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Accepting gigs beyond your skill level


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Last year, I got two "mixers" from LA fired the first day of production.

and folks say I'm not helpful... ???

and what about the member who told a movie production to send home the off camera actors ?

I would add knowing model and names of gear.

If you don't know what a 442,744t,mkh416 ect is you might be anything but a sound mixer.

It depends... As RVD points out some production sound mixers work in different arenas and with different tools...

and there are the bullet lists (I'll not quote them here) which contain items that may or may not always be relevant...

and frankly, I remember some posts from members asking how to select shoes, etc.

Back to the original topic: many of us stretch ourselves a bit, but yes, I see far too many inquiries on jwsoundgroup asking way to basic questions about "tomorrow's gig"... and let me add basic operational questions readily found in the manuals, quick start guides and FAQ's...

Knowing the gear tends to reflect a persons passion, knowing how to use it effectively is the important part.

what about knowing your gear... ?

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Well dudes, your philosophical stance about being humble enough to admit you don't know enough to do a certain job is unlikely to cut much ice with the very people you describe. I can attest that this sort of person was around just as much 30 years ago as they are now--but now there is even less excuse for not knowing. What you are describing are personality defects, if you will, not the behavior of someone who is trying but just isn't "there" yet. I think it's important to draw a distinction between the two. I sometimes hire newbies to help me with low budg high-track-count music jobs, but they are vetted first and have always ended up being bright people who just haven't gotten much experience yet, but are HONEST about what they know. Those "attitudinal" guys would have a problem on any job--they'd be fired from McDonald's about as soon as you guys fired them.

I think that older and/or more experienced people have an obligation to TRY and "reach" these guys--there were a bunch of older movie folks (not just sound people) who were VERY patient with me back in the day, and now I am HUGELY grateful to them. In retrospect they SHOULD have fired my ass for what I did / didn't do / said / screwed up etc etc, but they stuck with me. Bless them.

(There are limits, though, I guess...)

phil p

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I don't have never see closely the Zaxcom products, Sound Devices, Lectrosonics, Schopes CMIT, Ambient, Audio Ltd and all of this high rate ($ or Euro) products. But everyday in nights, I'm sit down and read the manuals and how operate this products. Not for producers or something else. But for me. Because I want to prepare myself for the next step from "newbie" to "good sound mixer". Who is the best microphone on the helicopter? I'm searching, reading and trying (when I'm lucky to try).

For me the best way is to become as assistant.

And the best way is about the magic word who is "learn".

I never had a big job, because I'm not read for the next step.

When I'm feeling ready to the next step; I'm moving up.

Thanks every God to I'm member of this forum.

apologize my english

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What Philip said.

Then there are the beginners with a couple of years under their belts who try hard to sound like they've been at it for twenty or thirty years. The truth shines through, though.

I use almost everything (and much more) that was on my original list on most gigs I do. Not necessarily in a front-of-mind conscious way, but most of those items come into play in my thought processes and decision making on a regular basis.

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Then there are the beginners with a couple of years under their belts who try hard to sound like they've been at it for twenty or thirty years. The truth shines through, though.

John, you would be hard pressed as to what some of these folks could do. Saying or sounding like they have 20-30+ years of experience is extremely unrealistic when one haven't been under a 'real' situation to handle even the most minute basic problem-solving issues and this well applies to all fields of our industry. Given that in this age and time being someone who we're not is a lot easier to go today than back in the interweb days as brought up by Mr. Perkins. The Senator also brings up a valuable consideration regarding the aspects of knowing what to ask and more importantly knowing when to ask the appropriate question not just on JWSound, but on all forums today. The age gap and group is across the board from fresh jr high/college graduates to people who are well in their 30/40/50s trying to switch gear and career. Lots of arrogant people, and I must admit that I've sort of bumped into that road before not too long ago where I felt like the king-of-the-hill with classmates and professors brushing off my arrogance and know-it-all attitude and mindset. It takes a huge amount of respect, patience, deep gratification, and just pure karma not just from your peers but from yourself to acknowledge such trait and behavior. Mind you I could well pass for any one of you as a son in terms of age and lack of experience, though, age itself sometimes bite back hard when the people in this industry clearly looks at one's qualifications either by past jobs, referrals, IMDB, you get the picture. When you clearly see a list of qualifying credits with one's qualifications being entirely subjective to the next person who views your qualifications as more than expertly sounding and for the first time hearing and meeting your prospective candidate as a young fresh-outta-college-25-yr-old the producer might just hangup and never call or accept this reality ever again because they in fact have already agreed that it's all probably BS and made up to sound like a 10+ year experienced individual! This in return is extremely hard for the young ones who have the ability to do the job, yet just nobody to accept the fact that their qualifications are actually well above the average. One gets declined more often than the chance of success. Young Skywalker from Star Wars is a very good example, and this applies to several members here on the board who are right around the 20-30 bracket with more than adequate skills and knowledge to do the job with passing colors, but just nobody willing to take the risk to believe in them.

