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justindfox

Curious about "Overall Mix"

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It's a 633 with two media slots. 1 for an ISO and the other for whatever mix you think you can make sound good for the project. Almost like a death race against the post audio mixer to see what part of whose mix will make it to the finish line.

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Thank you, Jack, for your thoughtful post. I appreciate the time and thought that went into this, especially the part about not discouraging the "newbie" (though I hate this term I am guilty of using it) from participating here. You made it clear from your post that many of us had our buttons pushed by the original poster's questions --- this is not to say that it is the same button for everyone and I hope, as you do, that some of the particularly harsh replies are not taken as too personal. I would never want the overall tone of JWSOUND to be perceived as mean or unfriendly in any way.

 

I am working on additions to JWSOUND, possibly new sections and new features, that will continue to provide answers to some of even the most basic questions, avoiding the rather messy and uncomfortable discussions that often seem to follow the asking of these basic questions by new members.

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@Jeff

 

Why make it easy for newbies to drag this profession into the dirt?  There has to be some filter that causes newbies to work for their knowledge - even if it's a search button.  Don't spoon feed them.  This statement and action by you -

 

"I am working on additions to JWSOUND, possibly new sections and new features, that will continue to provide answers to some of even the most basic questions, avoiding the rather messy and uncomfortable discussions that often seem to follow the asking of these basic questions by new members."

 

- will do more to drag down rates faster than anything I can think of.  Let them work for it - for the sake of all of us.

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Dear "Mirror",

I will consider what you are saying but in no way do I feel that discussions here are the things that enable the new and less experienced to drive down the rates. I suppose you could make the case (and I believe that is what you are saying) that JWSOUND provides a place for total newbies to get some education, some answers, maybe just enough to get a job at one of these ridiculous low rates. I don't have the answer to this --- the trend to lower and lower rates, less and less respect as well for the person doing the sound, is certainly well underway with no end in sight (except the "bottom", whatever that might be). There are so many other factors causing this I honestly do not feel that JWSOUND is a significant contributor.

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  My POV is that a beginner could read and cross index, and even color code every post here @jwsound and still not have the same knowledge base needed to have a long and successful career as a sound mixer. That knowledge only comes with experience. The gear, (what mic? what mixer?) has little to do with the job. It is the ability to work with others and do your task well that gets you hired and rehired and a good reputation. Conversely, lack there of will show you the door sooner rather than later.

  Maybe I'm an old fool reaching the finish line and can't see how new players are undermining us all, but I look around my field (commercials) and I see the Vets getting the lions share of the LA work. My friends who do TV and films are still in the game, most are doing well, but the game is changing. Corporations, (suits) run that game these days and they have the bean counters who want it all for less and 3 competitive bids too. Personally I hate the game, not the players, be they old or young. 

  Keep up the good work you started JW.

 

CrewC

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+1000 to CrewC --- always amazed (but never surprised) how my dear old friend Crew can put things so succinctly, so clearly, guiding us all with the human common sense perspective we so often lose sight of. Thank you.

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My POV is that a beginner could read and cross index, and even color code every post here @jwsound and still not have the same knowledge base needed to have a long and successful career as a sound mixer. That knowledge only comes with experience. The gear, (what mic? what mixer?) has little to do with the job. It is the ability to work with others and do your task well that gets you hired and rehired and a good reputation. Conversely, lack there of will show you the door sooner rather than later.

 

This should be engraved in brass and put on the top of every page on the site. But in truth, a question like this has been answered a dozen times in the past 7-8 years -- there's been many discussions on need for the mix track.

 

It is surprising to me that I occasionally (but rarely) run into editors who immediately want to throw out the mix track and do their own mix with the isos for the rough edit. I think at some level of the business, there are people delivering such terrible (or non-existant) mixes, neophyte editors just assume "this is the way it is" and that's what they wind up doing. I always tell them, "before you do that, try the mix track first and I think you'll find it'll work about 95% of the time."

