Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FITP: Day 18

(Go back to Day 17)

Today was the Green Team's day, and it dawned sunny and quite comfortable compared to the steam bath we'd just spent the last two days enduring.

Colleen, Jon and I were on the set, mixing, booming and thirding for most of the day. It was fun but challenging at times.

These are the two cameras that filmed most of the scenes today. I got to boom a 6'5" guy in a room with a 6'11" ceiling, or so it seemed. "Tiny" just doesn't leave a lot of headroom in any shot with a low roof. But I mic'd him anyway and didn't dip the mic into the camera frame while dancing just above the frame line. Too bad there wasn't much in the way of dialog, but not every scene has a lot of talking in it.

During lunch we all gathered in front of the location for a team picture, hence mostly everyone wearing the FITP crew shirts.

Green Team member Jon mixed while I was out on the set. We had a few bizarre headphone issues, which led to me being sonically blasted through my cans while I was booming. They're called "cans" because back in the old days, they used two tin cans and a length of twine to communicate with people. If you believe that, there's definitely a bridge in Brooklyn that you'll want to snap up at the first opportunity.

Anyway, my "cans" were so goddamned loud that the camera and A.D. crews motioned for me to shut it down as they got ready to roll. Being in Sound means never having to say you're sorry; and it definitely means that you should NEVER be the fucking cause of a sound problem! I actually never physically felt someone's eyes drilling into me until I told the director and A.D. that we needed to hold the roll for Sound.

And the drilling continued as we took a couple minutes to solve our problem; which, speaking of drilling, made me feel about as popular as BP right about then.

I had to unplug my phones from the jack because there's no volume control on it, and when the A.D. calls for "sound", I'm supposed to listen to the mixer say "speed" on my cans and relay that back to them. But being unplugged is better than being deaf, so finally someone called out "speed" from the other room. Eventually we figured it out, but my ears were ringing for the rest of the day.

Green Teamer Colleen boomed the scene that will likely get the biggest laugh in the film, but in this picture you can't see the actor she was miking who was lying face down on the floor right behind her, pretty much wearing only a pair of skimpy underpants.

She was a trooper and flawlessly boomed quite a few takes over several setups before we relieved her. Colleen seriously rocked today, and she proved that it's not just the biggest (and noisiest) assholes who can do a great job in Sound! She's a star.

Chat tasked me with mixing the most technical scene of the day, our final shot outside. We had to deal with three talking actors walking from around a corner, up a slate walkway while being filmed from a dolly, and into a small porch area. And a bit of a breeze. And about a 30-minute window before it got so dark they'd have to light the entire goddamned area, which obviously nobody was thrilled to have to do.

Good. No pressure. Just the way I like it.

I had to decide on how to mic it. Knowing that Chat firmly believes in "Boom it until you can't", I designed a two-boom scheme that had Jon using the long shotgun to follow the actors from the corner up to the porch, and then Sam using the short shotgun to catch their dialog as they turn to enter the house.

Well, after a rehearsal we could see that there was no way the shotgun could pick up the actors before they rounded the corner, so Chat called for a wireless lav on "Tiny". A take or two later and we realized that Paul needed a wireless lav also. Which gave me a total of FOUR mics to mix, which was a fantastic challenge.

I did screw up a bit by not checking if the second boom was properly connected to the mixer when we decided to go for it. It wasn't, and although I found and fixed the problem quickly, Chat looked at me and said grimly, "That's one!"

Jesus, I thought, bad things usually come in threes! I better make sure I do everything right from here on in and keep Chat at "one"!

We ran through a few more takes, and with the light leaving, we needed get some usable tracks. Chat mixed one take just to be sure, then he had me mix the final two takes. I got the last one nearly perfect, although if we didn't have to worry about the light, I would have liked to do one more to really nail it.

But overall I'm very pleased with how it went today. The way Chat teaches is that he constantly pushes you way the fuck past your comfort zone, which can be nervewracking but also gives you the opportunity to shine.

I don't know if I officially "shined" today; but without a doubt I definitely "glowed" a bit!