Just how hard do you press for a job that clearly is over-and-around your skill level is for one to ask and many have done it before not with pure luck but perseverance, persistence, and believing in oneself. It's a risky business move by both parties the producers and us the applicant of the sound mixer's position, but isn't this industry all about risks?

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I like to think of it like learning an instrument. Every time you pick it up, try something just a little bit beyond your skill level and practice until you pick it up.

As long as you don't go too far, you can still get through it with minor mistakes.

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situation to handle even the most minute basic problem-solving issues and this well applies to all fields of our industry.

basic problem solving issues, like reading the manual, trial and error, recognizing when something needs fixing, and even <cap>.</cap>

as the equipment became very complex, I've found that I look at one entry or another in a manual before going out on an assignment.

exactly... this is normal growth, gaining additional experience.

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I like to think of it like learning an instrument. Every time you pick it up, try something just a little bit beyond your skill level and practice until you pick it up.

As long as you don't go too far, you can still get through it with minor mistakes.

Ever try to play Tablas? Sheesh! I should have started when I was 3! This is perhaps where some of the younger people here might actually have an advantage -- it's much easier to learn new things when you're younger... having a career that (so far) spans the use of everything from a Nagra and an 816 to a Metacorder and a dozen 411a's, I think people these days will have their hands full just learning how to use certain items... being younger (and less mentally saturated) might actually be an asset?

~tt

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I feel this thread may somewhat be directed at me, and others in my position, as I am sure everyone knows I created a thread asking for advice in shooting in a swimming pool location last week. I am still hugely grateful to those who spent a few minutes to give advice. Sure, I could have passed up that job, but honestly, it was a pleasure to work on that film. We had a wonderful and helpful crew, and a great atmosphere all around. More importantly, the sound captured overall was very good quality. Despite the challenges we faced, proper planning before the shoot allowed us to overcome almost all of them and there was little to no stress even on the long, difficult nights in the pool. I do not regret taking that gig in the slightest.

I did a different type of tough gig about 10 days ago now. It was a 'last minute' call to cover for another mixer (rang me at 2am, 7am call time on set). He had me pick up his equipment in the morning and proceed straight to set with very little information. I turned up and it was a shoot in a car, which is always difficult when you only have a small choice of kit (shotgun mic, no CUB for planting etc).

I took the gig as a last minute favour to help out the other mixer, but now I almost wish I hadn't. Using mostly unfamiliar kit (i knew the basics but nothing more) and being unprepared for what was coming made life very difficult. We had a discussion about it afterwards, letting him know I didn't feel the gig went well, especially as he will be involved in the post production process. He seemed disappointed but we are still on speaking terms.

That is just one of a series of 'learning experiences' i've had throughout the past couple of years, where I have accepted jobs I am not 100% prepared for. But it is only by pushing ourselves we become better at our jobs.

~Mark.

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I don't think the original post in this thread was directed at you mark, you asked for advice in a specific, unusual situation you hadn't experienced before. No one on here has experienced every possible location, despite what some might claim!

+1

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I agree that the post did not seem directed at Mark, or any specific individual...

and the pool gig, especially in relationship with you, was not what I believe this thread is about...

