultimately hire/fires the department keys),
the mixer controls the sound recording, and the producer can fire them all.

GT


"Edward Grabczewski" <xy...@dial.pipex.com> wrote in message
news:8oocks$590$1...@lure.pipex.net...

Edward Grabczewski

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Sep 3, 2000, 3:56:11 PM9/3/00
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Feel free to continue the discussion - I'll monitor it with interest.
However, as far as I'm concerned you've all more than answered by problem.
You've helped explain why it is that so many books fail to make this point
clear. I'll stop thinking of the Production team as some kind of hierachy
but more as a team - with Glen's point duly noted as the bottom line.

BTW, whilst I have your email addresses, could I have your permissions to
ask you some more detailed questions if I need to?

many thanks
Eddy Grabczewski
Multimedia Technology
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College
England

"Glen Trew" <gl...@trewaudio.com> wrote in message
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The Sound Dude

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Sep 8, 2000, 10:16:15 PM9/8/00
to John Coffey

John Coffey wrote:

> ....... "I DON'T GIVE A DAMN RATS ASS WHAT THE DP THINKS"!!!!

I guess I'm coming into this discussion late but I'm in a situation right
now where I would have to agree with you.

> Most DPs don't care a twit about sound.

Well the one I'm working with on an independant film doesn't seem to care.
He is doing something I've never seen before in my nearly 20 years in this
biz. This may be something that's popular with some DP's but it's driving me
nuts. We are shooting in Academy wide screen and he's framing headroom, etc.
within that raster. But he has insisted that my boom guy stay not just above
THAT raster line, not even above the TOP raster line. But we have to keep
the WHOLE dang viewfinder clear!!!! That robs me of one to two feet
sometimes of mic tightness to source and we are shooting a period piece
where the background ambience of EVERYTHING is different today then in the
40', 50's, and even 60's. We've had a few "spirited" discussions about it
and I've lost each one. I've complained to the director and producer but
they are wimps. So I've informed the director (who is the exec. prod also)
that he will have quite a few days of ADR, looping and foley on this film.
I'm even considering asking that my name be left off the credits because the
sound I'm forced to record is so compromised!!

> We work for the producer and director and no one else. It's their movie,
> their money and their vision.

But when you get overruled by all three then I wash my hands of it and I've
noted on the log and on the tape that I was overruled by the DP and
director. That way, when they go to cut it and everyone is looking for
someone to blame, they can't look at me. Well, they can but everyone will
know the truth.


> Most DPs only help if they happen to like you. Even then, they usually
> .... will not help when it takes a little extra effort.

On this film I'm on, there is no communication, no prep, just lighting on
the fly, one rehearsal and shoot, no time to work out sound design or
problems, no time to build blanket walls, not even time to properly put
wires on talent. I've never seen anything like it!!!


> So, I'm not answering to any damn primadonna DP!

I've given up. I just am trying to get through the final 3 weeks and then
I'll never work with these people again. And I'll be more upfront with the
UPM before I take another job like this.


> You get the key grip to respect and like you so that he's more
> inclined to take that extra step cutting shadows and fixing dolly noise.
> You stroke the gaffer to keep the generator far away and help with
> ballast noise....

On this film, I'm friends with everyone already, but that hasn't helped when
I've asked for the genie to be parked down the road or behind a building.
And the darn DP won't let the grips put up any cutters for us, the stage we
shoot on is an old dance club with creaking floors that can't be fixed, and
all the actors are whispering their lines so I've got to crank it up. I can
here the crikets farting a half mile away!!!


> Sometimes, there are one or two who think that sound does not deserve to
> be treated with any significance.

I seem to be surronded by many right now. Anyone else have this nightmare to
deal with and what did you do???

One thing that happened early on, after a few takes on the first day or so
of shooting, I noticed that the third ac was not opening the slate up before
we rolled. He waited until they asked for the slate and he opened and closed
it like a regular non-digital slate. Well I went to set and told the 3rd to
open the slate and let the numbers roll before the clap. Immediately, I was
told by the 1st ac that the DP didn't want that. I asked why, he didn't know
but I got overruled right away and there was no discussing it. Well, I could
see that you couldn't even see numbers when the slate opened so I knew there
would be trouble. So I went back to my cart, and turned on the decks and
slated a nice long note to post saying that I had just got shot down trying
to get them more numbers for syncing and if they had trouble, it wasn't my
fault, I had tried. I also wrote the same in a big note on the log with big
arrows, circles and underlines all around the note so you couldn't miss it.

Well, after a couple of days of shooting, the lab called and complained that
they were having trouble syncing sound and film because there weren't enough
numbers and wanted the slate open for a couple seconds before clapped. The
director told the DP he had to change his method and I felt vendicated. The
elation didn't last!!!! I almost walked the set last week when after a
company move, I walked up to the DP, asked what the setup was and promply
got cussed out for missing his walk through, which I wasn't told about. I
went to the Producer and told her that I just wanted her to know that I was
taking my toys and going home and to have a nice life. She wanted to know
what the problem was and as I told her, the director walked by and got
involved. Apparently, everyone was complaining about this guy's attitude and
many were quitting or threatening to. The 1st AD nearly walked that
afternoon, after my episode.

I still remember when making movies was fun and you actually looked forward
to going to set. Is this the wave of the future???? I'll go back to just
documentaries and tv shows.

Rob


John Coffey

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Sep 9, 2000, 12:58:11 AM9/9/00
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AHH, Poor Rob:
I was going to rest my case, but Rob, you had to go talk about
scumbag DPs and get my blood boiling again. Man do I feel for you!

Isn't it just a great feeling to hate going to work every day with an
asshole DP? It's an unfortunate side to our business that this happens
more often than it should. So, one day about ten years ago, I decided
that I wouldn't let another DP ruin my show again.

First, I want to say that I don't hate ALL DPs! Just the pricks who
use their power for evil instead of good. Too many to remember.

I have been lucky to have known and worked with many DPs who I admire
and had mutual respect. True gentlemen and film makers like Haskel
Wexler, Bill Fraker, Kees Von Ostrom, Mike O'Shea,
Victor Kemper, Dick Rollings Jr. and Sr. Jonathan West and many more.

If I sound like I show up at work with a chip on my shoulder for DPs,
I do. I have had my extended hand bitten too many times. Now, I give the
DP every courtesy possible, but if they show their true colors to be
detrimental to getting good sound tracks, IT'S COFFEY TIME!

I will play the "You Want to See a REAL Asshole Game?" by My Rules! I
will tell the director, producer and the producers mother what I think
this primaf^%#*gdonna is doing to hurt the quality of their movie! We
will request a meeting to discuss how this DP is screwing the producer
by causing an inferior movie product.

If step 1 fails (as it did with Rob), I hate doing this, but step 2
is to see if the DP will wet his pants when we have a private
conversation after work. I figure that I don't want to work with that
jerk again anyway so I let him know what I think about him, one on one,
alone, just him and me. No set power trips allowed here. Remember, these
are my rules here. In the parking lot, the DP must now show me respect.
Once he sees he was wrong, I always leave him an out. It's important
that the DP gets this out because he always seems a lot nicer for the
rest of the show.

It's funny too, but I've actually done other shows with some of
these pricks who no longer hated sound and we all pretended to like,
help and support each other to do better jobs.

Next week's class... how to train naughty grips.
John Coffey

http://www.coffeysound.com

Larry Long

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Sep 9, 2000, 3:41:28 AM9/9/00
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Man I hate I came in so late on this one !
Wow John I dig you man ! you are the shit!

Although I've never had to go to step two of your program I have
certainly considered it.

It is unfortunate that some where in the 600 union guide it states
that Dp's have to be dicks. (not all you're right ,but most)

You have to love a producer that will stand up for you and I do on
this series ,thank god!

Larry Long

ps . Coffey time ,I'd hate to be on the receiving end of that!

Tom Eichler

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Sep 9, 2000, 9:02:24 AM9/9/00
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John- Just wondering if you could come by the set of the next show I mix for
a day or two- just to let the dp know what's in store for him.
John Coffey wrote in message
<9081-39B...@storefull-111.iap.bryant.webtv.net>...

Noah Timan

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Sep 9, 2000, 6:55:10 PM9/9/00
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<< I still remember when making movies was fun and you actually looked forward
to going to set. Is this the wave of the future???? I'll go back to just
documentaries and tv shows. >>

Sorry to hear about your bad job, Rob, but don't despair...believe it or not,
there are many DPs out in the indie world who do have respect and understanding
for the sound department and are quite easy to work with. I've worked with
quite a few over the years and it's usually a fine pleasure. Not all of them
are difficult, although there certainly are a few.

I find myself more and more often having a relationship with the DP on set
where we don't talk much at all, actually. Not because we like each other or
not or because of conflict, but just because other than a few questions about
the shot or lens in question (if the AC or AD can't answer them), there isn't
need for it -- they're awfully busy and so am I, and the advent of the video
tap has often killed all the questions I used to ask before these were as
popular (eg what's in the frame, what and who are you seeing, etc). My boom
op will have lots of interaction with the DP, but I often don't need to.

I did work with an AC recently who got very upset at the boom being "in" when
he saw it in the glass (the safety outside of 1:33), but I just laughed at him.
There's no need to get upset as a result of the ignorance of others...just
hold your ground firmly.

Noah

Randy Thom

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Sep 10, 2000, 2:45:21 AM9/10/00
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I know what you mean, Noah. It's true that in order to do what is normally
expected of Mixers and Boom Ops all you have to get from the Camera Dept. is
frame information.

Isn't that kinda tragic though? It describes the normal relationship between
camera and sound to a tee: Master and Slave. There are benign masters and
evil masters, true. But doesn't it seem bizarre that the Sound Dept. is
virtually never approached about creative issues? You are almost never asked
by the Director or the DP a question like "How do we need to shoot this
sequence to make it powerful in terms of sound?" There are obviously a few
wonderful enlightened Directors and DPs out there who know the value of sound,
but there aren't nearly enough.

