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Worst mess up on set..


Richard Ragon
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Years ago I did a project called KISS EXPOSED..... A cheesy take on what goes on in the KISS mansion... Naked gals and all that goes with it.... GREAT day... a lot of fun.. But this was 20 years ago or so... and I had a Nagra over the shoulder... We had a very long take where we went all over the house past 30 naked models in various compromising positions... in the end we stopped upstairs at a huge bed filled with girls and Paul Stanley.... the take was like 5 mins. It took like 15 takes to get it right and when we did the director and DP were so happy... The impossible shot... I looked down at my machine to see all the tape just packed inside the Nagra lid.... when I opened it it literally exploded into a huge mess at my feet.... what can you do... I had to look at all the naked gals a few more times.... Did I do it on purpose? I'll never tell...

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Similar story. We're interviewing drummers. We're at Chad Smith's house in Malibu (Red Hot Chili Peppers). The "gag" was that we were surprising him in his rehearsal space as he's in the middle of a drum solo. We all roll, climb the stairs, find Chad wailing on the drums. Great solo. He acts surprised to see us. Hugs and ad libs and stuff. I look down to cut the 744T and realize it was stopped. Played it back. I guess I bumped stop on the way up the stairs.

Take 2, please!

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Right before a musical talent shoot ( kind of American Idol style ) the director is going crazy trying to get things moving ( poor planning ) , tells me the MC girl needs a wireless handheld "do you have one ?". I quickly slap on a Uh400A to an EV spin around had it to the beautiful young lady and burst out with " you're hot" She smiles, comes back with " thanks i get that lot " we both smile and laugh and I tell her well that also but I meant your mic is on. You have to realize this young lady could be my daughter. I tell her I would never address a woman like that , I would say you are a very pretty young lady. During the week she bought me cookies and treats and we had a ongoing joke going, she would ask me "Tom , am I hot , and I would reply "Susan you are smoking hot " The crew would smile look at us but never comment. Just proves how respecting people can make a job fun and enjoyable

Tom

Chicago

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I once wired up a talent by giving them the receiver, then plugged the transmitter in the mixer. Took me a few seconds to realise why there was no signal. Now they have TX and RX clearly written on them.

Also I once did an exterior take with the mic pointing at the sky. Rushed shot, unfamiliar mount, no cans and pure stupidity were the causes. We did another take due to the 'plane. Now I double check.

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first: YES, of course I, too, have made my share of gaffes...

BUT this thread seems to me to cross reference some other postings where many folks here seem hell bent on insisting that less experienced folks, working for lower pay than many here feel they would want are automatically going to be the root of disasters, and that paying more for experienced sound crew somehow guarantees them flawless sound.

the old saw is that generally speaking, you get what you pay for, but as this confessional thread is showing we all make mistakes, even at higher rates and more experience levels. Sure, sometimes there are better excuses (like long days and weeks, which certainly makes the quality and quantity of anyone's work deteriorate) and sometimes not so much.

So... when you make a rookie mistake, do you lower your rate ?? well of course not, and in fact, we sometimes soft-peddle them, as we are reading here...

but my point in this little rant is that just getting paid more does not actually make us either better, or even worth more...

we all need to remember that we are constantly learning, and that every time we go out there we are honing our skills and reinforcing our good work habits -which will serve us well in those more difficult and / or stressful circumstances we will periodically find ourselves.

I worked a number of times with a director who insisted on consistently "adequate", over intermixed flashes of great counterbalanced with recurring flashes of poor. One time a boomer told me a shot would be "a piece of cake", and I reminded him that you can choke on a piece of cake. every scene, every shot deserves your full attention and best effort., though inevitably CRAP happens, and/or we screw up... and when it does, what can shine is our response.

As I prefaced, of course I have made at least my fair share of blunders, including a number of the classics already mentioned, and a few of my own. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment.

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first: YES, of course I, too, have made my share of gaffes...

BUT this thread seems to me to cross reference some other postings where many folks here seem hell bent on insisting that less experienced folks, working for lower pay than many here feel they would want are automatically going to be the root of disasters, and that paying more for experienced sound crew somehow guarantees them flawless sound.

the old saw is that generally speaking, you get what you pay for, but as this confessional thread is showing we all make mistakes, even at higher rates and more experience levels. Sure, sometimes there are better excuses (like long days and weeks, which certainly makes the quality and quantity of anyone's work deteriorate) and sometimes not so much.

