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November 7

Thomas Causey

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I'm currently working on a big budget comedy, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry", it has become increasingly difficult to get the sound. Let me illustrate; the scene is with four actors sitting at a table, piece of cake, wrong. First the table is surrounded with 500 extras who are dancing to playback with a thumper, one side of the ballroom has a bellagio style water fountain, did i mention the projectors on all four walls or the roaming mechanical colored lights that are constantly twisting and turning various colors all over the set.

Of course just put four radio mics on them and let the good times roll, ha ha, one actress is in a skin tight vinyl cat suit, one is 90% naked except for a thong and butterfly wings, the third thespian is in a foam apple costume, and the fourth artiste is in a Dracula tuxedo, as you can imagine there is a variety of noises, squeaks, pops that rival the 1000 feet that are shuffling in the background to that mind numbing thump. Whats the big deal, just wait for the coverage and get the various elements quiet and boom it.

I failed to mention this is a high tech new Hollywood movie being shot with the Panavision Genesis camera, actually 3 Gensis cameras, one is on the technocrane which is starting quite high and wide and can glide into a lovely 3 shot. Hell, why not have a camera hidden, zoomed into a fairly tight single. Just because we can, lets have a steadicam roam free and settle into a nice 4 shot. Ok get out the blm's and put them under the tablecloth and hope for the best until the two booms can settle into the shot, because of the lightning, the two overheads can only zone mic the table.

Ok, each camera has a 90 minute video tape and the director does not want to cut, so as not to break the creative flow, wow, a twenty minute take is pushing the limits of any poor boom man, this is getting downright ugly. 7 microphones and nothing is really great, lots of sound, lots of noise. My stomach is beginning to churn.

No, the director insists, I need all 3 cameras. No, the cameraman declares, we see the whole room, I can't turn anything off, I'm getting killed too. No, the AD demands, turn the damn thumper up, the extras can hardly hear it. The seven producers, three writers, and others need 15 headsets and hell they're having a hard time hearing beacause of the damn water fountain.  No, the special effect man explains, we got to turn the water higher the steadicam can't see the  water when it settles.  Ok, I'm a professional, stay calm, do the best you can, believe it or not we pieced the scene together, a dash of this a dash of that, maybe it wasn't pretty but everyone was laughing at the scene.

The moral of this tale is that the days of one camera, 35mm film, single take filming is becoming a fond memory. The days of miking camera perspective, and lighting for the single camera/microphone are few and far between. Its become hard to get great sound, while the multiple tracks will assist the editors in piecing together a usable track, I miss the simpler times.

While the audience will still get a great soundtrack in the end, it has become increasingly difficult to get the sound.

Hey, you said we could ramble, or muse, or whatever

Regards,  Tommy Causey

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I was thinking the other day about Tom, wondering why I hadn't seen a post from You, and now I know why. The good news is your working, the bad news is how your working. Jesus F..ing Christ, sounds like your on a never ending wacked out commercial nightmare with no adults in sight. I've had bad days in commercial world like you so well describe in your post, but it was over in a day or two, not3,4,5,months or more. WOW!  You may be right about the old days being gone, but for now not forgotten by some of us at least. Good luck on the rest of the shoot, and post more about the film when and if you get a chance.


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The scene was finnally brought to its knees; the blms, were effective for the wide shot, too noisy for the coverage. The radio's while acceptable for certain lines but overall were too problematical, as well as one actor was effectively naked. The final solution was two cardiods from below; the camerman could/would not change the lighting, so shadows from an above mic position were unacceptable. Compromise is the name of the game, the sound was finally found in the coverage, the schoeps GVC adaptors were instrumental in a low profile from below. The fountain was eventually turned off, the extras minimized, the thumper reduced, and we lived to fight another day.


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Man, I feel your pain. What a great post. The norm now seems to be 3 cameras, no waiting...I heard a funny story from our first AD about a DP we have both worked with who is notorious for "bring in another camera." Apparantly on SWAT he decided he could get a tow shot in a Limo with 6 actors as a oner. Many hours lighting, trying to blast through the tinted windows, 6 cameras, roll sound and...wait a minute the rig is too heavy. It didn't even budge. That was a wrap. Best to you Thomas. Keep the war stories coming. P.

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