I know very well that there is a lot of inertia to overcome before sound is
taken that seriously by most film makers. What I'm afraid of is that we in
sound get so used to the status quo that we don't even think about questions
like the one above. The tragedy of film sound is that it is the one craft
which is influenced by creative decisions in all the other crafts, but it is
almost never allowed the opportunity to influence any of them.

We aren't going to change that situation anytime soon, and I'm not advocating
rebellion on the set. But if we really care about making movies better by
figuring out how to help them use sound in the fullest possible way, then the
current status of sound on most sets is something I don't think we should be
complacent about.
RT

Douglas Tourtelot

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Sep 10, 2000, 12:01:54 PM9/10/00
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It still comes down to the fact that sound can be fixed (albeit poorly
sometimes) and picture can't. Not to be too blasé, but it's a true fact of
our work. I always try and do my best within the boundaries of the axiom
above.

Regards,


--
Douglas Tourtelot, CAS
Seattle, WA
tour...@earthlink.net

"Randy Thom" <rand...@aol.com> wrote in message
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Rusty FIsher

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Sep 10, 2000, 12:19:43 PM9/10/00
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Frankly, I have been lucky enough to make sure I kiss up to the camera
department. It truley works. I have had wonderful experiences with sour-puss DP
and later ending up with a great working relationship.
I don't follow the "big toothed" Tony Robbins but do try to use Dale Carnegie's
tricks and they seem to work.
I also agree the relationship between the camera and sound dept. will not
change but on a more personal level it could if we exercise a bit of kindness
and brown noseing of course.
Rusty/boom op
Atlanta

The Sound Dude

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Sep 10, 2000, 1:49:59 PM9/10/00
to Noah Timan

Noah Timan wrote:

> ......My boom op will have lots of interaction with the DP, but I often don't
> need to.....

I have a very aggressive boom op and he defends our dept. with vigor. Last night,
we were shooting in a small bookstore and the DP just had to use the widest primes
in his kit...FOR EVERY SHOT!!! So with his practice of keeping the entire frame
clean, we were on the ceiling, and still casting shadows all over the place. He
wouldn't let our grip brothers cut the top and he finally yelled at my boom op
about what to do about the shadows. He yelled back to tilt the darn camera down and
he wouldn't see the shadows.....hahahahahaha....I just had to laugh in the back
room where I was and the director who was on comtek just started chuckling!!!!
Score one for the sound guys!!!!

But I don't understand why these guys take it so personal when during rehearsals,
they see us in the frame while we are still trying to find our spot. Geeezzz, give
us a break, we're still working on it. Just tell us in a nice calm way that we were
still in and we'll work it until we get it right. They would get a lot more
cooperation with us on their side than making it an us versus them conflict all the
time!!!

BTW...thanks to all who have written me off list with your support and funny
stories and those who responded on list. It's nice to know that I'm not the only
one going through this crap and thanks also for the great suggestions, even though
I've pretty much already done most of them, I do appreciate it.

The DP and I are getting along better and actually have some fun off set. It's just
when he gets behind the camera that he becomes the Mr. Hydde!!!

I told him we'd make a pretty good team if we just wouldn't piss each other off so
much. He actually laughed at that! And to his credit, he has actually been asking
me if I needed frames, or help with shadows, etc. It's not a lot better, but
anything helps. And he has given me some nice words about the sound after watching
dailies. Of course, wait until he hears it through the giant sound system in a
theater.....oh well.

Thanks again...only three more weeks!!!!!

Rob


The Sound Dude

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Sep 10, 2000, 2:04:54 PM9/10/00
to
Douglas:

Sad but true. And that's what I keep hearing from the director. He'll look over
at me and ask if the sound can be used. I'll say no and he'll just say, "We'll
then it's another day in ADR". With that attitude, no wonder we get little
respect or help.

Rob

The Sound Dude

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Sep 10, 2000, 2:11:15 PM9/10/00
to

Rusty FIsher wrote:

> Frankly, I have been lucky enough to make sure I kiss up to the camera

> department. It truley works....I also agree the relationship between the camera


> and sound dept. will not change but on a more personal level it could if we
> exercise a bit of kindness and brown noseing of course.
> Rusty/boom op
> Atlanta

Rusty:

I agree to some point. I'm known as one of the nicest guys in the biz. People hire
me for that quality sometimes alone. I get along with everyone. But after you pull
out all the stops and they still treat you like dung, then I just stop trying. It's
not worth it. I have to expend enough energy to just do the job. I won't play
footsy with an idiot. I think there is a line that you have to draw and stand up.
I'm still nice and still butter this guy up with compliments and it has seemed to
help a little but I've resigned myself to just getting the best I can under the
circumstances and go on. It is what it is and I plan on writing this all up in a
letter after the job (and my last pay check has cleared:-) and sending it to the
Exec Prod and the DP.

Rob


Randy Thom

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Sep 10, 2000, 6:27:28 PM9/10/00
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I don't agree. Sound can't be "fixed" later. A bandage can be put on it, but
it can't be fixed. Most ADR sucks. It isn't a fix. It's a crutch, and not a
good one.

By the way, increasingly, the picture CAN be fixed in post as least as well as
the sound can.

RT

John Garrett

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Sep 10, 2000, 10:04:25 PM9/10/00
to

Michael Filosa wrote:
>
> Absolutely nailed it..... the audio dept answers to the Producer. I've
> been away for a bit, and somewhat floored by the length of this thread on a
> subject that needs little debate or even THOUGHT. The producer hires me.
> We all answer to the producer, except for boomers, who answer to US.
>
> If the DP hires me, then I'll answer to him / her. But chances are he /
> she is wearing all the hats on that instance.... DP - Director - Producer.
>
> WE DO NOT COWER to the camera dept. We work WITH the camera dept to find
> compromise in vision and sound acquisition that keeps the producer from
> losing big bucks on unnecessary looping...... We protect our clients, the
> producers, (and our results / reputations) from bad sound sometimes forced
> by picture.
>
> Surely we all have been subjected to the "Ring of Fire" lighting
> "technique" ( a sure sign of a weak DP, or, in some's defense, a situation
> constrained by time / personell on hand), which causes lots of boom shadows
> and forces us into distant booming. A good DP benchmark, IMHO, is the
> number of instruments that come out for even the most basic of shots.

I've always called it "The George Bush philosophy of lighting design" [a
thousand points of light].


G. John Garrett, C.A.S.

John Garrett

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Sep 10, 2000, 10:06:01 PM9/10/00
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The Sound Dude wrote:
>
> John Coffey wrote:
>
> > ....... "I DON'T GIVE A DAMN RATS ASS WHAT THE DP THINKS"!!!!
>
> I guess I'm coming into this discussion late but I'm in a situation right
> now where I would have to agree with you.
>
> > Most DPs don't care a twit about sound.
>
> Well the one I'm working with on an independant film doesn't seem to care.
> He is doing something I've never seen before in my nearly 20 years in this
> biz. This may be something that's popular with some DP's but it's driving me
> nuts. We are shooting in Academy wide screen and he's framing headroom, etc.
> within that raster. But he has insisted that my boom guy stay not just above
> THAT raster line, not even above the TOP raster line. But we have to keep
> the WHOLE dang viewfinder clear!!!! That robs me of one to two feet

Sounds like he's an ignoramus, get with the producer and give the boy some
education.

G. John Garrett, C.A.S.

Noah Timan

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Sep 11, 2000, 1:22:13 AM9/11/00
to
Randy, you make a lot of great points. I do think, however, that there is a
kind of flipside to this coin that should also be considered in this
discussion.

Namely, while it is true that the DP-Production Mixer relationship does sort of
resemble "master-slave" with regard to microphone placement limitations and
that we production mixers tend to get a lot of funny looks when we suggest
compromises around frame composition in order to accomodate recording
techniques (or just keeping the bleedin' windows closed during a car sequence,
or not having a fan blowing to move a curtain behind an actor giving a
devastating performance, etc etc), this, of course, is not always the end-all
and be-all of our jobs.

In some respects, we have a lot of freedom that some DPs crave, and that is,
for better or worse, that most directors are either too busy or too ignorant
about sound to get very involved with the recording process and just blindly
trust us on making creative decisions about the recording process.

I always try to involve them with discussions about recording perspective,
effects, wild sound, and anything that applies to a non-straightforward setup
(ie, one that doesn't involve an actor speaking into the sweet spot of a nice
microphone very close by...) and these discussions are usually met with minimal
creative collaboration and involvement, which is frustrating. I usually get
"do what you think is best" and they go back to the other 20,000 questions
being asked of them by all the other departments.

However, it does allow us (and I feel it's especially important in the
independent world, where many of our directors have much less experience) the
freedom to make decisions about recording technique, microphone continuity and
how things can be done with minimal interference...unlike our brothers and
sisters in the camera department, who are in a constant process of compromise
and collaboration. This has its own price, and I'm sure we've all seen
frustrated DPs not able to light, shoot, or compose in ways they'd like to
because of conflicts between themselves and the director, schedule, or what
have you.

As I'm sure many of us have experienced, our directors and producers listening
in on their Comteks over in Video Village often wouldn't know bad sound if it
bit them in the behind...and I often suspect many of them don't realize it
still during picture edit, and only finally get upset at it when the post
production supervisor tells them the bad news after the ADR spotting session or
they finally hear the camera noise, squeaky chairs, airplanes, or whatever else
it was we were bitching about on set finally rear its ugly head at the mix,
when they are finally focusing on sound and sound only.

