THE SOUNDTRACK: A basic Introduction
THE SOUNDTRACK: A basic Introduction written by Dr. Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D.
Before we get started... This text is about the craft of Production Sound recording for motion pictures and videotape. Production
Sound Mixing is the craft of recording dialogue and sound effects on the set during principal production. Whether you aspire to
specialize in sound mixing; or just seek to enhance your skills in order to occasionally fill in as "sound person" on a small shoot—
the material in this book will prove invaluable. There are also, no doubt, a number of readers who have absolutely no interest in
the world at all about doing sound. You may have aspirations to Direct, Produce, D.P. (director of photography), Edit, or Whatever. For those of you, I suggest that you need the information contained within these pages even more than the future sound
mixers—for they, at least, will eventually learn through trial & error, if nothing else. You, on the other hand, may never have to
personally record sound, but much of what you do in your specialty will hinge directly upon the success or failure of the sound
crew. Learn as much as you can about each other’s crafts, because a little understanding and compromise may make a major difference in the final product. On the same token, prospective sound mixers should also endeavor to learn as much about all aspects
of filmmaking as possible, for the same reasons. Much of what you do affects the rest of the production, in terms of time, budget,
and quality. Learn Editing and Lighting, especially! Please note that most of this material was written prior to the use of non-linear, computer based, editing systems. Although the technology has changed and become more flexible, the principles of editing
remain the same.
You live or die in the dailies In Hollywood, we have a saying, "You live or die in the dailies!" Because that is when the producer
evaluates the performance of the entire crew. In the real world, where time is money, no one is going to wait until the first cut
(six weeks after the end of production) to make a decision. Technicians and even Directors will be gone before their next paycheck if their work doesn’t shine in that screening room! A Sound Mixer whose tracks are consistently unusable, whose material
always sounds like it will need a lot of sweetening or fixing up later—is not going to be kept around! Ditto, a Director—especially
a young, new Director—will be replaced early on if it appears that he or she always seems to need additional, costly takes because
they can’t relate to their crews! But the Director who only shoots one or two takes, and consistently delivers good footage from
his actors and technical people is definitely going to be favored by the producers. There are no apologies, no excuses. What gets
projected up on that screen, and heard through those speakers, had better be top notch. An anecdote... One side note, if I may. After I left college, I envisioned myself as a cameraman. I had the necessary skills, including professional still photographic as well
as cinematographic experience. Actually, I figured that no one would hire me outright as a Director of Photography, so I planned
on starting as an Assistant Cameraman (focus puller). After coming out to Hollywood, I took immediate employment at a motion
picture equipment Sales/Rental house, and also began freelancing on the side. On one particular shoot, the Producer was desperate for a soundman, so I "switched hats" and took over the Nagra. That same producer hired me again several times—as his Sound
Mixer! Soon, I found that I could work a lot steadier and advance quicker mixing sound than by loading magazines & checking
focus. Photography became a hobby again, and I became a full-fledged Sound Mixer. The moral is, life may surprise you. Learn it
all, for everything you learn about filmmaking will come in handy one day or another.
WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALL THEM "TALKING PICTURES?” If audiences didn’t care about dialogue, but only
were interested in the visuals—Hollywood never would have bothered to invent sound motion pictures. But early moviegoers did
care, and thus the soundtrack was born. How did Hollywood refer to this new marvel of modern technology? They didn’t hype
the sound effects. Audiences already heard "live" sound effects, courtesy of men performing theatrics in the orchestra pit. The
studios didn’t hype the music; films already were projected with orchestral accompaniment. The big attraction was DIALOGUE.
For the first time, audiences could hear the movie stars speak! Hence, when ‘silent’ motion pictures were supplied with the first
sync soundtracks. Everyone named them the "talkies.” Production Dialogue had come to movie making! From those early days of
sound onward, filmmakers have relied heavily on the presence of sound to help tell their stories or convey their messages. They
discovered that picture and sound were two sides of the same coin. Picture and sound could reinforce each other—that is, cover
the same material, or contribute to the same perceived message. We see an airplane; we hear the airplane. We see an actor shout;
we hear the shout. On the other hand, picture and sound could counterpoint each other. This refers to the soundtrack conveying
new or different information and meaning than a viewer could perceive by only seeing the visual. We see the airplane; but we hear
a hijacker’s threat to the pilot. We see an actor shout; but the music tells us that he is joyful, not angry. In any case, sound has unquestionably become an indispensable aspect of modern film making (and television). If you doubt this for even a moment, try
this simple exercise. Turn on the television to any show. Watch for a few moments, and then turn your back to the screen. The
soundtrack alone will supply you with enough details to keep track of the story. Now, try the same thing with the picture—that is,
watch the screen but turn off the sound. The storyline becomes much more difficult to follow. The point is—even though all of the
glory in film making is associated with camera work—without the sound, those pretty pictures lose a lot! It is sort of ironic, but
that conclusion is often a whole lot more apparent to audiences than to film makers on the set. Everyone is willing to sacrifice all
on behalf of getting a good shot, but rarely do amateur and low budget filmmakers concern themselves seriously with sound. Directors often take audio for granted, until they get back to the editing room. There, they regretfully discover how much better and
easier it would have been had they spent the effort to record good sound on the set while they had the chance.
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ELEMENTS OF THE SOUNDTRACK
Much of what a Production Mixer does is based upon his or her assessment of what will be needed later on during post- production (editing & final mix down). With that in mind, let’s begin with a brief overview of "post" and work our way back to the production side of things. What types of sound make up a motion picture or video soundtrack? Narration: Many films rely heavily on
NARRATION to hold the visuals together or to provide explanation. All of us, I’m sure, are familiar with documentaries, travelogues, and educational films that employ Narration as the primary element of the soundtrack. Don’t forget, however, that many
theatrical films also use Narration as a story device—sometimes in the role of an ‘anonymous’ storyteller, sometimes as the inner
thoughts of a principal character. Narration can be recorded in two different ways. The first way, or style, is to have the narrator
view the film and record live commentary while it is projected. The lines may be from a script or totally improvised, depending on
the film in question. This style is referred to as "sync to picture.” As you have guessed, it is quite common to travelogues! The
other approach, which is usually the preferred way of doing it, involves recording the narration "wild" from a script, instead of
from watching the picture. The talent reads the lines from a prepared script, which are recorded as isolated takes. (Note, while it is
true that some narrators may view the film in preparation of the recording session, the picture does not play a role during the session itself.) An editor then cuts the desired lines in place opposite the appropriate footage. This method gives the film maker maximum creative control over the relationship between picture and narration, and allows greater flexibility should editorial changes
be desired later on. It also frees the narrator to concentrate on enunciation and delivery of the lines, rather than worrying about
matching whatever is up on screen that moment. Narration tracks can physically be recorded either in a professional recording studio (with full acoustic isolation from any outside noise), or as a "wild track" while on location. Which technique is used depends
on knowing how the narration is to interact with the rest of the soundtrack. If the narration is supposed to be authoritative and
‘anonymous’ (commonly nicknamed the "voice of God" approach) -- then isolated studio recording is called for. The voice track
is recorded with a full presence, completely free of any ambient background noise or room coloration (room echo or bounce). On
the other hand, if the narration is supposed to be a "continuation" of on-screen dialogue or on-screen explanation—then the narration is usually recorded as a "wild track" (camera is not shooting) at the same location. The sound quality of the wild lines should
match closely with the sound quality of the original on-screen portion of the dialogue. Perspective and presence should be similar.
Background ambience and room acoustics should also match. The goal is to convince the audience that the narration is an uninterrupted continuation of the talking head they saw at the beginning, even though the visuals have cut away to instructional inserts. It
is true, however, that often the sound mixer will be asked to record "voice of God" narration as well as "wild lines" while out on
location, due to limited availability of some actors (or limitations of the budget). This, though, becomes more a matter of technique in "faking it" (to sound like an isolated recording studio). Music Even the earliest ‘silent’ films depended heavily on music
to add emotion to moving images. The presence of a musical score tells the audience what feelings they are supposed to have: joy,
sorrow, tension, exhilaration, impending fear, etc. In fact, many prerecorded musical scores in music libraries are titled and catalogued by their suggested emotional effect. If this explanation of music’s role is new for you, then experiment a little. View a favorite film or two on videocassette. Pick out a few major scenes, and try viewing them again with the sound off. Instead, play a
few music albums in the background as you view the scenes. Notice how each different music selection appears the change the
feeling of the scene! As you can see, the presence of music always has some effect on what the audience will perceive about a
scene. Depending on the musical selection, this effect may reinforce, contradict, or completely alter the original intent of the picture. The dramatic source of music under a scene can be either "extraneous" or "practical.” Extraneous means that the score is simply there on the soundtrack because the filmmaker put it there to accompany the picture. The people in the movie theater hear it,
but the characters in the film do not. Most music in soundtracks falls under this category. In contrast to this, some music is initially explained or motivated by some source on screen, such as a radio playing, a nightclub band, or a character musician. In these
instances, the music that the audience hears is also being heard by the characters on screen! Sometimes, music can creatively overlap both of these categories, by starting off as extraneous and then being revealed as practical, or vice versa. Music for a soundtrack can originate one of two ways: canned or original score. "Canned" music refers to having come from a prerecorded music
library. For a fee, a producer can purchase the rights to use selections of existing music in his or her production. A large number
of companies produce volumes of high quality, generic purpose music tracks intended exclusively for this purpose. The music is
composed and recorded so as to facilitate "modular" editing to accommodate scene length or climax. Producers can pay for the
music on a "needle drop,” screen minute, or blanket basis. Needle drop refers to buying music based on a per selection, per use,
basis. Blanket arrangements permit unlimited usage of the entire library either per entire production or per entire year. In determining their fees, music libraries will also want to know the intended purpose and scope of distribution of the film (theatrical, educational, home video, nationwide broadcast, industrial in-house, etc.). Readers are warned, however, to exercise extreme caution
in planning to use consumer music albums (pop, rock, soul, oldie, classical, etc.) as sources of music. Even in cases where the
song itself is in public domain, the particular arrangement and performance are protected under copyright and fair trade laws. If
you feel it is absolutely imperative to use a "real" song instead of one from a music library, make certain to obtain permission—in
writing, in advance—from the recording company in question! Otherwise, you will discover just how ruthless, greedy, and unsympathetic lawyers and their clients can be. The other source of music is to have it originally composed and recorded for your
project. This could involve a full-scale orchestra, or be as simple as a single musician over dubbing himself. The process begins
with supplying the composer with a videotape copy of the footage along with instructions from the director or editor. In the course
of composing the music, at some point the composer and editor will create what is known as a "click track.” This is a soundtrack
that consists solely of clicks placed opposite the picture in order to convey cutting rhythm and climax. This click track serves to
guide the composer and, later on, the musicians in keeping ‘beat’ with the film rather than a more arbitrary reference rhythm. After the music has been composed, the next step is obviously to record it. In the case of an orchestral score, musicians are assembled and arranged in a large recording studio, known as a "scoring stage.” There, they view the film on a large screen while
hearing the click track in headphones. Led by the composer, the orchestra performs the selections. The music is recorded on mul2
ti-track for later mix down. When the score is composed and performed by a single musician, as is more often the case on low
budget productions, the individual composer may be responsible for producing the entire musical soundtrack. Employing a portable multi-track recording system in conjunction with video playback, he or she will commonly perform and overdub with keyboards, synthesizers, electronic drums, and perhaps a few acoustic instruments. As to which form of music is better, it all depends
on the situation, budget, and talent pool available. A good canned library will sound better than the results obtained from most
"aspiring" young composer/musicians and from many "hack" orchestral composers. On the other hand, there are many talented
composers whose quality and brilliance far surpass the generic accompaniment of even the best music libraries. (Personally, on
low budget shows, unless the individual is of known and proven aptitude—I would prefer to go with a canned selection of good
quality rather than gamble for excellence and end up with trash.) Sound Effects The third of our soundtrack elements, in addition
to narration and music, is the category of "Sound Effects.” Sound Effects (commonly abbreviated as "FX") refer to the sounds—
other than dialogue—that objects or people make, along with those sounds that occur naturally in the background. All of these
sounds are defined as "natural" necessarily only within the creative context of the movie and the filmmaker’s imagination. What
they may or may not sound like in real life is not always in question. Who really knows what a three-foot mosquito sounds like, so
long as the sound effect works within the creative framework of the movie! Sound effects can refer to events happening on or off
screen. Footsteps of an actor may be an on screen event if we see the actor. Footsteps of the killer, coming down the hallway, outside of the closed door are an off screen event if all the audience sees is a shot of the closed door (from inside of the heroine’s
room). Similarly, background ambience often refers to off screen activity that the audience may never see, such as a passing siren,
birds & crickets, a thunderstorm, and so on. Sound effects may be either frame-accurate or wild. If the effect is dependent on synchronizing exactly, frame-to-frame, with an on screen event -- it is known as a frame-accurate effect or more commonly, a "hard"
effect. Examples include matching the sound of a gunshot with the firing of a gun, matching up door slams, whip cracks, sword
clashes, punches, silverware being put on a plate, and so on. If the sound of the effect only needs to be placed in the vicinity of an
on screen event, but specific frame-to-frame synchronization is not important, then it is referred to as a wild or "soft" effect. Examples include environmental backgrounds (birds & crickets, rain, wind, ocean surf, traffic), engine noise, cafeteria ambience,
crowd noises, applause, laughter, even music and narration. The sound effects themselves can originate from a number of different
sources. Many effects are lifted from special sound effects libraries that operate similarly to music libraries. Editors can pay per
effect, or arrange blanket usage agreements. Most sound editors and studios maintain and compile their own elaborate libraries of
sound effects, built up over the years from all of the films they have worked on as well as by swapping with fellow editors. Unlike
music, it is very difficult to identify original ownership of most sound effects—so, except in a few rare cases (recognizable synthesized effects), mere access to an effect is considered by most editors as an okay to use them. Legally speaking, that is false.
However, the practice remains rampant in Hollywood. Library effects include both "hard" effects as well as "wild" or "soft" backgrounds. Sound effects don’t always come from a library. Quite often, they are recorded right on the set during actual production.
Effects may be recorded in "sync" with picture during a take. This might include footsteps, door slams, explosions, and car crashes, virtually anything that takes place in front of the camera. Sometimes, though, these sound effects coincide with live dialogue or
other effects. In those instances, and when time permits, the location sound mixer will try to record the sound effect "clean" after
the take has been shot. (Although it can be confusing, the term "wild" also applies to anything recorded on the set without the
camera rolling in sync.) This newly recorded effect retains most, if not all, of the same ambience and characteristics of the original
take. It is also completely accurate in that the same props were utilized. Imagine yourself as an editor trying to match the sound of
an arthritic woman slamming the car door of a ‘62 Thunderbird coupe... from an effects library. There might be a dozen or so car
door slams, but probably none with the right speed, intensity, delivery—not to mention car model. In some situations, exact
matching of details may be very critical, such as in a sales film or commercial, where it is illegal to substitute the sound of another
car for the one being featured. Sound effects can be recorded after production, during editing. It is not uncommon for a sound editor to send someone out (hopefully, a bona fide sound person) in order to record a list of needed effects. Freshly recorded sound
effects are usually far superior to anything in a library. By knowing as much as possible how the effect is to be utilized in a given
scene, the sound person can do a better job of recording the sound effect to match. The sound person should avoid the temptation
to record any more or less elements of the effect than called for by the editor. For instance, if the editor needs the sound of a hammer striking a nail, don’t embellish the track with background construction noises and wild dialogue ("Hey, Ralph, hold this nail
for me!"). Some effects don’t readily lend themselves to live recording. Ever try to get the footsteps of a giant dinosaur? Editors
and sound mixers will often conspire to create a sound effect that doesn’t exist in real life (or does exist but doesn’t lend itself to
be easily recorded). Effects may be completely synthesized on electronic instruments, or may be based on taking real sounds and
electronically modifying them. Most effects are composite effects, created like a musical chord, built up from a number of simpler
sounds (all of which may have also been modified). Finally, many sound effects are ‘dubbed’ in, by means of a process known as
"Foley.” Briefly, the Foley process consists of recording the sounds of an artist while he mimics the actions of an actor on the
screen. A short section of the film is projected over and over again for the Foley artist (also known as the "Foley walker"). The
artist watches every movement of the actor very carefully, and mimics both the action and rhythm. The artist performs those same
actions using a variety of props, and these actions are recorded in sync with the picture. For instance, the Foley walker may imitate the actor taking out a gun from a holster, or sitting down in a squeaky chair, or shuffling some papers in his hand. In addition
to mimicking simple actions, the Foley artist will also dub fight punches, hugs, kisses, swordplay, head scratching, and anything
else that emotes sound—no matter how subtle. Then there are the footsteps, which are what Foley people are best known for. Every actor walks. Sometimes we see his feet moving, other times we only sense the movement because the camera is in close. The
Foley artist will recreate all of the footsteps of each actor, regardless of whether or not the steps are seen or implied. To assist in
making the Foley footsteps match the environment on screen, the inside of the Foley recording stage is equipped with a multitude
of small troughs known as Foley pits. Each Foley pit is a small rectangular area filled or covered with a different texture, such as
concrete, dirt, linoleum, carpet, hardwood flooring, marble, grass, brush & twigs, sand, cobblestone, steel plate, and so on. In ad3
dition, there is a small wading pool of water for creating aquatic sound effects. The Foley walker also has access to a wide array of
footwear, ranging from men’s combat boots to women’s high heels (regardless of whether the Foley artist is male or female!) in
order to accurately recreate all of the footsteps as well as mere body shuffles. Dialogue the fourth and final major element of the
soundtrack is dialogue, or speech. Audiences want to hear what the actors are saying! Dialogue in a film takes on, ultimately, one
of two forms. Either the words are spoken by an actor on screen, with the lips visible to the audience; or, the words are spoken by
an actor off screen, or by an actor on screen whose face is not visible. Dialogue from an actor whose face we see is termed "lipsynch,” because the words must match the movement of the lips. All other dialogue is considered "wild,” since it does not have to
sync with any on screen source. The recording of dialogue usually occurs on the set during filming, and this is referred to as
"production dialogue.” Sometimes, while actors are on the set, but without cameras rolling—the company will record additional
lines of dialogue to be used later as "wild lines.” Examples of wild lines that would be recorded on the set for future use include
other halves of phone conversations, shouts or greetings from afar, background ambience, alternate dialogue (to cover profanity in
event of television broadcast), narration, or any dialogue that talent tends to stumble over (the editor can either meticulously replace the lip-synch a word at a time, or cut to a reverse angle that hides the actor’s lips and just lay in the lines). Sometimes, for
any of a multitude of reasons, production dialogue is unusable and must be replaced during post-production. Sometimes a production mixer is either incompetent or suffers an equipment malfunction. Sometimes, the problem is totally beyond the help of the
mixer, such as a loud generator or continuous aircraft. Directors often shout screen directions and talk during dialogue. There are
all sorts of reasons and excuses for having to replace dialogue on occasion, some of which we can control and some of which we
can’t. When a production track does need to replaced, editors use a process known as "A.D.R.,” which is short for Automated (or
Automatic) Dialogue Replacement. In the old days, dialogue replacement was done by physically cutting out short sections of the
original dialogue (consisting of one or two lines) along with the appropriate picture. These sections were formed into continuous
loops. That’s why the process was called "looping.” A projection system would run a loop of picture along with the corresponding
loop of original sound in sync with a loop of fresh stock threaded up in a recorder. The actor would watch the film clip, listen to
his original track on headphones, and re-perform each line aloud. When the process was complete for each loop of dialogue, the
editor would painstakingly replace each section of picture along with the newly recorded sound. Better technology greatly simplified the process. In the A.D.R. process, the physical loops have been done away with. Instead, the entire reel of picture and the
entire reel of original sound are threaded up in sync. An entire reel of blank audio stock is set up on a recorder. A computer is fed
the start and stop footage of each "loop" that needs to be recorded. All three machines roll down, in sync, to the first "loop" and
the process begins. The actor watches the projected footage and listens to the cue track on headphones. A series of three audible
beeps alerts talent as the system rolls forward towards the record start point. His take is recorded on the blank stock. At the completion of each take, the computer rewinds all three machines back to the programmed start point and the process repeats itself.
When the loop has been successfully recorded, the entire system moves ahead to the next programmed set of cues. After the
A.D.R. recording process has been completed, life is considerably much easier for the editor since all three elements—picture,
production sound, A.D.R.—are already in sync with each other throughout the length of the entire reel. To replace bad original
sound, all the editor would have to do is put the three elements in a gang synchronizer on his editing bench, roll down to the first
cut point, and splice in his track. 550’ at the picture and 550’ on the production sound reel would correspond to 550’ on the
A.D.R. reel. Note that today, with the use of non-linear edit systems and digital recording formats, ADR has evolved into an even
more streamlined process, completely doing away with the need for sprocketed magnetic tape. Computers and video projectors
now make up the hardware systems. The process is basically the same, but without the drudgery.
WHAT IS PRODUCTION SOUND?
We have spoken briefly about Production Dialogue. Earlier on, we also mentioned recording sound effects on the set, either sync
or wild. Combine these concepts, and what unfolds is "Production Sound"—namely, everything that is recorded on the set during
production. Production Sound should be thought of as raw material for the editors. It is standard practice for editors to divide the
production soundtrack into separate tracks for each actor and for sound effects, so as to provide the most flexibility and control to
the re-recording mixers during the final dub (mix down). Therefore, editors tend to prefer clean, isolated dialogue with effects and
ambience recorded separately. However, the expression that "you live or die in the dailies" seems to countermand the notion about
Production Sound being raw material earmarked for post-production embellishment. A production soundtrack free of effects and
ambience is candy to a dialogue editor, but will sound sterile and unnatural to many producers (who usually know a lot about
business and little about editing). So whom should the Production Sound Mixer strive to please, the editor or the producer? Think
about it and draw your own strategy. No one said this game would be easy, but you were forewarned about the importance of
compromise. Very often, though, the production sound track recorded in the field may be the end product itself, except for the addition of a little music, possibly some narration, and an odd effect or two. This is especially true in low budget productions, where
there seldom exists any budget for sound editing or A.D.R. In these instances, the production mixer must be extra diligent in acquiring crisp dialogue tracks complete with perspective, sync sound effects, and ambience. (As you can see, there is a lot more to
this business than just knowing how to plug a microphone into a Nagra, DAT, or VTR!) More important in low budget video as
important as good production sound is for low budget film making, it is even more critical to have good production tracks when
working in the video medium. The reason for this is that although film sound editing takes place right there on the basic editing
bench and is readily feasible to even the low budget 16mm film cutter—sound editing in video is a technologically complex (read
"expensive") process requiring special facilities that charge big bucks per hour. As a result, low budget video producers shy away
from allowing the editors to spend any more time in "sweetening" (video’s name for sound editing/mixing) than is absolutely necessary. Typical low budget sweetening usually means just rolling in some music and narration, and maybe one or two sound effects at most. The bulk of the soundtrack relies on whatever the production mixer was able to record!
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BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE CONVENTIONAL SOUND EDITING AND POST-PRODUCTION PROCESS
The importance of Production Sound, especially in video, will become even clearer as we examine the basic sound editing progressions for both film and video. Sound for film: After the production tracks have been recorded in the field, the ¼-inch audiotapes are sent back to the lab or studio for transfer to either 16mm or 35mm sprocketed magnetic film. This initial transfer is a
most critical stage for the audio (and the person who recorded it), since a poor transfer can easily induce lots of distortion.
(Transfers will be dealt with later on in this book.) An editor then syncs up the dailies, by aligning the clapsticks on both picture
and sound and matching the lengths of the two reels (either adding leader or cutting out garbage). After the dailies have been
synced, both picture and sound reels then have matching edge number codes inked on so as to facilitate keeping track of sync later
on during editing. (Coding may occur after the screening of dailies.) Each previous day’s footage is screened in sync at the
"dailies.” Here, the producer, director, client, and key crewmembers get to evaluate what was shot. It is in this projection room
that we get to "live or die.” It is very important for the sound mixer to attend at least the first few dailies screenings (if not all of
them) in order to ascertain that the production tracks are not being played back distorted due to bad transfer or poor screening
room facilities! From there, the picture and production soundtracks go to the picture editor for rough-cut. After the completion of
the rough cut, the material is duped. The picture editor keeps the original edited work print and a dupe of the production soundtrack. The sound editor receives a dupe of the edited work print and the original of the spliced production soundtrack for sound
editing. The sound editor performs several tasks to the sound. The dialogue of each main character is separated and spliced onto
individual tracks so as to facilitate the final mix down. In fact, all of the sound elements (dialogue, effects, music, narration) are
eventually checker boarded onto separate tracks. This permits the dubbing mixers to establish individual volume levels and equalization for each track, and are thus able to deal precisely with overlaps, fades, special effects, and any changes that occur end to
end with each other. Unwanted ambience occurring on the same track (such as between an actor’s words) are cut out. This editing
process is known as "flipping the track,” because in 35mm that is literally what they do. Since 35mm has sprocket holes top and
bottom, the editor merely has to invert the unwanted section so that the base side goes where the (sound) magnetic emulsion was,
and vice versa. In 16mm, they use leader. Sounds of very short duration are merely erased from the track by mechanically removing some of the magnetic oxide emulsion with a razor blade, sandpaper, or cleaning solvent. Totally unusable dialogue is replaced
with A.D.R. In the course of dialogue editing, the sound editors will often come across a section that is full of unnecessary splices
or contains damaged sprocket holes. Requests will be sent to the Sound Department or lab to have these takes re-transferred from
the original ¼-inch tapes. These reprints will then be meticulously spliced in to replace the damaged sections. (This is why all
transfers must be done to industry standard on well-maintained equipment - so that reprints intermatch original.) Sound effects are
added wherever necessary, including the creation of ambient backgrounds. Foley is recorded for the footsteps, body movements,
and some sync sound effects. Narration tracks are laid in, as needed. Checker boarding is used so that the mixers can correct any
audible changes that may occur when different sounding takes are joined end to end. Finally, music editors will assemble the music tracks, cutting them to match the appropriate picture sections in terms of length, climax, and fade points. As with dialogue and
effects, the music tracks are checker boarded for the mix. The film Mix After all of the elements have been assembled onto separate reels and checker boarded, the sound is ready for "re-recording,” "mix down,” or "dubbing"—as the process is known as.
(Although some people also think of foreign language replacement as "dubbing,” that is not the correct usage of the term. In Hollywood, "dubbing" means mix down—not A.D.R. and not language replacement.) The first step is the "pre-dubs.” This involves
pre-mixing all of the individual checker boarded tracks of each element down to just a few in numbers. Since, on a major motion
picture feature, there can easily be as many as sixty or seventy individual tracks for every one reel of picture (approx. 10 minutes
worth), and ten or eleven reels of picture to a full length movie—we are talking about a truckload of sound! On a smaller show,
such as a documentary, there may be only several individual tracks. Using a geometric (or pyramid) type progression, all of these
reels are eventually mixed down to a manageable few. For instance, let’s say there are 5 production dialogue reels, and 3 A.D.R.
reels. Eight reels, just for Dialogue, are difficult for one set of hands to manage. But all of these tracks could be mixed down to
just one or two Dialogue reels. Then we pre-mix the fifteen or so reels that make up only the ambient backgrounds, and pare those
down to just two or three. Similarly, reduce forty or so sound effects and Foley reels to just three. And so on. Now, we are ready
for the final mix down. No longer are there sixty reels, but perhaps nine. These nine, which now include Dialogue, Effects, Music,
and Narration, can now be mixed down to their final composite levels in relationship to each other. However, in real life, the elements are not actually combined into one monaural track. Instead, they are mixed down to three monaural tracks—Dialogue, Music, & Effects—all on the same piece of sprocketed film (known as full coat or three- stripe). Producers keep these three elements
separate in case they should ever later want to modify the finished film, such as by replacing the English dialogue with a foreign
language, or updating the music to appeal to a different audience. It is because of this eventual mix to a "DM & E" that editors
strive to isolate as many effects as possible from the production dialogue tracks. That way, the dialogue can be replaced without
having to replace all of the sync sound effects that would be lost with it. On a stereo release, the mixers would end up with a DM
& E for each stereo channel. Television would require two: Left, Right. 35mm stereo requires four: Left, Center, Right, Surround.
70mm, and the new digital release formats use six: Left, Center, Right, Sub-woofer, Left Surround, Right Surround. The Sony
SDDS uses 8 channels, adding Left/center and Right/center to the six above. Sound for video: The audio post-production process
for video is somewhat different than for motion pictures, not just in the technology but also in the attitude. Fortunately, as more
and more film editors are crossing over into video, the differences in approach are narrowing. A major distinction between video
and film is that, while sound for film is recorded and edited physically separate from picture, in video the sound is recorded and
edited on the same piece of tape as picture. (Recording and editing on separate reel from picture is known as "double system.”