And, considering how far we'll all come in the last 18 days, I feel pretty durned good about it. Two more days, then we wrap. Honestly, I can easily do this for another month!

Click here to go to Day 19

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

FITP: Day 17

(Go back to Day 16)

Day 2 of the shoot!

Daniel handles the boom while Chat discusses the scene.

Tracy mixes a scene while Colleen watches. The kitchen is still ridiculously small, and the monitor didn't work because they ran longer cables to get them out of the shot, so everyone who worked the board was mixing "blind".

During lunch Chat decided that it would be a good idea to have a Sound Dept. meeting so he could go over strategies to ensure the best chance of success during the shoot. For some reason Samantha has started making goofy faces at me each time I take a picture. She's probably just getting back at me for crossing my eyes at her right before her line during a dramatic scene were acting in together.

My team members Jon and Colleen listen to Chat, along with Fred who was the boom op for much of this afternoon. When Chat asked if any of us had any suggestions on how he could do a better job, I almost suggested "Maybe you could scream at us a bit more!", but I was worried he wouldn't get the joke and then actually DO it!

It's kind of a running gag, and when some folks from scripts asked how it was working with Chat, I replied, "Oh, he's the bestest and nicest guy you could ever meet! Of course, I'm suffering from Stockholm Syndrome!"

Which is a joke, because we all love and respect Chat and enjoy working with him, and his stories make what could easily be a dry and boring subject into an entertaining learning experience. Yes, he does occasionally let us know when we're behaving in a particularly doltish manner, but then he goes out of his way to explain WHY what we're doing is wrong and the best way to correct it. Plus, he's very generous with praise when it's merited, which makes us all want to do a great job and actually earn that praise.

The reality on a film set is that you need to think and to act in a way that will guarantee a successful production. Any screwing around or inattentiveness is enough to get you tossed out of a job, and possibly blacklisted from getting any other jobs! Chat is making sure we know the lay of the land and avoid the pratfalls that many people take in this business.

And I think he's fuckin' awesome for being a no-bullshit instructor, and I'd highly recommend him for anyone who truly wants to learn the subtleties of this business, even if it doesn't perfectly match whatever romanticized fantasy about working on a film set consists of.

A dolly track for a scene we'll likely shoot tomorrow. The missing apple box in the foreground was pilfered for a scene we were shooting in the house.

D4N, which is saying "day for night". On our call sheets, the daily schedule given to us the night before (we hope), it shows the interior party scenes as being filmed at night. So a blindingly bright shaft of light beaming into the middle of the set during a supposed nighttime party scene might ruin some of the magic we're creating.

The way to solve it is to screen the windows with black fabric, and in this case also put a weather resistant shield over it. Which is what they're doing on the upper floor windows.

The screened-in room on the three windows on the left is the "video village", a roughly 12x18' space our six non-working (at the moment) sound crew shares with a lot of script supervisors. Who are a fun and jokey bunch, but when I look at the endless amount of paperwork they have to process, it makes me happy that I'm in Sound.

Inside the "controlled chaos" of a location film set. By the end of Day 2, the overheated set was starting to smell like a 1940s era Vic Tanny Gym!

Okay, so I'm always on the lookout for interesting photo-ops when I have my digital camera with me. Here's a license plate I noticed as I turned off on exit 34 of the Connecticut Turnpike.

Nothin' like letting your freak flag fly!

...on your license plate, even. Hey, something tells me there's some fur-lined cuffs and a riding crop or two in this fella's trunk!

I think in order to convey my new chosen interest, I'll apply for a vanity plate myself. How about this one:


Click here to go to Day 18

Monday, June 28, 2010

FITP: Day 16

(Go back to Day 15)

First day of the shoot! I got there plenty early today, well before the call time. We were shuttled from the university parking lot up Mt. Carmel Rd to the location about 1/2 mile away.

When I got there I helped set up the "video village", which is a screened-in porch where the Sound Dept. people who weren't directly involved in the shoot (we split into three teams and each day one team is the "A Team") could listen in on headphones and watch on the monitor. Also we shared the space with the approximately 144 script supervisor trainees, or so it seemed in the very cramped and excessively hot space! Did I mention it was in the 90s today?

