Jump to content

(When) do you cut takes?


Christian Spaeth
 Share

Recommended Posts

The director of the movie I'm mixing at the moment encouraged me to cut takes when I think they will be unusable due to background noise. The situation was an exterior dialogue, two actors in a city with constant traffic in the background, with the occasional airplane or distant church bell ringing (that's when he wanted me to call cut during the take). As I usually wait for the director to call cut and then tell them in case the take was unusable I was quite hesitant to cut during action. The only times I ever do that is when I have technical problems (RF interference, batteries running out etc.). So I am curious how other mixers handle this - do you cut at all during action when there are no technical problems, and if so, where do you draw the line?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

" So I am curious how other mixers handle this - "

this, too, was discussed, but that was a while back.

Typically the "C" word is the director's and definitely not the Sound department's ... but in your case, you were asked, and that makes it your job under the specified circumstances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

" do you cut at all during action when there are no technical problems ? "

well, of course not... even if there are sound issues or minor technical problems, often the director prefers to continue (and valid or not, it is their decision to make!)... When I have a significant enough technical problem, I may call out: "I'm sorry...." but still don't use the "C" word...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my experience with the lower budget films I keep an eye out for the director or DP, they tend to look towards me when they hear a car, plane or what not, with that eye contact i just shake my head in disapproval and the director cuts.

BUT then there are times when its not like that so ive always wanted to find out what others do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my experience with the lower budget films I keep an eye out for the director or DP, they tend to look towards me when they hear a car, plane or what not, with that eye contact i just shake my head in disapproval and the director cuts.

I do the same when not too far away from the director. Sometimes I'm in a different room though, and then shouting through the whole set or even forcing the boom op to call cut seemed weird to me. Eventually this may have led to my being hesitant to cut (I was inside mixing while the action was outside on the terrace).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NEVER CUT. That decision to cut is ONLY the directors. I've had the boom op actually drop the boom on the ground, and I still didn't cut it. You give your director an IFB, and let them make that decision. Or like fajonze says, you establish a relationship with your director, they will look to you during the take.. you can point up, and they will understand that the plane is loud.. the director makes the call to go on if they want after that.

p.s. Really good directors check the camera department to see if they got that take.. then ask the sound if they got it, and then they make the decision to 'move on'.

-Richard

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NEVER. The C-word is the same as the G-word in live theatre (calling "Go" to start a cue for those uninitiated) and unless you are specifically the person who retains the power of GOD on that set... You never say it.

Directors are amazed sometimes when we as sound people remind them that we can rebuild a line with pieces from other takes if there was a quick transient glitch, where fixing the picture often requires just doing it over again b/c they can't "fix it in post" like we have a lot of ability to do.

At the same time, I always try to maintain a good relationship with my ADs and directors so that they are aware that if they hear something odd during the take and I'm shaking my head or holding a thumbs-down... They know that shot was borked and can continue if they wish. After the shot, if they didn't hear the obvious plane or siren or whatever I heard... If they don't ask, it is our job to politely mention to the AD that we had an issue and would like another go-around.

But because the director has the ultimate choice of going again or not... It is also on his head to call cut. I don't WANT that responsibility.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On my last show, an episode director told me to yell cut if I had a problem, or if there was bad ambient noise. Told the DP the same kind of thing. We had a big walk an talk through some hallways. I was busy mixing a few radios and 2 booms, but one radio was NG. Purse or backpack or something. After take, boom op tells director NG. She was furious I had not cut the shot in the middle. She told him, "I told the mixer if there is any problem with sound to cut the take."

Next time we had a problem I just spoke through the Comteks, "This is not good". She cut immediately.

I think it's weird to cut unless the actors are distracted. Sometimes the end of the scene might be great. Seems crazy to abruptly cut a scene for a technical issues when pieces can be great. But that was her preference, and she was the director.

