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Bartek

Creeky Floor

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Hi,

I was wondering what you guys were doing to minnimise floor creeks from say a wooden floor.

I know of things like drenching the floor in order for the wood to expand (ruining th floor), however think location sound, locations that are peoples houses. I've tried baby powder, sand bags, dance floor, etc. Any tricks that i'm missing??

Thanx

Bartek

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I think Sergio has pretty much covered the creaky floor solution options. I've been on several shoots where conscientious dolly grips have tried to eliminate problems by either the wetting or baby powder techniques. Occasionally it works, usually not. Footsteps are of course easier to deal with, a heavy dolly in an old house with hardwood floors almost impossible. I tell the AD and director two times. If they don't take action on the problem ie: change the shot (never happens, picture is King) then I don't worry about it anymore, and hope that the complex dolly shot concocted by the picture tyrants requires lots of takes, giving me more chance to get each line clean at least once. Lavs sometimes help. I've worked with one old-school actor who actually timed his lines to not be covered by the dolly squeak. Quite a performance. Most actors are totally oblivious, and whisper or mumble every single one of their lines anyway 'cause "that's how real people talk".

That's it for today's rant.

Chris Newton

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i know this is offf topic, but one time on a set the track wheels were squeaking.  the camera department was all out of pledge...but amazingly the dolly grip was able to time the push so when it did squeak, it hit between the lines...pretty amazing i thought, even though i was steaming mad at the time that they didn't have any pledge on hand...

-greg-

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In one particularly squeaky floor, we got some sections of the thickest carpet underpadding we could find and put it under the dolly dance floor. Wasn't perfect, but it certainly helped. The grips liked the idea of the underpad because it was convenient to just cut out sections to fit it around obstacles.

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Hi,

I was wondering what you guys were doing to minnimise floor creeks from say a wooden floor.

I know of things like drenching the floor in order for the wood to expand (ruining th floor), however think location sound, locations that are peoples houses. I've tried baby powder, sand bags, dance floor, etc. Any tricks that i'm missing??

Thanx

Bartek

Dancefloor (plywood) can really help sometimes because it more evenly distributes the weight.  It does depend upon the particular floor and the particular dolly, and how many humans are walking alongside it.  Track on top of dancefloor is better than just pushing the thing across the dancefloor, but sometimes the required camera move can't accommodate this.  I've heard all the stories about wetting the floor and tried it several times but never found it to be effective in my experience.  (I did hear stories about one mixer who used to rub half lemons on the floor, claiming the acid in the citrus would expand the wood more...don't know how he fared).

The only real thing I think you can do is either move to another location with a better floor, redo the floors during prep in your present location (obviously, many obstacles there), or, after taking whatever measures you are able, inform everyone of the obvious and suck it up.  Sometimes I get away with convincing the director to get an alternate take without the move so there is at least another option in the editing room, but of course the editor is almost always going to go with the performance and so that is a total crapshoot based upon how good the actors are in that one take I sometimes get. 

Dolly grips do have a few tricks up their sleeves though.  On a really bad floor there's nothing to be done, but I've seen some guys make small problems go away with a screw in this sheet of plywood or a tricky sidestep in that place on the floor. 

.02 nvt

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What tends to frustrate me is the on set discussion of the obvious.  I think the best option is to spend as little time talking about it as possible and as much time shooting as many takes as they will allow.  This will give the dialogue editors a fighting chance.

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Include the Sound Mixer on the location scouts?... that'll be the day.  : )

Chris is right -- picture is king -- but the King's empire won't last long with crappy sound... either way, it's gonna cost someone a ton of money (ADR or in ratings) ...hopefully you've used a pseudonym?

I just got off a shoot where we were in a house for ten days -- two of the main rooms in which we shot had this very problem.  I'm talking big dialog scenes, too -- one scene was six pages.  Thankfully they covered it six ways 'til Sunday.

All you can really do is say something -- even at the risk of sounding like a broken record (there's a dated term) .. at least if you've said it enough times (ie: every take wherein it's a problem)... though don't ever lose your cool about it... eventually, someone will get the hint and think twice about choosing a location soley based upon its visually aesthetic qualities.  I think the most sound-conscious Directors are those whose movies have been potentially ruined by bad looping and/or overall bad sound. 