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While I understand Mirror's concern and the logic behind it, I believe that this forum in particular helps to promote -- more than hinder -- the importance of charging proper rates.

 

The value of treating this as a profession, and the part that setting proper rates plays, is stressed often by the established among us.

 

This is in stark contrast to sites such as Craig's List where cheapness runs amok.

 

 

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This is in stark contrast to sites such as Craig's List where cheapness runs amok.

 

The Craigslist mentality has tended to seep into low budget features, too. I got a call from a producer of a $1.5 million union feature a couple of months ago that claimed all they had was $300/day all-in for the sound department, which I thought was insulting. When he explained this was the "Tier 0" rate, I chuckled and said, "well, I just happen to have a copy of the IA Low-Budget Agreement right in front of me, and I think the lowest rate for a sound mixer starts at about $480 a day plus equipment. And there is no Tier 0." He kind of hemmed and hawed and finally said, "I'm sympathetic, but believe me when I saw there is no more money." 

 

I've heard this "$300" figure enough that I'm wondering where they pull this number out of the air from. I would be extremely reluctant to do a half day with one guy in an interview chair for that amount. Mix or no mix.

 

Even if the sound mixers and boom ops here learn what rates really should be, the bigger problem I see are the neophyte producers out there who really have no clue as to real day rates and real-world equipment rental rates. 

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Mark,

 

That's the same number I was offered on a "Tier 0" a couple of months ago too.  Maybe same movie.  I told them they hadn't budgeted properly if that's what they had in the budged for sound.  I was immediately contacted by another mixer asking if I could refer him to the job so he could get some hours.

 

The problem I have now discovered, is that these "newbies" are gathering just enough knowledge to convince themselves and "newbie" producers that they know what they're doing.  The results might be awful, but nobody knows the difference.  Post just fixes things the best they can without complaining, and the end result is "good enough" to fool the ever less-discerning consumer.  Then both the producer and mixer move up the ranks, never knowing what's good or bad, only cheap or expensive.

 

Yes, there are lots of experienced people working, but there are lots who aren't, and there are lots of very inexperienced people working on these low budget films.  But once they get a few "credits" under their belts, they move into bigger budgets, without ever really learning what's good and what isn't.

 

Robert

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This should be engraved in brass and put on the top of every page on the site. But in truth, a question like this has been answered a dozen times in the past 7-8 years -- there's been many discussions on need for the mix track.

It is surprising to me that I occasionally (but rarely) run into editors who immediately want to throw out the mix track and do their own mix with the isos for the rough edit. I think at some level of the business, there are people delivering such terrible (or non-existant) mixes, neophyte editors just assume "this is the way it is" and that's what they wind up doing. I always tell them, "before you do that, try the mix track first and I think you'll find it'll work about 95% of the time."

A trend for mixes I have encountered lately is this:

Some DPs, if given the option, want to roll multiple cameras on every shot. The question then becomes "What do I mix for? The XCU or the surveillance-camera-wide-shot-that-totally-negates-my-boom-operator?" At that point, nothing I can do will be appropriate. So they get a little bit of everything in the mix track and I know they will mix after they cut it. The last two features I did were like this, who knows if I will ever mix a movie on set again?

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"The question then becomes "What do I mix for? The XCU or the surveillance-camera-wide-shot-that-totally-negates-my-boom-operator?" At that point, nothing I can do will be appropriate."

 

This is becoming all too frequent and it is why I am sensitive to (but depressed by) the impossibility of delivering a mix that makes any sense to anybody. I believe this is the prime factor in post sound people feeling that they need to go to the isos right away because the "mix" that they are getting these days is utterly useless. That said, we must continue to pursue the most reasonable and professional procedures (like mixing) that we can, with the hope that being a professional sound mixer does not become the person who just tracks everything that makes a sound (and someone or some other group of professionals has to mix something credible and appropriate for the picture --- good luck!).