When picture and sound are married onto the same physical reel, it is known as "single system.”) To screen dailies in film, the
sound first had to be transferred, synced up, and projected in interlock. To screen dailies in video, one only has to playback the
videotape. Therefore, the screening of the dailies is not the ritual of importance that it is in film. Very often, producers will ask for
an immediate playback of the video just after it has been shot—right there on the set. The next step, after production, consists of
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the first picture edit. In video, this is referred to as an "off-line" edit, because it is done using a small format dupe of the original
videotape, and a small format viewing/editing system. In video, along with picture & audio, it is possible to record what is known
as S.M.P.T.E. time code. Time code is an electronic frame by frame "edge number" that identifies every single frame on the videotape in terms of Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Frames. By means of this time code, it is possible to conform the original videotape
to an edit made on a smaller format copy of the original. On some shows, the producers will first do what has been nicknamed an
"off off-line" first edit. The original videotape is duped onto consumer VHS format tape along with a time code "window dub"
(S.M.P.T.E. time code is keyed onto the picture portion, like credits). The producer can view the tapes on any player system, noting down the approximate start and stop time codes of any take or scene. This information is passed along to the editor. Otherwise, the "off-line" edit consists of preparing a rough cut using a professional ¾-inch video editing system. Some ¾-inch systems
provide for straight cuts only in the rough-cut stage (dissolves and other effects are merely noted on the time code log, known as
the "Edit Decision List,” that will be later used to conform the original). Other, more sophisticated edit systems allow for creating
visual effects on the off-line version itself, along with storing the time code instructions. Since the video editor only has a total of
two audio tracks to work with (one of which contains the production sound, and the other may contain time code on some systems), there isn’t much that can be done in the way of fancy sound editing at this time. After the off-line or rough cut is complete,
the video show goes to "on-line" editing. During this on-line session, all of the edits made on the off-line version are reproduced
using the original videotapes recorded in the field. Although off-line editing is usually done in ¾-inch for economy sake, on-line
can utilize any of the professional formats (3/4, Betacam, 1&-inch). During this on-line session, all of the transitions (dissolves,
wipes, fades) are performed, along with the addition of titles and special effects (flips, spins, split screens, etc.). Due to the complex electronic nature of video editing—and the scientifically unproven yet widely recognized influence of supernatural occurrences on computerized edit controllers—there is bound to be at least a few edits that differ in length or visual effect from the
off-line version. After the on-line version is complete, video editors begin work on the soundtrack. The process of sound editing
and mix down is known as "sweetening.” The first step in sweetening is to transfer the edited version of the production track onto
a multi-track audio recorder. Matching time code recorded onto the last track of the multi-track tape is used to maintain exact
frame sync between the audio and the videotape. This entire phase is called "laydown.” A computerized controller/synchronizer
allows the multi-track to be played in exact sync with the videotape, and also allows other audiotape players to roll in at designated time code points. The editor splits his production track into separate elements by re-recording portions onto remaining open
tracks of the multi-track. Sound effects, narration, and music are transferred over from the other audio sources onto the multitrack with frame accuracy. If needed, A.D.R. and Foley can also be recorded using special controllers that synchronize video with
multi-track audio by means of time code. After all of the individual tracks have been built, checkerboard fashion, onto the
multi-track—the editor then begins the task of final mix down. Usually, there are still enough unused tracks remaining on the multi-track to allow the mixer to record onto the same tape. Otherwise, the tracks will be mixed down in sync onto another audio recorder. Depending on the budget of the show and the number of tracks involved, the mixer may create a DM & E. Otherwise; the
tracks will simply be mixed down to a single monaural or 2-track stereo. The final process is to transfer the mixed soundtrack
back onto the finished videotape from whence it came. This is called the "layback.” The more recent advent of computerized non-linear editing has changed and simplified the above described (tape based) process of video editing. Camera original is loaded into
the editor. Audio is loaded in and then synced up by means of clapstick or production Time code. Audio can then be edited with
picture (sort of single system) or creatively manipulated (double system-ish). Some systems allow the creation of multiple tracks,
so that sweetening can be combined with picture editing. Production Sound becomes of paramount importance on these video
shoots, because the video editor often can’t clean up the tracks with anywhere near the ease of his or her film counterpart. Yet surprisingly, many video producers refuse to plan and budget for good production sound. Even though they are the ones who depend
on that sound the most, they tend to allocate for it the least. We’ll get into pre-production planning and budgeting for sound in the
next chapter. CHAPTER SUMMARY There are four basic elements of a motion picture or video soundtrack: narration, music,
sound effects, and dialogue. Narration can be recorded sync to picture, where the narrator comments on what is being projected, as
it is being projected. The other method, which is the preferred way of doing things, is to record the narration wild from a script
and to edit the lines in opposite the appropriate footage. Music provides an emotional backdrop to a film. Music can be acquired
from a music library ("canned") or it can be an original score. Sound effects are either frame accurate ("hard") or wild. FX can
come from a library, or can be recorded on the shooting set (either sync or wild). Effects can be recorded later during editing, or
they can be created & synthesized. Footsteps and other sync sound effects can be recorded in a Foley session. Dialogue consists of
either lip-synch or wild lines. It can be recorded on the set, or looped back at the studio by means of A.D.R. Production sound is
the complex craft of recording live dialogue and sound effects on the set during principal production. Usually it is raw material for
the editors, but sometimes it can be the end product itself. Film sound editing includes: transfer of dailies; syncing picture &
sound; screening the dailies; picture edit with production track; sound edit; pre-dubs; and final mix down. Video sound editing
includes: playback of composite picture with sound; off-line picture edit; on-line picture edit complete with visual effects; laydown for audio sweetening; building tracks on multi-track; mix down; layback to completed videotape. Good production sound is
usually more important in video than in film due to the added complexity of sweetening and the lack of specialized sound editors
(personnel) to be assigned that work.
PRODUCTION SOUND: An Overview by Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S.
Recently, a number of readers have written in with questions regarding the differences in approach, equipment, and recording
technique for Production Sound versus studio audio recording. Production Sound Mixing is the complex craft of recording live
dialogue and sound effects on the set during principal photography of a motion picture or videotape. It differs greatly from post-production Re-recording and most other audio recording arts in that the Mixer is no longer the key figure in the operation. On the
set, the Production Mixer is only one of many important craftspeople involved in the making of a film or videotape. The produc6
tion company is not out there to shoot an "audio"! Sound must do their thing in harmony with the priorities of camera, lighting,
and dramatic direction; and must often take a back seat to these other aspects. A large percentage of Production Sound Mixers are
not bona fide Engineers from an electronics standpoint. Very few Production Mixers possess more than the most rudimentary
knowledge of audio circuitry. They know how to operate their equipment, but it is not professionally necessary to be able to perform any sort of extensive repairs. (Technicians back at the sound shop do that.) What Sound Mixers do have to master, in addition to their own craft, is an understanding of the crafts and techniques ADJACENT to theirs. One cannot choreograph booms and
fishpoles without understanding lighting, lenses, and camera moves. Creative decisions regarding the soundtrack itself cannot be
made without an innate familiarity of the entire editing and re-recording process. For example, knowing when the (bad) sound on
a wide master shot can be replaced with the good (though not lip-synch) track borrowed from a crisp, close-up. Set etiquette is
very important. Shot numbers must be gotten from the script person (and confirmed with the camera assistant) for keeping accurate logs. Communication chains between talent, director, and camera must be assertive yet not overbearing. And rigging microphones under a shy actress’ costume requires the utmost tact. Filmmaking is a COLLABORATE ART; Production Sound Mixing
is a part of that. STAFFING: The typical Production Sound Crew consists of two to five persons, two or three being the norm. The
Mixer is the key figure and assumes responsibility for the soundtrack and the politics of the department. Side by side with him is
the Boom Operator. The Mixer and Boom man will often collaborate on determining microphone placement. Features and television will have a third person, known as the Utility Sound Tech. Duties of the third man include rigging plant microphones and radio microphones, wrangling cable on complex moves, or working as second Boom. Scenes being shot to sync playback may
require the addition of a skilled Playback Operator, as well. Why this mention about Crewing? Because the number one cause for
good studio engineers falling flat on their faces when asked to go out on a shoot is that they think (or the producer thinks) that one
man can do it all. Low budget videotape shoots are notorious for expecting one-man crews to bring back "Hollywood" finished
soundtracks. The typical duties of a one-person crew include operating the VTR, mixing the incoming microphone levels, and
holding the boom—ALL AT ONCE. Sorry guys, it just doesn’t work if you’re aiming for anything better than an ENG soundtrack. There are two types of sound that a one-man crew can be expected to successfully achieve: 1) ambience; and 2) talking
head. Since the VTR is usually on a cart with a monitor for the director and physically cabled to the camera, it becomes difficult to
position oneself close to the source of the sound. Even the best condenser shotguns won’t discern most dialogue from those
(camera) distances, so the best that a mixer can be expected to deliver is general background ambience. As an alternative, lavalieres can be deployed to capture specific dialogue. However, hardwired lavs are rarely suitable for more than interviews, spokesman stand-ups, or limited drama. Radio microphones can provide greater talent mobility, but have the drawbacks of RF
interference and dropout. Lavalieres in general may create a problem with audio perspective (the intimate, close-up sound does
not match the camera angle). There are also the inherent problems of clothing noise and body movement. A two-person sound
crew would be able, on the other hand, to record all but the most complex dramatic scenes. Because the Boom man is a separate
entity, he or she is free to move in close to the sound source and to follow talent, enabling better dialogue recording. The Mixer is
now able to divert full attention to mixing the incoming signals. Even when talent is placed on a lav or radio microphone, the
boom man can round out the track by miking the subtle detail, such as footsteps, hand props, and other natural effects. EQUIPMENT: It should go without saying that the right tools are a necessity for doing a good job. Start with a lightweight, very mobile,
location sound cart. Unlike the studio Engineer, the Production Mixer does not try to isolate himself from the action. Instead, he
will park his cart on the edge of the set in full view and earshot of all of the action. Audio monitoring is off of low impedance
headphones or earwigs. The recorder is a Nagra (either a 4.2 mono or IV-S two-track), DAT (portable time code usually) or a
VTR. Always try to monitor out of the record deck rather than the mixing panel, in case of RF interference or ground loops. The
mixing panel is of paramount importance. On a set, it is not so often a question of mixing a large number of inputs, as it is being
able to exert control over one or two. A good panel should offer four to eight inputs (rarely will you ever need more than that),
limited equalization, lots of input gain, and a communications module. EQ is hardly used, except for bass roll-off and a slight
mid-range boost to help punch the dialogue. Plant microphones and lavalieres are equalized to sound like the main boom microphones. Anything more than that is best achieved during post-production. Signal processing does not belong on the set; it should
be done later on in the "million dollar rooms" during final re-recording. Films are shot out of sequence, with shots being torn apart
and edited together to create finished scenes. Attempts to prematurely process the track can cause a myriad of matching problems.
Much of production mixing consists of riding gain on a microphone, leveling out the extremes of each character as well as balancing between multiple characters. Smooth ramping or slope is essential in a pot or fader to accomplish this feat inaudibly. Most of
the compact sized ENG-style mixing boxes fall short for this function. Not only are their mini-knobs too small for human fingers,
but even slight gain adjustments call attention to themselves on the track. In terms of the communications module, a mixing panel
should have a slate microphone (possibly with sub-tone slating if one is working in film), a talk-back for communication with the
boom man during a take, audio returns for the boom men, and a 1&-K tone oscillator for setting reference levels. Battery operation of the panel and Nagra is imperative. Not only is clean AC often hard to come by on a set, but also Nagras have opposite
ground and may blow up if the case makes contact with something passing a large differential. If you are working in video, then
be very cautious of all electrical connections (VTR, monitor, and camera) that may cause ground loops and induce noise into the
track. (Note: electrical interference can be induced via BNC video connectors; not just power or audio.) Microphones should be of
true condenser type, T powered or Phantom. Good shock mounts and blimp-type windscreens are a must. Patterns should include
a unidirectional "shotgun", a hyper cardioid or two, a wide hyper cardioid, and a wide cardioid. Avoid being saddled with the less
expensive, electret condenser capsule systems that are so much in vogue with the video people. These systems, though wonderful
for their price, lack the sensitivity and reach offered by "real" condensers. Lavalieres come in two basic varieties, transparent or
proximity oriented. Up until recently, all of your professional grade electret lavalieres were proximity oriented. That is, they
tended to add presence to close dialogue while rejecting background ambience—which was fine for newscasters and spokesman.
Some of the newer mini-lavalieres offer a more transparent sound, allowing them to blend in more naturally with overhead boom
7
microphones or to function as plant microphones. The drawback is that the transparent lavs also pass more ambience. Depending
on the situation, both varieties have their uses. Radio microphones are an option. They are expensive, and even the best of them
can be unreliable due to outside factors (such as RF interference, magnetic voodoo, etc.). However, there will be instances when
the sound is gotten either off of radios or not at all. If you plan on having radios, budget for more units than what you expect to
use. Otherwise, what do you do if a unit breaks, or if there is interference on a given channel? Fish pole selection is very important. They should extend to 12 or 18 feet. A pole should be lightweight, but not to the point of bowing under the weight of a microphone, shock mount, and windscreen at full extension. Struggling all day with a bending fish pole will wreak havoc on a boom
man’s back. Studio booms, such as the Fisher, are actually rather inexpensive to rent and should be seriously considered for many
non-documentary productions. Their ability to telescope over distances and cue make them highly versatile on a set. Budget extra,
though, for an experienced boom operator to run it. PRIORITIES: As mentioned before, Production Sound is an art of compromise on the set. Dialogue is recorded with Picture, and both must give way a little bit. The job of the Production Mixer is to record
raw material for the editors and re-recording mixers to transform into a finished soundtrack. Therefore, the first priority is to get
the Dialogue any way possible that would be usable. In the event that laying down usable dialogue is impossible, then one should
still try to get as near perfect a track anyway, even if it is only to be used as a guide track for ADR (looping). Second priority
would be to record the Dialogue in matching PERSPECTIVE for the camera angle. The final priority is to record SOUND EFFECTS to accompany the shot. This might include such things as footsteps, hand props, doors, etc. Sometimes this is recorded
during the actual take, during a rehearsal, or after the shot. Some productions may also ask for Presence (room tone). Hint: If you
are requested to record Presence, arrange to do it just before the camera roll of the first take. That way, everyone is in position and
the sound will be an exact match of the actual take. Waiting until the end of the last take results in having to fight the commotion
of exiting talent, crew, and wrapped equipment. Recording these effects can be the most trying from a political standpoint. Editors
like sound effects, but on isolated tracks. Producers, on the other hand, are impressed by sync sound effects on the main track during the screening of dailies. Production Managers hate anything that slows up the pace of things on the set, even if it would save
money later. It is essential to determine how the show is going to be handled from an editorial standpoint. For instance, most
non-theatrical videotape productions do not have a budget for extensive audio sweetening, other than to lay in some music, narration, and a few key sound effects. In that situation, a good mixer might try to pack his track with as much texture and live sound
effects as necessary, without endangering either the clarity of the dialogue or the ability to interact shots. On the other hand, a feature film editor would prefer a "clean" soundtrack that can be embellished on the cutting bench.
MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE HIERARCHY
There are four basic ways to approach miking a subject: boom; plant; lavaliere; or radio microphone. In most instances, the best
dialogue will be achieved by employing a fish pole or boom overhead of the subject. A good condenser, angled a couple of feet
and slightly ahead of the subject will produce a crisp, natural tone. The sound will not be affected by clothing noise or bodily
movement (such as arms folded across the chest). Talent can move around, walk, sit, etc.—with the microphone following overhead. Multiple performers can interact with each other, both verbally and physically, without rustle or phasing problems. In a
pinch, the fish pole can be held at knee level with the microphone pointing up. There is no difference (to the microphone) between
a fish pole that is not moving and a C-clamp. Fixed microphones, also known as plant microphones, can be strategically deployed
around the set to cover isolated characters that would be impractical to reach with the boom. Plant microphones can consist of either regular condensers or suitable lavalieres. The new mini-lavalieres, with their great sensitivity and transparency, make excellent plants. They are so tiny that they can be hidden right in the middle of the scene and not show up on camera. Plants can be
hidden in doorways, on executive pen sets, on the edge of dressing mirrors, bed headboards, automobile sun visors, even in floral
arrangements! Employ shock mounts to avoid noise and vibrations from being directly conducted to the microphone. On lavalieres, a small loop of tape works nicely. Pay strict attention, though, to multiple microphone phasing. A plant and a boom overlapping can easily result in mush, unless you keep your hands busy on the pots. Lavalieres are the next option. Worn on the body,
they tend to go (or stay) where the actor is. As mentioned earlier, the proximity-oriented microphones (e.g. Sony ECM-50 &
ECM-30) tend to add presence to the dialogue as well as to reject background noise. Transparent sounding lavs (e.g. Sennheiser
MKE-2, Tram) blend better with overhead condensers and sound more natural or less "forced". On the other hand, they do not
screen out background ambiance as much. If the actor is going to be walking, and a cable dragging from his or her ankle is impractical, then radio microphones are the final resort.
SELECTION OF OVERHEAD MICROPHONES Which pattern of condenser is best? Like everything else, it depends on the
situation. Narrower patterns, such as shotguns, have greater reach but exhibit more reverberation in a closed interior. For that reason, shotguns are preferred for exterior use or sometimes for use in a very dead sound stage. Besides a build-up of echo in an interior, a shotgun used overhead tends to be physically unwieldy in terms of headroom. Their narrow pattern also makes cueing from
actor to actor very critical. Shotguns, like telephoto lenses, will compress the background in terms of the foreground. In a photo, a
distant sunset will appear very large and very close to a foreground sailboat. Similarly, shotguns will magnify background sounds
and ambiance in relation to the subject. That is why the best way to utilize a highly directional microphone is with nothing behind
the subject (i.e. the microphone looks down at the subject, ‘seeing’ only quiet dirt past it; or aimed upwards at the subject, seeing
only silent sky). Aiming a shotgun horizontally should be avoided, except for miking certain sound effects. Wider pattern condensers (cardioids) and ribbon microphones provide the mellowest sounds in terms of reverberation or room echo, but also have
the shortest effective range. They must be kept relatively close to the actors in order to isolate the dialogue. However, since the
cardioids are often used in cramped interiors with low ceilings, excessive headroom is not usually a problem! In between the wide
cardioids and the narrow shotguns are the wide hyper cardioids and the narrower hyper cardioids. Their selection would be a
8
trade-off between mellowness versus effective reach. In addition to echo and reach, another factor that comes into play when selecting a boom microphone is that of spread. Scenes involving tricky blocking and/or multiple actors might be better served by a
microphone that does not require as critical a targeting, even though it would be a compromise against reach and punching the dialogue. One very useful trick in balancing a strong voice against a weak voice is to take advantage of the microphone’s natural pattern. Favor the weak voice on axis, and let the strong voice strike slightly off axis. A word about wind noise. Foam slip-on
windscreens should always be used on interiors, since condensers are sensitive to even the most minute air movements. Out of
doors, use a barrier mesh style windscreen (Rycote, Lightwave, Sennheiser). Wind tends to gust unexpectedly, and simple foam is
ineffective against anything more than a wisp of a breeze. Handheld microphones (performer or reporter microphones) aren’t used
very frequently in theatrical production, but can have their uses. Dynamic microphone microphones are ideally suited for recording loud explosions, since their elements are virtually indestructible. A dynamic microphone used relatively close-up (6 to 9
inches away) works excellently for isolating speech from a noisy background, such as for on-site voice-overs or talking head
(microphone seen on camera). Staged scenes involving the use of a handheld microphone (as a prop) should be recorded exactly
that way, "as a prop!” Use a boom microphone to actually record the voice, unless you want to be at the mercy of handling noise
and inconsistent microphone placement. For man-on-the-street reporter interviews, provide talent with an omni-directional condenser (or electret) microphone. That will give you some consistency, regardless of how well the reporter pays attention to cueing
the microphone between himself and the interviewee.
LAVALIERE USE Correctly rigging body microphones on talent requires time and tact. For at some point during the process,
the sound person will have to work inside of talent’s clothes. The microphone capsule itself can be secured either outside of clothing or hidden under wardrobe; the cable and connector will almost always be routed under wardrobe. If the microphone is going
outside of clothing, then mounting clips can be used. The proper technique for using the tie-clasp style clip involves looping the
cable from the head of the microphone, like a "J,” through the bend (hinge) of the clip. The cable continues up and around—
behind the garment—to complete the circle. As the cable makes its way down, it is clenched in the jaws of the clasp, thus providing a strain relief. The remainder of the cable is run behind clothing so that the XLR connector can be secured at a convenient
point, such as at the waist (belt or pocket) or ankle. Regular microphone lines can then be easily connected or disconnected so as
to free up talent in between takes. If needed, the external lavaliere can be made quite inconspicuous by camouflaging it to match
wardrobe. Colored marking pens can be used on small strips of tape and/or foam windscreens to subdue the appearance of the microphone head and clasp. Alternatively, small patches of felt or cloth can be used to cover the microphone. Remember that the
(camouflaged) microphone will be so tiny in the frame during a medium shot as to be nearly invisible. On close-ups, the camera
can frame the microphone out completely. A useful trick is to save the foam-tipped tech swabs used for head cleaning. These
foam booties make excellent, expendable windscreens for mini lavalieres. Hiding a lavaliere completely under clothing requires a
lot more care and attention. There are two types of clothing noise that one can encounter: contact and acoustic. Contact clothing
noise is caused by a garment flapping into or rubbing across the microphone capsule. The solution is to carefully immobilize all
clothing that may create this problem, by taping down everything on either side of the microphone. One popular technique is to
sandwich the microphone in between two sticky triangles of tape (formed by folding a strip of tape like a flag, sticky side out).
Contact noise can also be caused when clothing rubs against the microphone cable, so care should be taken in this area also—even
for external lavalieres. Form a loop near the microphone for strain relief, and then apply a few lengths of tape to along the cable.
Use double-faced tape or sticky triangles to immobilize clothing as necessary, to keep it from rubbing. Acoustic noise is that created from clothing rubbing against itself and generating a sound. Static Guard Tm works well against this. A light spray of water
can help soften starched fabric. Synthetic fibers tend to be much noisier than naturals, so they should be avoided whenever possible. Rigging radio microphones is a complex art in itself, but the most important point to remember is to never allow the microphone line and the antenna to cross. Also, the antenna should be kept somewhat rigid, and never looped over itself. If the antenna
has to run in a direction other than straight up or to the side, flip the transmitter unit around. (It is okay for the microphone line to
loop around, though.) A good way of keeping the antenna rigid is to affix a rubber band to the tip, and then to safety pin the rubber band to the clothing. This maintains a little tension but still provides a safe strain relief if the actor should bend over. Check
talent regularly. Tape tends to loosen due to moisture and movement. Costumes tend to be adjusted constantly, either by talent
themselves or by the costume department. Never assume that wardrobe personnel know how to rig either lavalieres or radios.
Consult with them in terms of costume selection or modification so as to facilitate microphone and/or transmitter placement, but
do not leave the actual wiring up or readjustments to them. Costumers worry about how the actors look, not how they sound.
SYNC PLAYBACK The key word here is sync. To have performers dance and mouth lyrics beat for beat with a prerecorded track
requires 100% sync at all production and post-production levels. A master soundtrack is created, and recorded with a sync reference (pilot tone or time code). This track will generate the final version soundtrack that will be used by the editor in the finished
product. Generated from this (final version) soundtrack will be two or more playback dupes, for use on the set. On the set, the
playback dupe is resolved and played back off of a time code Nagra or a DAT. The track is either amplified through a speaker system or silently broadcast to the performers via induction loop cueing. The camera films at crystal sync, sound speed. IN CONCLUSION Production Sound is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. Electronic knowledge and a mastery of studio (music)
techniques are not qualifications in themselves for successfully mixing dialogue on a shooting set. Life in the Recording Studio is
based on achieving excellence under controlled conditions. Mixing on a Production Set is a matter of generating usable raw material, in what are usually uncontrollable conditions. But with the right approach, equipment, and trained personnel—a Production
Mixer can achieve excellence.
Shock mounts & Windscreens
by Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S. Two of the worst problems that plague location sound recording
are RUMBLE and WIND NOISE. Rumble can be defined as unwanted bass vibrations transmitted through objects into the micro9
phone capsule itself. Examples of rumble include ground or floor vibrations caused by nearby traffic, heavy footsteps, and
building/structural vibrations. In addition to rumble, a closely related malady is that of HANDLING NOISE -- created by the friction or light tapping of human fingers, either directly against the microphone itself or conducted through whatever means by the
microphone is supported (e.g. fish pole). Merely filtering out the low frequencies at a mixing panel will not correct the whole
problem. Low frequencies can quickly overload the pre-amplifiers of some microphones and most recorders. To avoid the risk of
permanent audio distortion on your tracks, these low frequencies should be controlled BEFORE THE SIGNAL IS PROCESSED
BY THE MICROPHONE ELECTRONICS. The solution to rumble lies in isolating the microphone from these vibrations by some
means of free-floating suspension or non-conductive insulation... which is the role of a good shock mount. Not to be confused
with shock mounts are Microphone CLAMPS. Although both are intended to fulfill support functions, the difference is that a
clamp is merely designed to hold a microphone -- not to isolate it from vibration. Clamps are manufactured from conductive, hard
materials such as plastics and metal. Because microphone clamps (sometimes referred to as microphone stand adapters/holders)
are cheap to manufacture, they are supplied free with most microphones and you'll often find boxes full of them in the A/V supply
rooms. Although clamps may be acceptable for use with relatively insensitive (dynamic microphone) microphones such as those
found in hotel conference rooms, they should not be used with the highly sensitive shotgun microphones associated with professional film and video production. Instead, make it a habit to always use an isolation shock mount. A good shock mount does not
have to mean big bucks. For example, the most popular shock mounts in use by the professional film and video industry sell for
under sixty dollars! Without a doubt, the overall most popular shock mount in use by the video industry is the model AT8415
"rubber band mount" manufactured by Audio Technica. This inexpensive universal shock mount consists of two pair of thick rubber bands arranged tic-tac-toe fashion within a cylindrical framework. The microphone is held inside of the "center square" of the
grids formed by the rubber bands. Since the AT8415 does not utilize a plastic cradle of fixed diameter, it will support just about
any microphone on the market except for the long shotguns. Extra support for longer and heavier microphones is achieved by
criss-crossing the rubber bands so that the microphone is firmly sandwiched. The yoke of the AT8415 is drilled and threaded to
accept a 3/8" mounting screw, such as those found on standard fish poles. An adapter is supplied for use with common microphone stands and goosenecks. The AT8415 is definitely a "best buy" considering its low profile appearance, design simplicity,
adaptability to a wide variety of microphones, and excellent isolation performance. Shock mounting a miniature microphone such
as a lavaliere is easier than one might imagine. It is very common to mount small microphones onto tabletops, walls, and all sorts
of props. A short strip of cloth camera or gaffers tape, loosely wadded into a loop or a ball, will suffice. Lavaliere microphones
have very little mass, so they are easily supported by a single thickness of tape. The cloth and adhesive gel of the tape are very
efficient at dampening vibration. An adjunct of Shock mounting the microphone is to shock mount the potential source of noise
and vibration. The Hollywood industry uses a material known as "foot foam" to cut down obvious trouble areas. Foot foam is adhesive backed, thin neoprene rubber which can be cut and affixed to shoes, boots, glassware, table tops, bases of microphone
stands, etc. Foot foam is cheap and expendable; your dialogue track is not. Moving up the scale in terms of quality and price
brings us to dedicated pistol-grip shock mounts. Pistol-grip shock mounts are usually designed to accommodate just one or two
specific microphones. The microphone mounting clips are usually specific in diameter; 19mm and 21mm are the most common.
The spacing from front clip to back clip is engineered for specific microphone length and mass. The rubber mounts supporting the
clips are also optimized for a particular load. The pistol-grip handles themselves are drilled and tapped to accommodate the standard 3/8" thread found on fish poles. Some of the shock mount manufacturers also offer short fish pole mounting yokes in lieu of
the handles, but the majority of users prefer the handles. The pistol grip shock mounts sell for around $150, give or take, depending on manufacturer, model, and your personal discount. In general, these classes of shock mounts are more fragile than the
cheaper ones. However, the pistol-grip mounts are quieter and more efficient at their task, especially when it comes to the longer
shotgun microphones. Pistol-grip shock mounts are manufactured by Light Wave Systems (U.S.), Rycote (U.K.) and Sennheiser
(Germany). Rycote uses a suspension style for shorter microphones whereby the microphone clip is hung from elastic string
within a horseshoe shaped cradle. For the longer microphones, the mounting clips sit on a pie-shaped wedge of neoprene rubber.