So... when you make a rookie mistake, do you lower your rate ?? well of course not, and in fact, we sometimes soft-peddle them, as we are reading here...

but my point in this little rant is that just getting paid more does not actually make us either better, or even worth more...

we all need to remember that we are constantly learning, and that every time we go out there we are honing our skills and reinforcing our good work habits -which will serve us well in those more difficult and / or stressful circumstances we will periodically find ourselves.

I worked a number of times with a director who insisted on consistently "adequate", over intermixed flashes of great counterbalanced with recurring flashes of poor. One time a boomer told me a shot would be "a piece of cake", and I reminded him that you can choke on a piece of cake. every scene, every shot deserves your full attention and best effort., though inevitably CRAP happens, and/or we screw up... and when it does, what can shine is our response.

As I prefaced, of course I have made at least my fair share of blunders, including a number of the classics already mentioned, and a few of my own. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment.

Very well expressed Mike! I just wrote a note to an experienced sound person who works a lot. I had to tell him that his work on the show I hired him for really wasn't very good and why. I felt it was important that he know that things didn't turn out so well so he could learn from it and do better the next time. I know I would rather be told I messed up than believe that everything was wonderful when it wasn't.

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Most of my work in recent years has been pretty free of errors. I am inclined to think this is because I've already made nearly every obvious error and won't do that again! (But there are always new goofs to be experienced.)

I have managed to avoid the two most conspicuous screw-ups: exposing film through the base and flipping the tape on the Nagra so the base side is in contact with the head. But two blunders stand out:

I messed up a high speed job by opening the lens too much. I was working with a HiCam, a prism camera capable of very high rates. We were shooting at 1000 or 2000 fps and getting sufficient light for an exposure is a challenge at those rates. Even though I knew that the camera was "light tunneled" to f3.2, I opened the lens to f2.2 in an effort to squeeze out every bit of exposure I could. The light tunneling effect (the prism only passes so much) meant that any lens opening beyond f3.2 yielded no benefit whatsoever but the additional light through the lens did cause a glare off the prism and the exposed film was a bit blurry because of that. I had to apologize to the client.

I also goofed the timecode on a music video. It was early in the implementation of timecode, probably 1982 or 1983, and, even though I had attended the timecode classes sponsored by Audio Services, I was not knowledgeable on the process. I thought - wrongly - that the timecode settings were important only for recording. I was under the impression (wrong!) that the Nagra would sense the rate recorded on the original tape and resolve accordingly. Even then I might have skittled by as most recording was done at 30 fps and most machines would be found set to that speed, But the example I rented had been changed to another rate. The incorrect setting produced a slow sync drift on playback. When editorial synced the film, the shots looked fine for a bit but the drift produced a visible sync error in any take lasting more than a few moments. I should have asked about settings when I picked up the rental Nagra. It taught me to ask questions even when I think I know what I'm doing.

David

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Very well expressed Mike! I just wrote a note to an experienced sound person who works a lot. I had to tell him that his work on the show I hired him for really wasn't very good and why. I felt it was important that he know that things didn't turn out so well so he could learn from it and do better the next time. I know I would rather be told I messed up than believe that everything was wonderful when it wasn't.

The worst possible thing is when you make a mistake without realizing you've made a mistake, and no one bothers to tell you! I had this happen to me several times when I was just starting out and still learning the trade. I think it severely hindered my early development as a mixer. I nearly always ask for feedback after a gig, now. I like to know when I fuck something up, so I can quit doing it.

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Almost another topic is the matter of the on-set calamities that cause the blood to run momentarily cold.

I was working double-up scenes for a TV show and eager to do an exemplary job. We moved from the shop where our first scene was set to the beach for our final scene. I loaded the sound cart onto a gator for the run out to the set. Something caused the gator to lurch and the DVD burner for my SD recorder fell from the cart onto the bed of the trailer. I was dismayed as it was brand new but it seemed to survive the mishap OK and I remounted it to the cart.

