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Practical sound jokes


Izen Ears
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Today I placed a remote-controlled electronic whoopie cushion and let it rip during a take, and I didn't tell anyone. It was a scene in an interrogation room, and it was at a quiet part where the "perp" is about to admit to something. It was day 70 of 71 and we're all pretty darn casual, and besides #1 on the call sheet told me to do that stuff whenever I want so I just went there. It was HILARIOUS. I know darn well on almost any other set in the universe I could not get away with that kind of thing, but on this set it worked.

Another time on the first season of the show during a playback scene, instead of playing the music I just played a long fart I recorded, the actor (#1 on the call sheet) LOVED it and laughed his ass off, and then totally nailed the playback song, then we wrapped.

I didn't ask or inform anyone. I'm a maverick, a rogue, I'd never make it in H-wood with these antics I know. On another job I did some playback gags and one went awesome and the other one didn't go so well, but it is funny in retrospect.

Any of you do similar gags with sound? How did they go?

Dan Izen

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I have a remote controlled fart machine as well. So much fun when used at the right time. We should all have one in our packages.

CrewC

I thought I knew all the equipment you used... I guess you never brought that item out when we were working together.

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Back in my video game days, when I was editing game dialogue, there are some actors that give really funny outtakes. Depending on the game (meaning the vibe of the client), I would sometimes send the outtakes off to the game developer, and sure enough, just about every time I did, the outtakes ended up in the game. Of course, I'm the only person that would get the fact that it was an unscripted line, but it made me feel good. The funniest case for me was when I was working on Gears of War, and one of the characters had a ton of outtakes, and Epic Games ended up making a rap song out of the outtakes and played it over the credits of the game.

Another funny thing I did was when I was working on cutscenes for a game, and the day before we had to deliver the audio, we realized that the devs hadn't recorded dialogue for some minor characters, so we just recorded them on our own. While we were messing around, I recorded one of the sound designers yelling "suck my balls!". Ever since then, if there was a cutscene or character animation that had some sort of monster, I would take that recording, and "sound design" the heck out of it so it wasn't obvious what was being said, and put it in. I even added it to a superweapon (a nuke) in the last game I worked on. I'll probably only be the only person in the world the chuckle at these things, but it gave me some mild satifaction, I guess.

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I was on a show when someone put the fart machine in a stack of pallets the actors were staged on. It was a comedy. The scene was them waiting quietly for someone. One actor was high on pain meds, and looked confused and giggled a bit. We all played it straight. The other actor never reacted at all. It was clearly funny, and the crew was amused, but since it wasn't his idea, he just pretended it wasn't happening.

We had a playback scene about a week ago, and instead of the scripted song, we played a song from "Breaking 2: Electric Boogaloo". Our actress was in the movie and enjoyed a good laugh.

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I remember one of the last days on a very low budget feature I did, I heard a weird buzzing in my boom mic after lunch. I struggled for a good 10 mins trying to find the bad cable, or whatever it was causing the buzz. Frantic, I pulled my sound bag apart, unplugged everything, re-patched, re-powered. Nothing would fix it. Then I noticed my mates in the grip department struggling to conceal their laughter. One walked over, unzipped my windjammer, opened the blimp and let out one very cranky bee. Very funny.

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There is a grip or two in town that loves to sneak up behind mixers, pull out a smart phone and turn on the "cricket" app, which is just a tone generator set to 15k or so. For some reason, watching sound mixers sit up freak out at the piercing chirp in funny...:)

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This is great thank you for your stories! Crew I am honored that you and I carry the same device and I agree every sound person should have one!

Dfisk (what's your name again? Kevin?) that is some seriously cool stuff you do, I love that you stick your hidden message in there! And it's a great message to gamers ha ha.

And Robert that's super funny about the fart gag and only one actor reacting! I wish I coulda been there. That's the best, when only one person "gets it" and the rest pretend there's nothing to get.