Sennheiser uses a variety of mounting systems, depending on their particular model. Light Wave Systems manufacture what has
become the most popular system on the market. The microphone clips, closed O-rings of plastic, sit on an inverted "V" of rubber
blocks. Spacing of the mounts is individually designed for each model microphone in use by the industry. Light Wave also has
introduced a couple of newer designed mounts for studio boom applications. Over the years, Light Wave has been very responsive
to the needs of the industry, and kept refining their product into what are generally acknowledged to be the quietest shock mounts
on the market. And the fact that they are located in the United States (Los Angeles) sure makes it easier to get them on the phone!
One quick note about shock mounts and thread sizes. It has been mentioned that shock mounts come equipped with some sort of
mounting hole or adapter for use with fish poles and microphone stands. There are three different thread sizes that you may encounter: 3/8", 5/16", and 5/8". The current standard thread for fish poles is 3/8". The slightly smaller 5/16" used to be the standard
in Hollywood, but has pretty much been replaced by the more popular 3/8". Older fish poles and pistol-grip handles may require a
simple adapter for use with 3/8". The larger 5/8" thread size is the standard for microphone stands and goosenecks. Most microphone clamps are threaded for 5/8", although some are also supplied with a 3/8" insert adapter. Now, onto the subject of windscreens. One of the most important differences between the inexpensive shock mounts and the pistol-grip shock mounts is that the
pistol-grip mounts are designed to mate with blimp windscreens of the same manufacturer. For microphones intended strictly for
indoor applications, blimp windscreens are of minor value. But for condenser shotgun microphones that will work outside, the capability of attaching a blimp is a necessity. Before we get into a discussion of windscreens, a preliminary word about WIND
NOISE. There are two types of wind noise that will affect your soundtrack: ACOUSTIC WIND NOISE and CONTACT WIND
NOISE. Acoustic wind noise is the howling that the wind makes blowing through trees and between buildings. It is a form of ambiance, just like traffic noise. Because it is background noise in our environment, a windscreen cannot control it. Rolling off or
filtering out the low frequencies will help somewhat, but howling wind is made up of a lot of higher frequencies as well, so elimi10
nating the bass is only a partial help. The best way to eliminate acoustic wind noise is to close microphone the talent. Get the microphone in as close as you can get it, and then lower your microphone gain (volume) so that dialogue dominates the soundtrack
instead of background ambiance. That's really about all that you can do. Contact wind noise, on the other hand, is that blast of distortion and audio breakup caused from wind physically striking the sensitive diaphragm of the microphone capsule. We've all
heard that sound when someone blows directly into a microphone. The distortion created by contact wind noise cannot be fixed in
post-production. It can only be chopped out along with the accompanying dialogue; and a new piece of dialogue cut in to replace
it. But contact wind noise can be prevented. That's what a windscreen does. The simplest windscreens are known as "pop filters".
Pop filters may be of either thin foam or metal mesh. Their purpose is not to defend against natural wind, but to block the exhalation from a performer, known in the industry as "breath pops.” Pop filters don't do much against real wind, but anything is better
than nothing. Thicker foam windscreens will protect against light breezes, both indoors and out. At no time should a shotgun microphone ever be used without at least a foam windscreen. Even indoors, the microphone can encounter moving air (wind) that
would cause breakup. Air from heating/cooling systems, open passageways, and even from moving on the fish pole are all indoor
wind hazards for the highly sensitive microphones that our industry uses. Another good reason to always use a foam windscreen is
to physically protect the microphone from dust and accidental impact. Outdoors, a foam windscreen will provide only minimal
defense against wind noise. Foam will suffice for the less sensitive electret condenser (ENG-type) shotguns such as the ME80 and
AT835, but the highly sensitive true condenser shotgun microphones such as the MKH416/816 and AT4073/4071 definitely require a blimp system. In a pinch, you can improve upon a foam windscreen by wrapping it with several layers of cheesecloth, and
then containing the whole affair within a sweat sock. If you are faced with a real windstorm, anything goes... terry cloth towels,
chopped off sleeves from a sweatshirt, etc. Just so long as the covering is porous. Windscreens work by providing a barrier against
moving wind. We can define windscreens as single stage barriers, two-stage, and multi-stage. The simple foam windscreen is an
example of the single stage barrier. The porous foam slows moving air down before it can strike the microphone element. The basic blimp windscreen is an example of two-stage protection. The outer mesh shell slows down the approaching air. Whatever air
passes through the mesh is then further slowed down by the non-moving-trapped air within the blimp screen itself. The effectiveness of a blimp windscreen can be improved by adding additional barriers between the onrushing air and the microphone element;
this is known as multi-stage wind protection. For instance, using a thin foam windscreen over the microphone INSIDE of the
blimp provides a major increase of wind protection. Make sure to leave plenty of airspace between the foam and the inside of the
blimp, or else you will defeat the purpose of multi-stage wind reduction. That layer of non-moving air is vital. The other way of
improving a blimp windscreen is to use a fabric or synthetic fur "windsock" over the outer shell. The use of a plush "fur" is very
effective because the "hair" tends to disperse the oncoming wind, thus reducing velocity but also eliminating the ACOUSTIC
noise generated by high wind physically striking the outer shell of the blimp. If the budget is tight, fake fur windsocks can be
fairly easily sewn together by anyone handy with a sewing machine, such as a Costumer or Wardrobe person. Emptying a full can
of Scotch Guard onto your windsock will provide protection against rain. Heavy rain or fire hoses may call for a protective condom over the microphone itself. Hollywood sound mixers often manufacture "rain hats" made from rubberized "hogs hair" to slip
over the blimps. The hog’s hair is a rubberized, thistle type material that disperses the raindrops upon impact, thus eliminating the
"pitter patter" noise that the water would otherwise make when it struck the windscreen. An important guideline to follow when
using windscreens is to only use as much barrier protection as is needed, but never less than what is needed. The more stuff you
surround your microphone with, the more you will interfere with the frequency response and even pattern of your microphone. On
the other hand, not having enough wind protection will lead to contact wind noise, which is not fixable in the mix. One saving
grace is to realize that when the wind is blowing up a storm, your actors will also be shouting their dialogue, so that some loss of
frequency response is unlikely to affect the (lack of) subtlety of this forced dialogue anyway. Just don't use windsocks and blimps
on your indoor stuff! Summary of all of this... 1&) Always use a good shock mount and at least a foam windscreen. 2) The Audio
Technica AT8415 universal shock mount is fine for indoors and works with most microphones except long shotguns. 3) A good
pistol-grip shock mount is needed for long shotguns, as well as for any microphones that you will be using outdoors with a blimp
windscreen. The author likes Light Wave Systems. 4) Use a blimp windscreen for exteriors. A thin foam windscreen over the microphone will help quite a bit. A fur-type windsock provides even greater wind protection.
The "Hollywood" Approach to Better Location Sound written by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D. Achieving clear, crisp dialogue
and sound effects on a film or video production is no easy task. Production Sound Mixing is a craft that requires a blend of technical expertise and proper tools. The key to good sound gathering is to work from some basic strategies, and then work up from
there. Anticipate instead of react. Don’t limit yourself capability-wise to what you have been led to expect based on the production
meeting. Things often change at the last minute, and producers/directors are notorious for not bothering to inform all of the crew.
Be prepared for as many contingencies as possible. For instance, if the shooting schedule calls for only interior interviews that
day, I would still bring along a good exterior shotgun microphone and windscreen just in case someone decides that a long "walk
& talk" against a scenic city background is visually more interesting than a talking head in a cramped office. Think in terms of
what is known as the Hierarchy of Microphone Techniques. This hierarchy serves as your starting game plan in approaching a
scene in terms of microphone selection and utilization. Here is a summary of the Hierarchy: 1&) Overhead boom. 2) Boom from
underneath. 3) Boom microphones as plant microphones. 4) Lavaliere microphones as plant microphones. 5) Lavaliere microphones as body microphones. 6) Lavaliere microphones, as wireless or radio microphones. Now, let’s examine these options in
detail. 1&) Overhead miking from a fish pole or studio boom is the most favored technique in the feature/TV/commercial industry. It is probably the best choice 90% of the time. Generally, overhead miking will yield the most natural sounding dialogue with
the least amount of mixing and editing effort. It provides a pleasant blend when there are multiple actors involved. Two, three,
even a small group of people interacting can all be recorded from a single microphone. A microphone on a fish pole or boom allows for a fair amount of physical activity and movement by the talent. Actors are free to enter and exit a scene, move around,
jump around, climb around, etc. There are no trailing microphone cables to inhibit their range of motion. An overhead microphone
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will pick up sufficient sound effects, footsteps, and hand-prop noise to give the soundtrack a full texture. Because the faces are
closer to the microphone, dialogue will dominate the track, but other sound effects will still be audible. Audio perspective is easier
to maintain with an overhead microphone. On a wide master shot, the microphone tends to be higher so that the resulting dialogue
seems thinner and more "distant.” On close-ups, the microphone can be lowered giving the sound much greater presence and
"near-ness" to the screen. But what if there are physical obstructions in the set that prevent deploying a microphone from overhead? That brings us to the next option: 2) Boom miking from underneath. The boom microphone can be fish poled up at the talent from knee, thigh, or waist level with good results. The sound will be slightly more bassy than miking from overhead, but still
quite usable and acceptable. Note that a microphone aimed up at a person tends to pick up more of the chest cavity, thus accounting for the increase in bass. Personally, I find that it is much more difficult to boom from below, due to the presence of set furniture or the choreography of foreground persons. Camera operators also have to be much more careful, since it is more likely to
widen the frame to show more of an actor’s torso than to show more empty headroom above. Never-the-less, there will be many
shots where miking from below is the simplest solution. If the overhead microphone does not have to move, does it make any
acoustical difference whether the microphone is held up by human hands with a fish pole or rigged to a C-stand or clamp? The
definition of a "plant" microphone is any microphone fixed in place on a set. It can be a boom microphone secured by any imaginative or convenient means over a dialogue mark. Or it can be a boom microphone secured in an "underneath" position, such as
behind a table or potted tree. Or it can be a miniature lavaliere strategically attached or hidden anywhere in the set. Which type of
plant microphone you choose depends on the situation you are faced with. Let’s say you are covering dialogue of two actors in a
room and a third actor pokes his head into a doorway and delivers a line. Your two key actors are probably being covered by a
handheld fish pole. The doorway could be easily miked either by a boom microphone positioned above the door arch with a clamp
or C-stand. Another choice could be to tape a lavaliere to the inside of the doorframe. A telephone booth can be readily miked by
hiding a lavaliere onto the surface where the caller will be facing. A desktop can be miked by hiding a lavaliere on a pen set or a
Rolodex. A restaurant table can be miked by sticking a microphone into the floral centerpiece. (Okay, cue the "plant" microphone
puns.) To microphone an automobile, merely attach a lavaliere to the sun visor. Determine to which side the actor/driver will be
speaking, and cheat the position of the plant microphone to accommodate that. A microphone on the visor is preferable to using a
microphone on the actor’s body. A body microphone would give you lots of clothing rustle, seat belt rubbing, and other noise. On
the visor, it is completely clean. Being high up in the vehicle, the microphone is distant from road noise (gravel striking the underbelly of the car), as well as less susceptible to engine rumble. The padded ceiling of the vehicle reduces sound reflections and
echo, and the padding of the visor provides additional isolation. To cover driver and passenger, put the microphone on the visor
near the center of the car. If the passenger has a much weaker voice than the driver, place the microphone on the center-facing
edge of the passenger’s visor. Or, if the driver faces forward most of the time, but also has a line or two directed out of his window, cheat the position of the microphone to the far left of this visor. If necessary, use two plant microphones to cover driver’s
window, driver front, passenger front, and passenger window. A second or third microphone can be used to cover dialogue from
the rear seat. Be imaginative in your microphone placement, but don’t overdo it. Let one microphone do as much work as possible; multiple microphones in close proximity to each other will interfere with each other, creating echo and a tinny sound. One
caution about planting microphones around on the set. They will only be effective if the dialogue is directed in their general direction. A plant microphone that is behind someone’s head won’t be much good. Also, their range is limited; don’t expect miracles.
This is film making, not surveillance. What works fine for a stake-out may not be acceptable in a professional sound mix. Next in
our bag of tricks is the lavaliere used as a body microphone. Lavs tend to have three major problems: perspective, clothing noise,
and mobility. Perspective is the biggest problem. Dialogue recorded with lavs usually sounds like dialogue recorded with lavs.
Talent always sounds like they are close to the camera, even in long shots. If talent turns their heads over one shoulder, their voice
drops off. If talent leans over a hard podium or tabletop surface, their dialogue suddenly becomes infused with reverb. The lav
sound is sterile and somewhat free of natural sound effects and ambiance. The result is more authoritative and reporter-ish, less
slice-of-life. Depending on the effect you are looking for, this could be a plus or a minus. For example, an instructor will sound
more dominant on a lavaliere. But a community relation’s spokesperson will sound warmer and more natural if miked with an
overhead boom. Perspective can be improved by using some simple cheats. Place the lavalieres further down on the chest or further away from the voice to "open" up the sound. Two people standing close to each other and can be miked off of each other’s
microphones to increase the air space. A boom microphone on the set can be used to record footsteps and sound effects that the
lavs might ignore. Recording just a smidgen of ambient "noise" (open the microphone channel just a little bit) will wash out the
normal sterility of the lavalieres. Use more "microphone bleed" in long shots to thin out the dialogue, and then reduce the mixture
for close-ups. Clothing noise is a major problem with lavalieres. Although we don’t have the space in this article to fully explore
that area, one simple solution to clothing noise is to avoid the problem by attaching lavalieres to non-traditional sites, such as a hat
brim or a clipboard. When lavs do have to be hidden under clothing, secure the clothing carefully on all sides of the microphone
head. If the clothes are taped to the microphone, then they cannot rub against the microphone. Any loose flap of clothing that
could strike the microphone should be secured with tape or pins. Break the stiff starch near the microphone with some water, so
that noise does not conduct to the microphone. The use of Static Guard can also help reduce clothing friction. Microphone cables
should be connected at the ankle. Never let talent drag the power supply of a lavaliere by the thin microphone cable that attaches it
to the capsule. Instead, secure the power supply to the leg (put it in the sock, or use an ankle strap, or line the ankle with a protective strip of cloth or toilet tissue and then use gaffer tape). Attach the microphone cable to the connector at the ankle, during a
take. Remember to disconnect immediately during breaks so that talent is free to move off of the set. Obviously, there will be situations when it is either not practical or safe for talent to be tethered by a microphone cable. Our last resort as a miking solution is
to use radio MICROPHONES. Radio microphones suffer from all of the limitations of lavalieres, plus those of their own such as
electronic failure, radio interference, and bad karma that the scientific types are loath to admit exist (such as mysterious magnetic
black holes). Everything that has ever made your television reception bobble for a moment can interfere with radio MICRO12
PHONES: appliances, computers, passing trucks, overhead airplanes, CB’s, and so on. Radio communications can also be a
source of interference: walkie-talkies, mobile radios, repeaters, etc. Try to use wireless as sparingly as possible. Sometimes, you
can start a scene with a wireless, and then go hard-wire after talent has settled into a spot. Only use fresh batteries, and change
them routinely every couple of hours, or sooner! If you are planning to use radio MICROPHONES, bring along back-up units for
contingency. There may be interference on one channel, or a unit may fail, go sour on you, or talent may break a unit accidentally.
This summarizes the Hierarchy of Microphone Techniques. In future articles, we will explore each of these areas in more depth,
including the selection of specific microphones for each application.
Selection and Application of Shotgun MICROPHONES written by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D. In the previous article, I presented a general overview of microphone techniques or strategies used in the recording of production sound and effects for either
motion pictures or video. We established a basic game plan to follow when evaluating how to approach a scene. This "Hierarchy
of Microphone Techniques,” you will recall, consists of the following: 1&) Overhead boom. 2) Boom from underneath. 3)
Boom microphones as plant MICROPHONES. 4) Lavaliere microphones as plant MICROPHONES. 5) Lavaliere microphones
as body MICROPHONES. 6) Lavaliere MICROPHONES, wireless. As stated before, overhead miking from a fish pole (or studio
boom) is the most favored technique for film/video production and is the best choice most of the time. The operational word here
is "overhead.” Why? There is a tendency for filmmakers to rely too heavily on their camera mounted shotgun microphones rather
than separately mounted boom MICROPHONES. Obviously, having a microphone on the camera is more convenient. But our
objective in the field is not convenience, but obtaining the highest quality sound possible! Think of your shotgun microphone as a
telephoto camera lens. A long lens will isolate and magnify a distant subject, but at the same time it will compress the perceived
distance between subject and background. Everything appears to be closer together than they physically are. The same sort of spatial compression takes place with microphones. The voice of the subject will sound closer, but any noise in the background will
also be magnified. Therefore, the key to isolating voice without background noise is to create a line of sight with the microphone
that sees the voice but does not see the background! To put this in cowboy talk, aim the microphone from ABOVE the subject so
that the microphone points DOWNWARD. The line of sight reaches from the front of the microphone, to the mouth, and then towards the ground. Background noise and ambiance will strike the sides of the microphone (which is the maximum rejection angle)
rather than striking the microphone along its most sensitive front axis. In the event that it is impossible to mike from above, the
next best option is to mike from below, so that the line of sight terminates with sky. Personally, I find that miking up tends to emphasize bass a bit more, since the microphone is seeing more of the chest cavity. Also, camera operators are not as accustomed to
maintaining a strict lower frame line as they are at watching their headroom, so the microphone tends to pop into the shot more
frequently. Another important consideration when booming is not just the angle of the microphone but the distance. Shotgun microphones are not designed to be used (for broadcast quality sound) at much more than a few feet. One of the great advantages of
using the microphone on a fish pole, as opposed to being attached atop a camera, is that the microphone can be brought close to
the subject even when the camera isn’t. I often tell novice boom operators that they aren’t doing their job properly if the camera
operator fails to complain that the microphone is in the frame (during rehearsal). Every inch closer that the microphone can be to
the subject will improve the quality of the sound. Never fly the microphone higher than it absolutely needs to be if you want to
control echo and background noise. Several inches to a foot over the top of talent’s head is ideal; up to a few feet overhead is okay
depending on the situation. Some camera operators confuse width with height. A wide-angle lens means wide from left to right; it
doesn’t mean that they have to reveal several feet of air above the talent’s head. A simple tilt-down of the lens will correct excessive headroom in the composition when using a wide-angle lens! Learn to recognize and take advantage of the on-axis (live) and
off-axis (deader) angles of your MICROPHONES. Most shotgun microphones are very much on-axis at the front (say, twelve
o’clock), and taper off towards the back (six o’clock). But at exactly six o’clock, there is an increase of sensitivity! In other words,
the back of the microphone does not offer the most rejection to background noise. The most rejection occurs around four o’clock
and eight o’clock respectively. So to decrease a source of noise, you would not want the microphone facing directly away from it,
as that would only serve to put the noise at the live spot in the back. Instead, angle the microphone so that the noise source strikes
slightly to the side and rear. When deploying your microphone overhead, keep these angles in mind. Often it is better to compromise the angle of the voice (slightly) in order to keep heavy background noise to a minimum. Any angle of the microphone should
be consistent with the source of the worst noise. For instance, a person talking on the sidewalk would put the microphone overhead, but cheated towards the buildings and away from traffic — even if the camera changes shot angles. Similarly, a subject
walking along the edge of the surf on a beach should have the microphone facing inland, not out towards the noisy surf. Another
important factor to pay attention to is "perspective". The distance between microphone and subject should agree with the distance
to the screen or camera. In a long shot, it is natural for the voice to sound more distant and for there to be a greater presence of
ambiance. Close-up angles should consist of more voice and less background. However, angle of motion is very important. A person walking away from the camera should not be walking towards the microphone, or vice versa! Novice boom operators are notorious for perching themselves in a safe spot out of the frame that places the microphone in a position not consistent with the
direction of travel relative to the lens. A person with their back to camera should not be facing the microphone. A person walking
up to the camera should not be walking away from the microphone. To balance a strong voice against a weak voice, use your microphone angle and placement rather than riding gain (volume) on your mixer/recorder. Let the strong voice strike the microphone
slightly off-axis and/or from a little more distance than the softer speaking actor. This will balance the relative volume of both
people without having the background noise continually changing during the shot. Let’s examine the types of microphones we
have to choose from. Microphones can be defined by two sets of parameters: sensitivity and pattern. In terms of sensitivity, there
are three main categories that a microphone can fall into. Dynamic microphone: Think of a dynamic microphone as a manual
typewriter. The harder that your finger hits the key, the stronger the imprint. With a dynamic microphone, the pressure of the
sound waves moving the diaphragm actually generates electrical current (which is what the sound signal is). Dynamic microphone
13
microphones are extremely rugged and do not require any form of battery powering. They are relatively insensitive to background
noise (or feedback) and are commonly used as handheld performance microphones and reporter’s MICROPHONES. A dynamic
microphone used close to the mouth will reject all but the loudest background noise, making them ideal for stand-up reporting
(where the microphone can be seen on camera) or narration recording (to eliminate as much background as possible). Dynamic
microphone microphones tend to naturally compress loud noises, making them a good choice for recording explosive and crashing
sound effects. A loud sound effect, unless carefully recorded, will tend to be "blown" right off of the recording tape, which is why
real gunshots that leave your ears ringing only sound like dull pops on a videotape. The downside to dynamic microphone microphones is that they have very poor reach in terms of distance when it comes to dialogue. They are pretty much useless on a boom
or fish pole. Here’s a tip: When filming an actor who is pretending to be a performer and will be seen using a handheld microphone, it is much safer to consider the hand microphone as merely a stage prop and to microphone the actor with a boom or lavaliere. Actors in those situations tend to gesture wildly with the microphone, making your chances of getting good dialogue quite
slim. The next most sensitive group of microphones are the electret condensers. Electret condenser microphones are like electric
typewriters. These microphones operate off of a nominal voltage (usually 1.5 volts), which is derived from an internal battery such
as an AA or button battery. The voltage that creates the audio signal comes from the battery (as opposed to being generated magnetically as in the case of dynamic MICROPHONES); the relative sound levels control the capacitance, releasing voltage according to what the microphone hears. Almost think of it like a meter that measures the sound, and releases a signal accordingly.
Electret condenser microphones offer much more sensitivity (range) than dynamic microphones, and include what is commonly
referred to as "ENG" grade shotgun microphones as well as most lavalieres. Examples of electret condenser shotgun microphones
include the Sennheiser ME80 & K66; and the Audio Technica AT835b, 815b. Lavalieres include the Sony ECM44/55/66/77, the
Tram, the Sennheiser MKE2, and the Audio Technica 830. The third group of professional microphones are the true condenser
type. Think of electronic word processors. Condenser shotgun microphones are the most sensitive and offer the greatest working
range for Production. Condenser microphones require external powering such as 12volt T or 48volt Phantom, which can be supplied by an accessory battery power supply, plugged in line between the microphone and the mixer/recorder. Some mixers and
VTR’s offer built-in microphone powering. Examples of condenser shotguns include the Sennheiser MKH416/816, the Schoeps
CMC/MK41, and the Audio Technica 4073/4071. A note here on microphone powering, which is an area very confusing to many
people. As stated before, dynamic microphone microphones do not require any external powering, and plug directly into the Microphone INPUT of a mixer/recorder. Electret condenser microphones are self-powered (by an internal battery) and also plug directly into the Microphone INPUT. Condenser microphones require external powering, which can be from a battery supply
located anywhere along the microphone cable path. (For instance, the condenser microphone connects to a regular XLR cable, that
cable plugs into the battery power supply, and then another short cable connects the power supply to the Microphone INPUT.) In
all of the above cases, if the mixer/recorder offers the option of microphone powering, and the microphone is dynamic microphone, self-powered, or externally powered by a separate supply -- the mixer's microphone powering option IS NOT USED. The
correct Microphone INPUT setting would read "dynamic microphone". Sometimes, we can power a CONDENSER microphone
directly from the mixer or recorder. In that case, the external battery supply is not used at all, and the microphone plugs directly
in. A switch near the Microphone INPUT should be switched to "48 Phantom" or "T" or "A-B,” depending. Condenser microphones come in two basic varieties: 12 volt T or 48 volt Phantom. The designations "12 volt T" and "12 volt A-B" mean the exact
same thing, by the way. The difference between T powering and Phantom is significant. T powering involves sending 12 volts up
the microphone line along pins 2 and 3 of the microphone cable. Traditionally, pin 2 is PLUS and pin 3 is MINUS. Pin 1& is simply used for shield and ground. Phantom Power uses all three pins to send 9 to 48 volts of powering up to the microphone. Both
pins 2 and 3 are PLUS, and pin 1& is MINUS. Some microphones are advertised as being able to function at 9 or 12 volts Phantom. However, all of the premium condenser microphones that I have encountered prefer and are rated for 48 volt Phantom. In
theory, Phantom power should not interfere with the operation of dynamic microphone MICROPHONES, since the voltage is balanced equally across pins 2 and 3 (which conduct the audio signal). Experience dictates otherwise. Although most dynamic microphone hand-helds are not affected, the same is not true of electronic based MICROPHONES, such as electret condensers and
wireless. There is one more complication to be aware of, namely the term "red dot". In the early days of film making ("b.bc." or
before Beta Cam), people only used Nagra recorders for audio. Because Nagras are positive ground, they were set up with T-powering that was pin 3 PLUS and pin 2 MINUS. To correct for this, most microphones intended for film use were modified to match
this reversed standard, and were designated as "red dot" MICROPHONES because a red dot was usually (but not always) engraved on the side. Today, one will encounter quite a number of Sennheiser 415/416/815/816 shotgun microphones that are "red
dot" polarity. To make them work with non red-dot power supplies, simply use a reversing cable between the microphone and the
power supply. A reversing cable is merely a short microphone cable that has the leads switched in one connector, so that pin 2
goes to 3, 3 goes to 2, and 1& remains connected to 1&. The other parameter by which we classify shotgun microphones is by the
pickup pattern. Omnidirectional refers to hearing equally well in all directions. Most lavalieres are omni, which is good since they
could end up being worn in different places and at different angles in order to accommodate clothing styles. Omni microphones
are also preferred for handheld interviews, since this allows for the unexpected overlapping of dialogue between interviewer and
subject. Cardioid pattern literally means heart shaped, and refers to microphones that are more directional from the front. Hyper
cardioid or super cardioid are considerably directional. This group includes what are known as "short shotguns" such as the 416
and 4073. Ultra-directional means extremely directional, such as full or long shotgun MICROPHONES. Examples include the
Senn. 816 and the Audio Technica 4071. So which microphone do you use? The rule of thumb is that the more directional the
microphone, the more it will emphasize echo in a small room. Therefore, reach the best compromise between the reach you need
and the mellowness you would like to hear. Long shotguns work the best for most exterior shots, since theses microphones are
characterized by long reach and very narrow pick-up. The narrow field of view helps to control background noise if the microphone is deployed overhead. The greater range helps because exterior shots are very often much wider than interior frames, since
14
there is more interesting stuff to look at or action to cover. Always used a blimp windscreen on your long shotguns to guard
against wind noise. I find that using a foam windscreen inside of the blimp gives almost twice the protection. On the very sensitive
condenser MICROPHONES, a furry windsock will help to disperse the wind and diffuse it upon impact. To guard against rain,
use lots of ScotchGuard spray. Extreme rain (or fire fighting) would call for a thin condom over the microphone itself, as well as a
rain hat over the blimp made from what we call "hogs hair" or "rubberized hair.” Hogs hair is a thicket type material that will
break up the raindrops and prevent the pitter-patter sound of them striking the windscreen, roof of a vehicle, or roof of a recording
stage. Long shotguns may also be used on some interiors, providing that the room or sound stage is very large and free of echo.