As a result, we are often blindly trusted to carry out the thankless task of
delivering good production tracks...without their input and political ability
to change things for us, which is a shame, but also (in many cases) with their
firm trust in us and their support for our decisions across the board, which
can be a blessing. They understand that getting good sound is "important", but
not much beyond that. This essentially allows us to be the "master" of the
recording technique, rather than the "slave" of a conflicting approach. While
it's not as good as involving the director in creative decisions which affect
his or her movie, it does allow us to use our techniques and experience (of
mixing many more movies than they have directed) without impediment, which does
has its benefits, and I do appreciate those from time to time.

I certainly don't mean to be complacent about the current state of recording
sound on set! It's often appalling. However, I don't think that the director
of photography is the person with whom we can change this process. Generally,
the DP is far too obsessed with his own work to consider ours...most of the DPs
I've worked with, even the ones who will change frames for me when I'm stuck or
help in other ways, are too overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of them, and to be
fair, those tasks in many ways are more laborious and complicated than ours.
I'm sure not everyone will agree with this, but I do feel that lighting a set,
while the eventual outcome may not be more important than sound, is certainly
more time- and manpower-consuming to pull off most of the time. It's only
natural that they are too overwhelmed most of the time with their own tasks to
be of much help to us...even those who understand the power of sound and how it
will help their images be more effective.

The director, on the other hand, is another story... and I think the kind of
changes we are wishing for here starts with this person, for it is this person
who should be most concerned with creative decisions with sound, for it is he
or she who has the most to gain or lose by ignoring us. In the end, we are
helping to craft the director's vision...not the DP's. So it is naturally the
directors who can make the movies better by taking advantage of all that sound
has to offer...perhaps the DPs can technically do this too, but I feel like
trying to approach this solution through them is a lost cause.

I do feel that your points have many merits, and this one particularly strikes
a chord:

<< The tragedy of film sound is that it is the one craft
which is influenced by creative decisions in all the other crafts, but it is
almost never allowed the opportunity to influence any of them. >>

But in finding the way to overcome this, we must look to the right people to do
this, and not for all intents and purposes perform the act of what seems in my
opinion to be banging one's head against the wall (being upset that DPs don't
help us much), which, for however justified the action, only leads to a bigger
headache. That's why I feel it's good to enjoy the benefits we do have, take
the realistic approach that the DPs are never really going to be of much help
in changing the way that we approach sound on film, and pursue other avenues to
the eventual goal you describe as best we can.

Just my .02

Noah Vivekanand Timan

The Sound Dude

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 1:25:11 AM9/11/00
to John Garrett

> The Sound Dude wrote:

>
> we have to keep the WHOLE dang viewfinder clear!!!! That robs me of one to two
> feet
>
> Sounds like he's an ignoramus, get with the producer and give the boy some
> education.
>

Well, John, I finally got an explanation from the guy. It seems like this is
something that is becoming very popular in the biz.

Even though we are shooting academy for projection, they are thinking ahead to tv
and video. If they keep the whole negative clean, even though the wide screen will
be matted, when they go to tv, if the whole negative is clean, instead of paning
and scanning, they can pull back on the negative (going tall to the edge) and keep
the whole action in the picture, without the typical pan and scan. It does make
sense from that perspective but boy is it making it hard to shoot location,
especially on a period piece where the entire background ambience I am hearing is
different from what it would be like in the 40's, 50's and even 60's. And I refuse
to use rf mics on every scene. It would take forever and half the time the sound
wouldn't be much better. Oh well....

Rob


Noah Timan

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 1:31:05 AM9/11/00
to
<< A bandage can be put on it, but
it can't be fixed. Most ADR sucks. It isn't a fix. It's a crutch, and not a
good one.

By the way, increasingly, the picture CAN be fixed in post as least as well as
the sound can.

RT >>

Yes, but being that most directors and producers STILL (after 30? 40? 50? years
of ADR) still don't understand the ins and outs of the process and why this is
a bandage and not a fix, how long before it will be that they take for granted
that picture can be fixed in the way they seem to think that the sound can be
fixed?

As usual, we must wait for the entire industry to catch up to being comfortable
with real options before those options become viable solutions, and probably
even longer before the parties in question are willing to exercise those
options comfortably.

Me, at the moment, I'm just waiting for enough post production houses to accept
DEVA so I can record on set on a medium and machine much smaller than DAT...not
to be overly pessimistic, but I hope I'm still in the business when producers,
directors, and other executive decision-makers are as willing to pull out
"we'll fix it in post" as quickly for picture as they are for sound, even
though it, as you say, can be done today.

Noah

Jeff Wexler

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 1:49:19 AM9/11/00
to
in article 20000910182728...@ng-ch1.aol.com, Randy Thom at

rand...@aol.com wrote on 9/10/2000 3:27 PM:

> I don't agree. Sound can't be "fixed" later. A bandage can be put on it, but
> it can't be fixed. Most ADR sucks. It isn't a fix. It's a crutch, and not a
> good one.
>
> By the way, increasingly, the picture CAN be fixed in post as least as well as
> the sound can.
>

This is a very interesting thread and it touches on issues that I have spent
a lot of time thinking about. I agree with much of what Randy points out but
I still feel that the one thing that separates the PRODUCTION sound team
from all of the rest of the departments is the fact that the sound CAN be
done later. But this doesn't tell the whole story. Firstly, first of all, we
must always make the distinction when talking about the "sound for a movie"
whether we are talking about the production elements, those primary tracks
recorded during production, or all of the other elements that go into the
production of the soundtrack that are generally done in post. There has to
be a commitment to the acquisition of PRODUCTION sound elements before there
can be any respect, understanding or support for what we do in production.
Sadly, most directors and most producers do not have this commitment because
they have almost never even investigated what are the potential values of
the sound recorded "on the day" of shooting. Most directors would like to
get something that they don't have to re-do (ADR) and most producers would
like the benefit of savings in time and money in post... but that is about
the extent of it. It is sort of like what Linus Pauling said when he did his
pioneering work on Vitamin C. He declared that the the entire way of looking
at vitamin supplements was wrong. The US minimum daily requirement is the
amount of a given vitamin required so as to not develop the disease
associated with a deficiency. 250 mg of vitamin C per day will avoid scurvy.
Linus Pauling said we should be looking at how much vitamin C we need to
promote health, not just avoid disease.

In the case of "fixing the picture" later, it is true that it is
increasingly more feasible everyday to alter the images digitally, to "fix"
things that were not right on the day. But the cost and time involved, with
picture, is much more expensive and time consuming than it is with the
sound. If the production sound is REALLY BAD, you don't lose your movie, so
the necessary steps are not taken on the set, often, to provide for
recordings that are little more than documentation of what the actors were
saying and in what room. If the same lack of regard for the image side of
filmmaking begins to take the form of requiring cinematographers to shoot
without lights, without an exposure, this will become the norm if adequate
can be economically created digitally at a later date. At this time, the DP
will be in the same position as the production sound mixer --- someone else
is going to be making the movie and they are going to be doing it later in a
room with a computer.

I could go on and on, but I won't. As the film BUSINESS becomes more and
more business and less and less film, decisions are going to be made only on
the basis of cost to produce the product. This is capitalism, of course, and
why should we think that this industry is going to be run by the creative
elite we all like to think we are.

Regards, Jeff Wexler

Randy Thom

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 7:41:28 PM9/11/00
to
I agree completely that it is the hearts and minds of the Directors that we
most need to change. The fact that so many Directors are ignorant of sound
isn't a good thing for us, or for movies, in the long run. In the short term
it may keep them off our backs. But it really means that sound is simply not
available to them as a creative tool except in the most obvious and banal ways.
And it means that in a fundamental way they don't take us or the work we do
seriously.

The amazing thing is that very little thought has been put into using sound in
film storytelling. It isn't taught in film schools. Most Directors know a
hundred times as much about cinematography as they do sound. And we in the
craft of sound don't know nearly as much about it as we should either. We get
away with it because the Directors don't relate to us as collaborators. Let's
face it, if a Director were ever to ask us how to design a scene for sound our
first inclination would be to run and hide. We don't usually think in those
terms. But we need to if we want them to take us seriously. Once we begin to
figure out how to use sound in storytelling then we can begin to help them
figure it out.

There is this weird assumption about Directors and sound: that they know what
they want from the beginning. That assumption isn't made about any other
craft. The Director and the Writer collaborate. They toss ideas around. They
argue. They try things. The same happens between the Director and the Actors,
DP, Production Designer, Editor, and Composer. With us the dialog is
different: We ask them what they want, and they either tell us, or they say
they don't know. And that's the end of the discussion. That isn't
collaboration. And it's symptomatic of the lowly status of film sound.

RT

Charles Tomaras

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 8:57:32 PM9/11/00
to
Is there a DGA publication or other sort of paper that all of these directors read? Would it be
beneficial for possibly the CAS or a consortium of RAMPS contributors to draft an open letter
and finance through contributions an advertisement to the directors about taking sound more
seriously?

Just thinking out loud again!

Charlie - Seattle


"Randy Thom" <rand...@aol.com> wrote in message

news:20000911194128...@ng-cg1.aol.com...

alac...@singnet.com.sg

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 9:03:44 PM9/11/00
to
*** post for free via your newsreader at post.newsfeeds.com ***


Been following this thread closely and found alot of good points and humour.

Once I came across an Hong Kong DP who always give me plenty of ideas to fix my sound in post which really makes me wonder why he wanna be a DP. I always heard him talking to the director that this can be EQ that can be noise reduce. I was real piss and i walk up to the DP and try to have a nice chat with him.

Over at lunch I explain with all my knowledge that what we record to tape is like what they put on film. Audio post is suppose to sweeten and not to deface the production sound. With all the mighty post audio technologies we have in this era, still can't get rid of air con rumble, fridge noise ....etc wihout harming the actual dialog. Spare the post guys more time in creative sound design then to fight with cleaning up the dialog.

