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Peterpete

What is the sound mixers responsibilities?

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Hey,

I'm a fairly new sound mixer and I've started working a wide variety of jobs. I was hoping to get some insight to what the sound mixer is responsible for besides the obvious recording dialogue. I want to try to keep this short so I will just list some questions that I had. Obviously, these may vary depending on the size of the production or what type of production, so any extra details will help.

1. Who is responsible for the slate? I would never want to bring a timecode slate to a shoot and hand it over to an AC or PA that treats it like a C-Stand. And a dummy slate is less than $100 and is in the hands of the camera dept the whole day.

2. Is the sound mixer responsible for camera audio? For example, The camera dept is recording scratch audio and that's all the editor needs. Then later I'm told the camera didn't record scratch.

3. How well should I know camera menus? I've had a lot of DP's being really rude telling me either not to touch the camera or that they will not assist me with setting up audio and timecode and that it's my responsibility.

I have some more questions I can't think of right now. The reason I am asking this is lately I have been working with some really rude people who have made me look like the bad guy. I'm trying to decide whether I should push back at these people and tell them I need five minutes with the camera whether you like it or not. Or whether I should just let it be and explain that I attempted to do my job but was sent away by the camera dept.

Also, if there are any other duties/responsibilities that a new sound mixer like me wouldn't know about, it would be great if I could get some more information.


Thank you!

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1. if you want a TC slate then you need bring it. Make sure production pays for rent and insurance.

2. I only provide it if specifically asked for. I hand it to the camera dept. and then it's their responsibility, although I'll help them where I can

 

3. it helps to know the menus, especially TC and audio. But you are doing sound. It's their camera. Indeed, I would never touch a camera, nor do I want to. If the dp tells me to set up TC (and scratch), on his camera, then there isn't going to be TC. Talk to production about it. If they want TC and audio, but the dp doesn't, they have to clear it woth him. It's his camera. In a nutshell: I hand TC (and if needed receiver for audio) to the camera dept and then it becomes their problem. If they ask for my help, I provide it if I can. If they decide to not connect it, fine - that's their prerogative.

 

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There's nothing to be gained by countering rudeness with rudeness.  In fact, I found I got more respect from the rest of the crew when I stayed calm and focused on the job in the face of rudeness.  I try not to talk to DPs much, I prefer to cultivate ACs re: TC, cam audio etc.  In these times, as was said, TC slates, camera TC, camera audio are all sort of considered the soundie's problem. although walking up to a camera and starting to work the menus or attach something to it w/o asking isn't a good idea--you want to ask permission, right?  Most ACs appreciate being consulted before the job about all this stuff.  If there is no AC, then usually the shooter is pretty happy to have you take over all of the above because they are so over subscribed.  The bottom line re: the camera, esp these days with many post-sync scenarios available: if the shooter doesn't want my gak on their camera and doesn't want me to set up the menus, then that's how we roll.

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cbsixty   

I actually never had a DP / AC setting up TC or scratch audio right away. If I handed that stuff to them, I always got it back with the question to do it myself. That's okay for me, as I had confident ACs in the past who claimed to have set up timecode, but in the end only plugged in that lemo...

Usually I just tell them I what gear I need on the camera. If they refuse, I report that to production and let them handle it.

If they're fine with it, I tell them I definetly need 3-5 minutes for setting it up and ask them to notify me as soon as there's a time slot for that. Works well most of the time.

On one long job the 2nd AC asked me (while setting up TC on day 2) to explain that to him, for that he can take care of it in the future. Nice!

Regarding TC-Slates: I bring them, set them up and hand them to the cam dep. If they get damaged, it's a production issue. But that never happened so far, as on the shoots I used TC slates the ACs were all professional enough to treat them well.

 

Pushing back on rude camera guys only creates more bad atmosphere. As Philip said: staying calm works best.

I had one loooong shoot to lern that lesson. 

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I actually never had a DP / AC setting up TC or scratch audio right away. If I handed that stuff to them, I always got it back with the question to do it myself. 

Of course, if they ask me to do it, I will, but I try to never to it without them. I do consider ir their responsibility and they should have enough courtesy to help and to care about this truly inter-departmental aspect. DPs often think that TC is an audio thing, but it's not. I don't need TC to record sound.

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5 hours ago, Constantin said:

I don't need TC to record sound.

well, to be fair: They don't need TC to record pictures either (at least not accurate one).

But editorial does need TC on video, and preferably the a matching one on audio (unless of course everything is done old school with manual slates), so some sort of coordination between the two departments is needed. I could imagine the reason that sound often takes responsibility is because a) the camera crew is already stressed out with a million other things and b ), if editorial has a problem with synching often the sound department gets blamed.

If I'd have to deal with a crappy camera crew which refuses to cooperate in the necessary way I guess I'd also report it to production and let them handle it. luckily that has never happened so far. 