They offer the advantage of increased overhead range and headroom on wide shots. Their disadvantage on interiors is: 1&) they
are physically longer and may bump a low ceiling; 2) they must be precisely cued or aimed because of their narrow pattern (to
cover two actors requires a very good boom operator); and 3) long shotguns will exaggerate room echo. Prime examples of long
shotguns include the Sennheiser MKH816 (condenser, 12 volt T versions & rarer 48 phantom versions); and the new Audio Technica AT4071 (48 phantom). Audio Technica also offers the AT815a/XLR, which is an Electret condenser (AA battery) ENG type
of shotgun, which is good for smaller budgets. Interior locations are usually better off being miked with a short shotgun. The short
shotgun features a slightly wider pattern and slightly less range, but does not exaggerate the room echo as much. The wider pattern and physically shorter length of theses microphones facilitates use with lower ceilings, especially when it comes to covering
multiple actors. Short shotguns come in a variety of "focal lengths,” so to speak. The Senn. 416 has a fairly tight pattern, and can
double for exterior work. The extinct Senn. 435 offered a wider pattern than the 416, less range but also less echo. The extinct
Senn. 406, and the current Schoeps, offer fairly wide patterns, short range (a foot or two), but excellent defense against room
echo. The new Audio Technica AT4073a has greater range than a 416, but a slightly wider pattern and more even off-axis response that makes it one of the best sounding (very echo resistant) all-purpose interior condenser microphones on the market today. In the choices of electret condenser short shotguns, there are the Sennheiser K3U/ME80 and the Audio Technica AT835.
Neither microphone offers the range (4 to 5 feet) of their big brother condensers (the 416 and the 4073a), but at shorter distances
(up to 2-3 feet) they sound equally good on the track. The main advantages of these ENG shotguns are price (the Sennheiser is
around $450 and the AT is around $250) and ruggedness. Both microphones are the standards of the news gathering industry. All
short shotgun microphones should always be used with a foam windscreen, even indoors. Out of doors, a blimp windscreen or
half-blimp such as the Light Wave Mini Screen or Rycote Softie should be used. In a pinch, simply wrap a few layers of cheesecloth over the foam windscreen, and then cover in a tube-style sweat sock. It works. Any shotgun microphone should always be
used in a good shock mount to eliminate handling noise and vibration. The industry standard for short shotguns is the Audio Technica AT8415 universal shock mount (the tic tac toe rubber band mount). Blimp windscreens require their own brand of pistol grip
shock mounts, which are usually purchased in conjunction with the windscreen system. These mounts are intended to be used with
or without the windscreen, so there is no need to purchase a separate shock mount if you have a blimp system. Click here to send
mail to [email protected] with questions or comments about this web site, posted articles, catalog requests, or for
sales / rental assistance. Copyright © 1999 Equipment Emporium. Last modified: March 10, 1999 Equipment Emporium voice:
818-838-4457 or 800-473-4554 15235 Brand Blvd, Suite A-110 Mission Hills CA 91345We moved on April 12th (and are no
longer affiliated with Wilcox Sound). Our new sales catalog for1999 is currently in production. If you would like a copy of our
current catalog (free, of course),please phone or e-mail us.
Selection and Use of Lavaliere Microphones
written by Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S.
A brief history: Originally, the term "lavaliere" referred only to the "neck-worn" or "body-worn" class of small microphones.
These days, the working definition of lavaliere has been extended to include virtually any miniature microphone small enough to
be worn on the body and/or hidden in the set. The first lavalieres used by our industry were large, dynamic microphone microphones about the size of a cigar tube. These microphones were traditionally worn around the neck by means of a lanyard
(lavaliere). The microphones were very rugged, but had a very short pick-up range and had to worn close to the mouth. Because of
their relative insensitivity to sound, they were very feedback resistant. Units manufactured by Sennheiser and ElectroVoice were
very popular in their time; many can still be found at garage sales, priced to go at almost free. By the way, it is worth noting that
the author still keeps a vintage ElectroVoice 649B dynamic microphone lavaliere in his sound kit for use as a slate microphone or
as an "expendable" sound effects microphone. The technology of the sixties saw a miniaturization of the lavaliere. The Sony
ECM-50 became the broadcast standard. The ECM-50 was an electret condenser, omni lavaliere. Compared to the older dynamic
microphone lavs, the ECM-50 was considered miniature. The ECM-50 was far more sensitive, and its greater bass response complimented the golden-throated newscasters of the era. Years later, Sony introduced the ECM-30, a smaller and less expensive version of the ECM-50. Film and video people took a liking to it immediately. The ECM-30 was much smaller and easier to hide.
More importantly, the microphone lacked the extended bass response of the ECM-50, which translated into less wind noise and
rumble when used outside of a studio. Of course, over the years, other manufacturers entered the marketplace with lavalieres of
their own. Witness the ElectroVoice CO-90, the TRAM TR-50, the MiniMicrophone, the Sennheiser MKE-2, and others. Which
brings us up to the present. Proximity vs. Transparent Lavalieres: (terms coined by the author) Modern lavalieres can be described
as being either “"Proximity" or "Transparent.” A Proximity type lavaliere is defined as a microphone that works best when kept
fairly close to the source of the voice, emphasizes that voice, and suppresses background. A prime example of this sort of lavaliere
is the ECM-55 (the current successor to the ECM-50). Proximity lavalieres produce the "lavaliere perspective"; emphasis of the
voice in a "tight close-up" sort of way. You know, the newscaster, stand-up reporter, on-camera narrator, radio interview, voice of
authority kind of sound. Proximity lavalieres are the best way to go if you desire an authoritative sound with minimal background
noise. They are also the microphones of choice if there is simultaneous sound reinforcement (public address), since they aren’t as
prone to cause feedback as other more sensitive microphones. Transparent lavalieres are defined as sounding more like omnidirectional recording studio microphones. They are very sensitive to sounds, and their volume vs. distance characteristics are far more
15
gradual than that of proximity lavalieres. Transparent microphones can be deployed at greater distances; and are far more forgiving of talent turning their heads away from the microphone. Transparent microphones sound much more natural and less forced
than proximity microphones. Used on a video set, these microphones will interact much easier with overhead boom microphones.
The drawback to transparent microphones is that they are much more sensitive to background noise, and also require greater skill
to hide under clothing. The microphone lineup: As mentioned before, the Sony ECM-55 is a longtime standard of the industry and
is a proximity type lavaliere. It is cylindrical in shape, measuring roughly 1&/2" in diameter by 1&" long. This microphone has a
pronounced bass response, and is excellent for audio interviews, narration, and public address. It is not as useful a microphone to
use outside of the studio, due to its sensitivity to wind and rumble. This microphone is not very forgiving of off-axis voice; when
talent turns their head away the sound level drops off considerably. On the border between proximity and transparent is the Sony
ECM-44. The ECM-44 is probably the most popular all-purpose lavaliere on the market. It is more open sounding than the
ECM-50, but still does a good job of suppressing background. It is somewhat forgiving of head turns. The microphone exhibits a
slight warmth in the middle frequency range, which promotes the clarity of voice over background. Also, the ECM-44 does not
have the bass sensitivity of the ECM-55, making this a better sounding microphone to use in the field. If you can only afford one
type of lavaliere to own, go with the ECM-44! Moving into the transparent group of lavalieres, we come to the TRAM TR-50.
This very tiny microphone differs from the Sony's in that it has a front facing grill. The Sony's have their openings on the top. Remember, all of these lavalieres are omnidirectional, so it does not matter which way the microphones or their grills are oriented.
Just pay attention when you are rigging them so that you don't accidentally block up or tape over the hole. TRAMS are famous for
their wide array of mounting clips and tricks. In addition to the traditional tie bars, TRAMS also offer vampire clips, PZM type
plastic mounts, leather tapedowns, and a host of goodies. The sound of TRAM is very good. It is more transparent and natural
sounding than the ECM-44, but not quite as open as some of the other transparent microphones. My favorite transparent lavalieres
to use are the Sennheiser MKE-2, the Audio Technica MT830, and the SonyECM-77. All of these lavalieres are extremely sensitive, and work very well as plant microphones or body microphones. They sound very natural, and interact perfectly with overhead boom microphones. They make excellent plant microphones hidden in sets. They also allow the pickup of other persons near
the actor wearing them; very handy in a documentary or covert situation. Their drawback, however, is their sensitivity: sometimes
they can hear too much background. They also require more care in rigging under clothing. But they do sound great! So which
microphone to own? My recommendations are the Sony ECM-44 for use as a proximity lavaliere for interviews, as well as to suppress background noise in theatrical filming. For use as plant microphones, and very natural sounding body microphones (that do
not sound like body microphones), I would go with the Sony ECM-77 and/or the Audio Technica MT830. Rigging lavalieres:
Outside the Clothing in many situations, it is permissible for the microphone to be visible in the shot. Needless to say, this simplifies the process of rigging the little devils quite a bit! To begin with, you should be familiar with the proper technique of using a
tie bar type mounting clip. Secure the microphone capsule (head) in the clip, as one would expect. Then, loop the microphone cable around in a "J" so that it circles upward and re-enters the tie clip. The cable should pass freely through the closed end side of
the clip where it hinges (the side farthest away from the jaws). With the tie bar in place on the clothing, continue the microphone
cable up and around so that it completes a circle behind the clothing. Bring the cable back down (still behind the clothing) and secure it inside of the spring jaws of the clip. The action of the metal clip will serve to eliminate conductive cable noise from being
transmitted to the microphone capsule. It will also strain relief the microphone from any tugging or pulling on the cable. The remainder of the lavaliere’s microphone cable should be hidden behind talent's clothing. Although it is acceptable for the microphone itself to be visible to the audience, there is never an excuse to see a sloppy cable! The thin cable of the lavaliere terminates
at some sort of XLR connector/power supply. This supply should be hidden either in a pants pocket, waistband, or at the ankle.
Never encourage talent to drag this XLR connector around; you risk great damage to the frail cable and electronic connections.
Instead, always secure the connector end to talent, and simply plug a standard XLR microphone cable into it. At the end of a take,
simply unplug the heavy microphone cable from talent and they are free to roam the set without risk to your lavaliere microphone.
I have found that a heavy-duty rubber band with a safety pin works well to secure the power supply inside of a waistband if there
are no convenient pockets to use. A heavy sock (or at least the ankle portion of one) works well at the ankle; as also does an ACE
bandage or a salvaged ankle holster. Even a strip of gaffers tape works well, but remember to line the ankle with cloth or toilet
tissue first. Velcro straps are fine on males, but will destroy fine hosiery and stockings. Clip-on lavalieres are often attached to the
center chest opening of a shirt/blouse or to the necktie. They can also be attached to the lapel of a sports jacket. If attaching to a
lapel, make sure that you attach to the side most likely for talent to turn towards. (Towards the interviewer, towards the projection
screen, etc.) Although the lavaliere is visible to the camera, it does not have to be conspicuous. Remember that in a wide shot, the
lavaliere is very tiny on screen. In a close-up, the lavaliere will be framed out of the shot. Just a little judicious camouflage will
make the lavaliere all but invisible. Cover the visible portions of the microphone and clip with small strips of white camera tape.
Color the tape with magic markers to match the color and pattern of wardrobe. Hiding Lavalieres under Clothing: Hiding a microphone under clothing requires much more attention to detail. Not only must the microphone be hidden from view, but you must
also contend with the problems of clothing noise. Clothing noise comes in two varieties: Contact and Acoustic. Contact clothing
noise is caused by clothing physically rubbing against or striking the microphone capsule or microphone cable. The best means to
eliminate this type of noise is to immobilize the clothing around the microphone. If the garments cannot move in relation to the
microphone, then they cannot rub or strike the microphone! Different sound mixers have different techniques for accomplishing
this feat, but my preference is the use of sticky triangles. But first, we have to eliminate cable noise. Do this by forming one or
two complete loops of the cable just below the microphone capsule. The loops should be around one inch in diameter. Tie the
loops in place with a piece of thread or dental floss, or even a thin strip of camera tape sticky side out. The loop should be secured
loose enough to open and close freely when the cable is tugged. This becomes your strain relief. Secure the microphone capsule
within two small triangles of sticky tape. I make these triangles from a 1&" wide by 2" long piece of camera or gaffers tape,
folded corner to corner several times like a flag, sticky side always out. The microphone is centered within the two triangles. Be
16
careful not to tape over the grill or holes of the microphone. This sticky triangle can be placed just above a button of a shirt/
blouse. The loop falls opposite of the button itself. The next inch or so of cable should be taped onto the shirt so that it is between
buttons. Any tugging of the shirt or cable with be strain relieved by this strip of cable. The floating loop isolates the tugging from
the microphone capsule. The sticky triangles anchor the clothing on either side of the microphone. When wiring a female
equipped with a bra, the sticky triangle can be re-angled so that it is flat side up, pointed down, and can be placed inside of the bra,
in the cleavage at the "cross your heart" point. The swell of the bosom acts as a shield against clothing noise, and results in excellent sounding microphone placement. The other type of clothing noise is that of Acoustic noise. Acoustic noise is created not from
clothing rubbing against or striking the microphone, but instead from the clothing rubbing against itself. Static Guard works very
well to lubricate clothing, such as jackets rubbing over shirts. Heavy starch conducts noise, so it is best dealt with by applying or
spraying a little water around the microphone placement area, as well as in any other areas that would not appear obvious to camera. As a rule of thumb, cottons and woolens are the quietest clothing fibers. Synthetics and silks are very noisy and should be
avoided as much as the situation allows. Lavalieres can also be hidden in other areas than just center chest. Under the collar works
well with sweaters and sweatshirts, or women's blouses. Going under the collar of address shirt on a male may create a problem if
beard stubble is present on the neck. Less conventional microphone sites include under the brim of hats, or hidden in the hair at
the forehead. Small lavalieres can also be hidden on the frames of eyeglasses. A very useful trick is to hollow out a plastic pen,
and hide a lavaliere inside. With but a very small incision in the back of a pocket, a pen microphone can be planted in full visibility to the camera, with no clothing noise, and still remain completely "hidden.” Wind noise: There are two types of wind noise:
Contact and Acoustic. (Sound familiar?) Contact wind noise is the one we most frequently associate with microphones. That is the
distortion caused when wind strikes the diaphragm of the microphone itself. The solution is to use a good windscreen. Which you
will have to make yourself, because the flimsy little puffs of acoustic foam that come with most lavalieres are merely breath pop
filters, not real windscreens! The simplest tool for blocking wind is to salvage the foam booty that makes up the working end of a
video head-cleaning swab. After you service your video heads, save these sticks! Believe me, the microphone dust collected from
a video head will not affect sound quality on a windscreen. Pull the foam tips off of the wooden sticks, and then slice them open at
the base to form a foam cap. Slide the foam over your favorite lavaliere, and instant windscreen. Since these screens are disposable, feel free to color them with markers for less visibility. If rigging under clothing, feel free to sandwich them inside of your
sticky triangles. So what if the tape destroys them! A greater level of wind protection can be achieved by placing an oversize
metal grill (such as from an ECM-55) over the foam. Another trick is to wrap a layer of cheesecloth over the foam and the microphone. For visible microphones, snip the fingertips off of a pair of wool knit children's winter gloves, and pull the wool "caps”
over the cheesecloth. With a layer of wool, cheesecloth, and foam -- you're very well insulated from wind noise. When hiding lavalieres inside heavy winter coats, a good technique is to bring the microphone to the outside of the coat (to avoid excessive muffling) and to hide the microphone under a patch of cloth or felt. These patches are readily obtained as "sample" swatches from any
fabric store. The other type of wind noise is Acoustic. That is the sound of the wind howling through the trees or between the
buildings. It is a form of background noise, like traffic noise, and cannot be eliminated by the use of a windscreen. Your best solution is to keep the microphones close to talent. Rolling off the bass frequencies also helps a little, but wind howling is often all
over the frequency spectrum. Lavalieres as Plant Microphones: The best solution to clothing noise is to keep the lavaliere off of
the body entirely. Lavalieres are too stupid to know whether or not they are attached on the body, or just near one. It is a simple
matter to hide lavalieres onto many handheld props, such as purses, clipboards, flashlights, cups, etc. To rig a car, hide a lavaliere
on the inside of the sun visor. Any decent transparent lavaliere wills pickup driver, passenger, and probably backseat passenger.
The visor is padded to reduce echo, and well away from the bottom of the car with related engine & road noise. Transparent lavalieres also work well as hidden microphones in the set. A microphone in the centerpiece can give you a restaurant table. A microphone in an executive pen set can pickup both sides of an across the desk encounter. A microphone on the inside of a doorjamb
can give you that short line from a passerby poking his head into the office. Use your imagination! A telephone booth is a snap to
rig. Someone reading directly off of a blackboard or bulletin board is perfect for a hidden lavaliere. The headboard of a bed for
those "marital relations" shots. Perspective: A danger of using lavalieres is to forget to take perspective into account. A proximity
lavaliere always sounds like a tight close-up, even when the camera is fifty feet away. Transparent microphones sound much more
natural, but unlike boom microphones, their perspective is fixed. Booms move from farther to closer as the frame changes; lavalieres do not. One quick fix to the perspective problem is to also deploy a shotgun microphone directed at nothing in particular.
The "bleed microphone" is used to capture footsteps, ambiance, and general sound effects from an angle that will not pick up dialogue (two microphones capturing the same sound will create phasing problems, echo, and tinniness). For long perspective, the
bleed microphone is mixed (say, 30%) with the dialogue from the lavaliere. As the shot narrows to a close-up, the bleed microphone is faded down, so that we are only left with the close-up sound of the lav. Another trick to open up perspective when using
lavalieres is to place them a little further down on the chest than normal. This creates a noisier track with more ambiance and less
forced emphasis of voice. Two actors playing opposite each other can be miked from each other's lavaliere, again opening up the
soundtrack to appear more natural.
Using Wireless Microphones
by Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S.
There is a saying in Hollywood that the use of wireless microphones is more of a mystic art than it is a science. In spite of all of
the technological advances, achieving reliable performance from radio microphones is still a best case rather than an every case
scenario. The fault lies not with the manufacturers, but with the government. Due to restrictions on power output (a mere 50 milliwatts) and frequency allocation (sharing the wavelength with television channels), professional wireless microphone units are
readily susceptible to dropouts and local RF interference. What this means in plain English is that a twelve year-old kid can walk
into a Radio Shack and buy a walkie-talkie or CB that puts out 5 watts (5000 milliwatts), yet Uncle Sam won't trust professional
sound people with more than 50 milliwatts! As for the matter of RF interference, anything that has ever caused your television set
17
to hiccup (such as overhead aircraft, vacuum cleaners, computers, passing trucks) may also interfere with your wireless microphone. Never-the-less, radio microphones are definitely an important tool for Production Sound recording. They are often the only
practical way to get the dialogue. Think of them as wireless cables. There is nothing wireless about the microphone itself. The fact
is, it is the cable connecting the microphone to the mixer or recorder that is wireless. The microphone remains wired to the transmitter. You may think that I am indulging in a silly game of semantics, but this is an important concept to understand. The lavaliere microphone is not the wireless part of the system; the XLR microphone cable is what the transmitter/receiver is replacing.
Virtually ANY microphone, including fish pole mounted shotguns, can be used with a wireless system providing that you have the
appropriate adapter cable or connector. Another concept that is important is that because wireless microphones (of any brand) are
always a bit of a gamble, you should hedge your bet by only deploying wireless when you absolutely have no alternate solution.
Avoid reaching for your wireless as a first resort. Using radio microphones is sort of like going to the dentist: it is not a fun experience but we all do it when we have to. Exhaust all of the "hardwire" ways of miking a shot. If you can't boom it from overhead,
maybe you can microphone it from below. Perhaps a strategically placed "plant" or fixed microphone can be rigged outside the
frame or hidden within the set. If you do need to resort to a body worn lavaliere, it might be possible to trail a microphone line
from talent's ankle. Some scenes can be started on a wireless for the master shot, and then switched to boom microphones or hardwired lavalieres for the closer angles. Do wireless microphones save the production company money? There is a popular myth that
using wireless microphones will save time and money. Not! Wireless microphones cost money to rent as well as to operate. For
instance, the average daily rental for a good wireless system is approximately $35 to $40 per unit. How many units do you need to
budget for? The answer is: a couple more than you plan on using. If you have only one actor and you bring only one radio microphone, then what happens if that radio microphone stops working either due to an internal electronic malfunction or on account of
local RF interference on its frequency? Do we all get to go home for the afternoon? Add to this the cost of batteries. Radio microphones can consume an awfully expensive pile of batteries over the course of a production. Most brands operate from 9-volt alkalines, which cost around $2.50 each. The most common cause of poor radio microphone performance is weak batteries! Always
begin your shoot with fresh, premium batteries installed in the transmitter and receiver. The battery in the body pack transmitter
should be changed around every four hours, more or less. Even though some manufacturers claim eight hours of life, I don't know
of any top-notch sound people who feel comfortable going that long on one battery. After four hours, battery voltage tends to drop
off steeply, along with transmitter range and clarity. In addition, you do not want to interrupt the flow of activity on the set in order to change batteries while the director is "cooking.” Professionally, it is safer to change batteries frequently than to risk an ill-timed delay or a bad take. Receivers don't eat batteries quite as much. Some receivers can last eight hours on a single battery, or a
couple of days on two or three. And if you do need to check the voltage of a battery, or to replace it, it is usually easier to access
the receiver (sitting out in the open) than to fumble with a transmitter buried under someone's wardrobe. Battery voltage should be
checked with a digital voltmeter. Inexpensive digital meters can be purchased at Radio Shack and other places for under twenty
dollars. A fresh 9-volt battery puts out around 9.30 volts. Replace your batteries at around 8.5 volts or slightly lower, based on
you’re experience with the radio microphones. By the way, your "discarded" batteries still have plenty of voltage for most consumer devices, so it is not necessary to toss them in the trash. Just don't use them for professional equipment. There is one more
budget factor to consider... time. Radio microphones require fifteen or twenty minutes per unit to properly hide and rig under
wardrobe. Longer, if you experience difficulties with clothing noise. Deciding to use radio microphones on a shoot in order to
save money is a mistake. It is less expensive and much more reliable to hire a good boom operator. But bear in mind that there are
many situations where wireless is the best, if not only, practical option! Choosing a wireless microphone system. There are several
factors to consider when selecting a wireless microphone system. Handheld vs. Body pack: Most of the wireless transmitters used
for Production Sound are of the body pack format. Body packs with lavaliere microphones are commonly used for dialogue.
Handheld microphones are generally used for vocal performance, or audience Q & A. It is possible to request both styles of transmitters on the same frequency, for use with a single receiver. Note that you cannot utilize two transmitters on the same frequency
at the same time. When two transmitters are operating simultaneously, the result is not a blending of the audio, as some would expect, but rather a jamming of each other's encoded RF transmissions. ENG vs. Rack mount: ENG receivers are designed for field
or camcorder use and have been miniaturized and designed for internal battery power. Rack mount receivers intended for theater
or concert performances may require 120v AC and tend to be physically much larger. Rack mountable units sometimes have the
advantage of more sophisticated front end filtering to reduce interference, and often feature diversity antenna systems as well.
Rack mount units, because of their better front end filtering, are preferred in situations calling for a large number of radio units to
operate simultaneously. The smaller ENG units sacrifice some of the more exotic front-end circuitry in order to achieve compactness. VHF vs. UHF: VHF professional wireless microphone frequencies (169-210 MHZ) overlap the standard television channels
7 thru 12,as per FCC regulation. That means that many radio microphones will only operate interference free in some cities, dependent on the local TV channel line-up. VHF units tend to offer greater range, longer battery life, lower purchase price, but are
more susceptible to interference. There are a handful of legal frequencies just under channel 7, roughly 169-174 MHZ, referred to
as "A” frequencies or "travelers.” This narrow range of frequencies will work in roughly 90% of the cities nationwide. UHF frequencies are much higher up on the spectrum. UHF's tend toward less working range, higher battery drain, much more expensive
manufacturing costs, but are less prone to interference. The majority of radio microphones used in our industry are VHF, but recent improvements in both the pricing and performance of UHF are changing that statistic. Single antenna vs. Diversity: Most
ENG receivers utilize a single antenna. Diversity systems deploy two antennas, and internally switch back and forth to whichever
antenna offers the better signal. Diversity units are usually rack mount size, although there are some ENG sized brands available.
For diversity antennas to be effective, they should be separated at least a quarter wavelength (around 19inches). Some mixers prefer to remove the antennas from the receiver and connect them via a short length (5 to 25 feet) of RG-59 antenna cable in order to
increase the likelihood of one or the other receiving antenna finding a clear signal. The advantages of diversity include less likelihood of RF dropout due to the direct or reflected signal paths being obstructed, as well as increased working range (based on the
18
antenna placement). The disadvantages of diversity can include having to deal with two antennas; audibly recognizable
"switching"(a trait more common in the cheaper systems); and the chance of one of the two antennas locking on to interference.
Diversity antenna systems are more commonly chosen for presentation, stage and concert performances where the electronic environment is controlled but the talent's movements across the stage are not. Single antenna systems are fine for shot by shot production, since dropouts can be dealt with by relocating the receiver in relation to talent. Quad-Box: A quad-box consists of four
individual ENG sized receivers, non-permanently housed in a compact case. The case includes an antenna "splitter" (RF distribution amp) so that one single antenna (or two for diversity units) provides the feed for all four receivers. Most quad-boxes also feature a centralized battery power supply that will "externally" power all the receivers. Quad-boxes are convenient. Their only
drawback is that sometimes better performance can be achieved by separating the receivers and placing them strategically closer
to the action. Receivers may be placed in different sites to optimize antenna line-of-site for each actor in the scene. Rigging the
Talent Attaching the body pack transmitter: Hiding the transmitter under the wardrobe of most male performers is usually fairly
simple, due to the fact that men generally wear looser fitting clothing. Bulging pockets are common: stuffed with wallets, keys,
handkerchief, comb, coins, etc. The presence of a small transmitter case rarely upsets the visual lines of the fashion. Where the
transmitter will be hidden is dependent on a couple of factors, such as the physical actions or stunts, and the contours of the wardrobe. Common sites for the transmitter include: inside the waistband of trousers, and the inside pocket of a jacket or sport coat.
Other sites are: inside the trouser leg, under the armpit (like a shoulder holster), across the small of the back, or inside of a hat. A
safety pin can be attached to the transmitter by means of tape or a thick rubber band, allowing the transmitter to be easily pinned
onto wardrobe. ACE bandages are another convenient way of securing the radio microphone. Professionals usually carry a variety
of custom elastic belts and cloth pouches (such as those made by Equipment Emporium) to facilitate rigging. The transmitters fit
inside of the pouches, which can then be pinned directly to clothing or slipped over thin, lightweight elastic belts. The Velcro closured belts can be worn around the waist, thigh, etc. A couple of quick notes about belt and pouch kits. The belts should be thin;
porous if possible. Velcro and elastic can cover a wide range of sizes. White usually conceals easier than darker colors. Very importantly, keep the belts freshly laundered. Hiding the transmitter on a female is often more complicated, due to the differences in
fashion. Whereas men's clothing is commonly loose-fitting and lumpy, women's fashions tend to be closely contoured to the body.
A variety of elastic belts are much more important, since the thinner fabrics may not support the weight of a pin-on transmitter.
Choices of sites are based on wardrobe style, camera angle, and physical action. Places to rig transmitters include the small of the
back (waist belt), the back of the bra, upper back (X-shaped rig), under the arm, on the inside thigh (intimate, but works for short,
tight fitting skirts), the back of the neck (under long hair), inside a leg warmer, under a hat, or even under a wig (to accommodate
on-screen nudity). Be considerate of talent's privacy when preparing to rig them. Don't advertise all over the set that you are about
to hide a transmitter under someone's clothing! Avoid the use of camera or gaffers tape directly against the skin. Use some sort of
cloth liner, first aid gauze, or even toilet paper to protect the skin from these tapes. If you are in a situation that requires taping directly to skin, then use a medical surgical tape designed for that purpose, such as 3M Micropore Action tape. Remember to clean
the surface of the skin first with an alcohol pad, in order to remove oils and dirt. Antenna considerations: A prime consideration
when selecting the body site to hide a transmitter is the antenna path. We want the transmitter antenna to have optimum "line of
sight" to the receiver antenna. Body pack transmitters utilize either an antenna separate from the microphone line (such as Vega),
or they integrate their antenna function with the ground wire of the microphone (such as LectroSonics and Audio Technica). If
talent will be sitting on a metal backed chair, it would be a poor choice to have the antenna running along the back, say from waist
to shoulder. Similarly, if talent is facing up against a metal filing cabinet, then we would try to avoid rigging the antenna along the
front. Separate antennas offer greater control over the antenna path. We can rig the antenna solely on the basis of best line of sight.