I ended the conversation by posting him a question. I ask him why must he remove the trash can which is in frame during the last scene? Why can't he just keep it in frame and scope out the trash can during post. He smile and I guess he understood my explaination coz from then on I heard no more suggestions from him anymore and especially to the director.

Alan Chong (Singapore)


Sent via the SoundSpeed Movie Database
http://www.soundspeedmovie.com
"The site for production sound"

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Jeff Wexler

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 10:54:51 PM9/11/00
to
in article 39BC6CB7...@surfree.com, The Sound Dude at

soun...@surfree.com wrote on 9/10/2000 10:25 PM:
>
> Well, John, I finally got an explanation from the guy. It seems like this is
> something that is becoming very popular in the biz.

The same thing happened to me for the first time on this last job I did for
HBO. The post production supervisor called a meeting for me, the DP (which
happened to be my father, Haskell --- I got him the job) the assistant
camera person, the editor and others. A five page spec sheet with drawings
was passed out to all of us basically explaining that we needed to protect
the ENTIRE PHOTOGRAPHABLE AREA so that HBO would have the flexibility to
compose and format for any future release, even to countries that don't even
yet have a TV system in place. So, I knew the soundtrack would suffer but
the sh** really hit the fan when my father looked at this stuff which also
suggested in no small way that the COMPOSITION of the FRAME was also of
vital importance to HBO and it would be best if all actors and action were
confined to the middle 30 per cent of the frame, in the "cross hairs" so to
speak. Haskell went ballistic and left the meeting. When we started
shooting, the composition was what he wanted and we used a common TOP to
protect. So much for the HBO edict.

Regards, Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 11:04:08 PM9/11/00
to
in article 20000911194128...@ng-cg1.aol.com, Randy Thom at

rand...@aol.com wrote on 9/11/2000 4:41 PM:

> And it means that in a fundamental way they don't take us or the work we do
> seriously.

Randy:
This is so true it hurts.


>
>We get
> away with it because the Directors don't relate to us as collaborators.

The closest we ever get to collaboration is cooperation ... and that isn't
collaboration as it should be.


>
> There is this weird assumption about Directors and sound: that they know what
> they want from the beginning. That assumption isn't made about any other
> craft. The Director and the Writer collaborate. They toss ideas around.
> They argue. They try things. The same happens between the Director and the
> Actors, DP, Production Designer, Editor, and Composer.

This is a very good point. They really don't discuss anything with us ...
you can always tell they are just praying that somehow it will all work out
in the end, but by "working out" they just mean they won't have to deal with
the actors in ADR, no one will yell at them for doing stupid things on the
set, the movie can be completed with a minimum of difficulty, and so on.
This is pathetic but it is the way of the business. I am clueless as to how
to change it.

Regards, Jeff Wexler

Larry Long

unread,
Sep 11, 2000, 11:52:31 PM9/11/00
to
Okay so I'm bummed now , maybe I should have stayed in school or
learned to carry sand bags:(

Hey another thing although it's off the topic, speaking of Directors.
When did directing become an entry level position? I see all these
first time directors esp from the Music Video field showing up to work
on some decent money productions and they have no clue about sound.

Not my current situation just an observation

Red headed step child of the film industry,
Larry

John Coffey

unread,
Sep 12, 2000, 1:19:25 AM9/12/00
to
I believe that the difference between good and bad set sound tracks
is only an extra 5 to 10 minutes a day. That's the time it takes to
spend those extra seconds putting down another furni pad, adding another
mic, fine tuning a wireless, putting more rubber on the shoes, chalking
a dolly wheels, siliconing a squeaky door .........It's what happens
between the first take and the printed take. The stuff that can make you
seem a pain in the ass to an unappreciative AD or director. We are just
trying to do a good job, but we have to sell it all the time and that
get old fast.

I've always agreed with Charles idea about the publicity. If only we
could could get an effective message to the directors. Local 695 has
kicked it around a lot, but we can't seem to agree on what or how to do
and therefore the motions keep getting tabled.
CAS has it's hands pretty full just trying to get seminars, the
directory and the newsletters with volunteer help.
The single most effective way would be to get an article in DGA
magazine condensing the thoughts expressed in this thread. The editor
would have to be approached to entertain the idea first, but I think it
would be accepted. Sell it with a title such as "How Getting Good Sound
On Set Will Improve Your Film"
Now, who has time to bake that pie?

http://www.coffeysound.com

Noah Timan

unread,
Sep 12, 2000, 7:36:37 AM9/12/00
to
<< The single most effective way would be to get an article in DGA
magazine condensing the thoughts expressed in this thread. The editor
would have to be approached to entertain the idea first, but I think it
would be accepted. Sell it with a title such as "How Getting Good Sound
On Set Will Improve Your Film"
Now, who has time to bake that pie?
>>

I personally feel that a good approach might be strength in numbers, rather
than one lone mixer on a soapbox. How about multiple contributions along these
lines from all of us? Lots of different people here have had interesting and
different approaches to this subject. This NG might be a good place to build
such a document...

Noah

Jay Rose

unread,
Sep 12, 2000, 8:08:14 AM9/12/00
to
In article <39bd...@post.newsfeeds.com>, <alac...@singnet.com.sg> wrote:

|: Once I came across an Hong Kong DP who always give me plenty of ideas


to fix my sound in post which really makes me wonder why he wanna be a DP.
I always heard him talking to the director that this can be EQ that can be

noise reduce....

Then the director or producer comes to me and expects miracles that can't
be done. If I ask why they didn't take five minutes more on the set to
record it right in the first place, they explain that they just assumed
some box of mine would dial out the room ringing in the voice or bring the
dialog up out of the mud, so they didn't worry about it while editing.

I think most directors are trained to regard sound as voodoo. They see you
tweak an equalizer on a well-recorded voice and make it sound great, so
they figure the eq will work just as well on bad tracks.

A lot of it starts at the schools. My son (also an engineer) just spent a
month helping a nationally-respected art school with an allegedly
excellent film department get their equipment together for the school
year. I was talking to his boss, the director of the sound program there,
and mentioned that a particular piece of classic equipment sounded much
better if you put a terminating resistor across the transformer-balanced
output. She had no idea what balanced wiring was!

--
Jay Rose <<jay at dplay dotcom>>
Clio/Emmy-winning Sound Designer
Want to learn audio for video? http://www.dplay.com/book

Noah Timan

unread,
Sep 12, 2000, 8:11:06 AM9/12/00
to
<< This is a very good point. They really don't discuss anything with us ...
you can always tell they are just praying that somehow it will all work out
in the end, but by "working out" they just mean they won't have to deal with
the actors in ADR, no one will yell at them for doing stupid things on the
set, the movie can be completed with a minimum of difficulty, and so on.
This is pathetic but it is the way of the business. I am clueless as to how
to change it.

Regards, Jeff Wexler>>

To venture a guess, I believe part of it is changing the heirarchy of percieved
importance of departments that has conditioned this effect and continues to
infect new directors with it. Less experienced directors will take their leads
from more experienced ones, and from the industry-accepted idea that production
sound: A) can be fixed, and B) is good if everyone can be heard clearly and bad
if everyone can't, period. Directors pay attention to issues of background
noise when it is so ridiculously loud that they know it is useless or when they
are made to understand that has no chance of intercutting, but rarely at any
other time. The end-all and be-all of good sound to them (and, I'm afraid, to
some of us) is with a quiet enough background and the subjects miked vaguely on
axis. They don't ever seem to understand the difference between the effect of
someone's voice on a microphone that emphasizes frequencies that bring out a
special quality in that voice (and, subsequently, their performance) and the
effect of someone's voice on a lavalier buried in clothing and companded to
hell on an RF system. We all spend much time, energy, and passion trying to
accomplish the former and fight like hell to avoid the latter (come on, folks,
our jobs would be pitifully easy if all we had to do was wire everyone for
every shot...why would we fight if there was nothing to gain, and "good sound"
could be accomplished by this method?)

Like Randy says, this has nothing to do with the visceral impact that sound can
have, the storytelling and dramatic impact it can be utilized for, etc etc.
Sound design seems to be generally more accepted in this department but I'm
sure it is subject to similar pitfalls of ignorance.

To be sure, directors have changed methods of shooting for sound for me
before...but only when I whip out the "it will be unusable otherwise" card,
never when I whip out the "it will be better and more dramatically effective to
do it the way I suggest, even though it will be technically 'usable' the other
way" card. Like you say, Jeff, this is not collaboration. It's pandering to a
standard that we don't like and don't agree with.

To change this would require enormous courage on everyone's part. What about
the supervising sound editor who recieves an off-axis and strange perspective
line, for instance? Does he have the cojones to say, "I believe in this as a
dramatic effect and we shouldn't loop it", or does he say "I like it, but we
should loop it anyway just to be sure you don't change your mind at the mix?"
Or maybe, "This sucks. I don't know what that idiot production mixer was
thinking!"? If he says the one of the latter, does everyone fall under fire
for incurring ADR costs and time? Do we have the courage to present these
tracks in this fashion without being blamed for causing same, or are we worried
that instigating this response will cause us to not get hired on that
producer's next job and not do it? Do we have the courage to stray from
pandering to everyone else's idea of "good sound"?

To be sure, not all the instances of deviating from the standard are not that
dramatic and would be happily welcomed by everyone in post once the on-set
fracas and politics die down. But it seems to me that an overhaul of the
approach and the possibilities inherent in recording sound on set is long
overdue.

As a final note about another message in this thread regarding publicity, a
great DP and a good friend once told me about an experience he had watching
dailies. He was watching two different takes -- one which a boom operator was
able to be utilized and one which the boom wasn't and radioed lavs were needed.
I forget the circumstances that caused this, but he (as a DP) was bowled over
by the different effect of the two takes and realized, "the difference was the
sound". One was dramatically effective, the other detracted from the dramatic
effectiveness of the shot. Perhaps A-B comparisons of certain situations
(performances recorded on set vs. ADR performances, situations like the one
above, etc) in some sort of presentation would help accentuate our case. Sound
speaks louder than words. It might help directors new and old understand just
what we're carrying on about and finally make sense to them.

