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Photo Shoot for Fashion Doc


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I'm working on a documentary about Plus Size Models and we are documenting a fashion shoot in a studio that's approximately 5,000 sq. feet.  The actual photo shoot, hair and make-up, wardrobe, etc. are all contained within this open space.  The photographer says that she must have music to shoot the models, the doc director wants to have intimate conversations, when they are in hair and make up and when they are talking amongst themselves.  The shoot will take place over four days, and is to be used for content, not as "B-Roll."  We've all discussed the fact that the music will be a huge problem for the doc, cutting wise, rights wise, and dialogue wise and we are negotiating with the photographer, who is certainly willing to work with us, but wants the models to look as good and be as relaxed and comfortable as possible and they are used to working with background music blasting.  In other words, there is no "enemy" here, everyone "gets it" but it's still a tough situation, with many competing needs.

Any suggestions for isolating or minimizing the music in ways I may not be thinking of?

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Phonak earwigs or copyright free music is going to be cheaper than renting a sound proof dressing room or another part of the building or a trailer for hair and make up and has the advantage you maybe able to use the production sound from when the models are in front of the photographers lens.

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It's a tough call.  The earwigs will be visible in closeups of that side of their heads, the fidelity is pretty low (no "feelin' it" bass or etc).  Some people find them extremely annoying, and others need them to play loud enough that in an quiet conversation your boom mic might pick up their audio.  The best earwigs (Invisity types, that don't need a neckloop or a separate receiver) require some fiddling, and are quite expensive esp if you need a lot of them.  In situations like this I have gone with cheaper induction earpieces and run a "room loop" around the whole space, pushed by a large audio amp for them to pick up--but this is fiddly too.  If you are running a lot of bugs you should get some help.  You should also expect that they won't work all the time, and that sooner or later the music-loving photog will want to crank it up in the room...

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It is a tough situation - at some point you may have to decide what is "most important"... Whether the fashion shoot is going to be secondary to the documentary or the doc secondary to the shoot. 

Unfortunately there's no magic button, so whichever production ends up being the secondary one may just have to compromise and make the best they can out of it. 

 

-Mike

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I regularly work for a director with a fashion photography BG and have done a number similar shoots. In these cases Stills are usually the primary concern for the client and the filming is a little icing on the cake. 

The ego of the photographer will largely dictate how things go. Also a stills shoot is noisy as fuck without the music. Remote Flashes. Hair dryers, everyone walking around and talking constantly. Oh and photo studios are never sound friendly in regards to reverb, BG noise etc. It is just two different worlds.

Scheduling is your best friend. Do the interviews separately. We usually do them around the stills. We work with the stills Gaffer(?) and have everything on standby ready to roll in and go within a minute or two when it is our turn. Generally you don't get long so you have to be efficient. 

Everyone can work together but you have to understand it is there world we are working in.

 

 

 

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Thanks for all the suggestions.  I've never been happy using earwigs, even with actors on features (and they are fragile and expensive to rent and wouldn't be under my control because I'd be off shooting in another part of the space) but the suggestion of earwigs gave me an idea.  The shoot will be noisy as fuck, as Nate said, even without music, which is part of what we are capturing on these days.  I'm planning to get a lot of wild sound-hair dryers, flashes, walking and talking etc.  But I was wondering if it's possible to use an IPOD or I PHONE with blue tooth ear buds or an IPOD nano as substitute earwigs, so that the models and the photographer can hear their music and the music will sound like just more annoying noise, which will be fine for this shoot, not like Beyonce singing.  The bluetooth earbuds can be hidden in the model's clothing, if not their ears, when they are actually being shot. 

My ideal system would be one music source, going to multiple bluetooth headsets.  Is this a possibility and does anyone know which earbuds might work best and/or if a system like this would work at all?

 

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I would not count on blutooth for anything important.  Too flaky, too complex to set up.  Again...if you have someone smart and experienced to manage just that for you..  But the earpieces will be way visible, wouldn't that be an issue on a fashion shoot?  These are the reasons why earwig setups are the standard in the industry for shoots like this.  I'd advise at least calling the closest "usual suspect" rental house near you and talking to their folks about how other mixers have cut this knot, and how much it will cost.  Then your producers can decide.