The antenna should be kept somewhat taut, with just a little slack, which is best done by attaching a rubber band and safety pin to
the end. The pin is secured to clothing, and the rubber band acts as a strain relief as the actor moves or bends. The antenna should
not loop over itself. If the best antenna placement is downward, then invert the transmitter rather than bend the antenna. The antenna can be kept somewhat vertical (either upward or downward), or can be angled horizontally from the transmitter up to 90 degrees. If the transmitter antenna is angled, sometimes reception can be improved by tilting the receiver antenna to match. The
antenna should never cross over the microphone line. It is okay for the microphone line to loop over itself (as when the transmitter
is inverted). Always run the microphone line and antenna away from each other; flip the transmitter if necessary so that the lines
do not cross each other. Moisture will absorb RF energy, and thus weaken the transmission. A rubber sheath of shrink tubing, fuel
line, or surgical tubing can help isolate the antenna from excess perspiration, rain, etc. The drawback to separate antennas is that
they are an additional element to rig and hide. However, the disadvantage of combination antenna/microphone lines is that the microphone line must be cut to specific (antenna) length, and that the best microphone path is not always the optimum antenna site.
Greater care must be taken to keep the microphone cable as straight as possible. Avoid bunching up the microphone/antenna line
and "stuffing" it into a pocket or under a waistband, since this will reduce the transmission signal. Receiver Antennas: Good antenna placement is the key to eliminating drop-outs and reducing the chances of interference. Keep the antenna path as short as
possible, and transmit through as few obstacles as possible. Place your receivers as close as you can to the actors. Receivers can be
just on the edge of the set, or even hidden within the set. It is more efficient to run a long length of audio cable from the receiver
back to the mixing panel than to run along antenna cable. Think in terms of clean line-of-sight. The best place for your sound cart
may not be the best place for your receivers! The antennas might have a cleaner path coming in from the side or rear of the set
Mounting your antennas high will allow them to see over obstacles such as bodies and grip stands. Be very careful when mounting
receivers onto camcorders. Make sure that the antenna does not have to "see through" the camera body or VTR. Be aware that a
lot of RF interference can be generated by the video recording heads, and the viewfinder. I have found that when mounting small,
inexpensive receivers (such as the Audio Technica Pro88) onto the shoe brackets of Hi8mm and S-VHS camcorders, it is better to
rotate the receiver so that the antenna faces the forehead of the operator rather than being located directly above the electronics of
the viewfinder. There are different types of receiver antennas. The most common antennas that come with wireless microphones
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are the stiff wire "whip" antenna and the short rubber sheathed helicoil "rubber duckie". The stiff wire antennas are the most efficient, but may not be practical in an ENG situation. The rubber duckies are safer and more portable, but lose a little in terms of
range. Early ENG style receivers sometimes came equipped with a limp wire antenna, similar to those found on transmitters. The
limp wire antenna is inefficient unless it is kept taut. Compared to the wire whip or the popular rubber duckie, the limp wire is a
poor choice. Antennas as accessories: Ground plane antennas look like little camera tripods and are designed to take advantage of
"ground plane” reflections, sort of the way a pressure zone or boundary plate microphone uses a hard surface to gather sound.
Ground planes work very well for stage shows and the like. However, most field production involves a lot of electromagnetic
equipment (lighting units, ballasts, coils of electrical cables) strewn on the ground in their path, so ground plane antennas would
not be my personal choice. "Dipole" antennas look like two wire whip antennas mounted back to back, in a vertical configuration.
They achieve "higher gain" by polarizing incoming signals (sort of like sunglasses). Radio signals that strike the antenna at ninety
degrees (horizontal) are passed with greater efficiency than spurious signals bouncing all over the place. In a sense, these two-element dipoles are 'directional' in that they see a single plane (picture Saturn's rings). Dipole antenna systems are very popular on
professional motion picture sets. The yagi type of antenna resembles a two dimensional Christmas tree. It is a smaller version of
household rooftop TV antennas. The yagi works like a shotgun microphone. It is very directional and needs to be aimed toward
the transmitter. They are also very common on professional sets. General concerns with wireless microphones: Don't expect miracles. Even the best Hollywood sound mixers have to wrestle with their wireless. The range is never what you expect nor what the
spec sheets claim, because you will not be operating in a perfect environment. If you need increased range, try utilizing a dipole or
yagi antenna system. You can request them when you rent or purchase your wireless. If the salesperson doesn't know what you are
talking about, go to a real sound house run by mixers! Another way to increase your range is to shorten the distance between the
transmitter and receiver. Have someone carry the receiver and walk the distance parallel with the actor. The more units that are
working simultaneously, the increased likelihood of them interfering with each other. Actors passing close to each other may generate a buzz. If you know that actors will be working close, assign them units on frequencies as far apart from each other as possible. Think carefully before you just grab a radio microphone and stick it on someone. Check your batteries often. Weak batteries
in the transmitter or receiver are the main cause of problems. Periodically re-check your transmitter rigging. Actors have a tendency of adjusting their wardrobe, and upsetting your carefully positioned microphone and/or antenna placement. If talent will be
perspiring a lot, or working in rain or near water, then it is a good idea to encase the body pack transmitter in a protective condom
and seal it with electrical tape. Use standard non-lubricated latex condoms. But don't forget to warn your personal mate as to their
professional use, lest they be discovered when you get home! Clothing noise: Wireless transmitters do not suffer from clothing
noise. However, the lavalieres plugged into them certainly do! Rig your lavalieres the same as you would if they were hardwired.
For the benefit of readers who missed the article on lavaliere microphones, here are a few pointers: Make a small loop near the
microphone capsule. Secure the loop loosely with a piece of thread or a thin strip of camera tape (sticky side out). The loop should
be able to freely open and close if the cable is tugged. This loop serves to cancel out most cable noise conducted along the rubber
sheath of the microphone cable. Eliminate contact clothing noise by securing the wardrobe on both sides of the microphone capsule. If the clothing is not free to rub against the microphone head, then there won't be noise. A popular technique is to sandwich
the microphone head between two sticky triangles made from camera tape. Start with a two-inch long strip of (one inch wide)
camera tape, and fold it corner over corner like a flag, sticky side out. Make a second triangle the same way. Then sandwich the
microphone between them, being careful not to block the grill. In the case of a button down shirt or blouse, attach the sticky triangle onto the fabric overlap, just above one button. Let the tied off loop hang opposite of the button. Secure the next inch or two of
microphone line with a simple strip of camera tape along the overlap, running vertically downward toward the next button. Any
tugging on the cable will be strain relieved by the section taped to the clothing. The floating loop will isolate the microphone capsule, and the twin sticky triangles will prevent clothing from rubbing across the microphone itself. Wiring a female can be simpler. If she is wearing a bra, arrange the triangles over the microphone so that one point is down. Secure the microphone inside of
the bra, at the "cross your heart" juncture in the center of the bosom. A small strip of surgical tape can be used to anchor the microphone cable along the upper abdomen. The natural swell of the bosom protects the microphone from clothing contact, as well
as positioning it out from the chest cavity. Clothing noise can also be acoustic in nature, and is created by clothing fibers rubbing
against each other. Starched clothing is very noise conductive, so soften the cloth with a light mist of water wherever the camera
won’t notice it, such as under the sports coat. Soften a patch of clothing around the site where the microphone is to be attached.
Combat noise from clothing friction with Static Guard. Wind noise can be alleviated by salvaging the foam tip from a (used) video
cleaning swab. Pull the tip off of the stick, and slice the base off. What remains is a foam hood that will slip over most lavalieres.
These free windscreens can be painted with marking pens to be less visible. And since they cost nothing, there is no risk of sandwiching them within tape that would destroy the foam upon removal. Additional wind protection can be achieved by wrapping
some cheesecloth over the microphone. Cut off the fingertip from a pair of child's or woman's knit gloves, and pull that hood over
the microphone and cheesecloth. Another useful trick for rigging lavalieres is to use moleskin and safety pins. This technique is
particularly effective when you have to wire talent quickly, or if talent is going to be very physically active and might otherwise
dislodge a taped on microphone. Wrap a layer of soft moleskin around the head of the microphone. Insert an open safety pin, and
then wrap another layer to secure it. The lavaliere is now ready to be pinned in place under wardrobe. The moleskin tends to insulate the microphone capsule from most clothing noise. An additional strip or two of tape or moleskin can be added to help prevent
clothing from rubbing against the microphone, and to strain relief the microphone cable.
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Introduction to the Use of Boom poles written by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D.
Why use a boom pole? Camera-mounted microphones may be adequate for general ambiance and background effects, but they
lack the reach and versatility of boom mounted MICROPHONES. Placing the microphone where the lens is may be convenient
but it certainly does nothing to assist in picking up good sound. For one thing, on-camera microphones tend to hear zoom motors
and other camera created noise. Mounting the microphone parallel to the ground is not a good practice, either. Shotgun microphones are similar to telephoto lenses in that they both compress planes of action so that very little distance appears to separate
foreground and background action. If you point a microphone horizontally towards a person, you will pick up the sound of that
person as well as the background sound directly behind that person. The best way to isolate the person from the background is to
boom them from above, so that the line of sight of the microphone runs towards the person’s mouth and then towards the ground.
(It is safe to assume that the ground or floor is not as noise producing as the background.) Finally, the camera lens has the ability
to SEE much further than even the best shotgun microphones can HEAR. A long lens can easily frame a tight close-up of a
person’s face from 50 feet away; but the only thing that a microphone would pick up at that same distance would be general background ambiance of everything in the entire wide scene. To achieve good sound, you have to get the microphone as close as possible to the action! Boom it from above if you can. Overhead miking from a fish pole or studio boom is the most favored technique
in the feature/TV/commercial industry. It is probably the best choice 90% of the time. Generally, overhead miking will yield the
most natural sounding dialogue with the least amount of mixing and editing effort. It provides a pleasant blend when there are
multiple actors involved. Two, three, even a small group of people interacting can all be recorded from a single microphone. A
microphone on a fish pole or boom allows for a fair amount of physical activity and movement by the talent. Actors are free to
enter and exit a scene, move around, jump around, climb around, etc. There are no trailing microphone cables to inhibit their range
of motion. Nor are there the frustrations of dealing with finicky wireless microphone systems with their inherent problems of environmental RF interference. An overhead microphone will pick up sufficient sound effects, footsteps, and hand-prop noise to give
the soundtrack a full texture. Because the faces are closer to the microphone, dialogue will dominate the track, but other sound
effects will still be audible. Audio perspective is easier to maintain with an overhead microphone. On a wide master shot, the microphone tends to be higher so that the resulting dialogue seems thinner and more "distant.” On close-ups, the microphone can be
lowered giving the sound much greater presence and "nearness" to the screen. But what if there are physical obstructions in the set
that prevent deploying a microphone from overhead? That brings us to the next option: Boom miking from underneath. The boom
microphone can be aimed upwards at the talent from knee, thigh, or waist level with good results. The sound will be slightly more
bassy than miking from overhead, but still quite usable and acceptable. Note that a microphone aimed up at a person tends to pick
up more of the chest cavity, thus accounting for the increase in bass. Sometimes it is much more difficult to boom from below,
due to the presence of set furniture or the choreography of foreground persons. Camera operators also have to be much more careful, since it is more likely to widen the frame to show more of an actor’s torso than to show more empty headroom above. Never-the-less, there will be many shots where miking from below is the simplest solution. Tips on using your boom pole Amount of
extension how long a boom pole you will need really depends on the type of production you will be doing. Feature films, commercials, and episodic television calls for a long reach, around 12 to 15 feet, in order to cover the set. News gathering and "run &
gun" documentary style traditionally requires a shorter reach, around 5 to 8 feet, since the camera crew is more mobile and working close-in. Whenever you extend a boom pole, do not lock the pole sections extended all the way to the safety stops. The proper
technique for achieving maximum reach is to slide the pole section to the stop, and then back it in a couple of inches. A slight
overlap will make the pole sturdier (no wilting at the locking collars) and quieter. Another good practice is to extend the pole further than what you need for the shot so that you can grip the boom pole closer to its center of gravity (think of a circus tightrope
walker’s balance pole). By letting the pole counterbalance itself in your hands, your muscles will not be exerting to overcome
torque. Preventing cable noise Cable noise in a boom pole can originate from three problems: conductance, percussion, and loose
connections. Conductance is noise or rumble (physical vibrations) that travel along the sheath of the cable. To prevent this, the
inside tube section of the boom pole should be foam dampened. For instance, in the RoboPole® the cable is fully enveloped in
compressed foam rubber for the entire length of the inside section. To maintain the pliability and cleanliness of the microphone
cable, routinely wipe it down with a restorative solution such as Armor All Ô. Percussion is noise created by the cable banging
against the remaining tube sections of the boom pole. Since the pole telescopes, it is impossible to foam dampen any but the innermost tube. The best technique for controlling cable percussion is to keep the cable taut while holding the boom. As the cable exits
from the pole, loop it around the little finger or thumb of your supporting hand and keep the line snug. Do not allow the cable to
merely exit the pole and drop to the floor! The final cause of cable noise can be the microphone connection. XLR connectors on
microphones as well as cables have been known to loosen from continuous usage. Place a strip of cloth camera tape over the junction where the microphone connects to the boom cable to protect against intermittent connection occurring when the microphone
is moved around. Always maintain some slack in the cable connection between boom pole and microphone. A taut cable will conduct handling noise. On the same token, excess cable can flap around and cause noise. This excess can simply be wrapped once or
twice around the pole beneath the shock mount. The cable on the RoboPole® is cable-tied in a small loop where it exits the tip of
the pole in order to reduce conductance as well as to serve as a strain relief. Another useful trick is to use a short jumper cable inside of your blimp windscreens. This cable should terminate at the handle of your shock mount, and be permanently attached with
cable ties or tape. It will simplify the process of mounting your shock mount to the pole, because it will no longer be necessary to
open up the windscreen and dress the cable every time you need to use the microphone. Holding the boom to reduce handling
noise, grip the pole firmly but not tightly with your fingertips and avoid excess hand or finger movement such as tapping or drumming. Some boom operators wear white editing gloves to reduce finger sticking on excessively cold or hot days. Hold the boom
parallel to the floor and high above your head with both arms. If you support the boom underhanded like a flagpole, the boom will
enter the scene at a steep angle. Although the microphone may be high enough to clear the frame line, the body of the pole may
cut across the corner of the frame. Keep your arms close to your head, sort of like a capital "H". When your arm is vertical with
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the elbow locked, all you are doing is supporting a couple pounds of weight in a straight line with your body. If your arms are extended in a wide "V,” your muscles will fatigue quickly. Also, when your arms start from a true vertical, it is possible to quickly
reach in or out with the boom to follow the action. Use your front arm as a fulcrum to support the pole above your body. If the situation permits, grip it towards the natural balance point of the boom. Use the rear arm to steer (pan/tilt) the boom, as well as to
rotate the pole in order to cue (aim) the microphone. Microphone Placement Try to position the microphone as close to the action
as possible. Depending on the situation and the characteristics of each particular microphone, your microphone may be several
inches to a few feet overhead of talent. Be aggressive in your microphone placement. Ten feet overhead may be very convenient
for the camera and lighting crew, but your dialogue will be poor. Remind the director that a wide-angle lens can always be tilted
downward so that the frame is not filled with ceiling or sky at the cost of his soundtrack! Professional boom operators often place
a strip of white tape on the tip of the windscreen so that the camera operator can readily spot if the microphone has dipped into the
shot. Better to see the microphone in the viewfinder than to wait until it shows up on the big screen. To establish a working frame
line, dip the microphone completely into the shot and slowly raise it up until the camera operator tells you that you’re just barely
clear. If you start the boom up high and gradually lower it towards the frame, the camera operator will usually play it very conservative and tell you to stay higher than necessary.
Learn to monitor audio through your headphones so that what you hear is what you'll get Learn to set levels by ear rather than by
eye. Watch the actors instead of the meters. Adjust your headphone level so that your 0 VU reference tone (-8 on the Nagra)
sounds as loud in your head as a loud telephone conversation. Like those phone calls that make you pull the handset a little bit
away from your ear. But NOT rock concert, painful LOUD! Just slightly uncomfortable. Dialogue is not the same as pure tone, so
that when you monitor normal dialogue at correct record levels (around -10 to -6 on the Nagra), it should sound like a pleasant
phone chat. Shouts and emphasized vocals should jar you a little, but your levels should only briefly exceed 0dB on the Nagra, or
bounce into the red on a normal VU meter.
Setting Levels for DAT When you record too hot on a Nagra, the audio distorts gradually. But in the digital domain, over modulation is unacceptable and yields horrible results. On the other hand, if you record too low on a Nagra, the sound suffers from inherent tape hiss and system noise. Digital is relatively free from that problem. Therefore, when recording in digital, it is wiser to
record low and allow yourself plenty of headroom in case of loud peaks. Record your reference tone around -18 to -24, and consider that your average level for normal dialog.
Intro to Mixing Panels for Production Sound By Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D. Why use a mixing panel? Depending on the
type of production that one does, there are two basic reasons to use a mixing panel: remote control or complete control. In the case
of ENG production, cinema verite, or "run & gun" documentary – the mix panel serves as a remote input system for audio recording. By this, I mean that the mixing panel is an extension of the camcorder, allowing the sound person to access the microphone
input controls (volume) of the camcorder without having to push aside the camera operator in order to set microphone input levels
or to ride gain (volume) during a scene. In addition to giving the sound person control of the microphone levels -- the over-the-shoulder ENG mixing panel allows the deployment of multiple microphones (usually up to three or four), along with Phantom
powering, and headphone monitoring. The ENG mixers may also offer amenities such as a slating microphone, line-up tone, low-cut filters, limiter, and pan pots. Powering of the mix panel is from internal batteries, such as 9v alkalines or rechargeable. Specific features will vary, of course, from model to model. Popular, broadcast grade ENG mixing panels include the Shure FP33 and
the Rolls MX442. The Samson MixPad 4 is common amongst the prosumer camcorder crowd. The other class of mixing panels
that I mentioned in the beginning of this article is the location console, so to speak. These mixing boards are not over-the-shoulder
portables, but are used off of a location sound cart or tabletop. Most of these boards require AC powering, although some of the
higher end models can run off of internal or external 12v batteries. What makes this group of mixing panels different from their
ENG brethren is that they offer complete and smooth control of the audio inputs and outputs. This advanced control of the signal
is essential in professional theatrical film/video production. The mixing panel has more elaborate input modules that offer balanced XLR inputs, microphone powering, trim pots, low cut filters, equalization, solo PFL, pan pots, channel assigns, and smooth
faders. Outputs include main outs to the recorder, headphones for the sound person, outputs for Director/Script, and a way to send
audio to the boom operator. Whether you are using only one microphone, or several, the mixing panel gives you maximum and
consistent control over your signal. Considering that recording media are in a state of constant evolution, it is important to work
from a board that will remain constant regardless of whether you are ultimately recording onto a Nagra, Nagra stereo time code,
DAT, video deck, minidisc, hard-drive recorder, or whatever the next NAB Show may bring. Rolls MX442 Shure FP33 Basic
operation of the ENG mix panel The majority of ENG mixers are simple and straight forward in their operation. The most important thing is to make sure that your batteries are fresh. Most mixers can only run one or two days at most on a set of batteries. The
inputs are generally on the side of the unit. There may be a switch for selection of microphone or line level input. Phantom powering is often selected by a dip switch or toggle, located either in the battery compartment or along the outer spine. Each microphone
input has a volume control (gain pot), along with a pan pot to assign the sound to left/right or somewhere in between. If the tapes
are going to be painstakingly edited, it may be better to assign the microphones to only left or right tracks, and let the editor do the
"panning" during post-production. The gain pots of a mixer offer smoother control over the dialog than if you plugged directly
into the camera. On the camcorder, even a small adjustment of the input knob will result in a coarse and drastic rise or drop in level. Riding gain during a dramatic passage is virtually impossible. Mixing boards, on the other hand, provide microphone pots that
are ramped or sloped so as to permit much more subtle level changes. A master gain control will raise or lower the overall level of
your incoming signals. On some mixers, such as the Shure, the master gain also sets the reference tone level. You do not need to
leave the master set at the same level that you used for zero-ing the tone. Once the tone has been recorded, feel free to make use of
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the master to keep your levels optimum without having to turn your microphone inputs to extreme. Low cut filters reduce the effect of wind noise, rumble, and vibration. They are most useful out of doors, where ambient noise is at its worst. However, some
of the low cut filters on ENG panels tend to be pretty severe, so use them sparingly lest they cut into the quality of the voices too
much. Pay attention to consistency, so that all of your scenes that interact will match up. Some panels offer a limiter that will
catch and compress any loud outbursts that may have gotten past the sound person’s manual control. This keeps the signal from
over modulating and distorting in the camera. Depending on the aggressiveness (threshold) of the limiting circuit, some people
prefer to leave the limiters off and do it all manually rather than suffer the consequences of automated "pumping.” Outputs of the
ENG mixing panels are usually selectable for line or microphone level. Whenever possible, use the line level output of the mixer
plugged into line level input of the camcorder. Line level is a much stronger signal and less susceptible to electronic interference
in the environment. Not all camcorders will accept line level, particularly the prosumer models. If your camera only takes external
microphone input, then make sure to use microphone level output from your mixer, or a suitable adapter cable to take the signal
down to microphone level. Feeding a hot line level signal into a microphone input will yield distortion and break-up. Bear in mind
that the metering system on your ENG panel may be scaled differently than that on your camcorder. Zero VU is not the same as
zero digital. If your camcorder has a VU type meter, then start out by setting a zero tone from the mixer to zero level on your camcorder. Record a series of tests, and then playback the video to determine where distortion sets in. You may find that you need to
compensate by going from zero on the panel to, say, negative three or negative five on the camera. (Regardless, you would still
record your color bars & tone at zero level on the camera). If your camcorder is digital (highly likely these days), then you will
have to experiment to figure out the correlation between the mixer and the camcorder. Traditionally in digital recording, zero VU
would equate to anywhere from negative 15 to negative 24 on the digital scale. But camcorders are not known for their precision
in metering. I would suggest feeding some normal dialogue into the camcorder (not exceeding zero VU on the mixer) and setting
the camcorder to automatic audio level. Watch to see where the camcorder puts the dialogue. Then match that approximate level
setting when you switch the camera back to manual. Some ENG sound people employ what is known as a "video snake" to connect their mixing panels to professional camcorders. This consists of a 15 to 25 foot multiplex cable (3 or 4 balanced microphone
cables in one sheath) that includes two balanced XLR microphone cables to send the audio to the camera. A third line (stereo mini
connectors) brings return audio from the camcorder (headphone) back to the mixing panel. ENG mix panels usually have an input
for audio return, so that the sound person can verify that audio has made it cleanly to the camera. A multi-pin connector in the single cable near the camcorder allows the sound person to quickly disconnect or re-connect.
Audio for DV, Hi8mm, SVHS camcorders by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D.
Small format video (Hi8mm, SVHS, digital) is being used ever increasingly for professional application. The various merits of
shooting images with these relatively inexpensive, in obtrusive, and extremely portable video acquisition systems are familiar to
most readers. However, interfacing these consumer and pro-sumer camcorders with professional audio can be a nightmare. Use
the consumer shotgun microphone that comes with the camera (or is sold as an aftermarket accessory) and everything sounds fine.
But try to plug in your thousand dollar professional microphone and the result is a lot of buzz, hum, and lower audio levels. Let's
examine why this happens and how to fix it. Most camcorders will readily accept the industry standard 250 ohm low-impedance
microphone input signal, so the problem is not that of matching impedance level so much as it is a question of proper input cables.
Purchasing an impedance matching device is not the solution to your problem. The microphone input is generally a 3.5mm mini
stereo jack. The output of a professional grade microphone is XLR 3-pin. Therefore, the first task at hand is to adapt XLR 3-pin
output to mini stereo input. To do that, we need an adapter cable that consists of a female XLR 3-pin connector at one end feeding
a mini stereo plug at the other. Since the camcorder input is stereo, our adapter cable needs to split the incoming monaural audio
over both the left hand right camcorder channels. If we were to record onto only one channel, we risk serious damage to our
soundtrack. The second, empty, channel would fill with hiss and noise. When our audio is transferred from the Hi8mm for post-production, a percentage of this noise will most likely bleed into the good channel. Such is the nature of Hi8mmaudio, due to the
proximity of the recording tracks and head placement. In addition to audio bleed, the presence of an empty track may cause confusion or even havoc with the automatic gain control in the camcorder. Even those cameras that offer a manual audio level control,
such as the Canon LX100/200, will revert to auto gain if the power is turned off, tape changed, or battery changed. Unless you are
meticulous, the resumption of videotaping may be with auto gain ON. Finally, recording to just one camcorder channel makes it
difficult to monitor some meter levels and to hear with both sides of the headphones (unless you use cumbersome adapters with
your headphones). Bottom line: Always feed the Left and Right camcorder channels, either with monaural audio going to both
sides, or with discreet stereo audio going onto respective Left and Right. Never assume that what is on the second channel will not
show up in some form on your first channel, so be very careful if recording wild questions or cue tracks that you plan on editing
out. What about the buzz? Earlier in this article we mentioned those aftermarket microphones that the consumer manufacturers
would so dearly like us to invest in. Most of those microphones are of the electret condenser design, meaning that they need to see
a few volts of DC power in order to function. To power these microphones, the camcorders produce three to six volts DC at the
microphone input jack. Even those camcorders that have a separate DC OUT microphone jack alongside of the Microphone INPUT jack, still root the DC circuit in the ground of the Microphone jack. Unless your plug-in microphone is of the precise electronic formula of the camera maker, you may experience symptoms of DC interference. Depending on the particular
characteristics of your pro microphone, these DC related symptoms may be: non-existent; a loss of gain/volume; buzz/hum; or
even intermittently increasing buzz/hum. Different types of microphones react differently. To eliminate this buzz problem, the upstream DC voltage must be blocked by means of capacitors. Choose your capacitors wisely, for too little will not cure the buzz,
and too much will affect the microphone signal. If you are wondering if anyone manufactures an adapter cable that remedies all of
these problems, then stop your wondering. Equipment Emporium in North Hollywood, California designed their XLRH8 Audio
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Adapter Cable a few years ago to solve the audio problems that many law enforcement agencies were encountering with the use of
their Canon LX100's and Sony's. The basic XLRH8 cable is a short adapter that features one female XLR 3-pin connector at one
end and a mini stereo plug at the other. Audio is split over the left and right camcorder channels. Blocking capacitors housed inside of the shell of the XLR knock out the DC interference. Equipment Emporium recommends slipping a rubber band around the
mini connector and pulling it around the camera body like an oxygen mask, thus applying inward tension on the connector. The
XLR connector of the cable should be strain relieved by tying or taping it to something sturdy on the camera body, such as the
strap lug. Never allow any long cables or any weight to tug directly on the mini jack of the camcorder; the jack is fragile and can
loosen or damage easily. Other versions of the XLRH8 cable are available in a discreet stereo model that features two XLR inputs;
and a model that will attenuate a line level stereo XLR input to microphone level mini stereo output. Equipment Emporium also
sells the BeachTek XLR box that fastens underneath most camcorders and provides two XLR microphone/line inputs. Output is a
stereo mini plug that connects to the microphone input jack of the camcorder. Price is approx$229.Which brings us to the next
topic in our Audio for Hi8mm discussion: line level feeds. Audio coming from a mixing board is usually at 600-ohm line level,
which is a much hotter and stronger signal than microphone level. However, most camcorders only accept microphone level external input when used as a live camcorder; when the camcorder is used as a VTR it will accept external line level video and external
line level audio via the RCA jacks in the back. When the camcorder is functioning as a camcorder, the RCA inputs are disabled.
Therefore, to feed line level audio into a camcorder (which is microphone level), we need to reduce the signal by 30 to 50 dB.
Some mixing boards, such as the Shure FP's and the newer Mackies, have a switch to reduce their outputs from line to microphone level. You can't ask for more convenience than that! Otherwise, one needs to insert a pad or attenuator between the output
of the mixing board and the input of the camcorder. Shure makes a 50 dB line to microphone Attenuator. Audio Technica offers a
switch able -10, -20, -30dB pad. Either of these devices will work, since the camcorder input does have some range with its gain
or volume. Sometimes when you feed from a mixing board, the DC interference at the microphone input jack might be a problem.
Sometimes it may not. It all depends on the design of the mix board. To play it safe, use an input cable with DC blocking, such as
the XLRH8 cables. So far, we have only discussed the logistics of getting an audio signal into the Hi8mm camcorder. Now, a few
comments on what that signal should be. There is an old computer programmers expression that goes "garbage in, garbage out."
