28 December 2006

The Basics Numero Dos

Bienvenidos, gauchos.

The most useful thing to have on set is the one thing you can't get in film school, which is experience. A veteran willing to share their wisdom is as valuable as a year's tuition, in my book.

Since this is, of course, just a blog, I can only offer the next best thing: a great article written by Dr. Fred Ginsberg, C.A.S., PhD., entitled Introduction To Pre-Production Planning for Audio. He covers set etiquette, hierarchies, and generally stuff that can bite you in the behind if you happen to be fresh out of school and new to the pro world.

There are no apologies nor 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 heard [sic] it said that "even though the soundtrack was poor, the Mixer did a good job considering that we made him use bad equipment and no boomman." Instead, they will remark that they should have hired so-and-so, since that Mixer did a fine job on the last shoot.

Pay attention, kids. This is the kind of stuff that can save your future career from being a non-starter.

Link to article, via equipmentemporium.com. Many useful articles in them thar hills, so be sure to dig around the rest of the site as well.

26 December 2006

Hertz So Good

I was originally going to call this post "Good Vibrations", but decided against it.

Because that would be dorky.

Anyhoo, today we're going to take a look at a simple yet informative ear training primer put together by Jay Rose over at his website, dplay.com. In addition to being a working professional and writing a monthly column for DV Magazine, he has also authored some very useful audio textbooks, which you should buy and peruse over your morning Wheaties there, champ.

The primer starts out with a short audio montage, that then is repeated with very narrow band filtering ranges (ie: only low bass, then mid bass, then mid range, etc.). Most folks getting started may only know frequency response as low or high, bass or treble, but with tools like this demo, you can start to put a number to it. This is measured in Hertz, or cycles per second.

Link to frequency primer.

P.S. Those of you who have the time and the buckaroos to pursue a more in-depth ear-training regimen should check out Dave Moulton's Golden Ears, via moultonlabs.com.

22 December 2006

Post Toasties

Buenos, y'all.
Today's post will be about, well, post. The majority of the blog thus far has been about production audio, since there seems to be a dearth of coverage regarding that particular discipline in the media blogosphere (and, if you know of any that I don't, please let me know). But since production is all about the creation of raw material for final assembly later, it's wise to keep post in mind while on set.

Ben Balser over at eventdv.net has put together a quick primer for round-tripping audio from Apple's Final Cut Pro to Soundtrack Pro and back again, making a quick pit-stop for noise-reduction.

There are two ways to use STP with FCP, and both use the Send To function built into all the Final Cut Studio applications. Once you go through the process and are back into Final Cut Pro, your new sound files and projects will already be in FCP and ready to use.

Link to tutorial, via dvguru.com.

20 December 2006

Three Wise Men

Greetings, holiday shoppers:

Came across this interview over at mixonline.com, wherein they talk to three veteran production sound mixers from film and TV: Jeff Wexler, Mark Ulano and Glenn Berkovitz. The article isn't exactly new, but hey, I never promised you a rose garden.

...At best, their work is utterly transparent, not calling attention to itself. At worst, well, if you have to struggle and strain to understand what the characters in a film are saying, or noisy backgrounds overwhelm the dialog, or the finished film is overloaded with badly done ADR, chances are that the production sound mixer had a rough outing. And it probably wasn't his or her fault.


Link to the interview. Also, be sure to drop by Jeff Wexler's website.

17 December 2006

Online Mic Demo

If you're a newbie, or you just live in smaller production market where there are few, if any, pro audio rental houses, it can be next to impossible to audition different microphones first hand.

This can be limiting, as one of the most abstract concepts to wrap one's head around is microphone pickup patterns, or directionality, which is defined here at mediacollege.com. You either need access to the equipment (like in an academic program), or you just learn on-the-fly, which can be frustrating and inefficient.

The fine folks at Shure have put together a fantastic demo that allows you to audition different mics in a simulated environment. You can choose different mic pickup patterns, distances, acoustic treatments, and background noise levels. Obviously, it's set up to demo only Shure mics, but it's still very useful. (You'll have better results with headphones rather than speakers.)

Link to Shure Online Mic Demo.

11 December 2006

What she said.

I was sifting though the archives over at the very sharp Life Below the Line, an anonymous blog about the glorious world of being a boom op in New York, and came across what is probably the most apt description of the frustrations inherent when using wireless microphones.

