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Microphones on set that can be potted up/potted down


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Believe it or not I was a soundman in college back 66,67(vietnam veteran,ranger).

I did Glen Yarborough,Johnny Mathis,The Turtles live on stage and I had pro-mics

hanging from stage ceiling that I would pot up/pot down as the artists moved on

the stage. Now I am really excited about the sound carts you fellows use and I've

got to learn more about how you set them up. My stage mics were fed in to pro-

Ampex decks via a Collins sound board and I sat inside a professional sound room.

Here's my question- Is it practical to have mics at different locations on a film set

and actually pot up/pot down with the action. I had an idea about doing this on a

production that I want to shoot. Does anybody in the sound business ever use this

technique?

Greg Gross

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Believe it or not I was a soundman in college back 66,67(vietnam veteran,ranger).

I did Glen Yarborough,Johnny Mathis,The Turtles live on stage and I had pro-mics

hanging from stage ceiling that I would pot up/pot down as the artists moved on

the stage. Now I am really excited about the sound carts you fellows use and I've

got to learn more about how you set them up. My stage mics were fed in to pro-

Ampex decks via a Collins sound board and I sat inside a professional sound room.

Here's my question- Is it practical to have mics at different locations on a film set

and actually pot up/pot down with the action. I had an idea about doing this on a

production that I want to shoot. Does anybody in the sound business ever use this

technique?

Greg Gross

We'd call what you were doing "plant mics", and no it doesn't work all that well for dramatic film and video shoots.  Plant mics are kind of a "3rd line of defense" for us, with the primary being a high quality directional condenser mic on a fishpole in the hands of a highly skilled and intuitive boom operator, and the 2nd being lavalier type mics hidden on the actors and transmitted to the mixer via a wireless set up.  The boom works best since it moves as the actors move, and gives us the cleanest sound since there is only one mic up and it is positioned optimally for each line.  Wireless mics are used all the time now too, since now productions are often shot with multiple cameras in ensemble and somewhat improvised acting situations, and producers have the hallucination that this will give them clean access to every line from every actor during editing.  Plant mics can often help in some situations, but the those situations are very specific, (like inside cars) and even a tiny change in the blocking, camera position or lighting can render them useless.  What you are describing is a method sometimes used in sound reinforcement (now called "area micing"), but it would make for sound that was much too ambient and full of other on-set noises (like HMI ballast buzz, dolly noises, footsteps etc) to be compared to what a boom (or booms) and lav mics could do.  We like to say that in movie sound what you DON'T end up hearing  is just as much a concern to us as what you DO hear.

Philip Perkins

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I have actually used that kind of placement on a film, big shot 20+ actors, big party at a long table and a lot of talking. Wireless on the main actors, boom what we could based on what was scripted and then two TLM103 above the table, for the rest and atmos. I must say that it worked better than what I expected and gave it a very natural feel.

Oscar Lovnér

Sound Image

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Philip P wrote:

"Wireless mics are used all the time now too, since now productions are often shot with multiple cameras in ensemble and somewhat improvised acting situations, and producers have the hallucination that this will give them clean access to every line from every actor during editing."

Phillip, have you read Mike Minklers interview in the C.A.S. quarterly? He's not a producer. I'm not sure how production mixer friendly he is, I have never had the pleasure. but he feels that Lav's are the answer. I'm not far behind. I've never boomed a whole reel of HD, but it must hurt!

Nick Allen

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Philip P wrote:

"Wireless mics are used all the time now too, since now productions are often shot with multiple cameras in ensemble and somewhat improvised acting situations, and producers have the hallucination that this will give them clean access to every line from every actor during editing."

Phillip, have you read Mike Minklers interview in the C.A.S. quarterly? He's not a producer. I'm not sure how production mixer friendly he is, I have never had the pleasure. but he feels that Lav's are the answer. I'm not far behind. I've never boomed a whole reel of HD, but it must hurt!

Nick Allen

And...?  Do a real comparison between the sound of an actor wearing a lav mic buried in a costume and the same actor on an over head boom mic on a normal, not horrendously noisy movie set.  I think you will choose the boom mic every time, for every possible reason, mostly that it sounds more natural, more intelligible and more like something you'd want to listen to for a long period of time.  The reasons to use a lav mic on an actor have nothing to do with sound and sound aesthetics and everything to do with picture making and production expediency.  As sound mixers, it is our job to stick up for the overall quality of the audio that will be passed to the viewer of the show, and sometimes to save producers from themselves when they want  to be expedient to the point that they will be disappointed in post.  I have boomed whole reels of HD and many other types of video--HD reels are only 32 min long in camcorders actually, as opposed to 120+ in DVCAM cameras, if that's what we need to do to get good audio for a scene then that's what we do.  In a dramatic film the takes are never even close to that long, so the length of the shot re: booming is a non-issue.  In many types of filmmaking today it is expected that the mixer will have anyone that the camera can see who talks on a wireless on a split track.  While this is sometimes true, a mixer would be a fool to not have a boom op following the shot as best they can, not only for the qualitative reasons stated above but as a bail out when (inevitably) an actor's lav is hit or moved as part of the action. 