That applies to production sound, as well. It does no good to have a clean signal entering the camcorder if that signal is worthless
to begin with! Just because you are recording on an inexpensive medium is no excuse to be lazy with technique. Small camera or
not, a tripod and lights will still make the difference between a home movie and a professional product. And proper microphone
deployment and mixing are still essential if you want a professional sounding track. Use the same microphones and techniques
that you would on a big budget show. Microphone your subjects from close overhead with a boom pole, and use high quality ENG
or full condenser shotgun microphones. If using lavalieres or wireless microphones, pay careful attention to proper placement and
rigging. Check for clothing and wind noise. Adjust any cables that function as antennas. If possible, mount your receiver as close
to the action as possible, and pay careful attention to antenna line of sight. Mounting a radio receiver on a consumer camcorder
can be tricky, since these cameras are not as well shielded as their professional large format counterparts. Camcorders tend to produce a lot of RF interference near their viewfinders and near the recording heads. Try moving the receiver around to find a "sweet
spot" that is free of buzz or hum. If your camcorder is equipped with an auto gain control, then your best strategy for eliminating
or reducing the "hunt for some sort of noise to amplify" is to make sure that you feed a well-mixed or well chosen signal to the
camera. Think of it in terms of working with a still camera that has auto light metering. Frame up on a high contrast or unusual
lighting condition and you get horrible exposures. But compose a scene with some highlights, shadows, and a lot of middle tones
and the exposure comes out beautiful. It's the same way with sound. Feed your camcorder a strong signal with dialogue dominating over ambience; or sound effects dominating over background noise -- and the resultant soundtrack will be fine.
Consistency in Production Sound Recording
by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D.
A critical aspect in sound recording for motion pictures and video is the consistency of all of the repetitively appearing elements
of the soundtrack from scene to scene. As a scene (or an event in time) progresses from beginning to end --audiences expect the
sound to flow seamlessly and continuously, just as it would if they were somehow physically present while witness to the event. It
does not matter to the audience that we have constructed this cinematic event from numerous camera angles and takes, shot over a
wide expanse of actual time. On screen, it all becomes one continuous mise en scene. Actors walk & talk and progress from point
A in their fictional time to point B, without delay or interruption. That is, until the scene changes. Not merely the angle, but the
scene! Imagine that you are in an apartment and eavesdropping on your roommates. You make a pretense of moving around in
order to houseclean, but really you are just trying to be inconspicuous while you watch and listen to their conversation. As you
periodically change your location in the room while in the act of tidying up, you are really just editing your viewing angle of the
action. But even as you change your visual vantage point, or mentally focus in (zoom) on one roommate or the other, the sound
remains pretty much the same. The audio elements within the scene normally include dialogue between two or more characters,
background noise, and spot sound effects. The audio levels between the actors will vary in relation to each other; different people
do not speak at the same level or with the same intensity. But real people will not change their individual speaking levels arbitrarily, suddenly shifting from whispers to shouts to normal to whispers to normal to shouts without extenuating dramatic rationale.
The ring of a telephone or the slamming of a door may shatter the monotony, but the drone of the traffic outside the window remains fairly constant. To achieve this realistic consistency of the audio is the combined goal of the entire sound team, including
the production Mixer, Sound Editor, and the Re-Recording Mixer. This article will deal with consistency as it pertains to the role
of the Production Sound Mixer. There are three aspects of consistency that the Mixer must be attentive to: 1&) Consistency within
the shot; 2) Consistency between shots within the scene; and 3) Consistency between scenes. Within the shot, levels should remain relatively constant between actors and also between background ambiance. Actors are not expected to match each other in
terms of recording level; variations are normal. But their levels should match themselves. As they banter, the actors' audio should
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appear somewhat constant. There should be no unwarranted sudden changes in volume, except when justified by dramatic intent.
For instance, actor A (Tough Guy) usually speaks loud and forcefully. Actor B (Mousy Nerd) is far more timid and soft-spoken. If
we are recording on a Nagra, we try to keep normal conversation at around minus 6 or so on the meter (which is a peak reading
meter). The area around zero is reserved for shouts and loud sound effects. Recall that when using a peak reading meter such as
that found on the Nagra, a level of minus 8 is the rough equivalent of zero on a VU meter. Peak meters are calibrated in terms of
measuring the loudest part of the signal that can be recorded onto the tape without risking distortion. It is like reading a 100%
white level. VU meters are set up in terms of average volume levels, and assumes approximately ten dB difference between the
average level and maximum. It is like reading a middle gray level. Zero VU (middle gray) is equivalent to minus eight or ten
PEAK (white). Our industry, for the sake of convention, considers a pure tone (not really the same as voice, which fluctuates a lot)
of minus eight dB PEAK to equate zero VU. When recording these two actors, we find that Tough Guy usually moves the meter
on our recorder to, say, around minus 6. The Nerd hits around minus 10, which is a bit lower in volume and natural. Again, we
reserve levels above minus 6 or so for very loud sounds (which would translate into signals of zero to plus ten on a VU meter). So
as much as possible during this shot, we want to maintain this recording relationship of Tough Guy around minus 6and Nerd
around minus 10. This is especially important to do if we are opening and closing multiple microphones. In addition to the actors,
we must also be attentive to background noise. If we are continually adjusting the levels of our microphones on the set to balance
the levels of our actors, then the side effect is for our background noise to go up and down like a roller coaster. The way to avoid
problems with the background noise is to take advantage of the acoustic properties of the microphones we use in order to control
the relative levels of the dialogue by means of microphone positioning (distance) and angle rather than by electronically adjusting
the gain (volume) at the recorder or mixing panel. Shotgun microphones are more sensitive in the front ("on axis") and less sensitive from the side ("off axis"). Therefore, in order to balance the levels between Tough Guy and Nerd, the boom operator should
hold the microphone closer overhead to the Nerd with the front of the microphone aimed more towards the Nerd, and allow the
Tough Guy to strike the microphone from more of a side angle and from a little further away. The increased distance to the microphone along with the reduced sensitivity of the off axis angle will effectively reduce the volume of the Tough Guy in relation to
the Nerd without affecting the constant level of the background ambiance. As you can well imagine, the boom operator is a very
important player. That is why boom operators need to be chosen carefully by the Mixer and cannot merely be selected from the
pool of bystanders who aren't busy in the shot. This is also why it is very important for boom people to be provided with a good
headphone feed of the program material. When it is time to record another take of the same shot, once again it is critical that the
Mixer pay attention to the relative levels of the characters and background. Footage from this take may be combined later on with
past or future takes, so consistency of sound quality and levels is important. When the camera changes its angle, the Mixer must
be especially attentive that the levels of the new shot match and be inter cuttable with the previous angles. Tough Guy should still
be recorded around minus 6, where we established him before. Likewise, Nerd should remain around minus 10, where he was previously established. Remember, the audience should not be cognizant of an edit or camera angle change within the complete
scene; the action must appear to flow seamlessly from point A in time to point B in time. Minor changes in angle do not motivate
drastic changes in audio. Panning or cutting from one close-up to another of two people standing around talking does not constitute a significant perspective change. Levels and background are expected to remain constant. One should be careful not to confuse perspective with volume. In the medium long shot, Tough Guy speaks at minus 6 and Nerd at minus 10. The boom
microphone is maybe two and a half feet overhead due to the loose framing of the shot. When we push in to a single head close-up
of Nerd, the boom microphone is able to move in to a much closer position. It becomes relatively easy to record Nerd at minus 6
because the microphone is so close. That would be an error! In real life, when we talk with a person standing ten feet away from
us, we tend to both see and hear more of the surroundings. But when we step in closer to the person, our mind tends to blank out
some of the surroundings as we focus our eyes on the face in front of us. This is a perspective change. It is also a gradual and
self-motivated change. In cinema, changes in camera angle occur spontaneously and are motivated by the director/editor, not the
viewer. The change may be a bit of a sensory shock. Audiences tend to accept the visual change, since in real life our brain is constantly shifting focus and scope of what we see (a biological imitation of zooms and cuts, if you will). But it takes us longer to
adapt to outwardly imposed changes on the audio, especially when it creates a discontinuity of levels (normal, loud, soft, loud,
normal, soft, soft, loud, etc.) within the scene. Getting back to our example scene above, when we move the microphone closer to
the Nerd for his close-up, the effect is to make his voice dominate over the surrounding background, which is in keeping with the
natural change in perspective. But if we allow his voice level to rise above its established level range, then the audio becomes disjointed from the time line of the complete scene and will not smoothly intercut with the rest of the footage. Therefore, when you
move the microphone in for a close-up, re-adjust the volume so that the actor's voice level remains constant with the rest of the
sequence. Characters' audio should be somewhat constant throughout the course of the scene, even as the shot changes from wide
shots to mediums to singles to reverses to mediums, etc. If you were to close your eyes, the changes in audio from shot to shot
should not be unnatural or unexpected. This is not to say that if an actor walks distantly away from camera that his voice level
should not diminish. Of course it should, as it would in real life. But a variation in camera angle (as opposed to a change in actor
location within the set, visual or implied) does not warrant a major change in audio levels. However, a major change in camera
LOCATION may justify a change in relative audio, particularly the background. Of course there are always going to be some
changes in audio levels. This is an art form, not a controlled manufacturing process. The nature of production is such that we can't
always control things as much as we'd like to, such as microphone placement and background ambiance. The idea, though, is to at
least try and keep these level changes as minimal and inconspicuous as we can when we record them; and then to fix them completely during post-production. Not only does sound need to be consistent within a shot, and from shot to shot, since this footage
may all be integrated during editing -- but sound must also match up when scenes butt up against other scenes. Throughout the
duration of the production, try to establish and then maintain relative audio levels for all of your characters. Change perspective
(the blend of background to dialogue) as necessary, but try to keep your characters as constant as possible. Equalization is another
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important aspect to consider, as well as straight audio level. Avoid using any more equalization than is absolutely necessary on the
set. Traditionally, a mixer will roll off the excess bass frequencies to reduce wind noise and rumble, especially out of doors. Some
mixers like to boost the mid-range frequencies just a smidge, in order to emphasize speech over ambiance. High frequencies are
usually left alone. If you choose to employ some equalization on a shoot, make certain than you apply the setting consistently
from the first till the last day of production. For instance, many mixers have a set degree of bass roll off that they will use outdoors
and a lesser amount of roll off for interiors. That is okay since people do sound different outside than inside. But do not vary the
intensity of roll off from day to day based on the local wind conditions. Otherwise, what sounds good Monday and Tuesday may
not interact well with material recorded the week before, or the month later! Resist the temptation to sweeten the mix on location
by playing with all those colored dials. Once you record something with EQ, it cannot be undone later on. Record your tracks as
plain as possible, and save the special effects and final tweaking for post, where they have the liberty of working with edited sequences and of repeating their attempts until it all sounds right. The only time that a mixer is justified to employ extraordinary EQ
to improve a shot (that is, anything over and above your "permanent" bass roll off and possible midrange bump) is when the alternative is to absolutely have to loop the scene unless correction is applied. In other words, you can play with the EQ only when you
have absolutely nothing to loose and anything to gain. If in doubt, leave the EQ settings alone! The exception to this is when you
use EQ to blend multiple microphones deployed on the set (lavs, plant microphones, 2nd boom) to match with your primary microphone so as to maintain a consistent voice quality. In conclusion, plan ahead! See how your characters interplay, and then try to
establish and maintain their relative audio levels and EQ regardless of close-up or wider shot. Changing perspective does not
mean changing volume, only reducing background. Louder does not mean better. Adjust your EQ "permanent" settings for interior
or exterior, but do not mess around from shot to shot or scene-to-scene. Above all else, think like an editor. All this stuff has to
interact smoothly and seamlessly. From consistent work habits you will achieve consistent soundtracks.
Intro to Pre-Production Planning for Audio written by Dr. Fred Ginsburg C.A.S.The route to achieving good production
sound Good production sound does not happen by accident or on its own. It requires concerted efforts from all the production executives (producer, director, production manager) as well as from members of the crew. Achieving good Production Sound, as
does every aspect of film making, hinges upon decisions made early on during the pre- production process. Location Scouting
One of the most critical areas for Sound is the selection of the shooting location. All too often, sites are selected without even remote regard for noise or acoustic conditions. Unlike the camera lens, which can frame out those items, which the director does not
wish the audience to see, the microphone cannot be particularly selective in what it hears. Unwanted background noise is omnipresent, and will permeate a set regardless of camera framing or the addition of a few flats & props. For example, imagine the production of an 1860’s period western. The camera operator can remove a tall radio tower grid work from the visual background by
either framing it out or blocking it from view with a strategically placed foreground cactus tree. The sound mixer, on the other
hand, has no simple method of "framing out" distracting sound such as a busy freeway directly behind the setup. In this
situation—a western being shot in an urban location—the odds are extremely high that all of the dialogue would have to be replaced by means of ADR, unless some science- fiction quirk in the storyline could successfully explain the presence of freeway
noise during the 1860’s! In a less extreme example, imagine the difficulties involved in trying to record dialogue or interviews in
tightly cramped, hard-walled offices that sound like echo chambers. As if the acoustics weren’t evil enough, add to this nightmare
the sporadic rumble of a central air conditioning system along with the frequent intrusion of nearby office typing, phone calls,
loudspeaker pages, and computer printers. If you think that either of these examples are just bizarre creations of a twisted author’s
imagination, then you haven’t been out on very many shoots yet! One time, I was hired to record sound on a video interview with
the legendary Mother Theresa. The site that the producer and director selected was virtually the chamber of audio horrors described above. We videotaped in the library of a convent. The room was a visually acceptable array of bookshelves, and with
some artistic rearranging of the volumes it transformed into an okay background for picture. As for acoustics, forget it! Hard walls
and bare floor all contributed to extreme echo. Non-controllable air conditioning and venting created a distracting level of room
noise. Add to all of that a ton of machine noise from the adjacent physical plant. What we had was the Dante’s Inferno of Sound!
Although I did the best that I could, there was no way that this saintly woman was going to sound as good as she should have for
an interview of this magnitude. Considering that this video interview relied mainly upon what she had to say as opposed to what
she looked like—the production company really blew it when they came up with this location. Sound, despite its importance to the
final product, usually gets very little consideration on the set—or BEFORE. Scout with your ears. Prospective location sites (and
even many so-called studios) should be evaluated for their conduciveness to good sound as well as good picture. Location scouts
should learn to examine a site with their eyes closed and ears open—literally—and for about ten to fifteen minutes minimum. In
fact, I know of one professional scout who goes so far as to plant a cassette recorder at each location and then returns later in the
day to retrieve the recording. In this way, her producer/clients have the option of asking their own sound people for opinions as to
the workability of a proposed location. Scout with regard to time of day. It is equally important, when evaluating a location, to do
the scouting on the same day of the week and hour as the proposed shooting schedule. One show that I was involved with had
chosen to shoot at a ranch out in the country. When the producers visited the site, they did listen for sound and found the location
to be as pastoral as a storybook. That was on a Wednesday. The producers figured that a weekday would bound to be noisier than
the weekend on which they planned on shooting. Or so they thought... Come the Saturday of the shoot, the ranch itself was as
quiet as could be. But just a hoot ‘n holler down the road happened to be the local dirt-bike racetrack and play area. All day long,
both days, our takes were continuously interrupted by the roar of un-mufflered motorcycles. Some of these weekend riders even
did us the added favor of performing practice runs up and down the roads on either side of the ranch. What more is there to say?
Scout locations carefully and wisely, with your ears as well as eyes. A few extra dollars spent in checking a place out can be worth
tens of thousands in either lost production time and/or post-production "repairs.” Putting together the crew Attitude is important.
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Professional results in any phase of production will not happen unless everyone involved thinks, identifies, and performs as
"professionals.” Simplistic as it may seem, no producer/director is going to achieve consistently good Production Sound without
having a qualified team officially assigned to that crew function. Choose your Sound Mixer carefully. For reasons that have never
made any sense, student productions (and even some low-budget professional productions) often delegate the position of Sound
Mixer to whoever on the crew seems to have nothing better to do. It seems like the "best people" are asked to do camera; others to
fill in on lighting & grip; someone organized and literate to handle script/continuity; more bodies to supervise make-up, wardrobe,
and props; and finally, somebody to run the Nagra or VTR. Somebody? And if "somebody" is lucky, maybe "sound" gets another
"helper" to hold the fish pole and point the microphone. Usually though, that same "helper" is also expected to do double duty as
an electrician or grip, and gets to rehearse with the microphone only after the C-stands and flags are adjusted. With production
attitudes like that, is it any wonder that the resulting production sound is less than breathtaking? Perhaps a more apt phrase might
be "hardly usable!” The Sound crew should only wear one hat. You will not achieve good sound with anything less than a
"dedicated" sound person and crew! By dedicated, I do not necessarily mean someone who has devoted his or her career to the
pursuit of audio (though it sure helps); but at least someone who has devoted all of their attention ON THIS PRODUCTION to the
pursuit of good production sound! A meticulous sound mixer or boom operator does not have the time, concentration, or the endless stamina to properly perform more than one job. Sure, times will occur when the sound crew can help out other members of
the crew in setting up—and sometimes in those cases, the sound crew should lend a hand. I’m not suggesting that we all become
prima donnas. But it is not conducive to good sound for the mixer or boom to be playing with lights or grip stands when, instead,
they should have been paying close attention to blocking & walk-throughs, or busy miking rehearsals. First priority must always
be to do the job you were hired or assigned to do. In this instance, Sound comes first. This includes setting up OUR equipment;
deploying microphones; keeping an eye and ear on the director in case he changes the shot; watching the blocking; and miking the
rehearsals. Anything else cannot be allowed to supercede those professional responsibilities. There is no room for split allegiances. A grip ("helping out" on sound) will almost always throw down the fish pole and rush over to adjust a flag the second that the
camera operator complains! That may help the camera crew out, but it deprives the boom person of a much-needed rehearsal and
leaves the mixer useless. If any person is assigned to any department, then that person must act and react accordingly—these
newly assigned duties must assume first priority! A transfer from one department to another must be considered a complete transfer (during the duration of that transfer and until the person is re- assigned back to their original department). An important point
to remember: when Camera says they are ready, then Sound is expected to also be ready! Directors do not like "waiting on
Sound.” Nor will they accept as a valid excuse the fact that we are late because we were too busy helping other people out. Rely
on people who absolutely know what they are doing! Very few of us would serve as our own legal counsel in a murder trial, nor
would we remove our own inflamed appendix. For those life & death situations, we naturally turn to the expertise of the best professionals we can find. Well, career life & death for the novice director/producer can be decided in the screening room, so why
should we act any differently? To increase the chances of success, employ an experienced specialist! Don’t wait until major mistakes have taken place either in the planning or production phases of the show. Consult with a professional at a point early enough
to take advantage of his or her suggestions! The seasoned mixer can often save the production company money during pre-production by pointing out equipment selection fallacies; anticipating potential location problems; highlighting complicated recording
situations as well as offering solutions; and so on. The advantages of having a professional sound mixer during the actual production should be rather obvious. Although Sound may look easy when it is done right, if you have ever attempted it yourself then
you know it is not near as easy as it looks. Even if the budget-constrained producer cannot afford to hire the best, he or she should
at least consult with them. A new producer may be surprised to discover that most of the industry’s top mixers are very down-to-earth people and are usually happy to provide information and offer advice. In addition, the seasoned pro may be able to recommend the name of an aspiring protégée more willing to work at an entry-level rate. In any case, it is always best to employ or at
least pick the brains of someone who mixes Production Sound for a living as opposed to utilizing an inexperienced (though well
meaning) novice who is likely to guess and fumble around. Even the experts learn from each other Learn from the old pro’s as
much as you can, and as often as you can. This advice applies especially to the aspiring or novice Production Mixer. I have been
in the sound business for well over a decade, yet I still find myself learning from peer professionals. There is so much to learn,
and only a lifetime to do it in. Only fools think they know too much to continue learning. As you gain experience, you will discover that the gaps between your knowledge and that of your respected peers lessen. Never-the-less, every now and then you will
discover a fallacy in one or another of the old truths; someone will turn you on to an even better way of solving a particular problem; or pass along advice on some new piece of equipment. Ask lots of questions, but be wary of the Rental Clerks. Rental Technicians are rarely experienced in the ways of Production Sound. The job of a technician working for an established Equipment
Rental Facility is mainly that of shipping clerk. They take orders, fill orders, and jot down serial numbers. In the best of cases,
they may actually know how to set up and operate the hardware. There is a major difference, however, between operating equipment on a test bench and mixing an actual show! The craft of Production Mixing involves dealing with a great number of location
variables, such as camera, lighting, blocking, human nature, time, budget, requirements & capabilities of post- production, and so
on. These are areas in which the majority of Rental Technicians are totally unaware. Unless you specifically know otherwise, always assume that these technicians have little or no real world, PRODUCTION EXPERIENCE. If you ask them for advice, most
of them will not admit that they are ignorant and/or inexperienced. They will not inform you that they have recently graduated college and have taken this job as an entry-level position into the film industry. Instead they will try and answer your question the
best they can based on reasonable (though not always correct) assumptions, or based on what they would like you to rent in order
to maximize profit or minimize their effort. Always take the Professional Approach. Sound Mixing can be a lucrative profession,
but it does require a combination of skill and political tact to keep getting the work. Professional image and reputation are critical!
If you want to survive in this business, it is imperative to always take the Professional Approach. Do the job right... regardless! If
budget or conditions won’t let you do it the way you know it should be done, then turn down the job and walk away. It is better to
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have a reputation for being excellent (though a little stubborn) than for being easy (but incompetent). There are no apologies or
excuses run under the dailies. Good sound is always expected (and taken for granted). Bad sound, on the other hand, is always attributed as your fault. You will never hear it said, "even though the soundtrack was poor, the Mixer did a good job considering
that we made him use bad equipment and no boom man." Instead, they will remark that they should have hired so-and-so, since
that Mixer did a fine job on the last shoot. Producers and Directors find it much easier to blame the Mixer than themselves. On the
set, be congenial and friendly. Remain cool and calm; avoid shouting. Stay out of people’s way. But on the other hand, remain
strong, confident, and aggressive when necessary. Press for what you know is right. Don’t back down easily or be intimidated.
Fight for every inch of closer microphone placement, and any other reasonable improvements for the good of sound. But very importantly, always arrive on any set with the best in terms of personnel and equipment! If you surround yourself with a skilled team
of people, and bring along all of the equipment necessary to do the job right—then you have pushed the odds in your favor of recording great Production Sound in the face of the chaos and confusion that run so rampant on many productions. Personnel that
compose a professional Sound Crew: The basic production sound crew consists of the Mixer, the Boom Operator, and the Utility
Sound Technician. Production Mixer The Mixer is the head of the Production Sound Department (usually just called the Sound
Dept.) on a show. The Mixer is responsible for recording the dialogue and effects necessary for the editors to cut the show. Crew
and equipment contributing to that end fall under the supervision and control of said mixer. Politically, it is the Mixer who interfaces with the Director and Producer in pre-production and on the set. The Mixer is ultimately responsible for finding out what is
going to happen in the current shot; for making suggestions to the Director (when appropriate); for working out a miking strategy/
approach (often in conjunction with the Boom Operator); for mixing and recording the audio signal; and for approving the recorded take to the director as "okay for sound.” In conjunction with the Script Supervisor, the Mixer will make sure that all wild
lines and wild sound effects get recorded. In union parlance, the Mixer is known as a Y-1 or an A-1. The Y-1 designation is from
the I.A.T.S.E. Local 695, which is the Hollywood sound union most prevalent in feature film making and episodic television series. On the broadcasting side, the term A-1 is more common, and is used by NABET. Salary range for a Mixer depends on the
budget and nature of the production. On non-union industrial or corporate shows, Mixers earn approximately $250 to $400 per
day in Los Angeles. (Note that salary structure will vary for different regions of the U.S.) Union shows, of course, tend to pay better. Union scale is approximately $350 per 9-hour day, but on the more typical 12- hour long workday—overtime brings it closer
to $500. The going rate for commercials is also $400 to $500 per 10-hour day. Boom Operator The Boom Operator (Boom man,
Boom person, etc.) is one of the most underestimated functions on the entire crew. Laymen wrongfully assume that the Boom person is merely someone tall enough and strong enough to hold up a big stick with a microphone attached to the end. Hence, novice
producers often assume that a grip or "someone else not too busy" can be assigned to work with the Mixer. On the contrary, Hollywood has learned to appreciate and respect the skills brought to the set by an experienced Boom Operator. Most Mixers consider
the Boom Operator as their equal partner on the set. With increasing frequency, the closing credits of feature films group the
names of the Mixer and Boom Operator together under the single heading of "Production Sound.” A Boom Operator needs to be
in excellent physical shape in terms of upper body strength. It is no easy feat to hold a fifteen-foot long fish pole over your head at
full extension, particularly with microphone, shock mount, and windscreen attached to the end. Especially over the course of a
grueling 12-hour day. And day after day. However, holding up the fish pole is only the beginning. A Boom Operator needs to
know what to do with that microphone on the end of it. Knowledge of microphone sensitivity and pick-up patterns is crucial. The
microphone must be cued (aimed) and/or repositioned overhead from actor to actor as they speak in turn. Cues cannot be late, or
else the first words will be lost and the take ruined. In order to accomplish this, the Boom Operator must be able to quickly digest
parts of the script, but mainly to memorize the action of the scene from rehearsal (or first take) and to pay attention to subtle body
language that forecast when talent is about to speak (eye movement, intake of breath). Some actors shout while others hardly
whisper. Recording dialogue requires balancing the two diverse levels too within an acceptable range. A lot of this is done by the
Boom Operator, by taking advantage of microphone pick-up and rejection angles. By favoring the soft voice, and playing the
overbearing one slightly off-axis—it is possible to achieve a pleasant balance of the two vocal performances, without having to
resort to extreme raising/lowering of the volume level back at the mixing panel or recorder end. (Note that ping ponging the volume level up and down during the take might balance the voices, but would create editorial havoc with the background sounds.)
Maintaining frame lines and keeping the microphone out of the shot is required, but so is keeping the microphone in as close as
possible. What with zoom lenses and dolly shots, this can get quite tricky. I have worked with several boom men who have become adept at judging whether the camera is zoomed in or out by observing the angle of camera tilt on the tripod head. Fish poles
and microphones cause shadows. A working knowledge of lighting is necessary, if one is going to create the least amount of visual interference. The skilled Boom Operator will eyeball the lighting in relation to talent moves in order to determine from where
and at what angle to boom the shot. Sometimes, it may become necessary to tactfully make constructive suggestions to the gaffer
regarding alternate light placement, or the use of flags & cutters to mask boom shadows. The Boom Operator must be attentive at
all times to what his or her microphone is picking up in relation to all of the other microphones on the set. It is for this reason that
the Boom Operator wears headphones and monitors the complete program mix, not just the boom microphone. In the event of microphone phasing problems (two microphones on the set picking up the same sound at the same time, creating cancellation), the
Boom Operator and the Mixer must both react immediately in order to save the take. The Mixer fades down one of the offending
microphones at the same instant that the Boom Operator strategically repositions the overhead microphone. Other problems on the
set may also require instant reaction from the Boom Operator, such as loud or soft delivery of lines, ad-libs, sound effects, and actors missing their marks. Boom Operators may also need to skilled on the operation of the Fisher Microphone Boom. They also
need to know how to rig lavalieres and radio microphones. In fact, the Boom Operator should be qualified enough to take over for
the Sound Mixer in the event of absence or potty break. The Boom Operator needs to have one final attribute. He or she must be
telepathically on the same wavelength as the Mixer. Somehow, with no or minimal hand signs or verbal communication, the
Boom Operator and Mixer must be able to react to situations like a set of Siamese twins. It is because of this extreme need for
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partnership on the set that the Mixer should always demand the right to choose the Boom Operator. For a Producer to saddle a
Mixer with an inept or incompatible Boom Operator is to court disaster. For a Mixer to compliantly accept such a Boom Operator
is to jeopardize his or her own career, since ultimately the Mixer is responsible for what they hear in the dailies. It is better to turn
down an assignment, than to have it turn out badly. The Boom Operator is designated in union parlance as an Y-8 according to
I.A.T.S.E. Local 695. In broadcast, the designation may be an A-2. Salary range for a Boom Operator is from $150 to $350 on
non-union industrial or corporate. Union shows and commercials will pay $250 on up for the basic 9-hour day, plus overtime.
Commercial rate of $350 is not at all uncommon. The I.A.T.S.E. requires a minimum of a two-person sound crew (Mixer and
Boom) for any day that dialogue is to be recorded, though a three-person crew is pretty common. Personally, I find that there are
very few situations where less than a two-person crew is physically adequate, other than sound effects gathering or quick and dirty
ENG. Utility Sound Technician The above mentioned third person on the sound crew is known as the Utility Sound Technician.
