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Blocking the path of location noise problems


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I'm about to work on a short film where there are some exteriors that as usual require the use of a noisy generator for the lighting. The normal solution is of course to put is as far away as possible and preferrably around a corner of a structure or similar, and maybe use some sound blankets, but this is on a road surrounded by open fields.

I then thought about bringing my own "corner or structure", such as a heavy table or similar to put in front of the generator and block the direct sound to the set. Instead of absorbing sound, you make it reflect to another direction. I don't know if it will work, but I intend to try it out.

This kind of approach might be good on any exterior with a small centraliced noise source. Has anybody tried or frequently made use of something like this?

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If the movie is a dialogue driven movie and the director really cares to get the actors performances, he/she should tell the dp in coherence with you; the expert, that he/she is indeed concerned about the genny. It's not your problem, it's the directors and producers problem. Make them realize.

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If the movie is a dialogue driven movie and the director really cares to get the actors performances, he/she should tell the dp in coherence with you; the expert, that he/she is indeed concerned about the genny. It's not your problem, it's the directors and producers problem. Make them realize.

This is true, but I know that if I don't sometimes get my hands dirty nothing will happen, and then I'd rather worry about it myself. I told them about this, and presented the "blocking idea" as a possible solution. We're going to try it, so we'll know soon if it works.

Another trick is to dig a big hole and put the generator in it, take the dirt from the hole and build a sandbag wall in-between the genny and the set.

Wow, that's a wild idea! Seems like a lot of work, but I have no doubt it would do the trick. ;D

Keep em coming! Does anyone have any experience of using this kind of solution to other things than gennies?

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This is definitely the grip department and camera department's problem. They are creating a noise on set that is detrimental to the dialogue. You can certainly be helpful and offer suggestions as to how to baffle the sound but in the end, it is 100% their problem to solve.

If the sound department needed a large light or mirror on set to do our job and it created a visual problem we would not wait for the camera department to fix it. No, it would be our problem to fix.

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I've done the plywood box with 2" hard insulation on the inside with the only open end pointing away from set for a 5/6kW genny (as best as I can recall). It helped a lot, but still not enough to call it a solution. I really like Jason's suggestion, if the genny is small enough that a huge hole doesn't need to be dug.

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And if someone else does the digging ;)

I've done the plywood box with 2" hard insulation on the inside with the only open end pointing away from set for a 5/6kW genny (as best as I can recall). It helped a lot, but still not enough to call it a solution. I really like Jason's suggestion, if the genny is small enough that a huge hole doesn't need to be dug.

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I'm about to work on a short film where there are some exteriors that as usual require the use of a noisy generator for the lighting. The normal solution is of course to put is as far away as possible and preferrably around a corner of a structure or similar, and maybe use some sound blankets, but this is on a road surrounded by open fields.

I then thought about bringing my own "corner or structure", such as a heavy table or similar to put in front of the generator and block the direct sound to the set. Instead of absorbing sound, you make it reflect to another direction. I don't know if it will work, but I intend to try it out.

This kind of approach might be good on any exterior with a small centraliced noise source. Has anybody tried or frequently made use of something like this?

I've done exactly this on an outdoors show, it worked great. First we got the generator as far away as possible, but it was still audible. So we stuck a big, thick, wodden pannel infront of it and left the back and sides open. We were shooting by the sea so no other walls to reflect the sound back. Under these surcomstances, it worked great.

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Had this issue last week in the middle of a big field. After asking if we could get a van in, I was told there was no access, so built a wall out of lighting cases, sandbags etc and used a long gun and a bit more LF roll-off (AKG CK69). On get out they ended up driving the van into the field...

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Your idea sounds far better than nothing and making enemies with post. You could offer them a few solutions. Extra cables, Your structure, hole digging. The best option probably depend on locations, will the geni move because camera is looking that way? Hole digging requires time. Moving your structure requires relative minutes. Long cable may also mean less geni moves, but helps best if there is something existing to hide behind.

I had some gaffers tell me a line producer nixed their request for tons of cable on shoestring budget projects. I've told them to note it is for sound and to talk to me. It's an easy way to tell them "the rental price of extra cables is less than days of ADR". Simple math!

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another case of unreasonable expectations by folks who have no clue.

reminder: it is not a sound problem, it is a sound that is a problem, and as others on the set are creating it, it is their problem to solve...

so, yeah, you do the best you can, with the situation at hand, and move on...

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We already shot the first day now (yeah, I know I posted pretty late, but I wanted to know others experiences not just regarding my own situation). The gennie was placed about 50 meters away, and then we put a wooden table lying down in front of it. This helped quite a bit, and was very easy to move and transport. Still a bit loud though, but by also putting a few blankets and carpets over the table the noise was workable. I could se myself regularly using something similar (probably with three adjustable sides and fixed padding). We have another day of exteriors tomorrow, and I'm going to try putting one of the vans in front to see how that will be.

It was an interesting day as most locations were a bit noisy, but not much dialogue, so I spent some time experimenting with mic pattern rejection, using plant mics and placing blankets. One of the most interesting finds was how good it can be to have a few blankets on stands to move around - they did more to diminish the noise than I thought they would!

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The Arri lights are the ones where the ballasts (big blue boxes) put out some weird squeals and hums. The next shoot, I swear I'm going to bring extra sound blankets and see if the grips can work out a way to cover up the boxes that are closest to the talent.

Sometimes, the boxes are completely quiet... other times, they squeal like a pig.

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