We managed to watch the monitor as the scene was shot, and we also took turns going inside and watching the Blue Team do their thing. We all couldn't go in at once because it was much too small a kitchenette the sound cart had been parked in.

Daniel, Colleen, and Tracy all trying to look like they're not about to expire from heat prostitution (goddamned spell checker! I tried to spell "heat prostration", but you get one lousy letter wrong and it automatically assumes you want to talk about whores! Probably it's better not to draw any conclusions.)

Samantha, Tracy, and Atanas in our ultra-luxurious sound suite, otherwise known as the "smallest kitchen in the known universe".

Patrick was booming the scene here, which is a party and has some pretty funny dialog. Pat did a great job miking the actors.

Chat gives Samantha some pointers about mixing the upcoming scene. Chat is taking a fairly hands-off approach to the movie, making us do nearly all the work. When this film is done, we'll all likely remember which scene we mixed.

Leah, who plays the scheming Christine in the film, listens to Director of Photography Angelo Di Giacomo describe how the scene is to be filmed.

We ended up running about 1 1/2 hours late today, and we didn't get everything done that needed to be. But today was largely about set up and getting everything (including the 2nd camera that didn't show up until late) in place, and by late afternoon I could see the entire crew was getting into a rhythm. I'm sure tomorrow we'll make up for lost time and hopefully get back on schedule.

Despite the cooling rain squall that swept through around 2PM, it was very hot and physically tiring most of the day. But craft services provided some very acceptable fare, and Script Supervisor Virginia McCarthy thoughtfully provided a couple of trays of baked snacks, which were a big hit, so we got through the day mostly intact.

That's Day One of the shoot. Tomorrow we'll do it all over again.

Click here to go to Day 17

Saturday, June 26, 2010

FITP: Day 15

(Go back to Day 14)

UPDATE: Now this post comes with video goodness!

Friday was the last day of pre-production. After this, we start our shoot on Monday.

This morning we got pink pages. Scripts are often revised and updated as the production day approaches. The first script is printed on normal white paper. Then, when they change something, the pages they send are blue. Often you'll get just the pages with changes on them, with a cover sheet that instructs you to replace which page numbers with the new pages.

The next revision is typically pink. There's a whole spectrum of colors they use to make changes to the script, and if there's enough revisions eventually you'll get back to a white script. So now I've got a tri-color script. In this case, the pink pages are the final pages. After today, any changes will be made while shooting.

The big pre-production meeting. This is some of our department, gathered to hear the department heads discuss each scene and any production issues that might come into question. (L to R: Atanas, Colleen, Daniel, Chat, and Tracy)

Danielle Rigby (center) led the meeting, reading each scene and opening up the discussion. We finished around lunch, and now everyone is theoretically on the same page.

After lunch we had several hours to get everyone some experience with mixing sound. This is Samantha watching the action on her monitor while changing levels.

Colleen watches intently as the scene progresses. We each got a chance to mix, boom, and third all afternoon.

Because a sound crew is typically three persons (the sound mixer, the boom operator, and the "third" or cable puller/utility person), and the location is much too small to have everyone involved in every scene, Chat divided us into three 3-person teams, to trade off jobs over the course of the shoot. I have Colleen and Jonathan on my team, and we're the "Green" team. The other teams are "Red" and "Blue".

Being the creative types we all are, we chose creative nicknames. The Blue team became the "Blue Angels". The Red Team became the "Red Horde". Which was immediately bastardized into the red "whores", and then they were tagged at various times with the Red Harlots, the Red Tramps, and the Red Courtesans (me being all literary, and which someone misheard as "cortisone").

When Chat asked what the Green team wanted, Sam chimed in with "Green Goblins"! Oh great, not my first choice at all. I wanted the Green Hornets, or the Green Flash, or even the Green Team. "Goblins"? Eh, not so much. Oh well, maybe we can get "Hornets" to stick on Monday...