In the old days, the position might have been known as Cable man. As a result, a lot of people think that all a Utility person is
needed for is to wrangle microphone cables. Back in the Golden Era of Hollywood, cameras and sprocketed sound recorders (not
exactly portable, but at least the trucks that carried them could drive around) had to be physically linked by thick, three-phase
power cables that drove the sync motors. These cables were huge and heavy. Also, in those days, microphone technology was
nothing like it is today—hence the need to rig a fair number of microphones strategically all over the set. So there was a definite
need for a few cable men! Today, what with crystal sync, portable Nagras, radio microphones, and condenser microphones—there
is no longer the physical need to run thick cables over great distances, nor even the need for as many microphone cables. But there
is still the need for at least one more person on the sound crew, namely the Utility! The main function of the third person is not to
run cable, but to run boom. Very often, the dialogue will span a distance greater than one microphone boom can deal with, due to
the time and travel required to cue from one actor to a distant one. The solution is to deploy a second boom or fish pole. Radio microphones require skilled hands to test them and rig them on actors. During the take, receiver antennas must often be "boomed" to
keep up with action. Microphone cables must still be rigged for plant microphones hidden in the set; and sometimes there is still
the need to walk cable behind the boom operator (although this can be done by anyone). Scenes shot to sync playback of music or
special tracks require a Playback Operator—a skilled person to cue up and operate the playback Nagra. Finally, it is valuable to
have another trained person on the sound crew who can fill in at anytime for either the Mixer or the Boom Operator, or who can
go off and record 2ndnd unit on his or her own. Utility Sound Technicians are not common on non-union industrials and corporate
productions. When they are present, their salary can range from as little as $75 per day on up, depending on their skill and necessity. Sometimes, they can earn as much as the Boom Operator, particularly if they are needed frequently for 2ndnd Boom or sync
playback. In union parlance, the Utility Sound Technician is designated Y-7a. Scale pay rate is approximately $225 for a basic
9-hour day, plus overtime. Others on the Sound Crew Depending on the nature of the production, other personnel may need to be
added to the basic crew. Additional Boom Operators may be permanently needed, particularly in multi-camera "live" shows.
Sometimes on a regular feature or episodic TV series, such as "Hill Street Blues,” a second Boom Operator may be normal in addition to the Utility Sound Technician. A specialist Playback Operator is usually brought in on situations calling for extensive or
complicated playback sequences. Good Playback Operators can understand and read music, as well as converse in music phraseology with composers and choreographers regarding cue points. The proper equipment In addition to needing the right personnel,
the achievement of good Production Sound requires having the right tools. Don’t leave the choice of equipment up to others. The
Mixer must always assume responsibility for the selection and preparation of the equipment package. If arranging for equipment
is left up to the production company, they will inevitably only order what they feel is economically essential. Since the people
who might be ordering the equipment are probably not experienced sound mixers, that means you can almost certainly expect to
be lacking a few items that are essential. Similarly, if you are putting together your own package and ask the production company
what you will need, they might also lead you astray. Ask anyway -- sometimes the information that they give you is useful, but
plan for contingencies. For instance, I once mixed an automobile commercial where they wanted me to record a few lines that the
storyboard indicated were to take place in an office interior. Easy enough. Most of the commercial consisted of exterior drive-bys
of the car—no sound. So, I sat around at the base camp that had been set up in an outdoor parking lot, while the camera crew photographed the running car shots. When it seemed like the car shots were nearing completion, I inquired as to where the office set
was where we would be shooting the rest of the commercial. A Production Assistant pointed me to behind one of the trailers.
There—smack in the middle of this noisy, windy parking lot—a crew was erecting three wall flats and some black drapes... an
open air exterior set made up to look like an interior! Had I originally trusted the production company and the storyboards, I might
only have come equipped with a complement of interior microphones. However, experience has taught me to always pack as
much equipment as I can transport. My boom man and I rigged our exterior shotgun microphone and heavy-duty windscreen, and
we did the scene outdoors with little problem. The framing was tight enough that we were able to close microphone the scene so
that traffic noise was not audible. Moral of the story: Always be prepared. Don’t scrimp. Go with the best. Proper equipment
means having the best that is available to get the job done. If you cannot afford to own it, then rent it! Use high quality microphones. Choose the highest quality microphones that you can, such as the "industry standard" condenser shotguns from Audio
Technica, Sennheiser, Schoeps, and Neumann. In contrast, I would not choose as my first choice in production microphones any
of the fine electret condenser systems on the market, such as the Sennheiser K3U/ME80 or the Audio Technica AT835. Mind you,
these are absolutely excellent microphones for the money. They serve well as reliable back-ups, or for low budget applications
such as university film departments. But compared to the (more expensive) condenser microphones, the electret condensers currently on the market do not offer anywhere near the same exceptional reach and sensitivity. Although the sound from the electrets
is comparable to the better microphones when used at short range, if you have to increase the distance (such as to accommodate
wider framing) the relative crispness and isolation of the dialogue will diminish noticeably. Recording dialogue on the set is very
difficult due to the constraints of camera and lighting. Better microphones are worth the difference! Also, do not think that any
one microphone will do it all. Just as the camera requires different focal length lenses for different applications—there are differ29
ent microphones for different situations. A later chapter will cover the selection and application of microphones in detail. Mixing
panels are a must! Another item that most budget conscious beginners tend to overlook is the value of a good mixing panel. Even
if you are only going to be using one microphone at a time, the mixing panel is an indispensable tool. It provides the soundman
with subtle control over the input at all times. Having this means of controlling (riding gain) on the input makes a major difference, especially when working with video recorders that only offer tiny tweaking knobs for microphone input. Again, the selection and operation of specific equipment will be discussed in detail in upcoming chapters. Prep your gear meticulously. Your
capability to record sound hinges strongly on the ability of your equipment to function when on the set. Having the best of gear,
but not being able to make it work, is frustrating and career damaging. There are no apologies or excuses run under the dailies!
Bottom line is that the Sound Mixer is responsible for checking each and every piece of gear that is earmarked for the shoot. Every recorder, every microphone, every accessory, every adapter cable, and every microphone line must be checked with the same
care and concern that a skydiver employs with his parachute. Do not assume that because the equipment is coming from a rental
facility (or studio sound department) that it has been checked. Rental technicians are generally underpaid, under trained, and in a
hurry. They don’t care! For them, the worst that can happen is that they will have to deduct an item or two from your rental bill.
Also, rental techs and many sound people make the error of checking items individually, but not cross-checking them. All of the
microphones may work when bench tested, but may not work when used with a particular battery supply or mixing panel. Other
microphones may work with the one power supply packaged with them, but not with other supplies in your kit. Plug everything
into everything to insure complete compatibility and interchangeability. Be extremely careful to verify the contents of your rental
contract. Make sure that no items that you originally ordered were forgotten or overlooked. Double check to make sure that you
do, in fact, have everything that the contract lists you as receiving. Be especially careful to log all of the misc. accessories, such as
lavaliere mounting clips, foam windscreens, adapters, cables, etc. Otherwise, you might find yourself being billed for all of the
"missing pieces" that normally go out with a microphone (but did not go out with yours!). Allow sufficient time to prep your
equipment. Plan to prep and pick-up your equipment at least one half-day prior to the shoot itself. For one thing, you will need
ample time to check through everything. But in the event that you do discover a malfunction, the rental house may not have a replacement ready to go. If they need to sub rent a replacement unit, or repair the broken one—that half-day buffer provides the time
frame to do it! Never leave the rental house without checking everything. Not only is it un-professional to show up on the set with
equipment that you can’t make work, but you are economically liable for everything on the rental contract. Anything missing or
damaged can be billed to you the moment the equipment cases go out the door! You personally, or at least a personally close
member of your sound team, should prep the gear. If a production company driver is to transport the equipment from the rental
house, make sure that you have prepped everything in advance of the pick-up. Sealing the cases isn’t a bad idea, either.
Defining Equipment Packages: During the pre-production stage, it will become necessary to think and deal in terms of basic
equipment packages. When defining equipment and budgeting in terms of these packages, bear in mind that these are simply
terms of convenience. The specific contents of each package type will vary from studio to studio, rental house to rental house, and
even mixer-to-mixer. Members of the industry use these terms for generality only. When it becomes time to actually order equipment, forget the terms and get down to specifics: one of these, two of those, this adapter, etc. Note that the use of the term
"channel" is synonymous with "equipment package.” One-Microphone Channel The One-Microphone Channel is the most basic
of the generic sound recording packages (channels). It consists of a Nagra 4.2 sync recorder, headphones, one condenser
"shotgun" microphone (usually either a Sennheiser MKH416 or MKH816), a short microphone cable, and a short fish pole. The
One-Microphone Channel is the typical one-man band type of set- up. Picture one person with a Nagra strapped over the shoulder
and a shotgun microphone in hand. Applications would include sound effects gathering, wild lines, and documentary. For documentary production, the sound mixer might want to add a couple of lavalieres for interviews. Daily rental is approximately $75 to
$100 per day. ENG Microphone Channel This is the video equivalent of the (film) one-microphone channel. Since audio in video
is recorded on the VTR instead of a Nagra, the package does not include a recorder. However, since most VTR’s do not offer adequate microphone mixing (input control) and the fact that camcorders are carried by the cameraman—a small mixing panel is absolutely necessary. Contents of a typical ENG Microphone Channel would include a mini mixer (such as the Shure FP-31 or
FP-32, or the Audio-Technica AT4462); headphones; one shotgun microphone; cable; short fish pole; and 2 lavalieres. Video folk
seem to be enamored with the use of electret condenser shotgun microphones, such as the Sennheiser K3U/ME80 and the Audio-Technica AT835. Many video rental houses will supply these automatically, in lieu of the higher quality condensers such as the
Sennheiser MKH416 or MKH816. Daily rental is approximately $75 per day. Stage Channel The Stage Channel is a complete
sound recording package for theatrical style film making (such as feature films, commercials, and episodic television series). Contents typically include: one Nagra 4.2; a production mixing panel; sound cart; fish pole; three condenser microphones; duplex microphone cable to the boom man; a few hundred feet of assorted single microphone cables; and a few lavalieres. Sometimes more
in the way of equipment, sometimes less. Again, remember that exact contents will vary from user to user. Note also that two
types of items are generally not included: headphones and wireless microphones. As for headphones, it is normally assumed that
the Mixer and Boom own their own. Wireless microphones are a separate and expensive item, contracted for over and above the
basic equipment package. The term Stage Channel originated from the concept of filming on the sound stage or back lot of a major studio complex. All of the basic sound recording tools are present; but replacement equipment and specialty items are not included. In the event of equipment malfunction or special needs, it was only necessary to send the "third man" (Utility Sound
Technician) a few hundred yards over to the studio "Sound Shop" for additional gear. Stage Channels, although they may vary
somewhat in the number of fish poles and microphones, basically all share the concept of including only one (expensive) Nagra
recorder. Daily rental is approximately $150 to $200 per day. Location Channel What if the Nagra was to break? Do we cancel the
shoot and all go home? Or do we just sit around for hours while someone drives back to the rental house for another? In either
case, it is not a good scenario. Therefore, the idea behind the Location Channel is that we have TWO Nagras, as well as a very full
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complement of microphones and other needed equipment. The magic word is redundancy. Location Channels are beefed up Stage
Channels, and feature two Nagras and plenty of equipment for major set-ups and contingencies. Radio microphones are still extra,
though. A good rule of thumb is: If a replacement Nagra is more than thirty minutes away (or you are shooting on weekends, holidays, or nights when rental houses are closed)... then go out with a Location Channel! If the shoot is big budget and every minute
lost can cost big bucks, then definitely equip yourself with back-up gear. The difference in cost between a Stage Channel and a
Location Channel is only $75 to $100 per day. That’s a small price to pay for "insurance.” If the production company balks at the
added expense, ask them to sign a waiver leaving you blameless for delay in the rare event of the recorder malfunctioning. They
almost certainly won’t sign such a document, but they will give in and let you rent a back-up machine. Daily rental is approximately $200 to $275 per day. Video Microphone Channel The Video Microphone Channel is merely a Stage Channel complete
except that there is no Nagra recorder. It is for film-style video production, and includes a sound cart, mixing panel, fish pole, condenser microphones, etc. Daily rental is approximately $125 to $150 per day. Production Accessories In addition to budgeting for
the basic sound recording package, there is a wide selection of "add-on" items that should be given consideration while in the budgeting stage. Wireless Microphones Personally, I have always felt that these things should be called what they really are, neither
"wireless microphones" nor "radio microphones,” but "wireless cables.” Because in effect, the transmitter and receiver of a wireless microphone system do not replace the microphone itself, and virtually any type of microphone (with the proper adapter) can
be used with the wireless system. The part that is replaced by the "radio" is the cable. However, wireless microphones are what
they call them, so therefore I will. There are also a number of four-letter and other obscene words used to describe wireless microphones because of their notorious unreliability on the set, but that is a different tale that I reserve for the section on wireless microphones. This section is still on pre-production planning and budgeting. Wireless microphones are relatively expensive to rent.
Daily rates are approximately $40 to $60 per day, per channel. (When dealing with radio microphones, the term "channel" is used
literally. One system, consisting of transmitter and receiver, is assigned to each frequency.) In addition to the daily rental fee, one
must also budget for batteries. Wireless microphones go through Duracell 9-volt batteries like kids go through candy. Most receivers use one to three batteries, which will last one or more days. The body-pack transmitters, on the other hand, use one battery that
should be changed every few hours! Since fresh batteries (not the sale ones that have sat in the warehouse all year) can cost up to
$3.00 each—you’d better figure on at least another ten dollars per day per unit. Now for some simple arithmetic. If you only have
one actor who needs to be wired, how many radio microphones must you bring? If you only answered "one,” you are quite an optimist (but hardly and experienced Mixer). Again, if the radio does not work, do we all get to go home early? Wireless microphones are notorious for not working when you need them to. Not only are they subject to electronic malfunction or damage, but
also they are susceptible to every form of radio-wave interference that has ever caused your television reception to wobble. You
name it—it can cause interference. Police radios, walkie-talkies, computers, video monitors, vacuum cleaners, aircraft, passing
traffic, neon, radar, electronic flea collars and bug zappers, and the list goes on. There are even supernatural "black holes,” akin to
the Bermuda Triangle! If you are going to use a radio microphone, bring along extra units. Sometimes changing to a different unit
on a different frequency helps. Sometimes not. The use of wireless microphones is more of a mystic art than a science. For convenience, four wireless microphones may be housed in a case with central powering and fed from a single antenna. This is known as
a "quad box.” Although the quad case itself will rent for $15 or $20 per day, some rental houses will package it at no extra charge
when you rent four radio microphones to go into it. To improve reception, a more efficient antenna system other than the little
rubber stubbies that come from the manufacturer may be used. Examples would be dipole antennas, directional TV- style antennas, ground-planes, and hi-gain systems. Add, as an option, another $15 per day for a special antenna rig. So, if you envision the
need for radio microphones in your Location Channel, plan on approximately $150 per day for a quad box (four radio microphones), plus batteries. Ironically, many clients who are too cheap and fight me over the hiring of a boom person will suggest that
I could make do with radio microphones instead. Radio microphones are not cheap, and even when you have them, it does not
guarantee that they will work. I’d rather have a boom man. Fisher Microphone Boom The Fisher Microphone Boom is one of the
most versatile tools a sound crew could have. The Fisher is a studio boom featuring a dolly base, center column support, and an
extended arm capable of telescoping as well as rotating (cueing) the microphone. The arm is high and out of the way, yet is able to
reach & follow the actors even during complicated moves across or through the set. Two standard sizes are available: a 16-foot
arm; and a 27-foot arm. The 16-foot model is more popular for single camera film/video, and is easy to deploy in smaller sets. The
larger, 27-foot version is more often found on the multi-camera sitcoms and audience shows. Operation of the Fisher does require
a little bit of training and a whole lot of practice. I would not bother to rent one unless I had a skilled boom operator on my crew.
But in the hands of a person who knows how to use it, the Fisher can reach into places on a set and follow talent far beyond the
capabilities of any handheld fish pole. Daily rental is only approximately $25 per day, which is about half the price of a single radio microphone! Sync Playback Package There will be times when it is necessary to play back a pre--recorded soundtrack on the
set in order for talent to lip-synch and/or dance to it. Achieving lip-synch in film making requires the same degree of sync precision in playback as it does in live recording. To play back a soundtrack IN SYNC requires: 1) a soundtrack recorded with a sync
pulse or time code; 2) a portable tape recorder capable of reading the sync or time code and resolving (playing back in sync); and
3) some means of making the playback track audible to the talent. Sync playback will be covered in detail later in this book. As
for equipment, a basic playback package consists of a time code Nagra recorder (equipped with a resolver), an amplifier, and some
loudspeakers. Daily rental runs from approximately $60 on up for the amp/speakers, depending on the size of the speaker/
amplifier system. Plus the cost of the playback recorder and time code slate. Time Code Nagra When the production company
knows that the camera negative is going to be transferred directly to video for post-production and broadcast release, it has become industry practice to record time code onto the production audio tracks. During the transfer to video process, the film negative is rolled down in the telecine to the head of the shot or the clapstick slate and the time code is entered into a computer. That
computer system then searches for the matching time code on the audio tracks. Then the controlling computer pre-rolls (backs up
a few seconds) both the telecine and the audiotape machine, then both machines are put into FORWARD PLAY. It takes a mo31
ment for the telecine to reach normal speed. The computer monitors the time code of the audio, and adjusts the speed accordingly
so as to achieve lip-synch. Picture and audio are then transferred together onto the videotape for future editing. Currently, the only
model Nagra that can record S.M.P.T.E. time code is the IV-STC, which is configured for two-track (stereo) plus time code. Daily
rental of a Nagra IV-STC is approximately $75 to $90 per day, or about double that of a Nagra 4.2. Therefore, add about $50 per
day to the cost of a basic Stage Channel, or add $100 per day to the cost of a Location Channel. But we’re not done yet! Most of
the film cameras on the market are not yet equipped with their own time code generators. In order to make the time code visible
on the film, the industry uses a clapstick slate (Denecke TC-1) that features a bright display of the time code coming from the Nagra. Originally, the manufacturer assumed that a microphone cable would link the slate to the time code output from the Nagra. In
short time, though, the industry adopted the practice of using a wireless transmitter and receiver system (Comtek). Daily rental of
the Denecke time code slate and the Comtek wireless system is approximately $75 per day. Total daily rental for the Nagra
IV-STC and the slate package is around $150 to $175 per day. Communications The Sound Department is routinely asked to provide communications on the set. The first type of communications you will be asked for is an audio feed from your mixing panel
or recorder for the Director, Script Supervisor, and Client. At its simplest, the Mixer would derive a spare headphone feed, plug in
a long extension cable, and give the headphones to the proper party. If more than one person needed to monitor, then the Mixer
would use some sort of headphone splitter box. Crude, but effective. There is a much better way, however. Wireless. Industry
practice is to deploy a miniature transmitter on the sound cart. Anyone who needs to monitor the soundtrack is given a miniature
receiver along with headphones. Eliminating the long extension cords saves a ton of time, permits the Sound Mixer to move the
sound cart as needed, and allows the listeners to roam freely about the set. Listener freedom is very important to the Director.
Prior to the use of wireless, Directors were notorious for destroying headsets at the rate of a few per day—since they inevitably
would jump up from their chairs and rush onto the set, usually neglecting to remove their headphones FIRST. The industry standard for wireless monitoring is the Comtek System. Transmitters rent for approximately $20 per day; and each receiver rents for
around $15 per day. Figure on three receivers, so budget approximately $65 per day for Comteks. Walkie-talkies compose the
other main form of on-set communication. The most popular radios in use by our industry include the Motorola HT400, HT600,
MT500, and Radius P200. A professional grade walkie-talkie—featuring 5-watt output, 4 or 6 channels, and frequency assignment
on the motion picture bands—rents for around $12 per day. Small productions will commonly ask for at least four radios; larger
productions may want as many as three dozen. Expendables Besides budgeting for personnel and equipment don’t forget about the
expendable items. On even a medium sized production, the bill for these miscellaneous, yet important, sundries can get too expensive for the Mixer to absorb out of his/her own wallet. Tape Stock Make sure it is clear who is buying and bringing the stock.
Don’t automatically assume that the production company is bringing it, the cameraman, or the soundman. Use only the brand and
type of stock that the individual recorder is biased (set up) for. Most Nagras are currently calibrated for 3M type 908 (no longer
available), Ampex 406, and Zonal 818. Also, there are many Nagras that have been equipped with oversize plastic lids that allow
the machines to use seven-inch reels of tape. Seven-inch recording stock runs twice as long (30 minutes at 7 ½ ips) as the standard
five-inch (15 minutes at 7 ½ ips). Most 7" sells for around $7.50 per roll; most 5" sells for around $5.50. How many rolls of tape
will you need? I find that on a major production such as a commercial, feature, or television episode my average usage was two or
three rolls of 7". Another way to calculate tape usage is to find out how much film stock has been budgeted for. A one-thousand
foot roll of 35mm runs for about 11 minutes. A four-hundred foot roll of 16mm yields about 11 minutes. If you are using 15-minute rolls of tape (5" reels), then budget one roll of tape for every magazine of film. If you are using 30-minute rolls of tape (7"
reels), then figure about 2.5 camera magazines per roll of sound. Remember that audiotape is relatively cheap compared to film
stock and the cost of production. Never be afraid to "waste" tape. Reload your Nagra while the camera crew is reloading, so as to
avoid delays later on. If you are shooting long takes, especially interviews, or the director likes to talk a lot before calling
"Action"—then reload early enough to avoid any risk of running out during a take. Very often, the Sound Mixer will be asked to
provide the tape stock and to bill the production company. Don’t feel guilty about making a slight profit on the transaction. If the
company wants to "save money,” then let them foot the bill for all of the stock! You are the one laying out the cash to buy enough
stock for the shoot plus plenty of extra (just in case), but will only be reimbursed for what is actually used. That means that your
cash will be tied up in tape stock until the next shoot. You cannot return unused tape stock to the dealer, since no respecting professional would ever want to go out with tape stock that someone else may have subjected to excess heat, etc. More than likely,
videotape stock will be provided by the cameraman or the production company. It is rare that the Sound Mixer is asked to supply
videotape, unless he or she is also providing the video equipment. It never hurts to ask, just to make sure. What you find out could
save the cameraman a lot of embarrassment, and since you and the cameraman probably work together a lot for a number of video
clients... Batteries Just about everything on your sound cart operates from batteries. Nagra recorders use 12 "D" cells, and will run
two to four days. But always have a spare dozen standing by! Power supplies for your microphones generally use two 9-volts.
Comteks and popular wireless microphones also use 9-volts, but some brands may be different. Other equipment will have their
own particular battery requirements. Even if you have AC adapters, it is still better to run off of batteries in order to avoid the risk
of AC induced noise. The same principle that lets the "plug in to any outlet" intercom upstairs in the baby’s room be heard on the
intercom downstairs in the living room applies to professional recording. Noise travels along electrical wiring, even when the outlets are on different circuits. Never buy batteries on sale. Batteries get put on sale when stores have too many of them, and they
have been sitting around in warehouses too long. Purchase all of your batteries from a reputable supplier. Check some of the batteries at random with a digital voltage meter to insure that they are fresh and putting out full capacity. The industry has found that
overall, the Duracell brand of batteries seems to be the best. Also, their two-color design makes it easy to orient the batteries correctly, even in dimly lit environments. Used batteries should be tossed away immediately. Don’t put them back into original boxes
or even store them near your equipment, lest someone mistake them for new. A number of Sound Mixers give small BAGS (never
the original boxes) of used batteries to other members of the crew for use in non-critical equipment such as flashlights. Sundries
Other items that you will need include: rolls of 1&" cloth camera tape (white, black, and perhaps colors); 2" cloth gaffers tape;
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1&" surgical tape; rubber bands; safety pins; marking pens; printed sound reports; spare flashlight (to replace the one you will
loan to someone and not be returned); spare pocketknife; spare mini-tool kit; Static Guard spray; ACE bandages; alcohol prep
pads; canned air; TF Solvent; a tape slicing kit complete with razor blades, colored Avery dots, and sync beeps; cheesecloth for
wind protection; acoustafoam; Velcro; condoms for waterproofing microphones and wireless; and perhaps even handcuffs &
chain for securing equipment cases from being quick-snatched. Dealing with Rental Houses As I have mentioned before, I do not
trust Rental Technicians when it is my career on the line. Double-check and prep everything carefully! Place your order with the
Rental House early, at least a few days in advance. If you have a shoot coming up, but it has not yet been 100% confirmed, let
them know this. They can pencil your order in tentatively, and then check in with you later to verify a firm commitment. The
worst thing that you can do is to march in to a rental house and expect them to drop everything and assemble you a complicated
package right on the spot. For your own sake, give them some advance warning! Be very specific when you order. General terms
such as Stage Channel are fine when talking with producers, but have little meaning in a rental house. Tell them exactly what you
want, and itemize every accessory and adapter cable that you envision needing. Take nothing for granted in terms of assuming that
the technician knows "all about that stuff"—unless you are familiar with the technician personally and have dealt with that person
before! Always write down the name of the technician that you are dealing with. Yours may not be the only order; nor may there
only be one person working in the rental department. For that matter, make sure that both of you are clear on what name the order
is reserved under (your personal name, the company name, or the name of the production itself). You would not expect to walk
into a strange bank and walk out with fifty thousand dollars in cash without a lot of credit checking. Do not assume that rental
houses are any different. Establish an account with them well in advance of the date you need the equipment. Their credit check is
not to guarantee that you’ll pay them the fifty bucks for the rental of the Nagra, but that their ten thousand dollar recorder and you
aren’t just going to disappear! Sometimes, the rental can be billed directly to the account of the production company hiring you.
Personally, I prefer to do business that way when I can. If the equipment rental is on my account, and the production company decides not to pay when they are supposed to, then I am stuck holding the bag. They owe me, but I am the one owing the rental company! If you are acting as the "agent" of the production company—in other words, doing the ordering and picking up of the
equipment, but not financially responsible—make sure that this fact is clearly understood by the rental house. Do not let them confuse your personal rental account with that of your client or employer. Insurance on all equipment is mandatory. All equipment
must be insured at "full replacement value" by the insurance carrier, with the owner of the equipment (in this case the rental
house) listed as the "loss payee" (the check would go directly to them). Proof of insurance must be provided to the rental house in
the form of a "certificate of insurance.” This certificate comes direct from the insurance company itself, and must be requested in
advance so as to be received by the rental house before the day of equipment pick-up. The advent of the FAX machine has made
this process a whole lot easier and quicker. Note that this is a special BUSINESS INSURANCE, and is not included with typical
homeowners or automobile policies. On large productions, the production company will have their own insurance policy covering
all of the equipment. Professional freelancers will also tend to have their own blanket insurance policy, covering rented equipment
during the year. Insurance is available from several major companies specializing in motion picture or entertainment industry services. Check your local film/video trade directories for listings, or ask the rental house. Some rental houses also offer house insurance, which is billed as a surcharge to your rental. It is usually billed as a percentage (e.g. 10%) of the daily rental fee, multiplied
by each calendar day that the equipment is in your possession. Calendar day means that you have to pay the insurance even if it is
not a billable rental day (such as a holiday, or a long-term discount). Rental rates are based on the "daily rental.” A daily rental is a
one-day rental. You can pick up the equipment late afternoon the day before (since shoots start early in the morning), and can return it in the morning of the day following the shoot. So, for a Wednesday shoot, you could pick up the equipment Tuesday afternoon and return it on Thursday morning. If the rental house is closed due to holiday or weekend, you do not pay since you could
not have returned the equipment on that day. It is also "assumed" that neither you nor the drivers from the production company are
working. Friday afternoon to Monday morning (a Saturday rental) would only be billed as a one-day rental. A sneaky person
could claim they were shooting on Friday, and Thursday afternoon to Monday morning would only be one-day. But don’t abuse
it—rental companies aren’t stupid and may not want to rent to you in the future. A week consists of any seven consecutive calendar days. Most rental houses offer a discount in that you will only be billed for an "XXX-day week.” Most common is the
"four-day week,” although some houses offer "three-day" and even "two-day" weekly rentals on equipment that is hard to rent.