Inserting a blank disk, I found I was unable to format it. No matter what setting I used, the machine refused to recognize the disk. This was a serious issue as I needed that burner to function to produce a disk I could turn in at the end. I think I did have a laptop for emergency back-up but there is a difference between staying late on the stage and staying late on a remote location.

After some panic and hand wringing, I looked more carefully at the drive. Wait a minute, wasn't the eject button on the other side before? Yes, I had simply mounted the disk burner upside down meaning that when I inserted a disk right side up it was effectively upside down. I turned the burner over and everything was OK. I also immediately attached tape labels for "Top" and "Bottom."

David

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" important that he know that things didn't turn out so well so he could learn from it and do better the next time. "

YES

" The worst possible thing is when you make a mistake without realizing you've made a mistake, and no one bothers to tell you! "

The worst possible thing is when you make a mistake, or a faux pas without realizing you've made a mistake, and no one bothers to tell you, but they tell others, and never call you again!

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I showed up to a shoot once without any comteks.

I had been doing a slurry of back to back ENG gigs for a few days prior to the shoot. When I popped into the shop I remembered to grab some additional cabling, a slate and my lockit box, but for whatever reason just completely spaced the IFB's.

Got to set all ready to go, mic'd up the talent and was ready to roll when the EP came over and asked me for comteks for the client.

"Err.."

Fortunately I had a friend nearby that was able to drop his set off for me to use, but it took about 30 mins for him to get there and I still felt like an idiot.

Also, there was the time I showed up at a gig 3 hours from the shop with a truck full of PA gear for a weekend park music fest.

FOH, MONS and PA all set up, band loading on to the stage... Where's the mic box??

Sitting on a table at the shop. Someone had pulled it out of the truck to switch out some mics and never put it back in.

Turns out a few of the bands playing were friends and most had a handful of mics at home for their own recording.

I think we ended up with some weird arrangements like an SM58 on the kick drum, but pulled the gig off and everyone was happy.

Still, that "oh crap" moment where the realization of the situation sinks in, is one I don't care to experience again.

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I was once wiring female talent, she had a short dress on, my hand moved to lift the wire which was dangling from under her dress, she moved a certain way, and suddenly my finger was in a place it wasn't supposed to be... a spot which as a teen you probably struggled to find. It was quick, I didn't say anything, she didn't say anything, but for the rest of the shoot, I had this bad feeling that she thought I was some sort of sleezy sound guy that did this type of stuff on purpose. I think that by wrap, she understood that it was a mistake, but I was too embarrassed to approach her directly about it, that maybe by doing so I was making it a bigger deal than it was, but needless to say, I'm more careful now when dealing with the opposite sex.

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Oh just thought of another one. Working with rented kit through various streets not too long ago, so had more cases than usual. I put one of the cases down next to the camera magliner, didn't use any kit from it for a few hours and forgot to pick it back up when we moved location. Had to make a frantic phone call mid-location move when I realised what i'd done. Luckily camera picked it up and put it in their van.

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I worked a number of times with a director who insisted on consistently "adequate", over intermixed flashes of great counterbalanced with recurring flashes of poor.

I'm positive I've worked with that same guy! (Maybe several.)

I showed up to a shoot once without any comteks.

Doh, I just had a case a couple of weeks ago on a commercial where I showed up with all the Comteks, fresh batteries, the works, and an hour in, the Comtek transmitter died! I had a backup, but it was at home. Luckily, I was able to get a friend pick up the second transmitter off my big cart and we saved the job. Catastrophic equipment failures like that are very hard to predict or protect yourself on, particularly when it's a crucial piece of gear like that.

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Doing a multi location doc shoot- Sit down Interviews 3 different locations over town. The kind of set up where I just fly a boom on c-stand over the talent on channel 1 and lav mic channel 2. Got to location 3 and couldn't find the boom mic and pole anywhere. Turns out as I was loading my car at location 2 I rested my boom on the roof of my car whist I loaded in the rest of my gear. I forgot that it was on the roof and drove off. Thankfully the security guard at location 2 saw it fall off my car and kept it for me, but I had to do interview 3 lav only. The segment producer kept asking me if the sound will be ok as all she could see was that it was different. Thankfully our subject had a regular shirt and not a difficult noisy wardrobe choice.