We did a different playback scene where instead of the playback version of "Always On My Mind" (kind of bluesy and slow) I played the Pet Shop Boys version and after a moment of confusion the actor went with it. Started a goofy dance all over the stage and cameras kept rolling, dollying and focus was pulled. It was the end of a long day and everyone from the 1st AD to the producer to the wardrobe girls and grips all laughed until they cried. It would make a great outtake if the series ever makes it to DVD.

I think the grips went a little far putting a live animal in your zep Justin (or soundslikejustin or whatever your name actually is)! I mean what if you were deathly allergic and DIED from that prank?! I once had a bee come real close to the boom mic during an outdoor scene. I first heard it buzz right through the axis, then the actress (Patty Labelle) shrieked.

I too have grips always messing with sound, like clicking their fingernails right over a plant mic until one of us comes out with that look of worry. An electric on this past show is a brilliant insect/bird caller, and was able to fool us into thinking there was a cricket on set, or a random bird flying around. Luckily he only did it on rehearsals...

Dan Izen

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I think the grips went a little far putting a live animal in your zep Justin (or soundslikejustin or whatever your name actually is)! I mean what if you were deathly allergic and DIED from that prank?! I once had a bee come real close to the boom mic during an outdoor scene. I first heard it buzz right through the axis, then the actress (Patty Labelle) shrieked.

I too have grips always messing with sound, like clicking their fingernails right over a plant mic until one of us comes out with that look of worry. An electric on this past show is a brilliant insect/bird caller, and was able to fool us into thinking there was a cricket on set, or a random bird flying around. Luckily he only did it on rehearsals...

Dan Izen

Yep, it's Justin. My name has a habit of being forgotten or getting messed up. So I get Jason, Dustin, Simon(?) etc, so I started answering 'sorry, I've forgotten your name' with 'Justin, or anything that sounds like Justin. I'll probably still respond.' And I do. Hence the display name. Probably should have explained that in 'Who I Am Today'...

On the subject of the bee, the grip responsible was a very close friend of mine, and a room mate at university. No big deal, and as a bonus I got to clean up my bag, right?

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I will give this a try. One good one we did from the old days of Nagra and 1/4 inch tape was on a low budget picture. At wrap I handed off the 1/4 boxes all wrapped together, with one in the center that was "set up" with large amounts of tape hanging out of the box (left over short ends). The face of the UPM was priceless, he looked very shocked and scared as well as speechless. As I turned to walk away I said "It will be fine transfer will take care of it". The director and producer who were in on it came walking up after I left and started yelling at the UPM, that the sound was messed up and that he had to fix it and could not send it in that way. The poor UPM almost had a nervous breakdown right there till everyone started laughing. It might have been a little cruel, but the crew and the rest had a great laugh.

Cheers,

Whit

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I've got to get one of those. It's on my short list for new gear. Too bad Remote Audio doesn't manufacture their own model.

For a long time we had a SpeakEasy here in the shop with an oscillating amplifier that did what you're describing. We kept it around for a while, firing it up during certain situations.

Maybe I'll put a hidden "PTF" switch on the next version.

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Wow, just, wow... This is intense! I hadn't really thought of actual practical jokes on set, mostly playback or phantom noises (whoopie cushion - and playing back dialog from previous days which is brilliant). This is a whole new level... I would be afraid of the inevitable retribution I'd be handed someday... But fascinating to read about!!!

Dan Izen

Reading Whit's reply reminded me of one of my best pranks. We were doing a film and were located ouit at Lake Sherwood in Malibu, CA. Our truck was located right next to the transportation office, so at the end of each day I would hand the sound tapes over to Pete Weiss and Pete would give them to the captain to deliver to transfer. I always labelled and taped up my boxes the same way each day. So I got the transportation guy in on the gag, I would give him the "real" reels and then have Pete give him the "phoney" reels.

