Location Sound Crew

Last time I talked a little on how to get better sound for your indie film, and the reality of the situation is, either you learn to do it by yourself or hire a professional to capture the sound for you. It is always prudent that ‘when in doubt hire it out.’

Location Sound Crew

It starts with pre-production planning. This planning stage sets the wheels in motion, it establishes time line, job assignments, budget requirements of every aspect of the production and every major player in the production must attend.

The location sound mixer is the number one person as far as sound goes. He/she gets the what, where and when of the shoot and they decide on who and how of putting the audio in the can. They decide the need to bring a boom op and or a utility person (read cable pager) or just run and gun by themselves.

They capture the dialogue of the film and any ambient sounds in the area of the location shoot,  They will hold the up the shoot if unwanted noises are obvious (such as air traffic, trains, heavy traffic, etc.) and,  they do some scouting to find good alternate sites that might help. This is a good time for the location sound mixer to get some ambient tones of all of the locations to help later in the post world and as possible ammunition for the change of location argument.

The sound crew starts their day by assuring themselves that every piece of hardware they have works flawlessly.  They post a header and test tone at the start of every days work. The crew takes meticulous notes on every track they record denoting the SMPTE time code at the beginning of each take and the track number as indicated by the recording device. After each take they assign a grade to the tracks so the editor can find the best audio to use in the film.

On the last film I worked on we recorded two tracks of the same dialog from the same microphone at different recording levels to insure we were acquiring the best possible sound. Sometimes the first half of track ‘A’ was great but the tail really sucked, but, the head of track ‘B’ was weak and the tail was great. In post we ‘comped’ the tracks together so the whole line was great. If what I just said flew over your head like an F-15 on afterburners then maybe you should hire a professional sound team.

All of the preparation and attention to detail insures great recordings and less work for the post production team, less ADR, and a great sounding film. In case you’re interested the current budget requirements for a location sound mixer is approximately $300- $500/day and the budget for a boom operator is approximately $150-$250/day.

You might think this is expensive unless you were to buy the field mixer , recorder, microphone, boom all of the cables, batteries, headphones and chargers required to do a day’s worth of recording, learn to connect it all together and operate it correctly, all while trying to film, direct, light and produce the film. Do the words ’Good Luck’ come to mind.

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Tony Tartaglia hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree awarded from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa, Florida and owns his own mixing and editing studio. Tony can be reached for consultations and audio production through his website at tony@soniqualitycorp.com.

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