Anyway, we finished our final scenes (and I was "ADA Sutherland" when called upon to act, and you can ask Colleen, but I totally nailed that character!!!) and began our load out. We had to meet the Ryder truck at 4:15, so we trundled all our gear downstairs from the Law Center to the parking lot. Tracy, Colleen and I did the actual delivery at the location as Chat released some of our classmates who wanted to depart early to miss the Friday traffic. I was going sailing that night and didn't mind staying a bit longer, since there was a full moon and the weather was awesome.

That SUV belongs to Chat. I love how he's a dyed-in-the-wool liberal with a 2004 Kerry-Edwards sticker on his car, along with a Kucinich for President sticker on the other side. He's aware of my political leanings, but I don't think he's had a chance to read my ConnecticutBob blog yet. I'll have to send him the links to my Kucinich interviews.

We finished the load out at the location before 6, and my immediate impression was "Holy shit! How the fuck are they gonna get an entire film crew in that tiny house?"

Well obviously, we'll see. And we'll probably be incredibly impressed at how well the instructors manage to bring together all the disparate elements of a shoot into a sort of controlled chaos.

Call time for Sound is 8:30 at the North Lot. Something tells me I'll be there plenty early.

Click here to go to Day 16

Friday, June 25, 2010

FITP: Day 14

(Go back to Day 13)

Today we started with finishing up our cable training with using multimeters to troubleshoot bad connections. That took about an hour, and then we piled into a van for the short ride to the location scout at the house where we'll shoot next week.

Director Richard Dobbs led several production departments including Sound on a walk-through of the various scenes and camera placements. Each department asked questions on production issues that have anything to do with their area of responsibilities.

The location scout cleared up several issues we had, but there are still some things that we won't know until the day of the shoot, so we'll just have to be ready with many different contingency plans. One thing we do know is that if it's as hot during the shoot as it was today, we're gonna fry our asses during the exterior scenes! Plus, the house is so small that only three Sound dept. people can be inside during a camera roll, meaning the rest of us will be stuck outside.

Then we got back to the school, and broke for a short lunch so we could get back to running scenes and practicing with the sound equipment.

This is me mixing a scene where three actors were all mic'd differently; one with a stashed carioid mic, and two with both a stashed hyper-cardiod and a short shotgun on a boom. The scene required constant mixing depending on the dialog and action. It was challenging at first but I managed to find levels that worked and I had a lot of fun learning how to do it.

Click here to go to Day 15

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

FITP: Day 13

(Go back to Day 12)

"Welcome to Hogwarts!"

There's something about the brick walls and all those gothic lanterns hanging around the Law school lobby that reminds me of a Harry Potter movie. If the staircases start moving around on their own, I'm outta here!

Which was the setting for another morning of learning the boom mics various patterns and techniques to provide the optimum sound coverage.

John holds the boom while Chat talks on his phone. The mic was sensitive enough for us to hear both sides of the conversation through our headphones. Sneaky!

Chat hides a lavaliere mic in Daniel's tie. The mic was pushed up into the knot to make it invisible to the camera, but the sound was still good.

Chat wears my hat with a lavaliere mic taped into it.

The little red circle at the top shows the edge of the tiny mic in the hat. It turns out that this is pretty much perfect for the mic.

After we practiced outside for a few hours, we were assembled and listened to director Richard Dobbs talk about the film business and the shoot we have coming up next week. It was nearly the end of the regular day, but we hung out for a bit because it was Marty Lang's birthday! And we got cake!

Then we gathered back up in our classroom for a special after-hours session about soldering connectors on cables! I brought my tools, including a butane-fueled iron and my trusty plug-in pencil iron, and worked with some of my classmates who, unlike me, maybe haven't been soldering stuff since Reagan first entered the Oval Office.

Here's Colleen, failing miserably at not grinning while I took this photo:

And here's Samantha, showing why she is indeed too cool for school, by soldering wires while wearing her shades indoors!

We wrapped up around 8:30PM, making today a loooong day. And much like after last weekend's aerial lift training, I'm similarly pleased to announce that yet again nobody was killed during our dangerous training activities.

Which made it a good day in spite of it being our 13th together!