All crew members wish or want to be actors, I don't care what you say they do! Pete handed the "tapes" to the captain and he said, "Fuck You, and fuck this show I've quit..." and with that he threw the "tapes" into the lake. What I hadn't considered was that I had taken the unrecorded reels out, for future use, and so when the "tapes" hit the water the boxes floated. I thought the gag was over then, but Pete turned to me with a look of astonishment that told me, I've got you. I said, "Hey we didn't throw them in there, let him get them." Pete didn't know what to do, this was a picture that Pete had used his friendship with the Producer to get me the job, so I told Pete, "Hey call Bill Badalato and tell him what the driver captain did and ask him what he'd like us to do." Pete rushed to the boats that we had next to our truck and started wildly paddling towards the now sinking "tapes."

Just like in the movies just as Pete reached the "tapes" them bubbled and gurggled their last gasp before submersion. Pete came back cursing the driver captain and wondering what we should do, and frankly angry with me for my attitude of "Oh well." I told Pete that since he knew Bill he should call him and tell him what happened. Of course I called Bill first to tell him what was really going on and that we had a hook so far down Pete's throat that we had to keep it going.

The next day I picked Pete up for work and he hadn't slept the whole night, he hadn't been able to tell Badalato and knew that we might be facing a sure firing for our actions. On the set Badalato couldn't keep a straight face and let Pete off the hook.

But for that one night and half the next day, we pranked him good.

Further exploits revealed later,

Rich Van Dyke

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Before I worked in sound, I worked in production, as an AD and UPM (So I already know nearly every thing a UPM can try on a crew member--- I THINK!)...

I have frequently worked with Whit... and here's a prank he and I and other crew people pulled on a young director...

He was a very city raised guy, who had not been to the Southeastern US... and he did not seem to view the crew as intelligent people... so we concocted a story for him, along with help from makeup...

WE were filming in parking lots in Atlanta, and had a makeup artist create a realistic looking insect bite on a set PA's ankle.. the set PA then came over to me and Whit and the director... we remarked that he ought to be sure to see a doctor, that it looked like the bite of a "Tar Tick"... an asphalt dwelling, deadly bacteria carrying arthropod. We sent the PA to get the only certain repellent for tar ticks, Crest Toothpaste.. when he returned, he, and several other PAs who were wearing shorts (along with several crew members and the 2nd AD JD Taylor) applied some toothpaste to their ankles... Seeing this, the Director grabbed a bullhorn and announced to the whole crew that they should do likewise because we had definitely had a crewmember already bitten by a tar tick.. then he grabbed a tube of crest and smeared both of his legs all the way up to the knees...

The crew did not let on that day, but the client did. At a dinner a couple of days later the director asked me who had been in on it, telling me he was sure the 2nd AD was the inspiration, but that he also thought Whit had also been involved. I pled guilty, and was told he planned on firing the 2nd, but felt he was stuck with keeping Whit and I on to finish the shoot...

I cant remember what I told him to keep my 2nd, but I am sure I begged..

Turns out this director had twice survived dire insect borne diseases and was a bit of a hypochondriac as a result...

In our youth Whit and I both committed many a prank.... many involving pyrotechnics and booby trapped hotel rooms...

I try to be a little lower profile in my old age, or at least a little less large scale in my pranks...

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Dfisk (what's your name again? Kevin?) that is some seriously cool stuff you do, I love that you stick your hidden message in there! And it's a great message to gamers ha ha.

My name is David Fisk. I don't do video game sound design anymore. I got out of that world...long story...I work at K-Tek now. Game sound design was fun....when there was work...but the people that run game studios have the business sense of a junior high kid, which is why you always hear about game studios laying people off. The joke in the industry is "two years and out" because people always get laid off after about 2 years of being at a company...unless they are in management or a company founder.

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Thanks for the reply David, I always wondered what it was like for those few video game sound designers. Seemed like somehow creating a never ending soundtrack that could change emotion at any time. Very difficult I would imagine, way way beyond my existing skill set at least!

Dan Izen

My name is David Fisk. I don't do video game sound design anymore. I got out of that world...long story...I work at K-Tek now. Game sound design was fun....when there was work...but the people that run game studios have the business sense of a junior high kid, which is why you always hear about game studios laying people off. The joke in the industry is "two years and out" because people always get laid off after about 2 years of being at a company...unless they are in management or a company founder.

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