The Big Think

July 10, 2009

Making a Movie, Day Four

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 2:32 am

We had a late call today (5pm) so I was able to mow the lawn and get some other chores done. Even though we got there at 5, we didn’t get any serious shooting (other than a few quick pickups from the previous day) done until after sunset. We tried to shoot a big scene outside but the cicadas were killing us. So the producer and director, God bless them, put the production on total hold for an hour until the sun went down and the cicadas went to sleep. We were rewarded with much better audio (though the occasional car and/or airplane blew a few of those takes). We worked until midnight, so it was a “short” day, but we spent most of that time outside next to a campfire. We’re calling this shoot “lake of fire hot” (from the script, kindof).

Got home around 1, washed off the smoke smell, and spent the next 2 1/2 hours going back through all of my audio naming files and transferring my notes. I really need an assistant to help me keep notes on this shoot, but it’s a small budget feature and I’m the whole sound dept. What that amounts to is that I usually come straight home from the set and transfer my notes to my big database while the day is still fresh in my mind (how did I set up the mics on which shots? who got covered? which mics did I use? Basically everything the sound editor-whoever that will be- might need during the dialog and sound edit). Sound on a movie is a pretty massive undertaking. It’s only the third day and already I have hundreds of sound files that need to be cataloged, listened to (and commented on), and dissected. The film editor will pick the best visual performances of each scene and craft them all so that they make sense within the story and that they flow with the best pace, then the sound editor will try and work around the inevitable dog barks, airplane flyovers, blown lines, etc, to come up with a seamless audio experience.

If you’ve ever heard the before and after soundtrack from a movie you’d be surprised. A tremendous amount of work goes into making the movie sound good (and compare with the competition). Inevitably, people hear the rough tracks and think that they sound awful (watch the extra scenes on DVD’s. They often contain the rough audio). Worse yet is when inexperienced directors and editors think that they rough location tracks are the FINAL audio. You can tell it from a mile away. Just getting decent sound in a noisy world is hard enough- people are shocked at how much can be heard through a thousand dollar mic and a good set of headphones. Getting great sound requires a whole lot of post production work. That’s why there are so many people involved in even the smallest production, and why the technical aspect of moviemaking has reached such a high level.

It’s also why I’m up at almost 4am finishing my sound files. Time for this soundman to go to bed.

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