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How a man can watch Downton Abbey...


Steve Joachim
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That may be what it has become, but you watch old movies or TV shows, and a big room sounds like a big room. I like it.

As a PSM, I can't know which ofte two or three cameras they will use, so I can't record perspective all the time, but I make sure the elements are there so the RRM can match perspective to camera.

I am disappointed when wide shots of big rooms are too dry. But it's not always up to the PSM or RRM. Some directors just hate reverb.

That said, I still like the sound of "Downton" in the sense that it doesn't draw attention to itself. At least on the few episodes I have seen.

Robert

A good example of great recording but staying true to the size of the room is in the new batman film, in Bruce Wayne manor. You can feel the size of the room but understand every letter perfect.

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A good example of great recording but staying true to the size of the room is in the new batman film, in Bruce Wayne manor. You can feel the size of the room but understand every letter perfect.

Considered one of the worst sounding big budget movies after Public enemies.

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That's because we need to understand the dialog.

Seriously though, if we played reality, and always used the boom with all the reverb and noise in it, it would sound like crap.

And indeed. Go back and listen to old movies and tv shows. And a lot of them sound horrible and midrangey.

 

I disagree. If all we needed was to understand the dialogue, there would be no booms, and there would be mumbling Robert DeNiros etc. There's more to dialogue than words. The information which a reverb gives to the audience is subtle and subconscious but it creates the magic that is called immersion. The magic and the challenge for the sound crew (production AND post) is to work out the balance between room information, legibilty and perspective. This goes to an strong extent for historic drama, as is Downton Abbey. Directors and re-recording mixers who think that legibility is all that matters in my book are ignorant and waste a huge amount of the power that this medium has. BUT a very good boom track is needed for that, as well as an alert and diplomatic production sound crew that is able to provide the requirements for recording clean sound.

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A properly recorded boom track, doesn't automatically mean a bunch of room verb on the dialog.

As far as calling re-recording mixers and directors ignorant, well you obviously never sat in a mix.

The goal is to have control over every single aspect of the sound. Andthatbincudes how much or how little room is required on dialog.

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I disagree. If all we needed was to understand the dialogue, there would be no booms, and there would be mumbling Robert DeNiros etc. There's more to dialogue than words. The information which a reverb gives to the audience is subtle and subconscious but it creates the magic that is called immersion. The magic and the challenge for the sound crew (production AND post) is to work out the balance between room information, legibilty and perspective. This goes to an strong extent for historic drama, as is Downton Abbey.

 

I agree. As I said above, my specific objection was that they used a long telephoto shot with (obvious) wireless lavs, which I felt kinda took me out of the scene. To me, a better way to cover it would be to go in and get all the dialogue with a boom in medium shots and close-ups, and replace the dialogue in editing. 

 

But: I try not to second-guess the crew, because for all we know, they were fighting jet planes, lawnmowers, traffic noise, insects, and other noise issues that we don't know about, as well as time and coverage issues. The fact that every episode sounds as good they do is amazing, and it's thoroughly entertaining and well-done. I'm glad that the show has caught on so big in the U.S., which just shows that it's possible for a top-quality series without car crashes and explosions to succeed over here. And the show is all about dialogue and character -- that's front and center, far more than any show I can think of in a long time.

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A properly recorded boom track, doesn't automatically mean a bunch of room verb on the dialog.

As far as calling re-recording mixers and directors ignorant, well you obviously never sat in a mix.

The goal is to have control over every single aspect of the sound. Andthatbincudes how much or how little room is required on dialog.

 

Yes, I have sat in mixes and I have mixed in post myself. I wonder though, have you ever spent a day on set? As for who I called ignorant (and under what circumstances), I suggest you read my last post again.

 

About room verb: there's two kinds of reverb for me: good and bad. Usually when a builing is as old as Downton Abbey, the room sound is great, and there I think it is nice to hear it, to get a feel for the way things sound in those incredibly high rooms. In many newer bulings with low ceilings, the room sound is not especially desirable to hear.

 

Of course Downton Abbey puts an emphasis on great camera movements through the hallways, up and down stairs etc, plus it's not a studio but a real castle. So I imagine it to be quite tough at times to get decent boom tracks (as they seem to have two booms). And then on many scenes there are a bunch of people talking. All this can compromise the quality of the boom track(s). So we sound folk sometimes are lucky we can put a lav on everyone and be sure that we'll get that at least. Still, I feel like the amount of lav in a mix should be kept as low as possible (and sensible), especially in a historic drama, where the ceilings are high. If I compare Downton Abbey with Boardwalk Empire, I think there's clearly more lav in DA than in BE. Maybe the latter is shot in studios so it's easier for them to boom, maybe the producers and cam crew and directors are very helpful, who knows. But I often hear a nice room sound on Boardwalk Empire and I like that.