Hang in there

--tt

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I worked on a feature film many years ago in which the DP--pretty well known--was just completely oblivious.  It was a whispered seduction scene, and every time the dolly moved there would be a blizzard of loud creaks not only from the dolly and floor but from the herd of people who follow it.  The floor creaks were so loud that in potting up to go after the sotto voce dialog the creaks would distort.  The DP refused to allow anything to be done about it.  He was famous, I was not, so I sucked it up and rolled on in guide track mode.  I told the AD in as non-confrontational a  manner as I could muster that they would probably end up ADRing the whole 5 page scene.  Word got around the set about this, and the DP came up to me genuinely aghast and asked if I really thought they would have to loop the whole thing.  I said that I thought they would.  He shook his head--I don't know if in amazement at my incompetence or at the idiocy of the location scouts, and walked off.  This little conversation seemed to buy me the 1/4" of additional slack I got from him for the rest of the film, so maybe it wasn't all a waste.  They ended up ADRing the whole scene, and complaining mightily about having to do so.

Philip Perkins

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"...the DP came up to me genuinely aghast and asked if I really thought they would have to loop the whole thing. "

I guess he couldn't hear the creaks??

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"...the DP came up to me genuinely aghast and asked if I really thought they would have to loop the whole thing. "

I guess he couldn't hear the creaks??

Yeah.  He's not alone.  Today I'm on a film in post where the editor put in shots in which the subject hits their lav mic over a line--no 2nd channel/boom mic, no 2nd take, and no music or anything else to hide in.  Those hits, and the floor creaks in that old film, were what Doug Adams ("Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy") called a "SEP"--as in "someone else's problem", and therefore inaudible, invisible, non-existant.  Denial is a river in Egypt, etc..

Philip Perkins CAS

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What tends to frustrate me is the on set discussion of the obvious.  I think the best option is to spend as little time talking about it as possible and as much time shooting as many takes as they will allow.  This will give the dialogue editors a fighting chance.

In my experience (and it may not well be everybody's) the editor is going to go with the take where the actor gives the best performance, start to finish in that take.  In many cases the director may not print anything else anyway.  I think the idea of the editor cutting multiple takes together to avoid dolly creaks and ADR is, unfortunately, wishful thinking that really is not going to happen except in the rarest of circumstances. 

So it seems to me that if you're just trying to get lines clean to be laid in later, one or two wild takes -- immediately after checking the gate on the shot -- makes more sense than six or seven takes with variable dolly creak (and film and time expenditure, and crew labor). 

I recently had the pleasure of working with a director who really directed his actors during wild lines, rather than do the usual (or at least what has been the usual in most of my experience) of walking off set while wild lines are going on, assuming it's some "sound" thing.  I really appreciated that and hopefully if the wild lines are needed they will be actually useful.

.02 nvt

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Include the Sound Mixer on the location scouts?... that'll be the day.  : )

I'm going to assume you're from LA, where it seems to be MO (no pun intended) that the mixer doesn't go on the scout.  Here in NYC it's pretty standard that the mixer scouts the locations with the rest of the tech crew.  However, before anyone gets too batty-eyed about it, let it be known that those scouts always seem to happen the week before shooting, when the locations are contracted and there's little to be done about any problems.  It lends one to the question about the puppet (would you rather be a puppet...or a puppet who can see the strings above him?)  It's rare that the mixer can completely 86 a contracted location due to sound issues, although it has been done (though in my experience, only on very low budget projects where the fright of the cost -- and not the creative implication -- of ADR becomes too imposing).

Chris is right -- picture is king -- but the King's empire won't last long with crappy sound...

Actually, by my count, it's lasted seventy-seven years or so with no signs of slowing down.  Great production tracks on big budget films seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

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Noah,

I am from LA -- born in Burbank... grew up in Valencia.  I didn't actually start my career in the motion picture industry however until several years after I moved away from LA.  And though I have no plans of ever returning to LA for any length of time longer than a given production requires, I am proud to have been raised in the motion picture capitol of the world.  I'd also LOVE to work in NY someday.  I bet it's as challenging as it gets.

That said, I think you might be confusing the term location scout with the term tech scout -- I go on all the tech scouts -- always have -- just like the rest of the keys... but as you've stated, by then it's pretty much, "here's how we're gonna screw you at this location... and here's how we're gonna screw you here..." (I think you explained it sufficiently so I'll stop here.)  

My point was (and still is) that the Sound mixer should be included in the LOCATION scouting process -- not just the tech scout.  But because picture is King, as Chris initially stated, we're often relegated to being not much more than guide track acquisition specialists.  "The trains only come by once every ten or fifteen minutes or so..."