However, as long as a holiday or a weekend does not reduce the number of available working days to below four days, you will
still be billed at the four-day weekly rate. Some rental companies offer additional discounts for long-term rentals. For some, long
term means four weeks; for others it may mean six weeks, etc. Ask your local rental house about their definition of and discounts
for long-term rentals. Ask about travel days, rain days, and shipping. Travel days are days that the equipment is in your possession, but not being used because the gear is in transit. On long-term rentals, these days may be gratis; on short term it is negotiable
at the time the order is placed. Rain days are days when the production is postponed due to inclement weather. You must call in
the morning of a rain day; you may be asked to return the equipment for the day to avoid rental charge, or a discount may be applied via phone. Again, these things must be negotiated in advance. Shipping charges are normally paid for by the renter. It is usually far cheaper to ship one-day air and pay more for shipping but save on the rental. Some rental houses will charge you for a
rental day even if the equipment is in transit. Sometimes, they will split the difference: not charge you on the day that it is shipped
out, but you continue to pay rental while it is shipped back. In the event of equipment malfunction while out on location, contact
the rental house as soon as possible and inform them of the problem. They may be able to trouble-shoot the repair over the phone,
or may be able to send out a replacement to you right away. Or maybe not. (Production Mixing is the art of creative problem solving.) However, do not expect to receive a discount or credit for faulty equipment—unless you alert the rental house within 24
hours. (How are they to know whether the radio microphone that you rented broke down on the first day, or worked great for 13
days out of a 14-day shoot?) The rental house may opt for you to return the equipment for a replacement, return the equipment for
a credit, or just hold onto it until the end of the shoot. Working up a budget: How do you respond when a producer wants to know
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how much is good sound going to cost? Assume that this is a medium budget, corporate production, being shot on film. Non-union. Let’s start with a crew. The Mixer works for $350 per 10-hour day. Time and one-half for every hour beyond ten. The
Boom Operator ("Yes, I have someone in particular who works with me") gets $275 for 10. Since this is low-budget, we will not
hire a Utility Sound Technician. For an equipment package, let’s go with a basic Location Channel at $250. Or, if the shoot is local and not far from a rental house, we could budget for a Stage Channel at $175. Even if the Sound Mixer owns all or part of an
equipment package, a production should be budgeted the same as if it were all being rented. Because it is. If not from the rental
house, then from the Mixer. Equipment costs money to purchase and maintain, and the Mixer is entitled to recoup that. As for giving the production company an extra discount for privately owned gear, the Mixer should counter by pointing out that privately
owned equipment is in better condition and better stocked with adapters & accessories. Radio microphones (four) will run around
$175. Perhaps we can get by with only two, at about $100. Comteks will be useful for the Director and Client. Add $65. Four
walkie-talkies, at $12.50 each, are $50. Tape stock and batteries will be billed on an "as used basis,” approximately $30 per day
for stock and $25 for batteries. Camera tape, canned air, and marking pens will be provided by the production company. Add another $10 per day for incidental expendables. Totals for sound: Almost $1100 per day. Of course, that figure will go down if the
shoot goes beyond four days, since the equipment is billed on a four-day week. Salaries remain the same, though. Costs could
have been reduced by eliminating the Comteks and going with a Stage Channel instead of a Location Channel. Nobody said that
filmmaking was inexpensive. Oh, could I recommend any good, cheap soundmen? Well, I know a lot of good soundmen, and I
know a lot of cheap soundmen, but I don’t know of any GOOD AND CHEAP soundmen!
CHAPTER SUMMARY Good production sound does not happen by accident. It requires the concerted efforts of the entire production company, both on the set and particularly during pre-production planning. Scout your locations carefully with regard to
sound. When evaluating a potential location, scout it on the same day of the week and same time of the day that you intend to
shoot. Select your Sound Mixer with the same care that you take when choosing a Director of Photography; don’t just assign the
critical job of sound recording to "anyone who isn’t busy.” Members assigned to the Sound Crew should not be expected to do the
work of other departments, unless everything that needs to be done for sound is complete and they are merely sitting idle. Hire, or
at least pick the brains of, an experienced professional Sound Mixer. Consult with the Mixer early on, so as to be able to take advantage of budget and production suggestions. In the long run—even though an experienced mixer will cost more up front—their
experience and ability can save valuable time and money in post-production. Be wary of advice from Rental Technicians. Not being experienced in the ways of production, their suggestions may be rooted in guesswork or rental profit. Take a professional approach. Do it the best you know how, or don’t do it at all. They do not run apologies during the dailies; and your reputation will
hinge on what they hear in the soundtrack. The basic production sound crew consists of the Sound Mixer, the Boom Operator, and
the Utility Sound Technician. Equipment selection and prepping is the responsibility of the Sound Mixer, regardless of whom the
equipment is being billed to. Use only the best equipment available on the market. Be prepared as much as possible for contingencies and changes in the shooting schedule. Use condenser microphones and a mixing panel. Equipment should be meticulously
checked before leaving the rental house; and at least a half-day before the start of the shoot to allow ample time for repair/
replacement. Types of equipment packages include: One-Microphone Channel; ENG Microphone Channel; Stage Channel; Location Channel; Video Microphone Channel. Accessories to the basic packages include: wireless microphones; Fisher boom; sync
playback; time code Nagra w. electronic slate; Comtek wireless audio feeds; and walkie-talkies. Expendables include: recording
tape stock; batteries; and assorted sundries. When dealing with rental houses, establish accounts and place orders in advance. Be
specific when you order. All equipment must be insured. Ask about discounts on weekly and long-term rentals. Ask about travel
days, rain days, and shipping policies.
Is Time code Always Necessary?
By Fred Ginsburg, C.A.S.
There is a trend in our industry for clients and producers to clamor for the newest and latest technology, regardless of whether or
not that technology will really improve the end product. For example, all of us here at Equipment Emporium and Wilcox Sound
Rentals recall with great amusement the enthusiasm that a particular music video producer exhibited over using a DAT recorder
for sync playback. "This is going to be stupendous! Imagine. We’re going to shoot our video with digital playback! It's going to be
hot!" Well, of course we had to contain ourselves from laughter. Since the playback track is only a guide track, and does not ever
appear in the finished product, it makes absolutely no musical difference whether one plays back from a standard Nagra, a DAT,
or any other sync device. The sound being played back is only so that talent has something to hear on the set. But this producer
was not looking at the technical process of making a music video. Instead, buzzwords and appearing trendy was at the forefront of
his mind. Case in point, recording SMPTE time code on the audio track for shows that will be edited non-linear. Having SMPTE
time code on the audio track that will match time code on the picture is nice, but far from absolutely necessary. Considering the
expense of purchasing or renting time code recorders and slates compared to being able to use existing non-time code equipment,
one should definitely explore all of the post-production ramifications before blindly leaping into costly, albeit trendy, production
sound decisions. Did you know that up until only recently, TV shows such as "Beverly Hills 90210" did not use SMPTE time
code when recording production sound? All audio was done with the venerable Nagra 4.2, and then transferred to non-linear digital for post. Why? Because it was cheaper to do it that way, and gave them the same results! Here is what happens when audio is
recorded with SMPTE time code. Time code is recorded, along with production sound, on a Nagra IV-STC stereo recorder or a
sophisticated DAT such as the HHB or Fostex PD4. Matching (jam synced) time code may or may not be recorded on the film by
means of in-the-camera keycode and an Aaton masterclock module. A Denecke slate is filmed at the head of each scene, displaying a visual time code as well as providing an old-fashioned clapstick marker. In post, the film is transferred to video in the telecine and then digitized into the non-linear editing system. Audio is resolved at the proper speed (slowed down slightly to match
the picture slowdown created by telecine) and also digitized into the non-linear system. Using the time code numbers as a
"beginning of the scene" start mark or line-up reference, the editor performs a series of in-computer "audio insert edits" to sync up
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the dailies (matching up the picture and corresponding sync audio) for each take. Now, examine what happens if no time code is
recorded on the audio during production. Just as before, the picture is loaded into the edit computer. Audio is resolved at the
proper speed, and also digitized into the system. In order to sync the dailies, the editor goes to the picture start of the take
(clapstick frame) and "parks.” Audio is advanced to the audio "marker" (the clapstick impact); and then the mark-in edit points are
punched in. Finding the start mark of the audio without time code is easy. If one watches the visual waveform of the audio (the”
optical track"), it is rather easy to locate the clapstick because it sticks out like the Washington Monument! With very little practice, an editor can sync dailies almost just as fast as with time code, and at considerable savings of the production budget. But
without time code, how does the edit computer keep everything in sync? The same way it always does, by means of its own internal time code. Since most production time code is discontinuous, it is only used for negative matching; The actual editing is done
with a form of continuous time code within the system. It is true that without Time code, we cannot go back to the original production audiotapes and conform them with the negative for post. But why would we want to or need to? The audio coming out of
the non-linear system is digital CD quality or better, far higher quality than we ever got off of a Moviola. In the old days of tape
splicing, we had tore-transfer and conform the audio in order to correct for all of the damaged sprocket holes, bad splices, and unintentional edits. But since our digital soundtrack is perfect, we do not need to return to the original tapes before moving onto advanced soundtrack building. The only step a little tricky in this non-time code audio process is resolving.
When using Time code, we normally record on the set at 30 fps non-drop, and then transfer at 29.97 non-drop in order to compensate for the fact that picture filmed at 24 or 30 fps (film speed) ends up being slowed down to 23.97 or 29.97 fps (film speed) in
the telecine in order to be recorded onto videotape (which is 29.97 video speed). If we use a conventional Nagra recording with a
60Hz sync signal, then we must transfer that audio into the edit computer at 59.94Hz. This can be very easily done by using an
external sync box such as the TX-8 59.94 Crystal or a similar device. Just unplug the crystal jumper plug from the side of the Nagra and plug in the matching connector from the 59.94 external box; then play the Nagra back with resolver engaged as one normally would. If recording with a conventional DAT recorder, the process is more complicated. Either the DAT recording must be
transferred to an analog machine such as a Nagra and resolved as previously described (either on a Time code Nagra or a 60Hz
Nagra); or else the DAT tape must be played back on a special DAT studio machine capable of altering its sampling rate to perform the required slowing down. Some of the newer non-linear edit systems offer, or will soon be offering, a software routine
whereby the end user can slow down the audio directly during the digitizing input process. For some applications where a protection or storage copy of the audio is desired, it is possible to transfer the audio from the original Nagra (at the 59.94Hz speed) into
a digital recorder such as the ADAT or DA-88 while adding an (arbitrary, not related to picture) SMPTE Time code track for future identification or locating of audio. At the same time that this protection copy of the soundtrack is created, the audio plus Time
code is fed into the edit computer. This now provides a time code for the audio so that the audio can later be conformed or reconstituted in the event of a computer crash of the edited work print (assuming that a back-up disk is kept of the edit decision list).
This backing up of the audio track may not be necessary for most applications, but is an option that some end users feel more
comfortable with. Finally, it is important to remember that if the project is returning to the film medium (as opposed to being
shown as video), one has to speed up the digital soundtrack when transferring out of the edit computer onto mag film. This can be
accomplished making an intermediate transfer to Nagra (59.94Hz or 29.97 fps non-drop time code) or digital; and then playing
back at the faster frame rate (60Hz or 30 fps non-drop). Or if the facility supports it, the mag recorder could be run at 59.94Hz, so
that when the mag is played back at the normal 60Hz the audio will be back in sync with sprocketed picture.
Introduction to Time code recording by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S. Ph.D.
Over the past several years, it has become ever increasingly common to record production tracks with a SMPTE Time code reference instead of the traditional 60 Hz sync pulse. This article is intended as an introduction and overview of the use of SMPTE
Time code in conjunction with Nagra analog recorders and DAT. The original Time code system is known as non-drop frame,
since it assigns a progressive number to every video frame (0-29). This is an accurate way of tracking individual frames, but
caused a problem for video editors when they compared elapsed "real time" to "videotape time.” Due to the fact that video actually runs at 29.97 frames per second and NOT 30 frames, editors discovered that they could be off by 3.6 seconds at the end of a
one-hour show. In order to "synchronize" the clocks on the wall with the elapsed time counters in the edit system, video engineers
developed drop-frame time code, which works sorts of like a leap year in reverse. Two frame numbers are dropped or skipped every minute, except when the number of the minute ends in zero, such as minutes 00, 10, 20, 30, etc. It is important to realize that
the video frames themselves are not deleted. Only their numerical labels are affected. The correct time code frame rate for video is
29.97 fps. Other rate options for film include 30, 24, and 25 fps. If you are recording for a video shoot, then use whatever mode
(drop or non-drop) that the videotape recorder is using. Usually, video prefers to use the drop-frame mode, for the reasons discussed above. But always check with the engineer or camera operator just to be sure. Video records at 29.97 fps, so that would be
the correct time code speed for your audio recorder. If you are recording audio for a film shoot, the settings are different. Film editors generally (but not always) prefer to use non-drop time code for keeping track of frames, since it eliminates confusion when
converting from edited video back to film. So unless otherwise instructed, use non-drop time code on film shoots. The correct
frame rate for recording audio that will be synced to film is 30 fps, regardless of whether the film camera is running at 24fps or
30fps! The reason for this is that the audio does not have to correspond to the film speed but rather to the video speed, since the
editing is being done in video! When the film is transferred to video (for editing), it is slowed down by one tenth of one percent.
Film shot at 24fps ends up at the equivalent film speed of 23.97 on the video monitor. Film shot at 30fps film sped ends up at
29.97 film speed in video. For audio to remain in sync, it must be slowed down by the same percentage. So if we record audio on
the set at 30fps time code, and then transfer it into the edit system at 29.97 fps (which also happens to be video sync) — the audio
will end up in perfect sync with the picture. When the editing is completed, the audio will be speeded up from 29.97 to 30 in order
to match back up with the actual film for creating release prints. But that is not your concern as a Production Mixer. The postpro35
duction people and the film labs deal with that issue. Therefore, unless instructed otherwise, the industry standard for production
sound (film shoot) is 30fps Non-drop. If anyone tells you to use a different setting, make sure that you get it in writing and witnessed! That way you cannot be held accountable for problems that may be encountered by the production company later on.
There are five different running modes for generating time code. The most basic setting is Free Run / Time of Day. That means
that the internal time code generator is like a clock, denoting the actual time of day. The clock runs continuously, whether the tape
is recording or not. This is convenient setting to use, since anyone who needs to note the time code numbers only has to gaze at
his or her own wristwatch. Time code errors between the slate and the recorders are obvious and easy to detect. (It is interesting to
note that some studios and producers object to time of day time code because it is a permanent record substantiating overtime
claims by the crew.) The next most common setting is Free Run / User Set. This is similar to the above setting, except that the
starting time for the TC generator is chosen by the user and does not correlate to actual time of day. Commonly, the Hours digits
are used to signify sound roll number. Spare wristwatches can be reset to match the time code generator, if you have people on the
set who need to keep track of the code. Record Run time code means that the generator stops when the tape does. Numbers increment during the Record mode, but remain frozen in time during pause or stop. The elapsed time code is sort of like a tape counter,
and is an indication of how many minutes have been recorded. Users often use the Hours digits to indicate reel number, rather
than an "hour" of the day. The last two "modes" are External and Jam-Sync. External refers to continuously reading time code
from an External source and re-generating it onto the tape. If the External code should stop or be intermittent, the code being recorded would also be in error. (Many recorders are programmed with a self-protection that would automatically jam-sync to the
last good code and begin generating new code in the absence of the External code.) Jam-Sync (a.k.a. Set from External) means
that the recorder synchronizes its internal time code generator to match the starting numbers from an External source. When the
connection to External is released, the internal code will keep in step with the external time code source for a few hours or longer,
depending on the accuracy of the time code generators in question (recorder and source). Of course, Jam-Sync only makes sense
in the Free-Run time code modes. There's not much point in recording time code onto the audio if there is no time code reference
on the picture. In the case of video, time code is normally recorded onto the videotape even if audio is recorded separately. Jam-sync all of the time codes, and that will take care of basic sync (video word sync is another matter, but engineers take care of that
on the big shoots). In addition to jam-sync, use either a traditional or time code clapstick just for protection. If there is no time
code being recorded onto the video (i.e. prosumer camcorders), then you should use a time code slate so that the editor can line up
the picture with the audio. When shooting in film, a time code slate should be used for matching up picture with audio. The standard of the industry is the time code slate manufactured by Denecke, Inc. Older versions of these slates were "dumb" slates and
could only display the time code being fed into them via a cable. Early on, mixers began using Comtek transmitters and receivers
(similar to a radio microphone) to send the time code from the recorder to the slate, thus eliminating the awkward cable. Soon after, Mike Denecke came out with his portable sync box, which was a time code generator that could be attached to the back of the
slate. The addition of a self-contained time code generator makes a slate into a "smart slate". The sync box could be easily jam-synced to the recorder, and could hold sync for half a day. Of course, since re-jamming the time code is so simple, mixers seldom
wait that long. The latest version of the Denecke slate has a sync box built-in. Obviously, when you are jam-syncing a smart slate
to the recorder, you must use a form of Free-Run time code, since the slate would have no way of knowing when you are in Record or Pause. When doing sync playback, as in a music video, the time code slate needs to display the code of the soundtrack being played back. Therefore, the slate must function as a dumb slate and receive a time code feed from the recorder (playback
source). This feed could come via a connecting cable (awkward!!!) or from a Comtek transmitter system (which is how it is normally done). The Nagra IV-STC stereo time code recorder is an analog reel-to-reel machine. The tape runs at 7 ½ inches per second while a time code track is recorded down the center of the tape. During sync playback, a device known as a sync stripper
isolates a sync pulse from out of the time code signal and sends that signal to the resolver unit, which controls the precise speed of
the tape by comparing that signal to a reference signal. Changing the setting (rate) of the time code will cause a change in the
playback speed. For instance, a tape recorded at 30 fps in the field can be resolved at 29.97 fps to slow it down in order to sync
with a film-to-video transfer. But digital recorders work differently. Audio is sampled at a precise speed of 48,000 times per second. Audio is then played back at 48,000 times per second. To change the speed of the audio is not the simple matter of turning
the tape reels slightly faster or slower, as in the case of the Nagra. Instead, complex electronic circuitry must be capable of re-sampling the digital audio at a different rate, a task much more complicated than it sounds. Time code recorded in digital tends to be
cosmetic in nature, and is not used to control the sampling rate of the machine. It is possible in digital to even change the output
time code of a pre-recorded tape without changing neither the speed nor the original time code of that tape! In order to change
both the playback speed of the tape as well as the time code, two tasks must occur. The recorder must alter the sampling rate, and
a new time code must be generated, based on the sub-code of the tape. Merely re-setting the sampling rate (on those machines capable) or re-setting the time code by itself may not achieve both tasks. Each problem needs to be addressed individually in the machine set-up. Time code recording techniques are simple in theory, but can get tricky in practice. Do not attempt to take on a time
code recording assignment on your own without spending a few hours being checked out by an expert on the idiosyncrasies of the
specific hardware package you are planning to use.
Notes About Formatting Tapes for Sync Playback
by Fred Ginsburg C.A.S.
Introduction: As many of you are aware, when film shot at 24 fps or 30 fps is transferred to video for post-production (electronic
editing), the actual running time of the film is reduced by one-tenth of one percent in order to compensate for the difference in
frame rates (frame lines) between cinematic projection and the continuous cathode ray scans of the video medium. Other than rare
instances of "recreational" chemical abuse, this accounts for the main reason that many rock videos are slightly out of sync. In order to compensate for this speed reduction that occurs during the film to video transfer, it is necessary to maintain a similar speed
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change in terms of our audio. That means that the playback version of the music that talent lip-syncs to must be played back on
the shooting set one-tenth of one percent FASTER than the true speed of the song that will appear in the finished (video) product.
Using a time code Nagra for playback: If you will be using a Nagra IV-STC stereo time code reel to reel recorder as your playback source, adhere to the following guidelines. Prepare an EDIT MASTER version of your song with an accompanying SMPTE
time code of29.97 non-drop frame. This is the version of the song that you will use in the edit bay to cut your video to. From the
EDIT MASTER, prepare your PLAYBACK DUPES. The dupes should be exact copies or mix downs of the EDIT MASTER,
with precisely identical 29.97-non-drop frame Time code recorded onto each copy. At the head of the song, there should be a series of timing beeps (or countdown intro) so that the performers will be able to hit the first note of the song in unison. Record at
least a couple of song passes onto each playback dupe to save rewind time. Make at least two or three physical tapes, in case a
segment of tape becomes damaged or recorded over during the shoot. On the set, play back your dupe at the frame rate of 30non-drop frame. This will have the effect of speeding up your music by one-tenth of one percent in order to compensate for the
fact that your film footage will eventually be slowed down by that same amount. The time code from the playback Nagra needs to
be transmitted via a Comtek wireless system to the time code slate, since the time code numbers that we want to photograph need
to be the time code of the playback tape, and have no relationship to real clock time nor record start/stop time (as it would if we
were doing live dialog recording for a motion-picture). Make sure that when you order your Nagra that you indicate that you will
be doing sync playback, since the Nagra does not self-resolve without a special accessory box (resolver/TCstripper) that must be
added to your package, along with the Comtek transmitter system for the time code. Using DAT for sync playback: The use of
portable DAT recorders for sync playback has become increasingly popular. If you will be using a consumer or non-time code
DAT recorder, then it is necessary to prepare your PLAYBACK DUPES with a monaural audio mix on one track and SMPTE
time code on the other. Consumer DAT's will only playback the tapes exactly as recorded, with no provision for speed-ups or
slow-downs. Therefore, DO NOT make an exact replica of your EDIT MASTER for sync playback. Instead, arrange for the recording engineer to speed up the EDIT MASTER tape during transfer to DAT, playing back the song one tenth of one percent
faster, and re-generating the time code from 29.97 non-drop to the new value of 30frame non-drop. What you play back on the set
must be the faster version of your song along with the faster time-code rate! Again, think in terms of multiple passes of the song
on each tape, and multiple tapes in case of physical damage. It will be necessary to transmit the time code via Comtek to the slate,
so make sure that you have all of the required adapter cables. Using time code DAT for playback: When using a more sophisticated DAT recorder such as the Fostex or HHB machines that have time code capability, it is essential to remember that tape
speed and time code speed can be independent of each other in the DAT domain. Tape speed is determined by the sampling rate,
period! A DAT tape initially recorded at 48K and played back at48.048K will reflect a one tenth of one percent speed increase, or
vice versa. However, the time code output will not change from 29.97 to 30. Similarly, a 48.048K tape that is played back at 48K
might still output time code at the 30 rate. So make sure that the machine operator is familiar with the peculiarities of his/her machine, and remembers to re-set both the sampling rate and the time code output rate to the appropriate settings. If the PLAYBACK
DUPE is an exact replica of the EDIT MASTER, we can assume that it is recorded at 48K with a29.97 non-drop time code. Play it
back on the set at 48.048K, with the code reset to 30-frame non-drop. If the DAT only does pull-downs (slow-downs), then transfer from the EDIT MASTER to the slower 47.96K sampling rate, so that when you play it back at 48K the song will be speeded
up on the set by the proper percentage. Determine whether or not the DAT machine in question automatically reconforms the output Time code to match the speeded up rate or does it keep the original time code. In other words, does 29.97 automatically become 30, or not? Sound complicated? It is! Very often, to eliminate confusion, the recording studio will format the PLAYBACK
DUPE for proper playback at 48K/30frame non-drop with instructions for the playback operator to not worry about pull-ups and
pull-downs. But never assume. Ask. And ask again! To do pull-ups on the Fostex PD4, change the sampling rate to 48.048 and the
time code to 30.Make sure that the internal programming SET-UP mode has been set to: 40 17 CF 01 (playback time code per selector switch rather than per pre-recorded on tape). To do pull-ups on the HHB PDR1000/TC, set the front panel to 29.97 and the
Master Sync selector to 30. CD Playback: A new process that we are developing is to prepare the PLAYBACK DUPE onto a
write able audio CD, with audio on one track and correct time code on the other. Speed and time code changes are corrected during the transfer to CD, so that correct playback on the set is as simple as selecting a track on the CD and pressing play. The
PLAYBACK CD will contain a complete version of the song, along with a number of short excerpts for instant cueing. ASK,
BUT NEVER ASSUME: The bottom line is that the version of the song being played back on the set must be one tenth of one
percent faster than the version of the song that the video editor is going to use in the finished video. In analog (reel to reel), that
means that a song mastered with 29.97-non-drop-time code will be speeded up by the playback Nagra on the set to 30-frame non-drop. Conventional DAT and CD must be speeded up by the studio during transfer BEFORE the tapes go to the set, so that when
they are played back at their "normal" settings, they will output a version of the original song that is faster and has 30 frame non-drop time code. Time code DAT demands attention to both speed and time code changes during the playback and/or transfer process, depending on the capabilities of the make and model of the DAT recorder. Make sure that the operator is familiar with the
machine and its programming routines! Make sure that you are not double-dipping by changing the playback speed of a PLAYBACK DUPE that has already been speed corrected by the studio.
Memo to Producers Re: Controllable Background Noise contributed by Mike Hall
Sources of background noise include: The Environment (e.g. surf, animals, wind, water); Work; Traffic; Equipment (e.g. refrigeration, lighting, air-conditioning); and Film Crew (e.g. base camp, generator, vehicles, footsteps, voices) Under the above headings, I shall suggest some methods of controlling noise and point out cost factors that may limit our options. Many environmental
conditions such as surf, wind, or wild animals cannot be controlled. Production tracks recorded at such noisy locations will be
noisy. Recommendation: Dialog heavy scenes may be set elsewhere Domesticated animals can be removed or confined away from
the set. Fountains pools etc. can be shut off when not visible to the camera. Cost factor: none, we do this now. Work noise in in37
dustrial areas is a type of environmental noise, which cannot be significantly lessened. Recommendation: Frequently, work noise
on the location near the set can be eliminated by scheduling filming on a non-work day; by renting the location with the understanding that no work will be performed while we are there; or that work will stop when we roll. In the past, we have had to contend with bars and restaurants continuing to serve customers while we recorded dialog. Cost factor: Location fee may rise. Extras
to play workers or customers may be required. Air traffic, boat traffic, rail traffic, and street traffic are examples of urban environmental noise that we probably cannot eliminate and which we must either accept or avoid as settings for dialog heavy scenes. Recommendation: Local street traffic or foot traffic near the location can be stopped temporarily during filming. Cost Factor: Permits
may be more expensive, more police may be required, or more A.D.’s may be required. On actual locations such as private homes,
stores, bars and restaurants, air conditioning units, fans, blow beer coolers, refrigerators, games, music systems and practical
lights, may generate noise. Recommendation: Prior discussion with the manager/maintenance man is frequently all that is necessary for such noisy machinery to be shut off. It is sometimes necessary for a P.A. or A.D. to turn units on and off when we roll
sound. Cost Factor: None, we currently do this. Motor noise and work noise from the base camp can be controlled. In the silence
of the desert, I found that voices and motors at base camp were still audible at 800 feet away. At 1000 feet away, no sounds were
audible. I walked 1000 feet in about 5 minutes. 1000 feet is about 2 tenths of a mile Recommendation: All non-lighting generators
and all support vehicles should be collected at base camp. Includes special effects workshop, props, wardrobe, dressing-rooms,
honey wagon, etc. Supply all power to base camp from one large, quiet generator The BBL honey wagon has an on-board amp.
Generator. Cost Factor: Hook-up to generator, distribution box, bandit to reach all affected vehicles, and adapter for 120 volt A.C.
On rural exterior locations base camp should be at least 1000 feet from any set. On urban exterior locations, base camp should be
at least 500 feet from any set. When shooting interiors in an urban setting with street noise, it is not necessary to place the base car
500 feet away. Recommendation: rather than placing base camp on the street in front of the location, it be placed 100 to feet away
around the corner on a side street. Cost Factor: Shuttle car, permits in the past, we have frequently placed the lighting generator
next to one of the walls of the building we are using as a set. Recommendation: spot that generator at least 150 feet from the set.
150 feet is about three lengths of bandit. At the Studio, I recommend that we spot the generator on the East Side of the building
near the steps up to the shipping department. Cost Factor: More bandit may be required. If everyone gets the message: "Lock it
up... Rolling" we should not hear any more idling engines, conversations, work noise etc. during sound takes. Recommendation:
all walkies monitor one channel and that any conversations of more than a few words be moved to other assigned channels. The
walkies should be reset to channel one at the conclusion of any conversation. Channel one is the ‘calling’ channel and channels
2-6 are the ‘talking’ channels. Rent or purchase Motorola GP 300 walkies, which have a priority channel override function. This
would permit an AD on channel one to call out ‘lock it up’ on any channel of any other un-keyed receiving walkie Cost Factor:
none, we currently rent G P 300 Walkies. This article was contributed by one of our clients.
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