 

In general, for drama series, what I don't understand is why sometimes the RRMs take the lav tracks on a wide shot and then switch to the boom on the close ups. Maybe that was the mix track, but why is it so hard to use a nice boom track from a closer shot and lay it underneath the wide shot (doesn't always work but surely more often than not it does, and sounds better than a lav). It's what I learned, and I think this is the right way.

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I know this might not always be wise, but on several shows I have been on, we pull back for a crazy wide after all the coverage, and in those circumstances I don't throw a wire on for the sake of dailies. I point a mic so the words are heard, but I rely on the post team to lay in my boom track based on the picture edit, and add a little reverb if they want. I have never once heard from director on set, or post, or anyone asking why they aren't "hearing" the actors. Of course this only works on shots wide enough to apply.

If the actors are wired already, I might play a bit with mixing boom/wire, if the actors are loud enough, creating my own reverb. Perhaps it'll inspire the post team to dial it in. But once again, it's a subjective choice, and the level of reverb the audience will understand really depends on the room.

On second listen, I'd like a little more of it in "Downton" - but to be fair, there are so many wide shots in so many big rooms, that reverb may simply become a distraction. Perhaps this was talked about with the creatives early on.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi All

 

 Apologies a bit late in replying regarding the above posts.

 

I recorded Series 3 of "Downton Abbey", along with Boom Op Martin Ireland and Assistant/2nd Boom Jackson Milliken, I can say with my hand on my heart we have never worked as hard on a show..... the sheer amount of unwanted noise management is vast, when at Ealing Studios  (about 40% of the shoot) almost all of the servants sets are in the studio also Mary and Sybil's bedrooms, and any guest type sets, the servants sets have real flagstones throughout, and all SA's shoes need to silenced, we used rubber cork which lasted a few days before needing replaced, Jackson would do all these shoes each morning, we also of course matted and carpeted all offscreen walking entirely, the kitchen set has all the usual issues that cooking scenes can throw at you, steam fx, fire fx, pots, pans, plates, chopping and general chaos that needs to be managed in a way that allows the actors some freedom to be in the moment without having to over think their prop acting, always a fine balance.

 

The front & driveway of Highclere Castle (the family home) has very noisey gravel and this all needs silenced when out of shot, lots of carpets and mats, 

 

Radio Mics on all actors were requested by the production, this required careful planning, when there were big numbers Martin and Jackson were called 1 Hour earlier than call time, they would prep the all the Mics and Packs the night before, they were then put into a clear Make-Up type pouch with each actors name on it, initially each pouch contained a Black, Flesh and White Mic, the Transmitter and Ankle, Waist, Thigh NeoPax and Tubi-Grip, this way costume always had what they needed, through time we got to know the costumes and were able to be more specific about what was required in each actors pouch, the final Mic position was done once on set.

Despite all this effort the Radios were frustratingly noisey, corsets, jewellery, bow ties, starched shirts, lace, silk, also costume department were very clear about what positioning of the Mics was acceptable and what was not, and as such we were often compromised there.

 

Downton is one of those shows that often looks easy when you see the final product, however the reality of the coverage is unseen, when outside and for bigger set pieces a 3rd Camera will often appear, and as you know that can be a big spanner in the works,

the last thing you need is a sniper cam nailing a CU.

 

Schoeps CCM 41's on Cinela Mounts were used for all Interiors, and having listened back to it recently I can tell that in general it is those boom tracks that have been used, I know that the Producers and Nigel Heath the RRM wanted the dialogue to bite through and have mixed it with presumably some dynamic control to achieve this.

 

There was some comments about wide shots and sound not matching, well we all know the cheat of seeing and hearing 2 people walking in the distance is too big to be believable and as such is always strange when they hold the shot for a long time, on the one occasion where we did a scene like that on Series 3 the Radios were blown away by wind and as such the sync was just guide track, once shot we recorded the dialogue clean 3 times with a Schoeps on each actor, this is all we can do when in this situation, thereafter it is down to post to make good if possible.

 

Any questions welcome, thanks for reading.