Noah Vivekanand Timan

Noah Timan

unread,
Sep 12, 2000, 8:15:15 AM9/12/00
to
<< Hey another thing although it's off the topic, speaking of Directors.
When did directing become an entry level position? I see all these
first time directors esp from the Music Video field showing up to work
on some decent money productions and they have no clue about sound. >>

I'd venture a somewhat educated guess that music video directors have never had
to deal with sound recording and its various pitfalls in directing videos
("playback rolls")...but they do have the confidence from experience in the job
title of "director". So some of them feel that they consequently know
everything about their job due to said experience and don't want to hear
otherwise.

I fear them like the plague.

N

Charles Tomaras

unread,
Sep 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/13/00
to
I'll add my 2 cents, but I'm a nobody who gets excited about a 2nd Unit day playing job. You
heavy hitting CAS guys with your oodles of movie experience would really add to the
credibility!

Charlie

"John Garrett" <jgar...@world.std.com> wrote in message
news:39BFA2C4...@world.std.com...
>
>
> John Coffey wrote:
> >
> [...]


>
> > The single most effective way would be to get an article in DGA
> > magazine condensing the thoughts expressed in this thread. The editor
> > would have to be approached to entertain the idea first, but I think it
> > would be accepted. Sell it with a title such as "How Getting Good Sound
> > On Set Will Improve Your Film"
> > Now, who has time to bake that pie?
> >
> > http://www.coffeysound.com
>

> I'd be pleased to collaborate. Randy? Jeff? Billy? Charlie? ????
>
> G. John Garrett, C.A.S.

Mike Hall

unread,
Sep 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/13/00
to
I used my wife's email account by mistake.

the previous post from Laurel Fest was actually written by Mike Hall
at mike...@hotmail.com


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Laurel Fest

unread,
Sep 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/13/00
to

Edward Grabczewski wrote:

> In a Production Crew, who does the Sound Mixer/Recordist answer to when
> recording:
>
> a) Film
> b) Video
> c) TV
>
> Additional information on who the Mixer liases with would be helpful
>
> thanks
> Eddy

My immediate superior is the film's director. I attempt to cooperate with
all of the other departments so that I can get the best sound possible for
the shot at hand. Communication with the Camera/ grip/electric folk is
particularly important, since they can help or hinder my positioning of the
microphone those few inches closer that are so critical for recording
good vs ok sound. If I feel that an important issue impacting 'good sound'
vs 'bad sound' is being misunderstood or ignored, I will take it to the
producer of the film who is usually the person who hired me, and whom I
consider to be my ultimate boss. .All protestations by DP's and directors
to the contrary, the producer is the one person who usually understands the
dollars and cents cost as well as the aesthetic losses that result from
poor production tracks. It's not just his reel or his resume, it's his
money.

Good sound in my world is when in a head-and-shoulders closeup with a clean
background,
I hear the tiny breath sounds, lip smacking, and sometimes the salivary
glands at work.

John Garrett

unread,
Sep 13, 2000, 11:52:36 AM9/13/00
to

John Coffey wrote:
>
[...]

> The single most effective way would be to get an article in DGA
> magazine condensing the thoughts expressed in this thread. The editor
> would have to be approached to entertain the idea first, but I think it
> would be accepted. Sell it with a title such as "How Getting Good Sound
> On Set Will Improve Your Film"
> Now, who has time to bake that pie?
>
> http://www.coffeysound.com

I'd be pleased to collaborate. Randy? Jeff? Billy? Charlie? ????

G. John Garrett, C.A.S.

Randy Thom

unread,
Sep 14, 2000, 12:27:14 AM9/14/00
to
I'm going to be totally crazed until Thannksgiving, finishing Castaway, so I
couldn't commit much time to it.

An article in the DGA magazine is a good idea, but a seminar at the DGA would
be good too. The really cool way to do it would be to get a heavy hitter
Director who loves sound to participate. David Fincher might be a
possiblility. He would attract actual Directors to come to the event. Mr.
Wexler, you know the man. Think he'd do it?

RT

John Coffey

unread,
Sep 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/14/00
to

Before this thread fades forever ito oblivion into another good idea
that never happened, I'll take a stab at it if no one else wants too.

Just give me your input to write...


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DIRECTORS
I have contacted DGA Magazine to expect this article for submission
approval.

Since we are going to go to all this trouble, lets make this really
cool!
Let's make it one of our legacies to be the first industry craft to
ever write up such a primer for above the line.

It'll be an Audio Manifesto For The Set, something to give to every
Director, Producer, AD, DP, Editor, UPM, and Location Manager. Maybe
film schools will make future directors memorize it! Lets put our names
behind it and also offer it to the Producers Guild, Emmy Magazine,
American Cinematographer, Film Maker, Premiere and anyone else that
wants to use it. Spread the word as far as we can.

I wrote the first sentences to start this at our new forum found by
going to our web site or click directly to
THE RECORDING ARTS FORUM at:
http://www.coffeysound.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000042.html

You will have to register for free one time to make your comment seen.
Using this letter to advertise the opening of our new forum is what's in
it for me, certainly enough to find the time to motivate me to do this
free work. Hope you like it. It's different and meant as a supplement to
ramps for the web surfer that can never get enough audio talk.

You will see that this forum will work as the best answer for the
constant editing that will be required to add your thoughts to the main
body of the article.

Let's Rock,
John Coffey

http://www.coffeysound.com


Rick Mills

unread,
Sep 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/15/00
to
Charlie...

Thanks for the tips on the phone last week! Really refreshed my one track mind.
Knowing your experience, I jumped at the chance to break the mold on my own terms.

We went from Digi Beta to 35mmm and back several times a day.
Not sure which I liked more - with film, I'm in control, and know everything is cool. With Digi
Beta, it all goes out the window. Is the code on the slate the same as the camera and the Fostex?
No one else seemed to care.
I fell back in the groove quickly, got along with the script chick well and had a good time.
All went well, the DP called and thanked me for the good work He related that the telecine xfer
guy said thanks for the pre roll and the good notes. I was floored, concedering I (we) never get
anything like that from the news mag people we work with. And nice craft services too. Found a
top notch boom guy - after just a couple of takes we were communicating non verbally, with hand
signals across a big set with a full crew working. Lots of fun.

Rick

The Sound Dude

unread,
Sep 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/15/00
to Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler wrote:

> ....When we started shooting, the composition was what he wanted and we used a


> common TOP to protect. So much for the HBO edict.
>
> Regards, Jeff Wexler

Good for your dad! And lucky for you. Not only have I been robbed of one to two
feet of tight miking, our shooting schedule is so fast that there is no time for
deadening sets with blankets, hiding mics on set, etc. The past two days, we were
shooting at a house that was supposed to be a remote cabin in the woods, back in
1951. Well the location they picked looked great, but was 150 yards from one of
the busiest interstate highways in the nation. What do you think I heard in every
single scene???

I hung blankets everywhere I could, even on the outside of the small house, to
keep the sound from reaching the hard wood walls and floor where it would conduct
into the house. It was a loosing situation. Well, that is what comes from not
including sound in your tech and location scouts!!! I walked right to the UPM and
told her what was up and asked about the upcoming locations these final two weeks.
I had to demand that they locate the base camp down the road instead of 100 feet
from the house, and had to through a fit to get the genie an extra 100 feet away,
which didn't help much, so I stood there until they pulled three trucks in front
of it to block the noise.

Do the rest of you guys have to jump through hoops like this to get decent
sound???? Or is there more awareness on large budget films than these independent
movies? I'm worn out just from trying to get a decent track!!!!

Rob


The Sound Dude

unread,
Sep 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/15/00
to

Charles Tomaras wrote:

> I'll add my 2 cents, but I'm a nobody who gets excited about a 2nd Unit day playing job. You
> heavy hitting CAS guys with your oodles of movie experience would really add to the
> credibility!

But feel free to include some of our stories and bad experiences in your article. It seems like
this is happening alot on the low end, the independent films, and there are more of them
shooting today then every before.

Sincerely,

Rob


Ray Beckett

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to
In article <39C2A66B...@surfree.com>,
The Sound Dude <soun...@surfree.com> wrote:

>
>Jeff Wexler wrote:
>
>> ....When we started shooting, the composition was what he wanted and we used a


>> common TOP to protect. So much for the HBO edict.
>>
>> Regards, Jeff Wexler
>

I really sympathise. They do not deserve you. I know all too well that
feeling of
being worn out just by the effort of doing a good job.

So many times being concientious is seen as being a nuisance to other
departments
who really should know better.

I had an incident where I had to beg the location manager to get a sand
blasting
machine stopped before shooting a major 6 page dialogue scene. It was only
when
I told the producer that the entire scene would have to be looped that
pressure
was put on the location manager to do their job! This was not a low budget
film,
this was a BBC Drama series.

Far from being thanked for saving them money, the incident started a nasty
vendetta
by the location department against the sound dept that lasted for the last
week of
shooting. I like to think that I am a friendly, open, easy-going person. If

something comes between me and my getting the results I want then I find
that I
am forced into "aggressive mode". This is unpleasant and unatural for me
and is
therefore very stressful

So uneccessary, so counter-productive, so stupid.

Ray Beckett

John Garrett

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to
Rob, sometimes, after weeks of fighting for the bare minimums with the same
production staff/crew on a movie I realize that I am now qualified to teach
kindergarten. Yes, it happens to me too. Just a couple of days ago I arrived
at my ext/day commercial location, thrilled that production had hired police for
ITC.
There, less than 200 feet from the talent position, was the genny,
wheel-chocked, cabled and running. At least it was a good excuse not to put a
radio on the talent, who was facing the street the whole time.