So, by your count, it's "lasted seventy-seven years or so with no signs of slowing down.  Great production tracks on big budget films seem to be the exception rather than the rule."

Exactly, but the not-so-great production tracks on big budget films are usually replaced with great post-production tracks -- hence at least meeting the level of 'greatness' required to maintain a cohesive cinematic experience (one that includes what you see AND what you hear.)  This may not be the case on a lower budget (by that, I mean under 10 million) picture.

The problem is trying to explain to your director that his production will suck no matter how great it looks because the crappy production sound with which he will inevitably decide to stick (due to "budgetary constraints" -- or maybe just because he couldn't get Samuel L. to come back for a couple of days of ADR) is going to take the participant (notice I didn't say viewer) right out his happy motion picture experience, and remind him that there were people -- at one point, people -- real human beings with real decision-making abilities -- cutting corners and settling for something less than the original vision... people like you and me -- crew members -- making the thing live (though putting it out of its misery would have been the humane thing to do.)  If picture is king (though I have a different theory altogether) then bad production sound is the hemlock by which the 'king' will stumble, coughing and sputtering to it's early grave on some video store's shelf.

and by King's empire, I'm speaking about the individual project itself -- the 'picture' to which we refer is the 'picture' we've all worked on and wished we hadn't -- but for the paycheck -- hence the comment regarding pseudonyms.  That picture surviving longer than the the time it takes to turn the circular piece of plastic on which it's ones and zeros are imprinted into a frizbee or a coaster is the exception, not the rule.

Our industry has lasted as long as it has ONLY because people with vision work along side people with standards.  That's the ONLY successful combination, IMHO... and when the people above the line have no standards, you'll be happy you had a pseudonym clause in your deal memo.

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...picture is king

I heard a line one time from another mixer when confronted about sacrificing sound for a shot, to which re replied:

"You know, when they flew me out here for this gig, they let you watch the picture for free, but you had to pay for the headphones!"

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In my experience (and it may not well be everybody's) the editor is going to go with the take where the actor gives the best performance, start to finish in that take.  In many cases the director may not print anything else anyway.  I think the idea of the editor cutting multiple takes together to avoid dolly creaks and ADR is, unfortunately, wishful thinking that really is not going to happen except in the rarest of circumstances. 

So it seems to me that if you're just trying to get lines clean to be laid in later, one or two wild takes -- immediately after checking the gate on the shot -- makes more sense than six or seven takes with variable dolly creak (and film and time expenditure, and crew labor). 

I recently had the pleasure of working with a director who really directed his actors during wild lines, rather than do the usual (or at least what has been the usual in most of my experience) of walking off set while wild lines are going on, assuming it's some "sound" thing.  I really appreciated that and hopefully if the wild lines are needed they will be actually useful.

.02 nvt

The Editor (as in "big E") is not going to do this, the sound editors are.  Very often in shots that appear to be continuous takes visually there are words and lines pulled out of other takes.  The wild track idea is great and very helpful, but it is often a tough sell on set, doesn't make anything better if the BG noise is still going, and, as you said, requires the attention of the director and AD and script supe to be worthwhile doing at all.  And STILL the director may prefer the lower-fi sync take, because many actors are just not skillful enough to recreate the performance they got to in the circle take on camera.  So we sound cutters end up "Frankensteining" the final track together from many sources.

Philip Perkins

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In the beginning God... SAID... "Let there be light."

...and then he walked across his creeky floor to get his morning cup-o-joe, threw open his curtains just as the garbage truck rolled by.  

Sorry, I'm generally not this cynical.  I just finished a picture that left me a bit discouraged as far as what was expected of me... before production started, the director says he'll always give me another sound take -- he hates ADR blah blah blah -- and then sure enough, we get into shooting at this one location in particular (an older house with wood floors, of course) and every other shot is a slow creeping dolly move.  No amount of dance-floor or lemon juice or baby powder could silence this house.