 

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Jan McL   
15 hours ago, Peterpete said:

Hey,

I'm a fairly new sound mixer and I've started working a wide variety of jobs. I was hoping to get some insight to what the sound mixer is responsible for besides the obvious recording dialogue. I want to try to keep this short so I will just list some questions that I had. Obviously, these may vary depending on the size of the production or what type of production, so any extra details will help.

1. Who is responsible for the slate? I would never want to bring a timecode slate to a shoot and hand it over to an AC or PA that treats it like a C-Stand. And a dummy slate is less than $100 and is in the hands of the camera dept the whole day.

2. Is the sound mixer responsible for camera audio? For example, The camera dept is recording scratch audio and that's all the editor needs. Then later I'm told the camera didn't record scratch.

3. How well should I know camera menus? I've had a lot of DP's being really rude telling me either not to touch the camera or that they will not assist me with setting up audio and timecode and that it's my responsibility.

I have some more questions I can't think of right now. The reason I am asking this is lately I have been working with some really rude people who have made me look like the bad guy. I'm trying to decide whether I should push back at these people and tell them I need five minutes with the camera whether you like it or not. Or whether I should just let it be and explain that I attempted to do my job but was sent away by the camera dept.

Also, if there are any other duties/responsibilities that a new sound mixer like me wouldn't know about, it would be great if I could get some more information.


Thank you!

Welcome to the sound business!

Based on your first questions I humbly prescribe a few doses of shadowing time on some other productions and with as experienced a crew as you can manage.

Bring a notebook to write down your questions so you can chat at lunch.

I have a draft email with all the questions I need to ask and stuff I do as I prep for a job. Relative to your questions:

  • Ask the production secretary for a crew list and that you be on all the pre-production distro lists, including pre-production schedule
  • Crew list will yield the 2nd AC's contact
  • A week or two out, text or email the 2nd AC and ask for the make/model of camera(s) and how many bodies. Now you can make sure you have and have studied the relevant parts of the manual (menus/time code/audio inputs/levels, etc.). For longer-form narrative projects, this is when I ask if they're ordering face plates and if so, provide make/model of my slates.
  • Note the camera checkout date on the pre-pro schedule and contact 2nd AC during that day and ask for the software version that's on the cameras. Re-read camera manual.
  • Send the production secretary your crew contact info and your equipment inventory asking that a Certificate of Insurance be issued
  • As the UPM when there will be a workflow teleconference and when (if) a sync test. Things like scratch audio to camera(s) and track assignments may be addressed during a workflow conference. The DP should be in attendance so once these things are established there can be no pushback from DP or his camera department on the job for anything you need to do at camera or with slates. I have a workflow memo email that I constantly refine that is tweaked and forwarded to the post super a few days before the workflow conference.
  • There's a lot more, but...well hell I'm going to paste my most recent workflow memo:
Quote

 

One item of concern from last season is that sound metadata was stripped somewhere in post. Net-net, before the re-recording mixer could begin his work they had to re-sync everything. This cost them time away from their real work: making the sound sound better. Seriously worth it to determine when/where the metadata is stripped and make it right.

Sound workflow for S2 will take advantage of a fully-digital AES signal chain for the first 8 microphones. 

Both cart and bag recorders are Zaxcom Nomad 12's delivered via CF mirror cards to DIT and archived on CF primary cards.

Please confirm that post dailies workflow will be set up to preserve sound metadata.

  • Double system sound
  • Track 1 = mix, Track 2 = boom, Tracks 3 - 12 = cast / plant mic iso tracks from lowest cast # to highest. 2nd boom = last track.
  • One file folder per sound roll (Z001, Z002); one sound roll per break, two rolls / day
  • Record both to internal primary 128GB CF card and to six rotating CF mirror cards. Mirror CF's to DIT ---> transfer to shuttle drive. 
  • CF card #'s noted on sound reports
  • MovieSlate digital sound reports emailed at break/wrap; CSV metadata reports included on CF cards to travel with files
  • Files named by scene_take.wav 
  • Occasionally transfer sound files from wireless transmitters' internally-recorded SD cards named by scene_take_character along with a bunch of other identifying numbers. Time code should match all time code embedded in other sound and camera files. Will sometimes do this transfer and send in with the following day's work since IME the mathematical part of my brain fails after a certain hour.
  • Wild track file names are prefixed with WL (wild line) or WT (wild track for tone or FX) 
  • Sound file metadata includes 'boom' and character names that should persist through to sound editorial if post workflow is set up correctly
  • Will conform circled takes with Script Supervisor
  • 23.976 non-drop time-of-day time code shown on time code slates at sync clap
  • 48kHz sample, 24-bit, poly BWF files

Yay!

Jan

 

Historically, sound mixer is responsible for sync. I proudly carry on that tradition. As Whit Norris once said, "We are the Master Clock! How cool is that?"