Robert

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So I am curious how other mixers handle this - do you cut at all during action when there are no technical problems, and if so, where do you draw the line?

Man, I would be really, really reluctant to do that. All I've ever done is to immediately tell a director at the end of a take, "we had a siren in the background" or "bad airplane noise" or something like that. The good ones will hear it on the Comteks (assuming they use them) and will just know.

The interesting thing nowadays is now much background noise the dialog editors and re-recording mixers can eliminate during the final mix. Granted, they can't magically eliminate a police siren in the middle of a scene, but chair squeaks, traffic rumble, low-volume jets, and fan noise can be cut down quite a bit -- not 100%, but certainly to the point where it's usable. I'm often really surprised by how many marginal production tracks wind up the final of a lot of current TV shows; I can hear the background noise modulate with the dialog, but it's tolerable, and the re-recording mixers really finesse it.

Needless to say, wild tracks can save your butt in these situations.

--Marc W.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree there is no C work in the sound lexicon - except when you record an atmos or FX track

During dialogue takes I alway hold eye-lines with the 1stAD and director in the event of a bad sound conflict.

Saving film was always a bonus but with video shooting it's still important to prevent a problem take being used

and also to save the energy of the actors

mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A big "IF", but if I were a director I want to control "Action" n "Cut", no one else. So a car alarm goes off during a take, if I'm seeing a performance I like I would never cut it. I may never use it but I wouldn't kill it for sound or a focus or Cam op error. IMO Action n Cut is the directors call always. If they can't hear the said car alarm and don't know how it is affecting the shot then they have other problems ahead of them.

CrewC

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A director may develop the actor's delivery over several takes. He may want the actor to hold up his hand, turn to the left, then say his line with more energy. The director may not want to give the actor 3 new things to do at once and may take 3 takes to get everything he wants. "Okay, try it again but turn to the left this time." etc. Cutting for sound would be a bad idea especially when the director knows he's not going to use any of the first 3 takes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I make it a habit now to ask the director how he/she wants to handle these types of situations. I basically do what many other people are doing in this thread and make eye contact with the director. I will shake my head or make some type of hand gesture to explain how bad the sound is and let them decide to cut or not. Then after the take they will ask me what I thought.

This habit is after I got chewed out for asking to hold for a plane that was clearly coming in just after we yelled action ( i figured since it was just after action we wouldn't be in the middle of the scene so it would be O.K.) well with some directors i would have been fne, with this one... not so much.

I will say though, it is a bit uncomfortable for me when the director asks me to never cut or ask to hold during a take, but there is clearly a blaring siren or something happening and the actor is noticably angry about having to act with the distraction - and sometimes stopping the take themselves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Keeping eye contact with the Director or AD is a good thing. Although I have recently worked with a couple of DOPs that actually give me the eye when they hear a noise.

Nice to think that Camera and Sound can work together.

Then again I worked on a TVC last week and everyone got a Coffee except the sound Dept. (Oh the Pain !!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I totally agree to what Marc wrote about fixing bg noise in post. Still I like to get my dialog as clean as possible and if I can fix an issue on set I'd rather do that than rely on post. This however has brought me into a dilemma recently, with the director asking me why on the one hand I try to fix a creaky chair and on the other I don't call cut when there's an airplane in an exterior. We know what can be fixed in post, but we better not tell them because they'll say "you said things like that can be fixed...". I think I will establish the thumbs up/down method.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I totally agree to what Marc wrote about fixing bg noise in post. Still I like to get my dialog as clean as possible and if I can fix an issue on set I'd rather do that than rely on post. This however has brought me into a dilemma recently, with the director asking me why on the one hand I try to fix a creaky chair and on the other I don't call cut when there's an airplane in an exterior. We know what can be fixed in post, but we better not tell them because they'll say "you said things like that can be fixed...". I think I will establish the thumbs up/down method.