Contrary to what you might think when you sort through your positive memories of feeling people up, putting a radio mike on a person is no cheap thrill. First of all, a film production does not like to wait on sound. They’ll wait a millennium for camera and lighting to do their jobs if that’s what it takes, but nobody seems to remember that it needs to sound good as well as look good, nooo. Plus, we only get our turn after the talent has finished hair, make-up, and wardrobe, which is often precisely the moment when they’re getting called to set, and then suddenly you and your three minutes of miking time are holding up the whole enchilada – at which point the AD just has to call out over the walkie, “Waiting on sound!” just to make sure everybody knows it.

I feel her pain on a daily basis. Read the rest of the post here.

09 December 2006

You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet

Listen up, sportsfans:

Anyone interested in reading about one of the instrumental figures in creating synchronized movie sound would do well to check out A Tribute to George Groves-The First Sound Man.
"...George Groves could boast numerous achievements. During the 1920s as a young engineer at Bell Laboratories in New York, he played an influential role in developing the sound-on-disc technology that facilitated sound motion pictures.

In 1925 Warner Brothers acquired the Bell apparatus and created the Vitaphone Corporation. They then utilised George's expertise as a sound recordist, production and music mixer on many of their early sound films including Don Juan, The Jazz Singer, The Singing Fool, Lights of New York and The Desert Song."

The truly wonky among you will surely want to dive into the site's early film sound timeline.

06 December 2006

The Basics Numero Uno

Greetings, true believers.

Throughout this blog, I will be posting links to articles that lay out the basics of production audio. Since I'm pretty damned lazy, I will be posting them as I find them, rather than summarizing and critiquing in one big post. So there.

First up: "Location Sound: The Basics and Beyond", by Dan Brockett, one of many useful "white papers" on techie DV/production/post subjects available at kenstone.net.

"...Four points to remember about sound for picture

1 . The principles of location sound are the same for almost everyone shooting anything.

2 . No matter who the audience is, at the very least, they expect "transparent" sound

3 . Sound conveys emotion - picture conveys information

4 . The better your soundtrack, the less it is consciously noticed"

A very good starting place.

05 December 2006

Learn it. Know it. Live it.

Cut. Back to one.

I can't believe that I forgot about this until now. Everyone who is considering a career in audio-no, strike that, anyone even remotely related to film and TV production at all should read this, and then pass it on to everyone else in their department, post-haste.

It is "An Open Letter from Your Sound Department", aka "The Letter". Written by John Coffey, it includes contributions from numerous other veteran audio folks.

"...We, the sound crew, are the ones that you depend on to create and protect YOUR original sound tracks during production.

Unlike the work of the majority of the people who are working for on-camera results, the mixer's efforts can not be "seen" on the set. Almost no one hears what the microphone picks up. Too few are sure just what we do. Only the most obviously bad noises are even brought up for discussion.

Included in our job is to monitor the sets for unnecessary, accidental, ignorant and sometimes even malicious actions or lack of actions that may compromise your sound track. To emphasize this point: WE DO THIS SO YOU WILL HAVE THE BEST TRACKS POSSIBLE; IT IS NOT FOR US. "

Whether you're a newbie trying to find your on-set footing, or a seasoned professional looking for a more effective way to communicate to that 22 year-old "producer" that, yes, that jet airplane taking off in the background will be a problem, you need to read it.

Heavy drinking has also proven effective.


As I mentioned in my first post, there will be no rhyme or reason to my many ramblings. I'll post whatever the h-e-double-hockey-sticks I want and you'll like it. All two of you.

Today, we'll take a quick look at the arcane art of ADR (aka looping). In short, ADR is the process of recording dialog after a scene has been shot, then editing it to match the rest of production sound as seamlessly as possible. This is done to replace otherwise unusable material.

ADR is defined here at filmsound.org and given fine treatment in this article on fromscripttodvd.com.


"...Without ADR, which is not really automated at all, unedited dialogue might sound like a distracting and unintelligible series of clipped and inaudible words. To gain a better appreciation of this task, you’re invited to meet Avram Gold, M.P.S.E, ADR and Dialogue Supervisor."

If I can get it to work, I'll post a short clip showing the step-by-step process. Enjoy.

(Extra nerd-points for anyone who knows how this entry's title is relevant to its subject.)

03 December 2006

Wilhelm Redux

Steve Lee of the always-interesting Hollywood Lost and Found pointed me towards the clip below, in which he gives a brief history of the Wilhelm Scream.

Be sure to stop by Steve's website to check out the history of a couple of other classic sound effects as well.