Click here to go to Day 14

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FITP: Day 12

(Go back to Day 11)

We're getting closer to our student film shoot that starts on Monday.

We began with a lecture on filtering the sound signal to "clean" it from unwanted frequencies. Then we rigged a couple of mics and experimented with various filtering schemes.

To most people, they don't really notice these kinds of things when watching a film. But it's very obvious when a sound mixer doesn't do his job right and some glaringly obvious audio problem takes them right out of the story they were watching and makes them ask, "What the fuck was that awful noise?" when an annoying sound crops up that should have been taken care of in the mix.

Then we broke to visit the wardrobe department, so Chat could instruct the wardrobe trainees about lavaliere placement on actors, and we learned about various costume material from Danajean Cicerchi, who did the Day 5 lecture about wardrobe.

I normally don't worry about wardrobe too much, but there's always been a question that I've pondered now and again, especially after seeing a movie scene with female nudity in it.

The question is, which department is responsible for what is commonly called a "merkin"? Props or Wardrobe? Because really, even though an actress physically wears a merkin, they almost always look adorably like some kind of cute and furry pet, which technically would make it a prop.

Well, a few days earlier when I chatted with Danajean at lunch, she answered that question indirectly (because I didn't have the courage to come right out and ask it) by saying that anything an actor wears is considered wardrobe.

Which immediately spawned the next logical question (which I also failed to ask), "Is there such a job as a "merkin fitter", and if so, who do I have to kill to get it?"

Alas, there's one more career I'll have to add to my list of things I'll likely never become, right after "astronaut" and before "spokesmodel". Such is life.

After lunch (where I managed to avoid locking my keys in my car) we dragged the sound cart outside to learn how to deal with intrusive background noise. We set up on the patio right next to the pond with the giant fountain in it, providing a very audible white noise to work with.

Unfortunately, it started to sprinkle, and after hoping it would stop to no avail, we dragged the cart back into the law school lounge area.

So while the World Cup was playing on the lounge TV (goddamn those awful fucking vuvuzelas!) we ran lines on a scene from "Working Girl" (1988) with both actors mic'd with lavs and also boom mic'd.

Well, I'm starting to think that Chat has a sick sense of humor, because the scene called for Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith to have their awkward wake-up conversation after she got drunk, passed out, and woke up in her underwear in Harrison's bed. Of course, Chat called for guys to play BOTH parts. Twice!

Actually, Chat was proving a point that when doing this sort of work, accuracy to the script's requirements isn't nearly as important as getting the sound levels and techniques right. In theory it makes perfect sense.

Guess who got to read some of Melanie Griffith's lines?

Maybe I should be thanking Chat. There's nothing in the world that cures you of the ability to be embarrassed more than reading Melanie's lines about waking up in her underwear while Harrison leeringly delivers his suggestive lines back at you. And all the while, non-FITP law students wandered in and out of the public area pretty much non-stop. It was a lesson is just how weird the film business can be!

We finished up with our lovely production and went back to class. There, we talked about Pressure Zone Mics (PZMs) and the mysterious Seven Things a Boom Operator Must Know. Which turned out to be about Nine Things, but who's counting? It's all good!

At 5 we were called down to the big hall to pick up our snazzy 2010 FITP T-shirts! Yay, free shirts! This course just keeps gettin' better!

Click here to go to Day 13

Monday, June 21, 2010

FITP: Day 11

(Go back to Aerial Lift Day)

Our third week started with a pop quiz, then a lecture about "phasing". Chat then led us on a practical demonstration of both "electric" and "acoustic" phasing, which are both very important when working with two or more mics on a set.

Around 10AM we were interrupted with a request to join Grip & Electric at the School of Communications for a practical lesson in placing mics on a real "set", which in this case was the school's production control room. We spent about an hour learning how to deal with issues like boom shadows ("I'm bein' followed by a boom shadow, boom shadow boom shadow." Yeah, thanks SO much for planting that awful song in my brain, Tracy!)

We also learned about setting up furniture pads on C-stands to dampen the sound in a space. Garrett, the Head Grip, showed us how to safely assemble the framework needed to support one of those pads.

