The Big Think

June 25, 2007


Filed under: Audio,Movies — jasony @ 12:54 am

The Ten Commandments of shooting sound for picture. Yes! Yes, yes, and YES!

I especially liked #3:

2) Thou shalt budget or make arrangements for a dedicated boom operator (aka: No, the boom op is not just another “carbon-based stand”).

I’ve been on several low/no budget shoots where, as production sound mixer, I was promised a boom operator, since I don’t personally know of any that would do the job for free (for which I don’t blame them in the slightest).

Inevitably, production assigns me either a Craigslist volunteer who’s never operated before, or someone who “totally went through the audio program at the Art Institute”, and thinks that learning game audio for post qualifies them for the position. I’ve worked with both, and while they’ve all been perfectly nice people who really gave it their all, the simple fact is that it’s too critical a job to just drop on whoever is within arm’s reach.

The audio department’s job is to shoot your sound, just as the camera department’s job is to shoot your picture.

Good boom ops know acoustics, microphones, and lighting techniques. They have to be able to direct the boom to the right actor on cue, silently, while making sure not to cast a visible shadow. They have to be physically agile, able to walk backwards while not running into camera rigging or tripping over dolly track. They have to be able to hold a boom fully extended over their head for hours a day.

Would you really expect to shoot your movie if the camera operator was someone who had never touched a camera before in their life? If you wouldn’t ask this of the camera department, don’t expect the audio department to do it.

The best sets I’ve worked on involve the director and DP understanding this and giving sound not priority, but consideration. And they invariably end up with happy directors, producers, investors, and audiences. An extreme example of the opposite I’ve seen is crummy audio that was the result of poor planning and a lack of understanding about how audio works (not to mention the dreaded “just fix it in post” attitude). What happened? Well, for one thing, the movie never made it to the audience, partly because of bad sound. A very expensive mistake.

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