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Jan McL

First Unit <--> Second Unit/Playback: Mixer to Mixer

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Not that I've done much second unit, but part of the reason I no longer make efforts to set up for such things--having done it for a year or three--is I find the whole mess much like pulling teeth with burger tongs no novocain from both sides of the equation.

Here's to doing it better.

With a moment to contemplate while prepping, I offer mixer <--> mixer communications up for discussion.

Worked mostly with the fabulous Daniel McIntosh on second unit for many years. He was my first call--among other things--because he asks a buttload of questions. Good! It's a comfort knowing he's thinking it all through. Same for the playback mixers with whom I work most. Daniel's once again behind the first unit console these days and for good reason. That's also why I'm spending some time on the subject.

Long form work is exhausting and free moments are spent palate-cleansing my brain and ears. During at-cart breaks I think about the future:

  • Next scene;
  • Special /equipment lav prep;
  • Lunch/wrap anomalies;
  • Call the office;
  • Tomorrow's first scene / logistics;
  • Production meeting, playback/special equipment dates;
  • Repairs;

Feel moved to streamline the mixer <--> mixer process to free up maximum think time and minimize stress.

Crafting sentences helps me think it through with higher logic; that's what I get out of writing here along with a spackling and sanding by colleagues.

Based on Daniel's good collected questions I present a first draft of Tandem Unit/Playback tick list:

  • 75% of the technical information a 2nd Unit PSM needs is contained in my Sound Workflow Memo that productions have begun to regularly request. I just edit the most recent one before each new show. 
  • The rest is contained in the formal Workflow Memo published by the Post Super following the workflow teleconference.
  • I know how to find those memos later because I always call them the same thing in the subject of the email: Workflow Memo.
  • In the email to the 2nd Unit PSM the utility sound is cc'd with a sentence asking that 2nd Unit PSM order expendables and deal with questions/logistics with the utility. I also include a call sheet and crew list so it's easy to get to the UPM to lock down their deal, including the mention of parking. Ask what they use for sound reports. If they use MovieSlate I share my settings via the cloud. If they use paper realize I should note that fact in that day's sound report email. Mixers get parity.
  • If it looks like there will be an unusual (late) call or location I let them know as soon as I know.
  • Separate email of introduction to production secretary (cc: APOC? POC?) asking for script to be sent.
  • 2nd Unit may need help finding a spot to offload gear. Crew list gives them Teamster contact info. Follow up with Utility on this.
  • I ask my utility to gather sufficient start work to add to the box of expendables to be delivered to their set.

So two emails:

  1. Mixer cc: 1st unit sound utility: crew list, call sheet, workflow memos, delegates expendables and logistics to utility and a couple paragraphs about any actors' particular preferences. Ask about sound reports. The preference paragraphs are honed in subsequent seasons: one of the best things about TV.
  2. Paperwork PA, Mixer, APOC or POC?, Production Secretary: email of introduction asking for script.

Have kind of run out of thinking gas, but suppose a lot of this preparation applies to other departmental day players too.

Hope to hear more on the subject from y'all.

Next project, figure out a logical, smoothe way get all my wireless for working mics out of Block 26 gracefully.

nyc repack 600mhz Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 3.32.09 PM.png

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Well bless you re the 2nd unit PSM thing.  My experience with that was mostly of the "pushed off the cliff" type, with NO info transmitted to me by anyone, and me just barely finding out where the first location was kind of by accident.  No script, no intros to anyone, me wandering around the village trying to find someone to report to, while seeing the first shot coming together off in the distance...nightmare.  

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11 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Well bless you re the 2nd unit PSM thing.  My experience with that was mostly of the "pushed off the cliff" type, with NO info transmitted to me by anyone, and me just barely finding out where the first location was kind of by accident.  No script, no intros to anyone, me wandering around the village trying to find someone to report to, while seeing the first shot coming together off in the distance...nightmare.  

My experience too as Tandem mixer. No mas!