During lunch I stupidly locked my keys in my car. Luckily, today was a very warm day, and I'd cracked all four windows about an inch or so. After I got done cursing my stupidity (which is pretty much guaranteed to be a daily event for me, so it wasn't a biggie) I started thinking about fixing the problem. I took note of the situation:

Fact: my keys were in the ignition.
Fact: the windows are slightly open.
Fact: when I looked across the interior from the driver's side, I could see the electric lock switch on the passenger door, right near the armrest.

Okay, so maybe if I get a long enough stick, I can put it through the crack in the driver's window, across to the passenger door, and finesse the electric lock switch into popping all the locks.

Now where was I going to get a long enough pole to do this? Hmmm...

Ah, maybe not. Chat's boom poles are worth more than I make (made, when I was employed) in a week, and the idea of using one of his fine carbon-fiber instruments to rudely jab my door jamb was less than respectful.

So I considered it my last option before calling Triple-A.

Then the bright idea to stroll over to Grip & Electric entered my mind. Probably because barely an hour earlier Garrett had told us that we were welcome to come by during lunch hour and fiddle with the equipment if we wanted. Inspiration is always better when it's served nice and fresh!

I walked over and asked Garrett if he had anything that would meet the parameters needed. We searched around a bit, then I noticed a 12-foot 1/2-inch square length of wood trim. It seemed plenty rigid enough to do the job. I took it over to the car, and using my best boom op talents fed it through the window across the car and to the switch. A little swipe to the left and the locks popped open! In all, it took maybe 15 seconds after getting to the car. I returned the wood and thanked Garrett for his help.

In the afternoon we ran a couple of scenes for mic work. The one above used a single boom and a stash mic out of view on a chair. Here's Chat mixing one of the takes:

Everyone got plenty of chances to work the booms and to listen to the results of others doing it. And act. Yes, we all got chances to act! Suffice it to say, I'm not going to need to work on any acceptance speeches anytime soon. At least not for acting.

By the end of the day Chat said that, as a class, we were really starting to "get it". The class is beginning to gel together as a team.

This thing is starting to rock!

Click here to go to Day 12

Saturday, June 19, 2010

FITP: Aerial Lift Day

(Go back to Day 10)

Today was the special Aerial Lift certification course, which is a requirement to get into the union, IATSE Local 52.

While I have no idea if I'll someday join the union, I figured having another certification would be a good thing, especially for the very reasonable $50 fee for the course.

After about an hour-long presentation, we all took a written exam, and then headed out to the off-campus lot where the two lifts were parked. One, pictured above, is called a "boom", and can reach about 40' into the air. The other, which you'll see in the video, is called a "scissors lift", and extends straight up about 20'.

The weather was as nice as could be for today's course. Instructor Adam Drummond commented on how he's run into all sorts of crappy weather in the countless training programs he's run, but today was absolutely perfect. Coupled with a great view of the scenic Quinnipiac Campus, it was awesome.

When I made it onto the boom, I asked Adam if we could extend it up to the maximum height so I could take a photo, to which he readily agreed. The picture didn't do justice to the scene below, but I enjoyed the view anyway so it was cool.

After my foray onto the two lifts, I managed to avoid tipping them over or running into Adam's SUV with them, so I was awarded a Certificate of Completion for OSHA 29 CFR S.1926.453 Aerial Lift Platform (Scissor & Boom). The cert is good for three years, after which I'll have to take the course again to re-certify.

I can't wait!

Click here to go to FITP: Day 11

Friday, June 18, 2010

FITP: Day 10

(Go back to Day 9)

Today was a field trip for the class to Newtown to meet Buzz Turner of Turner Audio, the leading production sound distributor in Connecticut.

Buzz, a terrific source of technical information who gladly shares his knowledge, lectured and answered questions for nearly two hours about the latest in production sound equipment. After about fifteen minutes I was wishing my credit card had a higher limit! There are some seriously awesome products available to the aspiring sound mixer who possesses a gold card, or who's lucky enough to be employed by a production company that will spring for some of this hot-shit equipment!

