ASK A PRO: SOUND
PART 1: Do You Hate All DP’s?
There are two things that indie films routinely screw up: (1) production design (2) sound mixing.
These two elements can be the difference between rough-shod amateurism and making a movie “feel bigger than it is.” But they often get overlooked in favor of the camera department. That’s in part because film is a visual medium. But it’s also because cinematographers tend to be loud and obnoxious. And sound guys (and production designers) tend to be quiet and awesome.
In the interest of giving one of these gentle souls a much-needed platform, we recently had a virtual sit-down with veteran sound mixer Arran Murphy .
It was a fascinating exchange.
In fact, so fascinating that we’re going to break the interview up into three parts, which we’ll release over the course of the next few weeks.
Here’s Part 1:
What are the 3 things a director can do to best help a sound mixer?
A.) Be open to suggestions the sound guy may have that will help with getting better, clean audio. One example could be an actor getting into a car and delivering his lines after he slams the door shut instead of slamming the door shut as he speaks. Understand that the sound mixer is there to record the best possible audio for YOUR movie and do not want to be an inconvenience or disrupt the flow of things. There’s nothing more a sound mixer would like than to nail the audio in one take and move on, but in the real world of filmmaking it’s not always as cut and dry as that.
B.) Always wear your comteks.* Sometimes I’ve seen directors wearing the headset around their neck and not listening at all to the audio but instead are so transfixed with what they’re seeing on the monitor. No doubt they’re watching something great happen, but there’s nothing worse than a scene ending and hearing the director yell “Cut! That was the one! Circle that!” only to have the sound guy come up and say we need one more for audio because there was a plane flying overhead or talking in the background. Listening in on the take puts you on the same page as the sound mixer and you’ll have a better understanding of what they’re talking about should there be a problem with the audio.
C.) Sometimes sound guys are made to feel like they’re asking the world if they ask for another take. However, taking a couple of extra minutes to re-shoot a take to get those lines clean can mean not having to go through timely and expensive ADR sessions down the line. Also, allow for your sound guy to get wild lines and room-tone as needed. Again, you’ll be glad you have it later down the line in post-production.
Remember, sound is half your movie. Your sound mixer plays a very critical role on your crew!
What are the 3 things a DP can do to best help a Sound Mixer?
A.) Always give the boom operator a good, accurate frame line. We obviously don’t want the mic seen in the shot either, but we would like to get as close as possible to get the best audio which will complement that lovely shot!
B.) If possible, flag a light that is causing shadows for the boom op. Especially if you add a light last minute to a set up which causes a new shadow. Because now the boom op has to spend time finding a new position or the actor has to be wired and this is not a good thing to have to do minutes before we shoot.
C.) After seeing a blocking rehearsal and how the actors will move around, the sound guy will have an idea of how they will want to mic this shot. However, let them know what you intend to do your end. Let them know about any complicated moves you have. For example, do you start out wide and then zoom in at some point? If so, what point?
Do you hate all DP’s?
HAHA….oooohhh, that’s a good one! I wouldn’t say I hate all DP’s. It’s true that I have worked with some that just have impossible personalities. But at the same time, I’ve worked with some great DP’s who don’t take themselves too seriously. And why should anyone? We’re making movies, not saving lives. Lets do a good job, have fun with it and go home.
Do all DP’s hate Sound Mixers?
I wouldn’t say they hate sound mixers. Their job is all about focusing on the visual aspect of the filmmaking process so they don’t really give much thought to sound. Although some DP’s, whilst claiming to not know anything about sound, at the same time always seem to have an annoying habit of telling you how to do your job.
* Pretty sure this is British for “headphones”.
Check back next week for Part 2!
–by Will Slocombe for Film Independent
December 7th, 2011 • 2 Comments