G. John Garrett, C.A.S.

The Sound Dude wrote:
>
> Jeff Wexler wrote:
>

> > ....When we started shooting, the composition was what he wanted and we used a


> > common TOP to protect. So much for the HBO edict.
> >
> > Regards, Jeff Wexler
>

Douglas Tourtelot

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to
I guess I have to jump in on this little rant thread. I have been stunned
by the change in attitude that has come about in our business over the last
few years. Geez, I am sounding like Jim Webb now! What used to be regarded
as a proud craft has turned, in some part to a careless hack-job. Now this
is not due to the inexperience of the crews. My current crew will talk on
and on about the studio releases they have done in the past.

Just this week, I got in a tussle with the Key Grip about light spilling out
of a badly wrapped instrument that was causing a mic shadow (easy fix that
never got done), a gel that was rattling in a frame (easy fix, never got
done). To the Video Op about the village being set up, constantly!, too
close to the camera so the boomman was forced to alter her path to get
around (had a yelling match over that one late last night). Ballasts with
fans set up ON the set with piles of head feeder rolled up next to the lamp.
Windows opened to air the room, and then never closed until I asked the ADs,
and then much eye rolling and sighing about the odious task of closing them.

It is now okay when we shoot movies to provide lazy, sloppy work! It is
hard for me, human nature, not to throw up my hands and jump on the wagon.
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, but it always causes me to go home a
little more weary than I should.

I believe that this ugly circle will continue to spiral down so that the
producers will have every right to say "video tape is cheap. Let just shoot
more," and the days of work that any of us can be proud of will be gone. I
hope I retire before I quit!

Rant mode (I am a bit frustrated) off.

PS. Jim Webb was right. "They just don't make movies the way they used
too."

Regards,


--
Douglas Tourtelot, CAS
Seattle, WA
tour...@earthlink.net


"John Garrett" <jgar...@world.std.com> wrote in message

news:39C39437...@world.std.com...


> Rob, sometimes, after weeks of fighting for the bare minimums with the
same
> production staff/crew on a movie I realize that I am now qualified to
teach
> kindergarten. Yes, it happens to me too. Just a couple of days ago I
arrived
> at my ext/day commercial location, thrilled that production had hired
police for
> ITC.
> There, less than 200 feet from the talent position, was the genny,
> wheel-chocked, cabled and running. At least it was a good excuse not to
put a
> radio on the talent, who was facing the street the whole time.
>
> G. John Garrett, C.A.S.
>
> The Sound Dude wrote:
> >
> > Jeff Wexler wrote:
> >

> > > ....When we started shooting, the composition was what he wanted and


we used a
> > > common TOP to protect. So much for the HBO edict.
> > >
> > > Regards, Jeff Wexler
> >

> > Good for your dad! And lucky for you. Not only have I been robbed of one
to two

Larry Long

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to

Okay as long we're ranting how's this for slack......

We are shooting on stage in a cafeteria set,the Production Designer
likes to use real greens instead of fake movie trees,the greens people
keep about 100 plants in a corral outside the stage where they can get
sun and water.
When we move to the stages they drag in these potted trees and shrubs.
Well while the plants are outside for weeks they get crickets in them
,now I'm used to axing a random cricket and all but there are multiple
little buggers in all the plants,I spray and hunt and go nuts (we are
talking about 50 or so plants) I'm lookin' ,my guys are lookin' ,the
pa's are lookin'.
I have asked the PD to tell his greensfolk to treat the plants with
seven dust 2 months ago,they didn't,I called the greensman (and
interrupted her dinner) and asked her to treat the plants 1 month
ago,she didn't. Why did they all just roll their eyes and sigh at me
when I asked for help?

So last night the director and producers are asking me about all the
crickets during a day/ int ! I'm not a cricket wrangler! I'm a sound
mixer damnit,as if that's not hard enough.

I put the greensmans phone # on my sound report and explained the
situation.
Making excuses though ,is not right ,there are no good excuses ,we all
need to turn in good work .
They basically slapped me in the face all night ,last night.

This sounds petty I'm sure but you all feel my pain!

"i've been beat up, i've been thrown out but i'm not down! "
(The Clash)

Larry Long

ps
Are hair loss and heavy drinkin' symtoms of sound mixing?

Eric Toline

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to
Let's see, I've read about grips, location managers, greenspeople,
costume people, DP"s, gaffers, AD's, makeup, and just about everyone on
the set all afflicted with the same problem. ATS or Allergic To Sound.
The symptoms are, Rolling eyes and Big Sighs.

As I see it we're making them do a little extra work and go out of their
way to help. So from their point of view we're the PITA"s, & the
troublemakers.

To just accept the looks from them as they begrudgingly do what you ask
will not solve the problem. We need to ask them why it's a problem for
them to do what needs to be done.

My take on this is that 99.9999% of what we ask for from a sound POV
does not effect the visual portion of the production. That is what
everyone is concerned with because they don't understand sound and the
many problems that we need to be aware of & fix.

We've all heard the wide eyed questions: "You can hear that?", "But it's
outside, how can you hear it?", "Can't you use a microphone that won't
hear that noise?". We've all heard every variation on that theme a 1000
times and it never seems to stop. My personal response has always been,
"If you can hear it, I can hear it, only better & louder".

I don't profess to have any new answers or solutions except to restate
that we need to ask "why is doing what we ask is a problem for you?"
Maybe we have to be part educator, instructor, PITA, troublemaker and
mentor to improve the final product. It's not a popularity contest, we
have a job to do, we're the professionals!!!

There is an old adage that goes: "If you do what you've always done,
you'll get what you've always gotten"

Eric Toline


John Coffey

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to
Douglas:
Take a deep breath, calm down, and remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!
The only way this will change is through educating the people who work
above the line to back us up.
The respect for sound in particular has degenerated to an all time
low. It's an insidious thing. I'm not talking now about who's a swell
guy, I'm referring to the fact that there is no longer any expectation
that ANYTHING needs to be done to acommadate sound. Film schools should
now require kids to get a doctorate in psycholgy before they learn the
first thing about audio.

The grip department-
Once upon a time....There really was faraway place only a few remember
(about 10 years ago) where every grip took pride in cutting boom shadows
whether they liked sound or not. Some were better than others and it was
an admired skill. They did it because it was part of their job and they
had enough pride in their job to cut shadows properly.
Now..... forget it, most look at you like you have 3 eyes when you ask
and ofen don't know how when they do try. The impulse is to want to grab
the flag and do it yourself, but instead, you must use this new
psycology hocus pocus and get this whole simple procedure cleared by a
committee and then coax the grip into putting that flag in the sweet
spot. Most don't know and don't care. Period.
You have to pull teeth to get double plywood dance floors for dolly
caused floor creaks, chalking squeaking tires and keeping scrims from
rattling freely in the wind.
You know, there once was a time where grips parked their taco carts
further than 5 feet away from the set and sound got to park in a decent
spot not reserved for grip equipment. Now, even if you are lucky enough
you set up there first, they often expect you to move out of the room
like their gear has priority over your gear. If you defer, you are the
bad guy and gee maybe you won't get help in the future (like that's a
threat?).

Electricians-
Once upon a time...Gaffers would come to you and apoligize profusely
because you could faintly hear the generator a mile away. Variacs were
actually used with dimmers. You may have workd with a flat lighting hack
sometimes and I we may have hated each other, but at least they always
still worked with you to get a mic in somehow. Not because they liked
you or not, but because it was part of their job.
Now...Generators get closer every day and God help you if you ask it to
move to the place it should have been parked. The excuses are my
favorite. Too late, not enough cable, we tried but....
Once upon a time.........Lights used to sometimes get hot and make a
little hum which the gaffer would bang till it stopped or change the
whole light out.
Now....lights are designed to make noise. I mean it, no thought of the
noise from lights is even considered for a millisecond. Xeons are in
vouge! The object now is to keep all ballasts as close to the set as
possible so that no single noise stands out over the ambient wall of
noise which may be louder than quiet dialogue. Move one, you gotta move
em all and no one in their right mind would ask for that?

Camera-
Once upon a time.......the 1st AC would tell you (not ask you) that they
put a glass over the lenses to stop bad camera noise. of course they
only did that after they put on the barney and the pitch was tuned (they
did this already without asking) didn't do the trick. Sometimes they put
so many pillows and blankets on the camera, the operator looked like the
front end of a horse costume.

Now.......it's, "you want me to do what?"

Wardrobe-
Once upon a time.....They used to understand that hiding wires were part
of their job too and most went to extraordinary lengths to help you
because they took great pride in their job.
Now....It depends upon the person and their mood that day. The level of
cooperation is unsteady and changes from show to show.

Teamsters-
Once upon a time....they would ask you if the makeup trailer parked way
down the road could be heard. The only reason you might say yes would be
because it was the only thing running.
Now.....Every truck is parked as close as possible to the set and each
one has a genie running that mysteriously go on and off all day during
takes.

Location Managers-
At least they've been consistent...they've always sucked!

ADs and PAs-
Like lemmings, the more their numbers multiply, the worse they get. They
are everywhere except outside the window where you hear the talking.
Stop traffic anymore? Forget it. Closed rehersals and then not giving
one to the crew.
However, they still love to nail you with my personal all time
favorite, "Waiting on Sound".......some things never change.

So to everyone feeling like Doug,
Just remember, IT'S NOT YOU!!!

My deepest sympathy,
John Coffey

http://www.coffeysound.com


John Coffey

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to

LARRY, PUT DOWN THE GUN!

Okay, that's better, now refer back to my reply to Doug and keep
chanting over and over that "I Am Not Alone".