I already have a convenient wish list made up, just in case any of my dozen or so blog followers want to do their bestest buddy ol' CT Bob a solid:
The Sound Devices 552 Portable Production Mixer

The Schoeps Shotgun microphone SuperCMIT

An ice cold Schlitz

You can probably guess by that last option what I expect I'll be drinking sometime soon! At least, can you guys possibly spring for a six-pack?

I actually used to drink that stuff back in high school. Hey, don't be so shocked; we all drank at that age in the 1970s. Haven't you seen any teen movies from that era?

Anyway, it was a very interesting and informative field trip, and suddenly all this stuff I've been learning the last two weeks is starting to make sense. Just yesterday I downloaded the spec sheet for my Rode VideoMic that I've been using for three years now, and finally can understand the stuff like the hi-pass filter, the -10 and -20db pad, the frequency range, and shore as shit the polar diagrams! It's like learning French in high school and suddenly getting it!

Tomorrow, a special Saturday class in Aerial Lifts! Good thing I'm not afraid of heights:

Click to go to FITP: Aerial Lift Day

Thursday, June 17, 2010

FITP: Day 9

(Go back to Day 8)

Today we continued setting up the sound cart and then got into working with the mics.

We set up a cardiod mic and a hyper-cardiod mic on two booms, then put a lav on Chat. He demonstrated how the sound patterns differ for each mic, and how best to utilize each mic's comparative strengths.

We also set up the video camera and did a scene from the script we'll shoot during our final week. The scene was blocked to include an actor walking about 15 feet across the set, and a boom operator needed to mic him continually.

Even though the booms are made out of lightweight materials like carbon fiber, and the mics don't weigh a pound each, when you hold the end of a 12' pole and try to keep the entire contraption from violating the video frame, you can get a little tired! Usually by the third run-through our boom-ops were getting a little shaky!

But we're learning more every day, and tomorrow looks like it'll be a technogeek's dream, when we go on a field trip to Turner Audio in Newtown to find out a bunch more about sound-related equipment.

Click here to go to Day 10

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FITP: Day 8

(Go back to Day 7)

Another interesting day learning loads about the way to successfully make production sound in a film sound great.

Above, Chat Gunter talks to the class outdoors at Quinnipiac about the use of wireless mic and their useful range. We had to hurry because the weather was threatening!

Chat wore a pair of wireless lavalieres and discussed the issues that might crop up on a set when using them. He then demonstrated how to determine the maximum radius of the mics by slowly walking away from us and talking, while we listened to his entertaining monologue.

In another life, I'd almost bet Chat was a comic; he could probably perform somewhere up in the Catskills, with guys like Jackie Mason. He often entertains while he teaches, which is truly a rare gift.

When the mics starting fading out, that was too far to be the usable range, and so we'll make sure the actors didn't go anywhere near that far. There's nine students enrolled in the Sound Dept. class, and we had enough headphones to allow everyone to hear what was going on during the two demonstrations.

This is me, with the portable mixer just visible at the bottom of the screen.

After it started sprinkling we hauled the equipment back inside, and spent most of the afternoon putting the sound cart together. Basically, a sound cart is a portable sound production studio, with the mixer, digital recorder, video monitor, and a bunch of other important stuff lives when on a shoot. I'll try to get some photos of it tomorrow.

We're about to start doing real production work in class, taping each other in scenes and learning about how to operate the boom. This is getting really fun!

Click here to go to Day 9

FITP: Day 7

(Go back to Day 6)

Today we began with our homework.

First off, the answer to the supermarket manager who won't turn off his Muzak is to shoot him. Yes, I was right! Actually, the location coordinator should be the one to be shot, because they screwed up by not securing the location early on during the scout with the firm understanding that they have to turn off their background music while filming.

Another option briefly discussed was the possibility of simply dumping the sound and re-doing the audio in post-production in ADR. But that's a very expensive option to ask the actors to come into the studio at a later date and try to recreate their exact delivery in sync with the video playing before them. It's not a very good idea, especially when you can dispatch the supermarket manager (if you have good aim.)