Others have addressed intersecting with the camera department. It's a diplomatic dance we do with all the departments, especially delicate with camera probably because they are in the center of the frying pan. Timing. Respect. Never touch anybody's stuff without asking. Ever. Choose your moment carefully with the 2nd AC relative to touching the camera. Each one will prefer you engage with them and their camera a different way. Their sandbox; their choice.

That's all the time/energy I have this evening.

Wishing you the best of luck.

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8 hours ago, Constantin said:

1. if you want a TC slate then you need bring it. Make sure production pays for rent and insurance.

2. I only provide it if specifically asked for. I hand it to the camera dept. and then it's their responsibility, although I'll help them where I can

 

3. it helps to know the menus, especially TC and audio. But you are doing sound. It's their camera. Indeed, I would never touch a camera, nor do I want to. If the dp tells me to set up TC (and scratch), on his camera, then there isn't going to be TC. Talk to production about it. If they want TC and audio, but the dp doesn't, they have to clear it woth him. It's his camera. In a nutshell: I hand TC (and if needed receiver for audio) to the camera dept and then it becomes their problem. If they ask for my help, I provide it if I can. If they decide to not connect it, fine - that's their prerogative.

 

I NEVER touch the camera., But, I point, I suggest and I offer insight....But I never touch it.. I would never ever want anyone to touch my recorder, ever.. I respect their Camera, their Dept. and their craft.... I (or my boom op) hand them the Sync box, the cable, the time code slate and I always smile when doing so... I then when I have a moment, I check the box, the code on the camera, the TC slate and do it all again at lunch..

  It's their camera, it's theirs to set up and run... I help when asked or when needed but I leave it to them..

I was told once by someone at our union...Hand them the stuff and let them do it.. not our job...

I try to be more helpful, but I know what they meant.. This is a team sport... I want to be a team player, but their gear is their gear...I respect that.

Timing was mentioned here and that perhaps is the best advice of all... Wait untill the time is just right to deal with all that stuff.. there is a wrong time... You'll know and learn when..

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2 hours ago, Jan McL said:

Each one will prefer you engage with them and their camera a different way. Their sandbox; their choice.

+1

Totally depends on the AC and their preferences. Though I've generally found on smaller shoots when working as a omb, camera ops are happy to give me a few minutes to set up tc / hops (I'll always refresh myself w/the camera manual beforehand).

Working as an assist on union shows Ill just hand our tc boxes and jammed slates to the camera dept. I try to make a habit in double checking that the tc readout on camera matches the slates just to be sure. The main thing is to be flexible :-)

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well, to be fair: They don't need TC to record pictures either (at least not accurate one).

Which is why I said it's an inter-departmentmental aspect of the job

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I prefer to have as little responsibility beyond recording good tracks as possible. 

Slates are provided as part of the package in LA, but are less common and additional to the basic package in the UK, where I also work. 

I have found that in narrative work, lockits are usually given away by rental house. That's fine. I put in rechargeable batteries, jam the boxes, and hand them off daily. Slates too. Sure slates get beat up, but they're durable. It is what it is. Can't be so protective. 

Sound to camera... If it can't be used, I don't send it. I don't believe in a scratch track. Either they sync my recording or they use the camera audio. As I do almost exclusively narrative feature and TV work, I don't send sound. But many mixers here on commercials or docs or reality, etc. do. I'd imagine, however, that they are sending broadcast quality and insuring that quality by verifying settings and levels to the camera. 

I have read a lot of posts here over the years, and it's a common theme that new mixers are met with rude camera people. Perhaps those people are arrogant and rude, perhaps they're inexperienced, or perhaps they sense your inexperience. But you'll find that taking Jan's advice regarding getting on professional sets to observe professionals at work is very solid advice. Without a frame of reference, how do you know you're doing it right?

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mikewest   

Great answers folks!!!

I can't add more apart from get that stuff out of the way and focus on SOUND!

mike

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Hey everyone!

I can't thank you all enough for your great replies. This really helps a lot.

Ill definitely take into consideration shadowing some other mixers. 

I would never touch a camera without permission.

I'm always kind on set. When I said push back I didn't mean be rude. I always do my best to be liked on set. Every now and then I get walked on. But I like the advice of leaving it up to production.

 

From the answers I got I can tell the shoots I am doing are a little less involved. A lot of them I get a callsheet the night before so I don't get time to contact the crew members or attend pre production meetings. It's basically email the producer and find out as much as I can. But I always deal with the AC when I can.

 

I love that some of you hand off the gear to an AC and let them deal with it. I think I may try that approach. Especially for timecode and scratch. I'll tell them "the box is jammed and I'm sending tone at -20db, let me know if you need help."

 

I can definitely handle the rude people on set. i understand film can be stressful and you might not always catch people on their best day. But it's night and day between the kind/helpful crew and the rude ones. I can pick them as soon as I walk on set.

