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325 Reasons Production Benefits from Sound Department Attending Tech Scout

Jan McL

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Having agreed on the money etc., tabled negotiating prep days. Tech scout (there will be five days) and a day to confab with production designer / prop master / costume designer since period piece with possibility of period mics. I want to be well armed when the discussion resumes.


  • The scout is sound's introduction to all the people able to make the difference between 'OK' and 'great' sound.
  • If sound’s not on the scout the message is clear: our work doesn’t matter.
  • Sound matters. Sound is subtle (unconscious) but here's a fact: 100% close ‘artificial’ sound breaks suspension of belief. 
  • Significant percentages of stories are told with words re-told by professional liars. It production’s duty to capture your expensive artists’ best performances for the project to achieve deep believability. 
  • $: knowing in advance where the carts may live saves production money in time and chaos reduction. 
  • Relative to cart placement, much depends on architecture. This is something no one but an RF SME (subject matter expert) can do.
  • That teeny, tiny apartment may require the teeny tiny recording kit that wants attention the day before. Another SME situation.
  • I begin real estate negotiations with locations and set dressers. There are questions to be answered:
    • It's helpful to plan where actors may be privately / comfortably wired on set.
    • Clap my hands and plan for the reverberant space.
    • Ingress/egress addressed.
  • Helpful to observe the relationship between director and DP, how they communicate. Essential to see the sketching out of coverage. What will not be seen. 
  • Knowing the equipment grips and electrics plan to bring tells me a lot about our work and how sound may need to adapt and/or form an alliance.


I remain hopeful, especially with this estimable crowd to fill in the blanks.


What else say you?


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Edited by Jan McL
Correcting punctuation.
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If there is to be a fire, either in a fireplace or a campfire, request that the pyro technician (or efx technician) include a silencer to minimize gas hiss in the kit. Since the silencer is really just a length of pipe stuffed with steel wool, one would think that any efx technician would pack it whenever they went out on a job but that isn't always the case. I've many times been told, "Oh, I have one of those; it's sitting on my workbench but no one asked for it."



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Re period car...spark arrestor too?  Rattles and scrapes?  Noisy seats?  +1 about fire rig flow regulator: makes a big diff.


That's great list.  It's also the reason that on many prods sound is NOT on the scout--who wants to hear about extra problems?  (The "just get what you can get" school of filmmaking...)

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In the day, I actually did a lot of work with a fabulous (and now retired as am I) MOW producer who insisted on me being on every day of every scout which turned a three-week MOW into a four-week production.  I was and always will be eternally grateful for his vision.



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Man, you have DPs working today who get to shoot Star Wars Episode VIII and who think cameras or film stock, have nothing to do with a movies look now...  and that movie even appears to begin with awful ADR (how bad adr ends up in any movie is beyond me, guess they didn't hire Mark DeSimone...;)  I bet the Star Wars producers just look to their accounting books for Episode VIII and just laugh at the idea shooting mostly on an Alexa and opening movies with bad ADR might be a mistake.  


I used to go on tech scouts, and then the producers turn it into this weird semantics game (my nyu alumni began even referring it to a game, a game they felt they were on the correct side on because, you know, audio is subconscience so quality is a moot issue when compared to everything else that needs to happen) but also where you are at an advantage depending on your success arguing in favor of your own alcoholism or something, I noticed long time alcoholics were the best.  One guy had been a confirmed drug addict/alcoholic since 4th grade and ad agencies thought that guy was like the second coming because of how awesome he was... he lasts about 2 years within 5 year contracts, as like a pattern from what I know so could be I just had the worst clients.

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