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client requested 2 neoprene transmitter wraps for talent. as i'm loading up my car i place my bag of wraps on the roof of my car thinking i'd grab them after i loaded a pelican case in my car. show up on set, client says, "well, only one talent is wearing a dress so you'll only need 1 wrap". i mentally shit my pants, was so pissed at my self. didn't grab those wraps back off the top of my car. but luckily i was able to stick an smv on her bra strap and wasn't noticeable from her long hair. when i got back to my car in the parking garage the bag was jammed in my bike rack on the roof of my car. then i was happy i didn't just lose $200 in wraps...

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  • 1 month later...

I'm still a noob only just out of film school and this isn't really a mess up but it's quite funny so I thought I'd share it. Last year I had the opportunity to do an ENG shoot to capture documentary footage of Prince Charles doing a walkabout in Auckland, NZ. He was supposed to meet "The World's Oldest Flash Mob", when he did arrive it starting pouring down and I tried as best as I could to get the boom close as I can and pointing under the umbrella's which wasn't easy with his guards pushing my boom pole away, also I had to keep watch behind me cause I was surrounded by some really old women and the last thing I'd want to do is hit one of them in the face with the end of my pole. At one point while looking behind me I felt like I came in contact with something and when I looked forward I saw my wet windsheild rubbing all over a guards face he also happened to be the same guy who kept pushing my boom away. He didn't do or say anything lucky but I'll never get that picture out of my head and it always makes me laugh.

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I was booming a long tracking shot recently for the first of a recent trilogy that required me to walk quickly on a raised set with a ambient jumbo boom at full extension with a 60 in a cage.  6 or 7 takes in I lost concentration and snagged on a bit of set and went flying full length to end up face down still holding the pole in the general area, main issue was this was directly in front of the entire video village and grip and lighting depts, dah!  didn't hear the end of that one for a while but had a few people say I was very graceful and the stunties were impressed.  I was just happy I didn't whack any lead cast in the head.

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I was working in video games at the time, and was on one of my first "production" gigs ever. I was recording dialogue on a MOCAP stage. I spent the previous day prepping gear and making sure everything worked, and I showed up to the stage and get ready to roll, and about 20 minutes before we start I realized I forgot sound reports. 

 

DOH!

 

I had to find a legal pad and hand "made" sound reports. It looked totally unprofessional, but I never made that mistake again. Luckily, the client is a video game developer, and they didn't know any better, but I felt like a total tool. 

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Wired up a Actress with a mic and mic pack and was listening to the signal (standing right next to her) as it was cutting it and out, in and out. I changed frequencies, checked wires, turn unit on and off. What the hell was going on? The setup was totally fine a few hours ago?!?!?...

 

Then I look at the pack again and realize I didn't put the antenna on the pack (*face palm)

I politely said I had found the problem and needed to do one more adjustment to the pack, I subtly put on antenna and she was good to go!

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- Forgot a boom leaning on a tree doing an internship. Noticed at the shoot location, drove back while the mixer and boom op set up for the shoot. Quite luckily the boom was still there and if I recall correctly I made it back before we were rolling. Phew.

- Accidentally stopped rolling on a 744T on a shoestring budget indie film that relied heavily on ad-libbing etc. It was bag work and I was running on a street with the director/cam op and the actors.

- Stumbled on cables while setting up for a studio interview shoot. Tripped a Dedo light which hit a cam op on the head. No injury to speak of, and only a bulb broke on the Dedo. Again, phew.

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Wired up a Actress with a mic and mic pack and was listening to the signal (standing right next to her) as it was cutting it and out' date=' in and out. I changed frequencies, checked wires, turn unit on and off. What the hell was going on? The setup was totally fine a few hours ago?!?!?...[/quote']

 

We had a similar thing happen last year. I switched from a lav to a wireless boom on one scene, and was perplexed when I suddenly saw that we were getting massive interference on the boom's frequency. I couldn't figure it out, because we had used it a few hours earlier and it was fine. After five minutes, it suddenly dawned on me that the original lav was still turned on, and was on the same frequency, partly knocking out the boom (though we were a couple of hundred feet away). Killed the lav transmitter, all was well. Luckily, it took them another 10 minutes to light, so it was only a delay and a momentary heart attack for me. 
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