On top of that, the gaffer decided to tie in to the shore power at the breaker panel -- put in a new 100A double throw and away we go -- no more repo'in' the Gennie to get it out of the shot, no more humpin' 4-aught halfway down the block.  Well that's all fine and good, but when you're drawing 90AMPS continuous through a residential panel, and one of your main sets is directly above said panel, and it's humming away -- vibrating conduit and all -- a perfect 60-cycles (I think it's right around a B-flat) right below your intimate dialog scene (full-on sotto voce, faders wide open) do you think the director gives you another sound take?  Does he ask the electricians to repo the Genny and tie into IT as they should, instead of shore power?  Of course not.  That would take at least an hour!  Anyone ever timed an ADR session?   : )

So, if I sound a bit cynical right now, it's just venting -- I'm happy to go to work each day and do what I do -- creeky floor or not -- I'm just glad there are other people out there with whom I can relate.  I know the squeaky wheel sometimes gets replaced instead of greased, so yes, there's a fine line between effective diplomacy and... well... getting replaced.  Here's to effective diplomacy.  : )

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Sounds way too familiar.  I just came off a low-budget shoot, where our primary location was a bar on a really busy street (with what must have been 16 different bus lines all traveling down this same road).  We ended up sound-blanketing the entire front of the bar (doubled up over the vents and the windows) and it was still bad.  We started shooting, and we'd have buses over dialog constantly.  After about an hour of requesting additional takes, I called the director over, plugged him in directly (he had been listening via comtek, but had the volume down low (you'll love this) so he could hear the performances) and played back a couple of takes for him.  I just simply told him that every take was essentially going to be the same, and that I was going to stop calling for additional takes unless it was really terrible (sirens, people talking, etc.)  (To top it all off, we had a camera op that tended to talk to himself, sometimes during takes.)  The only think I felt I could do to help him was grab a huge amount of ambient and tone.  I actually pulled off getting 3 solid minutes of continuous tone so that he could layer in the buses and the traffic to try to get a match.

Needless to say, this was a really frustrating shoot - but in the end the director thanked me profusely so, I guess something went right.  :-)

Phil

--------------------------------------

Crappy sound makes for a crappy movie, no matter how pretty the pictures.

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Phil,

Exactly!  Thank you for sharing that.  Sounds like you were shooting at the Herald Examiner building in LA.  : )  Comiserating over job woes isn't as good as sharing the joy and excitement of getting that perfect take on a technical set-up or the like, but at least we all know there are others just like us -- going through the same crap we've had to experience.  I feel your pain -- eventually you just stop saying anything... scrawl a huge ADR across the middle of your sound report and invoke the pseudonym clause in your deal memo.

I've made it a habit of trying to reserve a Lectro IFB and a set of 7506's just for the Director (most don't seem to like the bigger cans -- in which case the IFB is really a waste, but some do -- Wayne Wang didn't want to give them back  : )  ...but at least that way they can hear (like you said) how bad (or good) something really is.  I'm glad I have Comteks (great for Scripty and whatever producers show up that day) but I'm all for pushing something a little more hi-fi on the Director.  If you can convince them to use the sealed-ear cans (even just once in a while,) it might just be instrumental in getting the Director to lean a little more toward the sound side of things once in a while.  Conversely, he might get sick of having to take them off every time someone speaks to him, so giving him a choice is paramount.

In any case, thanks again for your anecdote -- hang in there!  : )

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I tend to be much less concerned about many of these things than some of you are and I'm not sure if I should be concerned that I'm not diligent enough or thankful that I have decreased chances for high blood pressure.  I don't care if a floor creaks and wouldn't do much to stop it - they chose the location and it's floor; I'd like a squeak-free dolly track but would never dream of getting angry the grip didn't have Pledge - it's their dolly and therefore their problem if it squeaks; I go on tech scouts but I know there's no way they'll change locations because I don't like the sound of something (although they do try to make things quieter). 

I see my job as getting the best tracks I can under the conditions THEY set.  I usually tell production or the director about a problem once and at the most twice and by e-mail if possible so I have a record.  On my last gig I e-mailed my generator lecture to the AD, director and producer saying that if there is a generator I will always assume it is as far as technically possible from set and that whoever sets it closer is the one with their hands in the production's wallet, not me.  We had generators on set and I never said anything else about it even though I could sometimes hear them because I had ALREADY told them.  We shot for 8 nights at Houston and Essex, what we learned (the hard way) was a bus and truck route.  They asked me when they decided to shoot there if it would be a problem and I said YES.  I never said another thing about it over the next 8 days, despite the fact that it will cost them thousands in ADR, because I said it when they asked and they decided to go ahead.  I advise ONCE how they can save money or make it better and then don't worry about it after that because it's their call.

Arnold

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I see my job as getting the best tracks I can under the conditions THEY set.Arnold

I think the primary reason for going on tech scouts is to be involved in "the conditions" that are going to be set. YOU need to be part of the THEY otherwise you are going on a scout just to get an advance look at the horrible situation you're going to be in. I know that they often do not listen and they are always hoping for some miracle from you (like defying the laws of physics) but it is not enough to just TELL them it will bad.