 

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From my initial reading I thought the shoot was 1 of those TV set-ups where the photographer is in fact working for the production (and they are not working for another client) in which case they should be under direction, but it would seem not, so what the photographer decides will be the 'be and end all'. Having said all that, almost all photographers edit their work and it may not be out of the realms of possibility for them to retouch visible part of an earwig out of the picture but I imagine it will take a lot of charm and persuasion. I still like the idea of the models and photographer getting down to some less than hip, copyright free music but that's because I'm a sadist :-)

 

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2 hours ago, Jack Norflus said:

My guess is any sort of ear piece on the models will not fly with the photographer.

Depends on the shots, the hair, the lighting etc..  I've had them fly in some situations with very particular folks, and in closeups.  As was said, they can be photoshopped out of stills pretty easy too.  As everyone has said, it kind of depends on how down with the concept of playback successfully coexisting with doco dialog everyone is.   If the stills folks don't buy in then it won't happen. 

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Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. I'm inclined to think this is probably the latter situation but it's an interesting intellectual exercise so I'll take a stab at it.

Sound recording studios are often equipped with rolling sound baffles. These typically have a wood frame and cloth covers made of speaker-cloth and are packed with sound absorbing material. The examples I've seen are usually about 4-feet high by 6-feet long.

If I had the luxury of prep time and some rental money, I would try to rent or borrow at least four studio baffles, six would be better, and distribute them about the studio space to try to isolate the photo area from the vanity areas as much as possible. Usually these baffles are reasonably attractive so there should be no harm if they are seen in the background. 

No amount of baffling would make the music inaudibly, or even minimally audible, but it might be possible to make it less intrusive. Some cooperation would be necessary to accomplish this: first, the speakers would need to be placed at or near floor level rather than elevated on stands. And, second, the photographer would have to be comfortable with playback at reasonable, rather than bone shaking, levels.

Of course, if the subjects absolutely must feel the music in their bones, all is lost. Any, maybe all is lost anyway since music that might require licensing will continue to be audible in the background of everything you record. But, with care and cooperation, it might be possible to make intelligible recordings that are appropriate for the activity shown. And, doing as many formal interviews as possible without photo activity would also help.

David

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Thanks for all the suggestions and "answers."  Production just told me that earpieces of any kind are definitely out.  They said that the still photographer will work closely with us but I'm not sure anyone knows what that means.  I am definitely checking out sound baffles.

Thanks again,

Judy

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Its going to take a lot of treatment to a big echoey space to give a you a chance with this route if they're using loud, copyrighted music through out the shoot, although supplementing a very localised speaker (for the lyrics) with a thumper might increase the odds, marginally, on giving you usable dialogue while the photographer is shooting (like this), but these will be hard sells to production, no guarantees of success and some time needed to experiment. IMHO they will need to structure some time into the schedule when the PA is not going or hire another space/make up trailer to do I/Vs while tunes like Pharrell's 'Happy' song gets blasted across the studio :-). I wonder if putting a mic on the photographer might change her approach a little.

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It can be fun to try and find a solution to some else's problem but there does seems to be some (as SM might have said :-) unrealistic expectations going on in this production - unless they want to throw some money at an 'outside of the box' solution, they will need to think about some other content for the show and they and the photographer will have to accept the photography part of the show is going to be 'B' roll.

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Thanks again for all the feedback.  Basically, I've been advising production all along of these problems and making it sound even worse than you've all been making the situation sound.  They are duly advised by me in person and in writing (a friendly email to the second soundperson advising her of the problems with the director and producer cc'd).  It's part of a long documentary shoot and all of this material could wind up being B-Roll with voice over, etc. but seems like a huge waste of a 4 day shoot.  Tomorrow is Day 1 of this part of the shoot and maybe things will change when they "see" what I've been saying all along.

P.S. The photographer will be wired and she in fact may be more cooperative when she actually sees the problem on the day.

P.S. It certainly does not help that every time I bring up these issues, the DP says, proudly, "I'm from a narrative background.  I know nothing about sound."  I want to teach a workshop, "Sound for Camera people."  I have trained the DP I work with most to wear headphones and it has made a world of difference, not only in the production sound but in her shooting and in the content of the material that we deliver.    

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Dont even waste your time trying to figure out how to make this "work". Like many above, I work regularly on high-end fashion shoots. Just do NOT spend any of your valuable bandwidth with anything other than your polite, professional "disclosure" about copyright and SNR. Then if anyone is sounding like theyve forgotten, ("thats gonna be great" while Techno is making your ears bleed), gently remind them of your disclosure.

They will be true believers once they get out of post, or they never will.

Disclose, remind, move on...

It's all the same to the Many-Faced God of Sound.

best

 

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