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Looking for any tricks or suggestions for capturing clean dialogue near a large fire (fireplace or bonfire scenes)


Daniellow
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Ahoy sound colleagues!  Been utilizing the expertise on here for quite a while but this is my first post/query.

 

Have a short coming up in a week, and l am on the hunt for any clever hacks on capturing super clean dialogue amidst all the varied crackling of log burning fires.

So far, coming at this from one two potential solutions:

    A) Camera dept. cheats the "flames" and completely fakes it, i.e. no real flames = completely clean dialogue, or 

B) We  shoot with live flames in the fireplace and bonfire, and I endeavor close directional booming with lower gain levels.

 

Of course if there is another solution here I am missing, totally open to that too.  Thanks and cheers. 

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First question: are these fires being created for the purpose of the shoot or are you shooting a documentary that takes place where there is  a bonfire already integral to the event? If this is a dramatic shoot, the fire is probably being created for the shoot and will be accomplished by a Special Effects person. Typically, bonfires, fires in a fireplace, etc., are created with fake non-combustible materials (logs, etc.) and propane gas. This is so there is control over the size of the fire, keeping the consistency of the "burn" throughout the duration of the scene. Professional Special Effects people have developed many techniques to keep these on camera fires quiet  ---  I have worked on movies where you could get right down to the fireplace and not even hear anything! I have also worked with some less talented, or less caring Effects people who have created fires that are impossible to deal with. Give us some more detail on what it is you are doing and we can come up with some suggestions and guidance.

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If the situation is a controlled fire operated by a special effects technician, you should contact that person beforehand to introduce yourself and let him know that you'll be recording sound. You'll want to respectfully request a silencer for the gas line. A silencer is basically a length of gas pipe loosely stuffed with steel wool. It cuts down the hiss of the gas significantly. Don't assume that the EFX person will have that sort of gear on the truck. I've had EFX technicians tell me more than once that they have line silencing components back in their shop and would have brought them along if only someone had asked.

 

David

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On 9/27/2020 at 11:47 AM, Jeff Wexler said:

First question: are these fires being created for the purpose of the shoot or are you shooting a documentary that takes place where there is  a bonfire already integral to the event?
 

 

 


Really appreciate the lightning-speed response Jeff.

 

definitely the prior.

 

This is a short/narrative with the principle scene I’m asking about indoors (cabin vibe), with a rustic fireplace going.

i have inquired if it is / can be just gas—if so, that would certainly get two birds, one stone. Consistency for lighting continuity, and exponentially quieter and also consistent enough to possibly get tone and pull out / replace w/fx in post.
 

It’s a low-ish budget indie, and I’ve already inquired—there is no designated sfx / pyrotechnics individual present.

 

I’m preparing for worst case scenario-natural logs w/ subsequent natural crackling/popping.

 

Does that help?

On 9/27/2020 at 12:35 PM, David Waelder said:

If the situation is a controlled fire operated by a special effects technician, you should contact that person beforehand to introduce yourself and let him know that you'll be recording sound. You'll want to respectfully request a silencer for the gas line. A silencer is basically a length of gas pipe loosely stuffed with steel wool. It cuts down the hiss of the gas significantly. Don't assume that the EFX person will have that sort of gear on the truck. I've had EFX technicians tell me more than once that they have line silencing components back in their shop and would have brought them along if only someone had asked.

 

David


Fantastic.  All very sage and thoughtful, thank you David. No technician present, but I have filed away this invaluable approach / technique for future relevant situations.

7 hours ago, berniebeaudry said:

If it is a real fire I'd suggest using lavs in addition to the boom. 

Bernie


Thanks Bernie.
Looking like it’s real log-burning, and I was very much thinking the same. I’ve also found my well place Cos11’s under maybe one layer of clothing mitigates environmental noise extremely well, often when compared to boom.

 

cheers.

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I know it's low budget but you should try and ask them to get wood that is as dry as possible from a firewood supplier. Kiln-dried is better than seasonal dried but tends to be a bit more on the pricier end of things.

 

The moisture is what causes the crackle and pops so hopefully they don't go out and grab freshly cut wood from somewhere or pieces that have been sitting out in the open for a long period of time.

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I'm slipping into producer mode, and I don't know what sort of relationship you have with the producer, director, and rest of the crew. But on an indie narrative, I'm thinking timing the fully-going fire and the camera, and multiple takes, coverage, and all that might not run smooth as silk. And if that's the case, I think a "real" fire might make it hard to get an edit with good continuity because of inconsistent flame size and such. 

 

With a good gas fire, even an off-the-shelf one, you all can sync the flame height to the shot (and possibly have more-consistent and not surprising sound issues). Looks like you've said this above. But assuming the gas isn't too loud, it looks gas looks like it could be a win-win for you and picture. 

 

Let us know how it goes. Good luck!

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10 hours ago, Daniellow said:

This is a short/narrative with the principle scene I’m asking about indoors (cabin vibe), with a rustic fireplace going.

i have inquired if it is / can be just gas—if so, that would certainly get two birds, one stone. Consistency for lighting continuity, and exponentially quieter and also consistent enough to possibly get tone and pull out / replace w/fx in post.


If it is an indoor fire for a short film, then they might very well only want to have a real fire for the opening wide shot. All the mid/tight shots should be with a simulated fire (lots of LED panels now have the ability to be programmed to do this), for a number of reasons: health & safety, lighting consistency, and for sound too. 

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On 9/29/2020 at 12:51 AM, IronFilm said:


If it is an indoor fire for a short film, then they might very well only want to have a real fire for the opening wide shot. All the mid/tight shots should be with a simulated fire (lots of LED panels now have the ability to be programmed to do this), for a number of reasons: health & safety, lighting consistency, and for sound too. 

 

Exactly what I'm thinking.  DP is testing out a "light gag" this weekend, if it's convincing that's how we'll do coverage.

Cheers mate.

 

On 9/28/2020 at 5:20 PM, Jim Feeley said:

With a good gas fire, even an off-the-shelf one, you all can sync the flame height to the shot (and possibly have more-consistent and not surprising sound issues). Looks like you've said this above. But assuming the gas isn't too loud, it looks gas looks like it could be a win-win for you and picture. 

 

Let us know how it goes. Good luck!

I hadn't thought of an "out-of-the-box" or "off-the-shelf" --possibly propane solution--great suggestion.  Shoot is end of next week, so, I'll definitely let you all know which lane we chose and how it went.

 

Thanks Jim.

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Let's assume this is a documentary type scenario, where this is a real camp fire, no practical effects or propane to assist and there will be people sitting around it having a conversation.

 

There are two main concerns with a fire that crackles. One is the actual sound continuity issues it creates, another the smoke and embers that might be thrown towards the shotgun microphone you have overhead. Both can be mitigated by creating a fire with good combustion and kiln dried wood. Less water in the wood means less smoke and crackling. Good combustion is usually increased by having a well established, hot fire, with a bed of embers, that is ventilated from somewhere down low. If it's a fire ring, you can help by digging a small channel, underneath, towards the front. The same thing can be accomplished with a traditional fire pit. Just search for "smokeless fire" there is a ton of information out there.

 

I had to hustle to come up with a workable solution on a doc shoot, in the past, where there was a real fire at play. Increasing combustion, using kiln dried hard wood and recording plenty of ambience along with close micing all worked very well in the end, with some creative editing. I believe they did end up using the lavs, along with the ambience recorded with a Sanken CS3e shotgun mic, which cuts background noise very effectively.

 

Best of luck!

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