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JB: " the importance of charging proper rates. "

I would say: the importance of charging appropriate rates.

I hear all the folks with lots of good experience say they think everyone should charge the rates these experienced folks want (and deserve) to make.  Thus an inexperienced person charging the same rate as an experienced master would not stand a chance of landing a job. That ain't gonna happen.  Those who have not yet gained the experience, and thus earned the right to the higher rates will always be out there charging less, and typically be worth what they are getting -just as the experienced folks are worth their rates.  And as for the productions, there will always be Yugo producers as well as Rolls producers, and plenty in between.

 

now, back to the OP:" What should I have levels at? What needs to be panned where? "

pan the boom to one channel, and the wireless to the other;  set the boom gain to 7, and then set the 2 wireless gains each at 3.5, -thus totaling 7- for a perfect stereo balance

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JB: " the importance of charging proper rates. "

 

SM:  "I would say: the importance of charging appropriate rates."

...

 

I realize that nothing counts on this board until SM rewords it, but when I plug the word "proper" into thesaurus.com, one of the first synonyms that comes up is "appropriate."

 

http://thesaurus.com/browse/proper

 

The problem isn't when less experienced mixers charge an "appropriate" rate, it's when they charge a bottom feeding rate that undermines the profession.

 

 

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On most of the feature movies I have done, the mix track is used throughout post and into the final mix. This is more a function of the sort of jobs I do where we are quite successful at covering a whole scene often with only one microphone and one track. No need to go to the isos (many times there are no isos) and discarding the "mix" track would leave you with no sound at all. For the most part, the mix track, even if it is comprised of several sources (boom mics, wireless, plant mic, etc.) the mix we do "on the day" works quite well for the shot, integrates well with the edited scene. This is not always the case, for sure, particularly in those cases with multiple cameras shooting several different points of view.

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I appreciate what so many of you have said; RP, JW, Crew, mirror, Jack, JB... all of you. I posted hundreds of times on RAMPS and the early days of JW, but not so much lately. Perhaps it is because I check in less frequently and by the time I do, the well spoken members of this forum have pretty much expressed my sentiments exactly. I don't want to be redundant or merely say "hear ye, hear ye… Amen".

To the new mixers out there I say the following... If you are in a market where you can do Utility for an experience Mixer, that is without a doubt the best place to start. Otherwise, please cut your teeth on student projects or legitimately low-budget, self-funded passion projects. The Internet is a great resource, but as others have said, you learn by doing. That being said, use the immense resources you have at your disposal and respect the time of professionals. Read every manual for every piece of gear from cover to cover. Go to the rental houses and spend hours playing with each piece of equipment. Meet mixers and try to create opportunities to quietly watch them work. Difficult to do, I know. If you don't have a degree from a recording school (I don't) at least take some electronics courses (I did), learn the basics. In short; show some gumption, show some hustle. Get out there and learn, learn, learn, then do, do, do. When you genuinely feel like you're worth a lot of money you will find that your negotiation skills improve.

In the nonunion world where I do a fair share of my work, I find that I am able to keep my labor rate where I want it. Where the difficulty comes in (and this is also true on some union jobs) is in the "package" mentality for gear. A set amount is budgeted for gear before the needs and complexities of the job are discussed. For interviews and simple gigs, this is fine, but for more complex jobs it has frequently become a great challenge to get the à la carte charges that are appropriate. This has veered far from the OP, I know, so I will stop now.

Peace and love,

Paul

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Wide and tight shots at the same time are a problem because we then tend to wire all the actors instead of tightining the wide shot, but a good intelligible mix is still attainable and should be attempted IMO. Why just ISO and pass it along to post when the least you can kill the mic on a character after they've said his/her line(s)?  While I'm at it, I will almost always go to a boom/open mic in coverage on my mix if it sounds better than the radio. The take will still have the radio ISO'd but not in my mix. 