I think this is the best thread we have ever had on ramps. We can
talk all day about the best mic to use but this is about the crux of the
problem. We can clearly see that the situations often dictate that we
can do a better job than they will let us do.
It's really a shame and that's why we need to educate them. If the
above-the- line departments understand our job better then the theory is
that they will go to bat more often for us. It's worth a shot.


Larry, about the crickets, you bring up another sore subject that I'm
seeing more and more. Many times post can fix the crickets and some
other audio poblems on set, but often they are not. Here we are told to
give them flat tracks to make fixes in post, then we are left holding
the bag when the editor sends it for ADR without trying to save the
track for budget, time, incompetence and political decisions we don't
even know about.
The post room might not even get a shot at it before it's marked for
ADR. The Cameo has proved this on several occassions. It can usually
take out crickets, so why not post? We are now seeing examples of scenes
being "saved" in production which were not being "fixed" in post but
that's another topic.
John Coffey

http://www.coffeysound.com


The Sound Dude

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to John Garrett

John Garrett wrote:

> Rob, sometimes, after weeks of fighting for the bare minimums with the same production
> staff/crew on a movie I realize that I am now qualified to teach kindergarten.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA...And the thing is, they don't realize it...they have no clue!!!!


> ....There, less than 200 feet from the talent position, was the genny,


> wheel-chocked, cabled and running. At least it was a good excuse not to put a radio
> on the talent, who was facing the street the whole time.

Thanks for the story...I don't feel quite so bad now. Today, we were shooting downtown
on a Saturday in a high rise business building so I figured that I would be a little
insulated from the genny and outside noise. Nooooooooo!!! We were in a corner office,
windows all around, single pained, right next to the bus station and directly across
from a building with about 30 tons of industrial a/c compressors that ran the whole
time....HAHAHAHAHA....I just can't win!!!! And the DP decides to shoot everything with a
25 mil prime so the boom was on the ceiling...oh well...;-)

Thanks again.....rob


Eric Toline

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to

Re: Sound Production - who do you answer to?
Help
Group: rec.arts.movies.production.sound Date: Sun, Sep 17, 2000, 1:53am
(EDT+4) From: stevek...@home.com (Stephen King)

John, this IS a fascinating discussion. I'm really impressed by the zeal
you all express in your pursuit of excellence in production sound. Each
contributor to this thread seems like a pro's pro.

<<<<<<small snipage>>>>


What I don't hear any of you talking about, except in passing, is money.
That is ***all*** that is important to the producer. What I mean by that
is the producer has a vision and has budgeted for some level of quality
in his project.<<<<<<<<<<<

ok, for $5 you can have really bad scratchy telephone type sound or if
you'd like something better we have sound at $10, $20, $30, $40 & up
quality. All I have to do is turn the "sucks" knob up or down. I (we)
don't know how to do $5 sound. Try applying the same anology to the the
camera dept. For $5 you get fuzzy, blurry, under/overexposed pictures,
etc, etc.
As professionals we have to do our best regardless of the rates,
anything less can't and won't be tolerated by all concerned.
--------------------------------------------------------
It might be low or it might be Academy Award level, depends on the
market he's going for. I don't hear you guys talking like a 'partner' to
that producer, your employer, the guy who pays your checks. If you were
thinking like a 'partner', you might ask the producer, "How much ADR
have you budgeted? How strong should I be about getting usable
production sound?" If the producer tells you that he expects to ADR damn
near everything, then relax. Do the best job you can of getting a
scratch track, cuz that's what you are apparently there for.<<<<<<<<<<

Yeah sure, until they start complaining that the sound sucks. They have
short memories of convienence.
------------------------------------------------

If he says that he is hoping to use as much production sound as
possible, ask if he'll go to bat for you if you make waves on the set to
make sure that happens.<<<<<<<<<<<<

Please, these guys are all former used car salesmen.
-----------------------------------------------------------

I would certainly welcome that approach on my jobs. Sometimes the budget
is real thin. On those jobs I, with my director or producer hat on, know
that I'm going to have to accept stuff that I hate to ***have to***
accept. Sometimes I'll get a "bad for sound" but I accept the take and
move on because I know that I'll have heavy metal music crunching under
everything. Other jobs may have a time crunch factor from event to show.
I know that the pace of shooting will force me to accept compromises
that I will hate. Often enough to keep me doing this I have both budget
and time to allow myself and those who work with me to do our best work.
I get the impression that you guys are upset that you can't do the 'no
limits' best job you know how to do ***every time*** you go to
work.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

I think it's fair to say that what we would like is a little cooperation
and respect for our requests, suggestions, expertise and
professionalism. Don't treat us like the enemy and don't lie to us.


Eric Toline
----------------------------------------------------------

Do these comments make any sense at all in your world? Oh, your idea for
an article in the DGA magazine or seminars for directors... super idea.
The more heavy weights you can get to contribute the better. Line up
those little gold statues on the dais before you say a word. They'll
listen. Educate them.
Steve King


John Coffey

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/16/00
to
Mr. King:
Your comments were greatly appreciated and the fact that this topic
even interested you is a testimony to your willingness to be more
openminded about the sound track. The respect we talk about will come if
above-the-line understands our jobs a little more. Then, we can be
backed up a little more and the rest of the crew will sense that sound
is considered important enough to warrant paying attention to our needs.
Of course budget is always a consideration. That's part of my point.
You really need to know if sound can be quickly fixed at the source on
set or pay later to fix it it in post. Knowledge about our craft will
empower you to make informed decisions immediately.
That's why some of us are pushing the basic education factor. Thanks
for your input and showing us that someone is listening. I believe that
intelligent producers and directors will think differently once our
craft can teach them a few things. It's worth a try and I'm definitely
going forward with compiling and distributing this information. It's
gotta start at the grassroots first.
John Coffey

http://www.coffeysound.com


Stephen King

unread,
Sep 16, 2000, 9:53:50 PM9/16/00
to
John Coffey wrote:

> I think this is the best thread we have ever had on ramps. We can
> talk all day about the best mic to use but this is about the crux of the
> problem. We can clearly see that the situations often dictate that we
> can do a better job than they will let us do.
> It's really a shame and that's why we need to educate them. If the
> above-the- line departments understand our job better then the theory is
> that they will go to bat more often for us. It's worth a shot.

John, this IS a fascinating discussion. I'm really impressed by the


zeal you all express in your pursuit of excellence in production sound.

Each contributor to this thread seems like a pro's pro. I've only spent
a little time on large budget features, time as a principle actor, a day
or weekly player, so maybe I'm not really qualified to offer an opinion
on your dilemma. However, I have spent a ***lot*** of time over the
past 30 years on corporate video and commercial jobs, as an actor, as a
director and as a producer. Maybe some of the issues that I have to
deal with as a director and producer do apply.

What I don't hear any of you talking about, except in passing, is
money. That is ***all*** that is important to the producer. What I
mean by that is the producer has a vision and has budgeted for some

level of quality in his project. It might be low or it might be Academy


Award level, depends on the market he's going for. I don't hear you
guys talking like a 'partner' to that producer, your employer, the guy
who pays your checks. If you were thinking like a 'partner', you might
ask the producer, "How much ADR have you budgeted? How strong should I
be about getting usable production sound?" If the producer tells you
that he expects to ADR damn near everything, then relax. Do the best
job you can of getting a scratch track, cuz that's what you are

apparently there for. If he says that he is hoping to use as much


production sound as possible, ask if he'll go to bat for you if you make
waves on the set to make sure that happens.

I would certainly welcome that approach on my jobs. Sometimes the


budget is real thin. On those jobs I, with my director or producer hat
on, know that I'm going to have to accept stuff that I hate to ***have
to*** accept. Sometimes I'll get a "bad for sound" but I accept the
take and move on because I know that I'll have heavy metal music
crunching under everything. Other jobs may have a time crunch factor
from event to show. I know that the pace of shooting will force me to
accept compromises that I will hate. Often enough to keep me doing this
I have both budget and time to allow myself and those who work with me
to do our best work.

I get the impression that you guys are upset that you can't do the 'no
limits' best job you know how to do ***every time*** you go to work.

Do these comments make any sense at all in your world?

Oh, your idea for an article in the DGA magazine or seminars for
directors... super idea. The more heavy weights you can get to
contribute the better. Line up those little gold statues on the dais
before you say a word. They'll listen. Educate them.

Steve King

>

Jeff Wexler

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Sep 17, 2000, 12:40:04 AM9/17/00
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in article 39C4241D...@home.com, Stephen King at

stevek...@home.com wrote on 9/16/2000 6:53 PM:

> What I don't hear any of you talking about, except in passing, is
> money.

Jeff Wexler comments:

I am very sensitive to the budget issue and I have worked on every
imaginable type of project with every possible budget and some no budget
projects. In my way of thinking, I feel that discussions of budget that take
the form of "how much is budgeted for ADR" leads us down the wrong path.
There are certainly compromises that are made that are budget related but I
have found that if the attitudes are right, from the director and/or
producer, and there is sufficient experience and knowledge in the filmmaking
craft, very good pictures and very good sound can be had even on ultra low
budget films. I did a little movie that had no money to spend but had very
experienced production designer, experienced camera department and very
experienced actors (Kevin Spacey, Chaz Palminteri, Sean Penn, Meg Ryan and
others) and it was wall to wall dialog, and everything turned out just fine.
Lots of good decisions were made, mostly by the actors, that helped the
whole process. For example, Kevin Spacey convinced the director that poor
man's process for a night driving scene in a car was the way to go... not
because we couldn't afford a camera car, not because Kevin couldn't drive
and act at the same time, but because it was the right way to make all the
elements work for that scene, including the advantage of being able to
record good dialog (not trying to drive the car all over town, do the
dialog, cram the camera in the back seat, put me in the trunk, etc.).

What I think the sentiment being expressed here by some of us is that when
the compromises start to come down, at what ever level and what ever budget,
the production track is the first to go... either out of ignorance, lack of
understanding, lack of respect, or, as I have said before, because the
soundtrack CAN be done later.