Then we discussed the script and the sound issues we'll likely encounter. Chat feels that our best bet for good sound is to use the boom mic whenever possible, and only going to wireless lavalieres when necessary. There are some interesting production difficulties in the script, such as a party with people dancing, which will require some kind of music. The party scene is long and has several cuts, so we'll likely have to film the scene without any music in order to not have jumps or gaps in the music or sections out of order in the final cut.

The device above is the sound mixer, which is the heart and soul of production sound. This is where the mixer will blend all the mics together to produce a viable sound to the movie. Anything that goes wrong here would be very bad, so we're all working to learn about using the mixer and how it works with the various mic options we'll be using.

Click here to go to Day 8

Monday, June 14, 2010

FITP: Day 6

(Go back to Day 5)

No photos today; I was too busy learning all this good shit!

Sound Dept. instructor Chat Gunter began two weeks of intensive classroom training with nine of us sound students.

Listening to Chat teach is sort of like learning at the feet of a wise old martial arts teacher, like when Pai Mei from "Kill Bill" instructed Uma Thurman in the art of kung fu. Except he hasn't made us try to punch through a thick wood plank from three inches away.


Chat is just loading us down with incredibly useful information, presented in an entertaining way. He rarely lets a single point go by without some kind of funny comment or aside he earned from his years working on all sorts of productions.

Which is awesome. And he gives us useful rules to live by:

Rule 1 is never use the word "sorry".

Rule 2 is "there are NO stupid questions".

Which, of course, is silly, because there ARE stupid questions; previously I'd listed some here. But I decided to remove them in the interest of decorum.

Besides, we're all having a lot of fun learning this stuff, and I'd hate to ruin everything by getting tossed out of a second story window on my first day!

Okay, I gotta go and do my homework. Review the script for sound notes, and figure out what to do when shooting in a supermarket when the manager refuses to turn off the Muzak.

Hmmm....which way to the gun department? Oh wait, this isn't Alabama...they don't sell guns in supermarkets up here.

Okay, I's an image of the polar diagram of my Rode Videomic. We studied the mothafuckin' shit outta polar fuckin' diagrams today!

Click here to go to Day 7

Friday, June 11, 2010

FITP: Day 5

(Go back to Day 4)

Just finished up the first week at the Film Industry Training Program.

Today we finished the final two disciplines, or "crafts" as they call them in the screen trade. Script Supervision and Wardrobe.

I have to say that after sitting through nine detailed lectures that averaged three hours on each job, I'd be happy following ANY of the career paths they discussed. (Well, maybe not wardrobe so much, but only because I can't sew worth a shit!) But overall, the instructors made their specialties sound really interesting and fulfilling.

So far this week we've discussed the following crafts:
Assistant Director (AD)
Production Office Coordinator (POC)
Location Management
Sound (my specialty)
Grip & Electric
Props & Set Dressing
Script Supervision
Today we had Virginia McCarthy tell us about script supervision. Virginia, like most of the instructors, managed to weave a bunch of entertaining on-set stories into her informative presentation.

The afternoon session was wardrobe, presented by Danajean Cicerchi. She managed to make the topic of wardrobe interesting to most of the class. And since the Sound department has a "vested" interest in wardrobe when putting a lavaliere mic onto an actor, it was especially useful to me.

After the final lecture, we were gathered together in our various crafts and asked if anyone wanted to change their career path before starting the next two weeks of focused instruction. Several students jumped from one craft to another, but the most popular choices, AD and Camera, were already booked solid.

Liam said that those two crafts were the first choice of 65 of the 90 or so students in the class, so a good number of students aren't taking their preferred course of instruction. But if we learned anything this week while listening to our instructors, you must get a foot in the door in the business before you can go anywhere. Even if your first job isn't your goal career, you should just buckle down, do a great job, and network with as many people as you can.

If you do that, you just might make a career for yourself in this highly competitive business!

Monday morning, me and about nine other students will begin learning about Sound in movie production from Chat Gunter, who's been around for decades and is a real workhorse in the business. I can't wait!

Click here to go to Day 6