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rodpaul   

From a DP/camera owner - one gripe is I've had is having guys stick velcro on my camera for the lock it box - piece of advice - ask first about whether and where. Not everyone is thrilled to have industrial velcro stuck somewhere without knowing first.

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18 minutes ago, rodpaul said:

From a DP/camera owner - one gripe is I've had is having guys stick velcro on my camera for the lock it box - piece of advice - ask first about whether and where. Not everyone is thrilled to have industrial velcro stuck somewhere without knowing first.

Reasonable. And of course I always coordinate with camera. 

What's your preferred means of having a lockit (or the velcro) attached to your camera?

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rodpaul   

I've bought a TIG which I've velcroed myself on the top plate of my F55 and try to persuade audio to use it. There isn't much available real estate on many cameras, especially Canons, and the if the op is moving hand held the box needs to be secure. The new smaller TC units make life a lot easier. I'm a big fan of TIG. I wish I had a good answer, but every camera is different, and as camera accessories are added as needed, the box can often get in the way of something else. More argument for good communication with the AC or camera op.

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RodPaul I completely agree with you on that one. I definitely would never just walk up to a camera and throw velcro on it or even touch it. I'm sorry if people have done that to you. Maybe those are the people that give me a bad rep. I make an effort to show that I understand the AC has a lot to do and that I want to be as efficient as I can.

My problem as a sound mixer is a lot of AC's or mainly DP's make me feel like I'm ruining their day by needing things from them. Whether it's throwing on a receiver for scratch or a timecode box. I'm not sending scratch audio because it makes me feel good at night. I'm doing it per request of the editor or producer. That's the problem I've been getting lately. But again, all the tips I have received are great and I guess i'll always be dealing with tough people on set. So I'll keep working on it. 

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There is no function for a scratch track other than for PluralEyes to sync. But why not send the best possible track? These "scratch tracks" get used more than you would believe. If camera has time code, there's no need for scratch track. Your sound should be synced right away. If they start editing with camera audio, matching back your recordings later is a huge ordeal. So they may simply stick with what they edited with. If that's a "scratch" quality track, then it gets used. 

Given the availability of quality hops, sound sent to camera ought to always be broadcast quality. Even if the camera doesn't record at broadcast quality. 

Just my 2c. 

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One thing I feel is critical: the responsibility to let someone know ASAP if you are not getting the sound they need. Usually, I'll know as soon as I arrive on location...or I'll get a mic up asap, then confirm. This is a real delicate issue. No one wants to hear this, so I handle it as carefully as I possibly can. I'll be approaching with two solutions, to have a very private conversation with the AD (or the director on smaller, more informal jobs, which are most of what I get). And if there's nothing that can be done, I've at least dispelled my responsibility to let them know.

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5 hours ago, rodpaul said:

I've bought a TIG which I've velcroed myself on the top plate of my F55 and try to persuade audio to use it. There isn't much available real estate on many cameras, especially Canons...

That's cool; always more pleasant to work with people willing to accommodate something. And I hear you about the Canons C-series. 

 

3 hours ago, RPSharman said:

There is no function for a scratch track other than for PluralEyes to sync. But why not send the best possible track? These "scratch tracks" get used more than you would believe. If camera has time code, there's no need for scratch track.

In my world (mostly docs and corp; some newsmag), when traveling and shooting on cameras that record proxy video along with "masters," some producers like to view proxy rushes at night or on the plane. And PluralEyes etc still pops up fairly regularly around here.

I'm considering buying a new hiqh-quality hop, but again just in my world, I'm getting few requests for that (at least, fewer than say 5 years ago). So I'm not sure it's worth the cost...

Good thread, this.

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rodpaul   

Great cross to the 633 Dugan thread - having a decent track recorded in camera can help immensely, and the better the tracks sound in edit the easier client approval is. I would think this would also make final mix with the ISOs much easier.

Speaking as a shooter, there is little to like about the collection of accessory gear now on digital cinema cameras, so frustration may actually be less with the mixer than at the operator's unhappiness at carrying more boxes. There is also a good time and a bad time to check code in the camera, like not right before a take - seems obvious, but it's happened. The few audio guys I haven't clicked with seemed in a world of their own, not hooked into what's happening on set. This is where the prima donna stereotype comes from. Luckily most guys (and ladies) are great.

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azw   

In the verite doc world I get the camera all the time. At the the start of any day I hook up the timecode and any hops, I set the levels, and it all happens pretty quickly.

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mikewest   

For a long time I have owned a Zaxcom digital stereo link with two receivers

All the work I do now require a scratch track using a small receiver(s)

My Zax system (worth $7,000) is unused and the receivers are too large for the smaller cameras

mike

BTW what is a TIG please

I have Googled with no luck

mike

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