As for your last minute subbing gig, that, too, is something different and has more to do with unfamiliar kit (it might have gone better if you took your kit, and also eliminated the extra stop on the way), and also lack of proper prep, though a last minute, emergency situation is of course going to involve someone jumping in without proper prep...

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I agree that this was not personally aimed at any particular individual, but rather discussing a trend that could damage our profession.

Each gig and circumstance needs to be evaluated on its own merits.

A professional working their way up and stretching beyond their comfort zone is different than someone who buys a kit and declares he/she is a "sound mixer." There is a vast amount of knowledge, skill, and experience that goes into being an established professional in this industry. Any implication that all it takes to be a sound mixer is some basic gear and a declaration of purpose, is a slap in the face to those who have dedicated years to learning and practicing the nuances and depth of this profession.

You know, the "What kind of microphone should I buy if I can only afford one?" crowd.

.

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Thanks for the reassurances. I am very aware of the huge amount of knowledge it takes to be a professional sound mixer, and I hope that in time I will gain enough practical experience to really be able to contribute to the excellent group here. In the meantime, if and when a well-budgeted production asks for my services I will gladly pass it on to a more experienced mixer in the hope of being involved in a lower role where I can learn.

As for the subject in question, I believe it goes hand in hand with the issue of "lowballing / cutting the grass". It could be a matter of inexperience/ignorance on both the sound "mixer"'s side and the producer/production co. Honestly, it is only in the past nine months I realised how much of a problem it is, before that I did not have the guidance or experience I needed to understand. I learnt the limits the hard way, through a string of failures, before I met people who were in the position to point me in a better direction. I therefore feel the issue can only really be addressed through improving the education people receive, and/or the manner in which they get it, to ensure the problems are known before jobs are accepted. Perhaps if the usual hire and sales companies were to agree to provide information leaflets about these important issues to all new customers, it might have an impact on the way some people choose to begin their careers. I know it would have helped me.

~Mark.

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Interesting thread. A lot of new sound mixers (like myself) are afraid to ask for too much I think, but don't want to be stuck with minimal gear not suited for the job like a zoom recorder (mixing? what mixing?!) and a crappy mic. I'm getting to the point where I'll have to ask for more in order to get the gear upgrades I absolutely feel I need (better lavs/transmitters/receivers/ and maybe a smart slate), but I don't think there's any direct meaningful plot against the more experienced of the industry. Low/no budgets can't even afford much over a few hundred a day.

The truth is it's hard to become more experienced in this industry unless you 'make the leap.' I did a few free gigs here and there. equipment was mostly provided and random booming jobs, but I couldn't sit around and wait for an apprenticeship or something that will never exist. I have the foundation from school, my own years of recording random things, shit internships, and my own research. I felt the need to get my hands dirty and am learning everyday.

I agree though, undercutting big jobs isn't cool.

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While we're still somewhat on the topic of undercutting bigger jobs, I've refrained from doing these kind of moves when it's just simply better in the short-term and long-term to call up a bigger mixer to do the job while you boom for the gig (only if the mixer you're calling would want you as a boom).

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If I realized how little I knew when I started out, I would never of had the nerve to try and become a sound man. Like RVD, I had more balls than brains back when I started. Cocky enough to think I could do it all. Just enough youth to be oblivious to how unprepared I was but somehow I fooled enough of them long enough to gain experience and credits. But that was me then. No one will ever have the career I've had because the world has turned 12,000 times since I began and it will never turn back.

CrewC

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I had a gig last summer, small indi feature. I get introduced to XXXX am told he is going to help me with what ever I need.

I am working off a cart and his first question is what is that, looking at the Lectro Venue on my cart and stated he has never heard of Lectrosonics.

ouch, sounds like a bad experience, but it is an indi feature. next time hire someone that will asked if they need to be tuned and not what they are. :shrug: I would of jamed your slate n everything! (hire me ;])

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Mark- my original post was definitely not directed toward you, or anyone else, specifically. I hope no one feels I was calling them out.

www.matthewfreed.com

Production Sound Mixing for TV, Films, and Commercials

I've been crying in my room for days cause I thought this was about me :P

I would like to add we should all know what 4k is cause its the best.

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