Philip Perkins CAS

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Having boomed thousands of reels of film I highly doubt that in the most demanding of times that a boom op can hold quietly and really cue for 30 minutes plus, but that is another discussion.

The notion of full frequency audio from a boom is somewhat old school. Intitially we rip a ton of low end out of them (If we don't someone else will). Then almost all of the dialogue goes thru an auto-normalling process that is rarely hand tuned, moreover it is usually a preset that the last guy setup. Clothes rustle, what I call mechanical noise, and concealment are the last barriers for the lavalier. Tom Holman is creating a filtering scheme that simulates placement of microphones based on an intial setup and places in the optimum micing position virtually. This kind of theory already is in every Lectrosonic 400 digital link. There is no audio coming from the transmitter just error offsets so the DSP can create the sound based on a prediction. The ability to create warm sounding track from less than pristine source after the fact is upon us. With this knowledge, what is truly the job description?

As for bucking the producers, AGAIN!!! I find that the post producers are more and more savvy about what the results are from the production side. Intelligibility is the key. Storytelling has nothing to do with shreiking high's and strident mids. I'm not trying to demean the position (or striving for sonic nirvana)  I just feel that the over all performance of the team in aquiring the most USEABLE track is our job description. Technology has runaway with the definition of quality, operators must justify their usefulness in different ways and that can be very subjective (ie. does he play cool music, or is he the husband of our Post Supervisor).

I always revert to; how is it furthering the story line and not distracting the audience (or other crew members), after that I can worry about the 8K tilt.

Not no MOS, No Looping!

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>Having boomed thousands of reels of film I highly doubt that in the most demanding of times that a boom op can hold >quietly and really cue for 30 minutes plus, but that is another discussion.

Well, believe it, man, because me and my guys have done it many many times.  Docs, TV shows etc., and for longer than 30 min.

>>>>The notion of full frequency audio from a boom is somewhat old school. Intitially we rip a ton of low end out of them (If we don't someone else will). Then almost all of the dialogue goes thru an auto-normalling process that is rarely hand tuned, moreover it is usually a preset that the last guy setup. Clothes rustle, what I call mechanical noise, and concealment are the last barriers for the lavalier. Tom Holman is creating a filtering scheme that simulates placement of microphones based on an intial setup and places in the optimum micing position virtually. This kind of theory already is in every Lectrosonic 400 digital link. There is no audio coming from the transmitter just error offsets so the DSP can create the sound based on a prediction. The ability to create warm sounding track from less than pristine source after the fact is upon us. With this knowledge, what is truly the job description?

I do audio post about 50% of the time.  I really appreciate it when production sound people do NOT "rip out a ton of low end"

on location.  I often get audio, even from interviews, in which this has happened and its hard to make it sound full and natural again.  There is no reason to roll off a lot of  low end except to eliminate a little boom+wind rumble.  I have no idea what "auto-normalling process " you  are talking about.  If you mean "normalling" as in "normalisation" as in maximizing the level of digital files--no, we never do that.  If you mean that we level the audio so it plays naturally thru a scene, yes, but that process is anything but "auto"--that is a great deal of the art of a re-recording mixer.  As for the anti rustle software, I'll believe it when I hear it.  In my experience, that kind of deus ex machina stuff always follows Berger's Law (re: Mark Berger, Academy Award winning re-rec mixer of Amadeus and etc etc):  those things work the best when I need them the least.  What is the job description: Production Sound Mixer, same as it was.  The job is to capture what is happening on the set the best you can and not get into a lot of EQ and DSP-based signal processing, since you don't know how the track will be used in the final product.  If there can be great anti rustle software, bring it, but let's use it in post where the choice can be made to use or not, and if so how much.   

>>>>As for bucking the producers, AGAIN!!! I find that the post producers are more and more savvy about what the results are from the production side. Intelligibility is the key. Storytelling has nothing to do with shreiking high's and strident mids. I'm not trying to demean the position (or striving for sonic nirvana)  I just feel that the over all performance of the team in aquiring the most USEABLE track is our job description. Technology has runaway with the definition of quality, operators must justify their usefulness in different ways and that can be very subjective (ie. does he play cool music, or is he the husband of our Post Supervisor).

We are in total agreement about the job being getting usable tracks.  We differ on what that means, apparently.  When I cut location sound into a film, I almost always go for the boom sound first, and that's what goes unto the film 9 times out of 10.  The lav mic sound takes a lot more work to sound decent, and never tells as much of "the story" of a scene as the boom mic does since it doesn't hear the environment as well.  I think that how an actor's voice bounces around a room IS part of the story, and helps put us in the scene.  Most of the guys I talk to who are doing a lot of split-track lav work look at it as a backup to the mix they are doing on the set, a mix that is based on what their boom ops are delivering.  In post, we are under huge time pressures all the time, and if I can make a production mixer's mix track work most of the time, with an occasional assist from their splits, then that guy is going to get a big recommend from me.  Reconstructing a complex scene with a lot of angles and coverage from a pile of split tracks is REALLY time consuming,  MUCH harder to update as the new cuts come in and doesn't end up sounding as good in the end.

Philip Perkins

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