Kindest Regards

Brian

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Jam a red hot poker up my arse!  My wife got into this series on DVD.  I watched a few episodes, 6 maybe, and that's all I could stomach. What the hell do theses people do with their lives except dress for dinner (which they can't seem to do without having their dicks held by the servants) and eat dinner.  They hardly ever leave their bloody castle!  A HUGE adventure is walking across the lawn!  I want to slap the shit out of these people.  And what the hell is with Elizabeth McGovern?  She always has that look on her face like she's straining to take a dump.  I think I saw an episode where the head of the boring people, Lord Yawn, went hunting.  You call that hunting?   His guides did everything including aiming the gun for him.  What a puss.  Yeah, yeah, I know, they're privileged. The only one that's worth watching is Maggie Smith.....  and that's only because she has a bigger set of balls than the men.

 

The sound is good though, nice job.  

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Hi All

 

 Apologies a bit late in replying regarding the above posts.

 

I recorded Series 3 of "Downton Abbey", along with Boom Op Martin Ireland and Assistant/2nd Boom Jackson Milliken, I can say with my hand on my heart we have never worked as hard on a show..... the sheer amount of unwanted noise management is vast, when at Ealing Studios  (about 40% of the shoot) almost all of the servants sets are in the studio also Mary and Sybil's bedrooms, and any guest type sets, the servants sets have real flagstones throughout, and all SA's shoes need to silenced, we used rubber cork which lasted a few days before needing replaced, Jackson would do all these shoes each morning, we also of course matted and carpeted all offscreen walking entirely, the kitchen set has all the usual issues that cooking scenes can throw at you, steam fx, fire fx, pots, pans, plates, chopping and general chaos that needs to be managed in a way that allows the actors some freedom to be in the moment without having to over think their prop acting, always a fine balance.

 

The front & driveway of Highclere Castle (the family home) has very noisey gravel and this all needs silenced when out of shot, lots of carpets and mats, 

 

Radio Mics on all actors were requested by the production, this required careful planning, when there were big numbers Martin and Jackson were called 1 Hour earlier than call time, they would prep the all the Mics and Packs the night before, they were then put into a clear Make-Up type pouch with each actors name on it, initially each pouch contained a Black, Flesh and White Mic, the Transmitter and Ankle, Waist, Thigh NeoPax and Tubi-Grip, this way costume always had what they needed, through time we got to know the costumes and were able to be more specific about what was required in each actors pouch, the final Mic position was done once on set.

Despite all this effort the Radios were frustratingly noisey, corsets, jewellery, bow ties, starched shirts, lace, silk, also costume department were very clear about what positioning of the Mics was acceptable and what was not, and as such we were often compromised there.

 

Downton is one of those shows that often looks easy when you see the final product, however the reality of the coverage is unseen, when outside and for bigger set pieces a 3rd Camera will often appear, and as you know that can be a big spanner in the works,

the last thing you need is a sniper cam nailing a CU.

 

Schoeps CCM 41's on Cinela Mounts were used for all Interiors, and having listened back to it recently I can tell that in general it is those boom tracks that have been used, I know that the Producers and Nigel Heath the RRM wanted the dialogue to bite through and have mixed it with presumably some dynamic control to achieve this.

 

There was some comments about wide shots and sound not matching, well we all know the cheat of seeing and hearing 2 people walking in the distance is too big to be believable and as such is always strange when they hold the shot for a long time, on the one occasion where we did a scene like that on Series 3 the Radios were blown away by wind and as such the sync was just guide track, once shot we recorded the dialogue clean 3 times with a Schoeps on each actor, this is all we can do when in this situation, thereafter it is down to post to make good if possible.

 

Any questions welcome, thanks for reading.

Kindest Regards

Brian

Thanks for the interesting info, so how many radio mics would you typically have to prep with 3 lavs for each when there were big numbers?

What radio mics do you use please and were you able to use both Ch38-40 (606-630 Mhz) and Ch69 (854-863 Mhz) when it was filmed? Do you think you would be able to make it work on ch38 only (606-614Mhz)?

Presumably it was also difficult to find the time and quiet to wild track the lines, how did you manage that?

How many CCM41's did you have?

What did you use for exteriors?

thanks

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About 8 to10 with 3 Lavs initially until it settled down, I had 12 Channels of Lectro's on 38, 4 Channels of Audio 2040's on 69, and 3 Audio 2040's on 38. I would always try to use the Lectro's 1st as they were more reliable regarding range and frequency planning.

I used the Audio Ltd Tx's with Bombs when the Booms needed to be wireless, which was often the case when in the servants sets.

 

Very unlikely that I could have squeezed it all onto 38.

 

I would always WT lines when required, I made sure we got the time.

 

I have 4 Schoeps CCM 41's , 2 rigged with Cinela's for interior and 2 in Lyres / Rycotes /Floaters for exterior if it was quiet enough to use them, otherwise Sennheiser MHK 60's and 40's.

 

Kindest Regards

Brian

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