If there is a location that has specific problems you have identified, the more creative and the more demonstrative you can be in presenting solutions (or partial solutions) other than just abandoning the location, is always helpful. I always try to have as many good ideas immediately available even during the scout. If you can solve one problem in advance it is a good thing for all.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

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Forgive my "I don't care" tone, which was not exactly what I wanted to convey.  I think the distinction I'm making, or am trying to make, is between the things I can control and those I can't, to recognize who is ultimately responsible, and to choose what issues to expend energy on.  I am happy to point out potential problems both on the tech scout and as they arise on a scene and take basis so that the production take what steps it feels are reasonable and cost-effective to get good sound.  Because I'm not the one who physically sprays the tracks, holds the traffic or quiets talking background artists, I see my role in making things better as more of a reporter.  I'll report, advise and offer solutions, usually with an AD, and after that it's up to them.  What I have stopped doing is repeating myself to the degree that I could be seen as the squeaky wheel or to the point where I'm "fighting" production to get good sound for them, which is the height of absurdity to me.

Another, related issue for me is my antipathy for the problems and tired, counter-productive paradigms in our business that have been around so long as to have become cliche; the generator problem being a prime example.  Everyone in production knows the generator being too close to set is a problem for sound and has known it for years, decades even.  I don't wish to play into my expected role of the sound guy who pulls his hair out (it's coming out on it's own plenty fast already) every new set-up where the generator is too close.  I don't care for the role nor do I wish to expend the energy, which is why I sent my generator lecture in an e-mail to the important folks before we started. 

I read many, many posts both here and at RAMPS wherein the mixer (rightfully) complains about how production didn't care and how they're going to "learn their lesson" later and I have to laugh because productions NEVER learn.  Even as I type this someone is shooting within 50 miles of me and is making the same mistakes vis-a-vis sound (and other areas) that productions were making a month, a year and 10 years ago.  I'm a conscientious, earnest, enthusiastic and rather loyal worker and recordist, and, hopefully, I don't seem jaded or uncaring if I will only expend so much energy fighting my own production or in trying to change these hopeless cliches by adopting my accepted role in them.  Actually, I'm optimistic that I can help change things, just not by being the crazy, angry sound guy.

Sorry if this makes no sense...a bit of drinking last night.

Arnold

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Costco foam floor pads, they are about 18 inches square, they are modular and fit like a jigsaw to each other, I carry about 100, when I suss that a floor will be a definite problem, I employ these for dolly shots, then MDF 6mm boards, then carpet, you need of course to have a 3 man crew for this operation, you also have to have production on your side, occasionally a twitchy Director or 1st AD will kick off, and one has to play their game, but about 80% I get the floor noise to a minimum, this has saved many a dolly shots dialogue from ADR, the worst one are the imperceptable track-ins, which create slow, loud, and long creaks. Dealing with floors is another Black Art, it is easy to misjudge things and end up having to lift a lot of floor work that you have done cos Cam B is now going wide, it can be a pain in the Ass, however it is worth every effort you can do, as from my experience the times that I have let things go because of the fuss that it will cause, always comes back and stings me bad style.

Regards Brian

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I live in the eng/efp world and am with Arnold in my attitude...

Like him, don't get me wrong and assume I don't give a ****. I do, but often find picture rules even for shoots where we all know that 90% of the IV is going to be covered with re-creations or B-roll.

Example, the other day we turned up to do a gig where most was going to be re-creations. The shooter loved the look of the outdoors so we set up to IV , never mind the main road on the other side of the house... I spoke up, said my piece, and was ignored. I requested that we redo questions if possible because of traffic but was told several times that no, we're happy with the answers.

Yes, I did everything to lessen the noise within my power and did put a lav on him to cut down on BG noise, but I couldn't stop the traffic obviously.

Now I know that most of the IV was a waste of time but was over ridden by someone higher up in the food chain so figure maybe, (just maybe) next time they might listen to the sound person..

As i once said to an inexperienced director: once it leaves here any sound problems are your responsibility as I told you of my issues, but you chose to ignore my advise. good luck! ( he did come back and say they ended up reshooting that IV because they failed to listen to me, approx $1500 later and a day wasted on his first doco...)

I've just got home after a long day and intend to have a beer, watch some tele, and thank god the company I work for doesn't do reality tv.

Grant.

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