As for new mixers getting work they are not qualified for and then moving up based on those credits, well I have a hard time believing this happens as fast and often as the myth suggests. I'd need examples of someone under qualified doing major work to change my mind. 

I do know that all of us were the new kid at one point in time and didn't have the credits of our elders so we toiled on some suck ass jobs, did our best and paid our dues as our credits got better over a long period of time. I feel this is the same today. It takes time and even some good luck to make it into the big league.

CrewC

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As for new mixers getting work they are not qualified for and then moving up based on those credits, well I have a hard time believing this happens as fast and often as the myth suggests.

I think this is true in the world that guys like you and JW travel. But less so for simpler unscripted work like a sit down interview for a doc or some corporate talking head - when more often than not flying a boom over their head and perhaps pinning a lav on the person is the extent of the audio requirements. Furthermore there is no mix since there is one mic and if there are two production will want a boom / lav split.

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The fact that mixers mix differently should be reason enough not to trash Justin for his question.  I work in exclusively documentaries and have what is probably an atypical approach.  I record the iso's Post Fade.  I do this for ethical reasons and to build trust.  I tell anyone I wire that they will not be recorded if they are not part of the scene being shot.  Too often I have seen trust evaporate when someone remembers they are wearing a wire during a private conversation.  I also do not rely on post to look after people's privacy.   I do a mono mix to L&R which I send by hop to camera channel 1, Comteks and record in MP3 on the SD card.  I put a Sennheiser K6/ME64 with a custom windscreen on the camera - not a pretty mic but one that's very good at making speech intelligible.  The isos go to the CF card as a .WAV Poly file.   I turn in the isos as "Double-System Audio" not "Backup Audio."  The MP3 goes to transcription if needed.  The transcriber I have been working with lately wants audio in both ears, no time code.  They use InqScribe software which does not read code but allows entering the start code of each take which is found in the information window of MP3 files made by the 633.  When possible I boom everything as though the wireless's weren't there and encourage the production to use that as primary audio.  The boom goes to iso 1 and so on.

 

Regards to the community:

 

Alan Barker

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Truly a fine answer/comment from Alan Barker. I am not surprised that Alan has adopted somewhat unorthodox procedures, and everyone here should read this carefully, you will learn something new you might not have thought of --- thank you for this thoughtful and instructive post. Even though I was guilty along with quite a few others, jumping on this whole "why do I have to mix" and if I do, how do I do it, Alan has pointed out something very important: each job has different requirements and different skill sets. A lot of us jumped the gun, claiming that you shouldn't call yourself a mixer if you can't mix. It is, of course, clear to almost everyone that the job of recording sound for picture involves so many more things (like sorting out "workflow", understanding what needs to be recorded and how it will be utilized in post, etc.). 

 

Thank you, Alan (and pleased to see you here).

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If it's a doco project I know that I know I'll be doing the post mix on I perfer to record post fader ISO tracks and don't worry about a mix. I personally would rather have levels that are relative to each other and be able to easily drop out radios that arn't playing, like Alan. I see this as almost a hybrid between a mix and ISOs, utilising elements of both.

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A few years ago, nobody would have thought about delivering just isos without a proper mono mix.

A few years earlier, nobody would have been able to deliver isos.

Today, sometimes it's just editorial using the mixes, and audio post claims they need just the isos. However they seem always glad when they get a good mix.

Well. Said.

R

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If it's a doco project I know that I know I'll be doing the post mix on I perfer to record post fader ISO tracks and don't worry about a mix. I personally would rather have levels that are relative to each other and be able to easily drop out radios that arn't playing, like Allan. I see this as almost a hybrid between a mix and ISOs, utilising elements of both.

So you do or don't feed the camera? I'm guessing you wouldn't if you are the Post guy as well as Mixer. Sync em all and then figure the mix out later. If it works for you it's good. Seems like a well intentioned mix would make the process better/faster.

CrewC

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