There has to be a value placed on the production track that takes into
account more than just money. Big budget films are almost the worst because
they have so much money to spend on everything, including replacing the
production sound, it is very frustrating.

It is almost always cheaper to do it right from the start, but "doing it
right" means picking a location that will allow good sound to be recorded,
hiring a camera person who understands that a movie is more than a series of
pretty pictures, having a director who realizes the value of the performance
"on the day" (rather than 4 months later on a looping stage), and on an on.

Jim Brooks was pressed for time on a scene we had been doing all day on "As
Good As It Gets" and on the last setup, the last printed take, we had some
unfortunate background noises and I asked for another take. It did not look
like we were going to get it, and I said to Jim something like "we owe it to
the actors" and he went ballistic as if I had invaded his territory, killed
his children, whatever... and I was just making a really honest statement
that relates to what I really feel my responsibility as a sound mixer is on
a film. If everyone does not have the highest commitment to the performances
on a film, what are we doing anyway? Jim should have wanted the extra take
MORE than I should... after all, it is HIS movie.

It's like when I show up at a really terrible unworkable location and
someone says "Jeff's not going to like this" --- whether I like it or not
should be irrelevant; the location manager should be upset that he hasn't
done his job properly, the actors should be upset that they cannot
concentrate because of all the noise (and they're going to have to perform
it all over again later), AND the director, most of all, should be upset
that others have conspired to ruin his movie, either out of ignorance or an
allegiance to an unrealistic budget or schedule that dictates that certain
things WILL BE DONE very badly no matter what.


> Sometimes I'll get a "bad for sound" but I accept the
> take and move on because I know that I'll have heavy metal music
> crunching under everything.

If you are doing your job as director and the sound mixer is doing the job
properly, both of you will know there is going to be music playing in the
final mix, and many problems disappear. But this is just doing the job. More
often than not I have had directors ask me if that background sound was a
problem on a certain take and I have to remind them that there will be music
underscore or something and it is not a problem. This is what I would call
being a partner with the director.


> I get the impression that you guys are upset that you can't do the 'no
> limits' best job you know how to do ***every time*** you go to work.
>

I am always aware of the limitations on every production... what I get
pissed about, though, is when the biggest limitation is a lack of
understanding of what we do for a film, and there is no cooperation in
solving the problems that come from all the other limitations.

Regards, Jeff Wexler

Stephen King

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Sep 17, 2000, 1:13:27 AM9/17/00
to

Jeff Wexler wrote:
Big Snip


>
> What I think the sentiment being expressed here by some of us is that when
> the compromises start to come down, at what ever level and what ever budget,
> the production track is the first to go... either out of ignorance, lack of
> understanding, lack of respect, or, as I have said before, because the
> soundtrack CAN be done later.
>

The issue of respect or lack thereof seems to be pretty universal in
everyone's comments. Why is that? Why don't these people who make
movies, these ex-used car salesmen, as Eric calls them, respect sound?
Why do they seem to give greater respect to other departments before
yours? Is it just that sound CAN be done later? Have the other
departments done a better job of creating perceived value?

I'm really not trying to be cute. The questions I'm posing may not be
the right questions, but if you are going to change your working
environment, change the level of respect given to production sound and,
therefore, the level of cooperation you receive in doing your job it
would seem to be useful to understand why production sound is held in
such low regard.

I'll get out of this now, because, having read the above, I sound like
I'm just trying to stir things up. I really don't mean it that way.

Steve King

Eric Toline

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Sep 17, 2000, 1:38:20 AM9/17/00
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Re: Sound Production - who do you answer to?
Help
Group: rec.arts.movies.production.sound Date: Sun, Sep 17, 2000, 5:13am

(EDT+4) From: stevek...@home.com (Stephen King)
Jeff Wexler wrote:
Big Snip
What I think the sentiment being expressed here by some of us is that
when the compromises start to come down, at what ever level and what
ever budget, the production track is the first to go... either out of
ignorance, lack of understanding, lack of respect, or, as I have said
before, because the soundtrack CAN be done later.
------------------------

The issue of respect or lack thereof seems to be pretty universal in
everyone's comments. Why is that? Why don't these people who make
movies, these ex-used car salesmen, as Eric calls them, respect sound?
Why do they seem to give greater respect to other departments before
yours?<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Hello, it's a movie, i.e. moving PICTURES. It's a VISUAL medium.
Everything revolves around the PICTURE, otherwise we would call it
radio.


Is it just that sound CAN be done later?<<<<

Yes

Have the other departments done a better job of creating perceived
value?<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

No, they're involved in the VISUAL part of the production.


I'm really not trying to be cute. The questions I'm posing may not be
the right questions, but if you are going to change your working
environment, change the level of respect given to production sound and,
therefore, the level of cooperation you receive in doing your job it
would seem to be useful to understand why production sound is held in
such low regard.<<<<<<<<<<

FWIW, we're the only dept not involved in the visual part. We're
percieved as the annoying little kid always complaining & whining about
something. They forget we're paid to listen for what's not supposed to
be there.


I'll get out of this now, because, having read the above, I sound like
I'm just trying to stir things up. I really don't mean it that
way.<<<<<<<<<

Your perspective from both sides of the camera is always a valuable
point of view. Thanks.

Eric


Steve King

John Garrett

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Sep 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/17/00
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Stephen King wrote:
>
> Jeff Wexler wrote:
> Big Snip
> >
> > What I think the sentiment being expressed here by some of us is that when
> > the compromises start to come down, at what ever level and what ever budget,
> > the production track is the first to go... either out of ignorance, lack of
> > understanding, lack of respect, or, as I have said before, because the
> > soundtrack CAN be done later.
> >
>
> The issue of respect or lack thereof seems to be pretty universal in
> everyone's comments. Why is that? Why don't these people who make
> movies, these ex-used car salesmen, as Eric calls them, respect sound?
> Why do they seem to give greater respect to other departments before
> yours? Is it just that sound CAN be done later? Have the other
> departments done a better job of creating perceived value?

I'll tell you why. Because the sound department are the mystics of the film set.
What does the camera operator do? Well, look and see for yourself. He's there on
the camera and you can see it in the video monitor. What does the production
designer do? Any fool can see he/she gives the DP an interesting geography to
photograph. What do the grips do? Just look; they're moving stuff around,
operating cranes, rigging, bagging, flagging, etc. You can SEE everything
everyone else does, or the result of what they do RIGHT ON THE SCREEN. What is
the sound mixer doing? I dunno, he's over in the corner doing 'sound stuff'. How
many sound mixers know how to set a C stand? Frame a shot? Focus a light? I'll
bet you 99% of us can do any of that, having done it or at least SEEN it done.
How many 2nd electrics can identify and correct a ground loop? How many 1st ACs
can find the sweet spot? How many on-set dressers can determine the correct
rolloff? Not a one. Why? Because what we do is black magic, occult, unknown and
unseen.

Its called a visual medium because that's how people THINK, not because that's
what it IS. There is a fundamental chasm between picture and sound because of
the difference in the way we process visual and sonic information. Out of sight,
out of mind? Not just a saying. Visual stuff gets more cortical processing, more
conscious energy applied to it than sonic information, which is weighted more
toward the limbic system. That's why so much of the emotional contnent in a film
comes from sound. I mean, describe a scene with a swimmer who suddenly sinks out
of the shot, or hum that double-bass line; how do YOU tell people about JAWS?
THAT'S what made that shot scary! Anyway, since we're so
'consciousness-centric', sound doesn't get thought of [on many levels] the same
way, and in many ways not a single person outside the sound department has any
clue what we are doing. I always keep a pair of spare cans on my cart and from
time to time will invite other crew members to listen to a take if they're
nearby or watching the monitor over my shoulder. I can't tell you how many
times I've done this and heard the person say "Holy SHIT! You can HEAR
EVERYTHING!!!" Yeah, no kidding. That's why when we say "quiet please" we don't
mean "quietER..." This little experiment in itself supports my thesis, but there
are other supporting data as well.

I don't know what the answer is beyond constant education, but I do belive this
is a fundamental reason why sound is misunderstood on the production stage. It
is often not actie disrespect, but the fundamental human propensity to -think-
about -visual- information. Sound gets processed in a dark, ancient place, and
its below the conscious level; that's where we, and our concerns wind up.

G. John Garrett, C.A.S.

robaud...@my-deja.com

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Sep 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/17/00
to
First of all I have to tell you guys this is one of the best threads I
have read on the group. So I have to jump in. Sometimes I think that I
am getting old and cranky and long for the old days and 'the way things
used to be'. Everything John Coffey listed pertains to sets that I have
worked on lately.I would like to add that there was a time when people
stopped walking around the stage and bumping into things during takes.
I also agree that budget does not seem to dictate what should be
ADR'ed. One of my best experiences was on a 2mil dollar film. To my
surprise they paid my rate and only found out later that they had given
me the budgeted amount plus the looping budget! So everyone knew that
we needed 100% production sound. The main house for the film had a
creek running under the front veranda where most of the dialogue was to
take place. The solution: reroute the creek. So they did it. The cost
$1500. I am certain that this would have been too expensive on a $30mil
production.
I feel that John and all are on to something here and that is
education. As a group we are in a position to do this. If it is done
in a positive way I feel certain that we will see results. Let's get
back to the days when sound asks for something it is seen as part of
doing a good job and not whining. Let me know how I can help.

Regards

Rob Young

The Sound Dude

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Sep 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM9/17/00
to
> What I don't hear any of you talking about, except in passing, is money.
> That is ***all*** that is important to the producer. What I mean by that
> is the producer has a vision and has budgeted for some level of quality
> in his project.<<<<<<<<<<<

Hummmmm. I can't remember ever being hired to record bad sound. Or cheap
sound.

> I don't hear you guys talking like