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When called for 2nd units, I want to emulate the 1st unit mixer in terms of what is "normal" for that particular show. The stuff needs to cut together. Just like a 2nd unit DP needs to match the style of the main unit DP. So I typically ask what they like to do in general. Wires all the time as back-up or primary? Only wire as needed? That kind of stuff. Not just for us, but for cast too.

I find most guys who fill in for me or do my 2nd unit mixing ask me the same, but not always.

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On the occasions that I have started something (episodical) that I think might run, hopefully with me in the main mixing role, I have done a big memo to post prod before we have started. This memo will include general settings like sample rate, file type, bit depth, Cedar mix on Ch1 and maybe 2, clean mix on ch 3 and maybe 4, Isos starting with booms and plants on 5+, radio mic isos starting on 11+, PB etc.. on ch 21+ etc..... By the time I have finished this email, I pretty much have the document that I need to send to 2nd unit mixers if they come on board. It works pretty well.

Kindest regards to all, sb

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On 7/2/2017 at 7:25 PM, RPSharman said:

When called for 2nd units, I want to emulate the 1st unit mixer in terms of what is "normal" for that particular show. The stuff needs to cut together. Just like a 2nd unit DP needs to match the style of the main unit DP. So I typically ask what they like to do in general. Wires all the time as back-up or primary? Only wire as needed? That kind of stuff. Not just for us, but for cast too.

I find most guys who fill in for me or do my 2nd unit mixing ask me the same, but not always.

 

Excellent point. 

On 7/2/2017 at 7:56 PM, Bash said:

On the occasions that I have started something (episodical) that I think might run, hopefully with me in the main mixing role, I have done a big memo to post prod before we have started. This memo will include general settings like sample rate, file type, bit depth, Cedar mix on Ch1 and maybe 2, clean mix on ch 3 and maybe 4, Isos starting with booms and plants on 5+, radio mic isos starting on 11+, PB etc.. on ch 21+ etc..... By the time I have finished this email, I pretty much have the document that I need to send to 2nd unit mixers if they come on board. It works pretty well.

Kindest regards to all, sb

 

I've called this document "Sound Workflow Memo". I edit/improve it with each project so I know all the elements are there to be shared and I don't have to rethink everything. Technical writing is hard, well...it requires effort. I'm not good at it. Totally on the list! Yup.

 

Anybody up for sharing their WorkFlow Memos?

 

Could prove enlightening.

Edited by Jan McL
Edited for clarity / formatting.

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Yeah, I just tell them this stuff on the phone or text. 2 minute conversation and all's good.  Not sure what all the over thinking is about.

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12 hours ago, Mirror said:

Yeah, I just tell them this stuff on the phone or text. 2 minute conversation and all's good.  Not sure what all the over thinking is about.

 

Maybe because at least in NY each of the things requires a text and response. What about loading in the gear? Here's the teamster co-captain. Who's your team? What's the next tandem unit sound roll to be called? What's the kit rate? They need expendables. Getting start work is sometimes like pulling teeth. Following up with accounting when the check doesn't arrive. Who's the music super?

 

On a fast-paced job having to text messages with critical information from the field that would be bad if there was a typo puts my intestines in a bunch.

 

Getting all the info into two emails from me frees me up. I don't consider that overthinking, I consider that doing my job better and helping the day player in the same way.

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18 hours ago, Jan McL said:

 

Maybe because at least in NY each of the things requires a text and response. What about loading in the gear? Here's the teamster co-captain. Who's your team? What's the next tandem unit sound roll to be called? What's the kit rate? They need expendables. Getting start work is sometimes like pulling teeth. Following up with accounting when the check doesn't arrive. Who's the music super?

 

On a fast-paced job having to text messages with critical information from the field that would be bad if there was a typo puts my intestines in a bunch.

 

Getting all the info into two emails from me frees me up. I don't consider that overthinking, I consider that doing my job better and helping the day player in the same way.

 

Just normal stuff.  To each his own I guess.

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