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Opinions/experiences on doing both location sound AND post professionally?


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Hi everyone,

 

I'm new to the forum as a member, even though I've been following this community for quite some time now (so much knowledge! much appreciated btw :))

 

I've been wondering about this question (see title) for a while now and so far I didn't really find this topic somewhere. If this has already been discussed a lot of times and I'm just not finding the right threads then sorry for another post.

 

For the last 5-6 years now I'm doing sound for picture but always as a student (still enrolled in a masters study). Over the last 2-3 years I got the chance to do more paid jobs and work as a freelancer but I wouldn't call that fully professional since I'm still enjoying the financial benefits of being a student.

The work I do is basically sound for picture and usually includes location sound (which seems to be kind of rare at our university), sound editing, sound design and also "mixing for theatre" (we have a nice little mixing stage at our school that works quite well and translates kind of good to cinemas).

Directors I work with seem to appreciate the fact that I kind of do it all and I'm very happy to be involved in the storytelling form the very beginning and being treated as a moviemaker.

 

So I've learned a lot in all these projects and I think my location sound work was improving quicker since I also had to edit and mix the dialouge I recorded (badly, sometimes) and know the capabilities/limits of Izotope for example. I also like the balance of being on location frequently and then doing computer/studio work for some weeks.

But at the same time I know there are a lot of challenges and disadvantages when trying to do it all. I've heard of people who seem to mange it and do both professionally but I feel like it's kind of rare.

 

I think you might get the scenario already so I won't write much more. I'm just curious to know if there are people in this community who have some thoughts about this and might share some experiences. I didn't really talk about gear that much because I kind of got to know the stuff and know the financial aspects. I'm rather interested in how you manage to do both professionally or why you couldn't.

 

I hope this has its place here and wish you all a nice sunday!

Sebi

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Hi Sebi,


when I was in school, I loved being on set as a psm as much as being involved in sound post production.

When I first started working, I was primarily a sound recordist, on documentaries, television and stories.

After a few years, I had an accident and couldn't work for several months on the set.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work in post-production, which limited the loss of income.


After my recovery, I was happy to return to the set, but I didn't want to leave post-production.
With some colleagues, we started a post-production company and split our time between post-production and shooting.

That was in 1998 and since then I've always been involved in both sides and I love it.

I feel like knowing post-production helps me on set, and when I'm there I really know what's needed and what's important.

And I can tell that directors like to be with someone in post who knows how it works on a set.


But I have two very important points:

- If I'm working as PSM on a project, I'd rather not be the re-recording mixer. The film needs different perspectives and points of view.

- I work mostly on documentaries now, and I feel like having a foot in both parts is more accepted than in fiction.


If you feel you like both aspects of sound for picture, don't limit yourself.

 

Henri

 

 

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I've done both for about 35 years, after being just a location soundie (and filmmaker etc) only for about 10 years before that.   If you want to do both sorts of work you are in luck in being in Europe, where having a single sound person for both production and post is something of a tradition.  In the USA that is not true, and there are many barriers to working this way, but hopefully you won't encounter them.  I very much agree that working in post production audio (and being up on current techniques) really adds to one's value as a location sound recordist.  As you said, it means that you have a vivid idea of what sorts of location audio problems can be fixed, to what degree, with how much labor and what the results will sound like.   In the USA, in the larger markets and on larger productions there is a strong bias against people who are other than specialists.  This bias is reinforced by the unions, and a sound person who purports to do both tasks is often regarded with suspicion.  But since you are in Europe I encourage you to try this path if it interests you--I have found doing both "sides" of movie audio very rewarding.

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Well, thanks a lot to both of you for sharing your experiences!

 

19 hours ago, henrimic said:

But I have two very important points:

- If I'm working as PSM on a project, I'd rather not be the re-recording mixer. The film needs different perspectives and points of view.

- I work mostly on documentaries now, and I feel like having a foot in both parts is more accepted than in fiction.

That‘s actually a good point. A fresh perspective and the collaboration with others definetely helps to not get stuck creatively... 

 

16 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

In the USA that is not true, and there are many barriers to working this way

Interesting! Haven‘t thought about regional differences in business habits yet. Well not in this context at least. But even though it might not be as strict in Germany or Europe in general there are still a lot of those who claim that you can only be professional if you specialize.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think when starting out there are a lot of benefits from doing both sides of audio, because you get to experience the whole workflow from start to finish which helps you develop as you realize what Post needs, and you gain an understanding of what they have to go through on location as well. 

 

Also as you're building up your client base in the early years, there can be certain synergies too from working both sides. As it gives two pathways of people connecting with you, then people who hire you for post might later on hire you for location (or the reverse).

 

But in the long run, you're better off to specialize and become an expert, rather than being a Jack of All Things but Master of None. You don't want to spread yourself too thin. 

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I’ve been doing both for 30 years and concur with most of what is written above.

The only downside I experienced is being onset on another job and producer rings to say last minute changes on the mix and we need it now......So juggling the two can be hard if you are busy with both.

I did many years mixing the documentaries and composing for the shoots I did location on.

Its very fulfilling to go from acquisition to output......( and you can’t blame anyone if it sounds sh#t)

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I have done both production and post prod sound  quite a  few docu's and I enjoy both aspects

+1: "and you can’t blame anyone if it sounds sh#t"

I would not try to pass myself off as a post sound mixer for movies,  many I hear still really suck though which were done by 'Holywood' pros

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I bounce back and forth between production and post.  The biggest challenge I find is scheduling, and as I get busier in production I end up having to turn down the post jobs to the point that I don't do very many anymore.  I find post schedules to be much more fluid and require a lot more flexibility.  It's all commercial and corporate in post for me, which is different than feature length projects.

I do feel that mixing in post makes me a much better production mixer, and is really worth it.

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I do both (About 80-85% Production and the rest post).  I only take on commercials and documentaries for post these days though as I can't dedicate the proper amount of time for a narrative given I don't have a setup that is proper for Foley or ADR.  I have a stable of documentary clients and it is nice to be able to fit in a short doc here and there between on set days.  In all honesty, I increasingly wish I was 100% production sound as the years go on but I find it silly to turn down lucrative quick and easy post edits and mixes.  ALWAYS bill hourly on post.  Don't get caught in a flat rate trap as they always will milk you for all its worth!

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When I started there were significant barriers to entry in the post audio world, in the era of mag-film dubbers and little or no mix automation.  At that time small mix rooms might have a total of 3 or 4 channels of playback max going down to a mono recorder, very limited signal processing, even more limited "problem solving" type gear like NR  (remember Burwen?), tiny SFX libraries on scratchy LPs and serious noise buildup if you tried bouncing things down.  A far better mix can be done today via a laptop, a DAW, and some headphones while sitting in a coffee shop.  The advent of computer-based post made it possible for me to progress from tiny simple short docs to indie features and fullup PBS films while still doing a lot of production sound as well.   My home studio is far more capable than the high-hourly rate dubstages of years ago. 

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