You mention a situation Christian that bears examination: fixing those creaky things. If you can fix 'em in advance, fine, but holding up a shot to fix something that can likely be fixed in post is (IMHO) unwise for the reason you mention. This is why an alert on-set team is essential; a team that is listening and looking for items / situations that might effect our tracks well in advance of first team walking. Paul K boom is extraordinary at that, always aware of background footwear, etc., and one reason I'd give my left arm to work with him any time.

-- Jan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Than the cameraman said: guys I have to tell you something..I wasn't rolling I'm so sorry...

There are good reasons to resist the urge to cut a take when circumstances conflict with a good track. As many have observed, we don't really know the director's intention or how the shot might be used.

But I've cut takes on occasion. Dennis' comment, above, about the camera not rolling, indirectly brings up another issue. I'll cut a take whenever I discover a disastrous sound problem that may not be clear to the director. If, looking at the Nagra reels, I would observe that nothing was moving, I would cut. Similarly, if a recorder's display indicated that the hard drive was frozen or there was a buss failure, I would cut. There's a difference between sound that is not good enough and sound that is simply absent. I think that the director assumes something will be present on the track and a take might be looped from the available audio. If there is no audio at all, I think the scene should be cut.

I'll take a similar approach with extensive hits and drop-outs. Sometimes people monitoring from radio headsets assume that the drop-outs only effect their headsets but that audio is still being recorded properly. If that's not the case, I'll cut the scene - but only if the hits and drop-outs are so extreme that looping to the track would be problematic.

David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

" and sometimes stopping the take themselves. "

That is between the actor(s) and the director.

" There's a difference between sound that is not good enough and sound that is simply absent. I think that the director assumes something will be present on the track "

Amen to that...

but I still never actually use the "C" word to bust the take...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But I've cut takes on occasion. Dennis' comment, above, about the camera not rolling, indirectly brings up another issue. I'll cut a take whenever I discover a disastrous sound problem that may not be clear to the director. If, looking at the Nagra reels, I would observe that nothing was moving, I would cut. Similarly, if a recorder's display indicated that the hard drive was frozen or there was a buss failure, I would cut.

Now that I think about it, I did it once: when I had a battery failure and the entire cart died. (I had plugged in the PowerMax to an AC outlet that was, unbeknownst to me, a switched outlet that was off.) We had been going for almost 14 hours, and it was the last scene of the day. I still managed to get us back up and running in less than :30 seconds.

But I still got one of those exasperated "waiting for sound!" mutters from the AC.

--Marc W.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The command "CUT!" is only the director's and the assistant director's to give. However, sometimes it is acceptable and even expected for the sound mixer to interrupt a take. To site a recent example (last Friday, in fact): After rolling the third take of a very long scene with soft delicate dialog, I noticed a new noise that I knew would cause the dialog to have to be replaced. Rather than make some pretty big stars waste their time, I quickly said in a full voice that we should stop because I was hearing a new noise. We then found a small HMI power supply with a fan that had been placed on the set between takes. The gaffer added an extension to the power supply and moved it to another room, which solved the problem.

The thing that makes this problem unavoidable is that it NEVER gets quiet enough to notice these noises until after the ROLL call is given, and usually things are still settling down during the slating and right up until the ACTION command.

One point I want to make is that the above scenario is very different from shouting "CUT!" (at which point I'm sure I would have been -- and should have been -- severely reprimanded).

Understand the process, use good judgement. and never say CUT.

Glen Trew

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing that makes this problem unavoidable is that it NEVER gets quiet enough to notice these noises until after the ROLL call is given, and usually things are still settling down during the slating and right up until the ACTION command.

very trew, erm true, Glen. Especially with ventilating Reds and such, the only time I can really judge if the background is okay is during the first take of a scene. Usually that first take doesn't satisfy the director for acting/directing reasons, so I try to fix things quickly before the second one.

+1 for what Jan wrote, I always try to fix background issues early on and possibly without AD/DOP noticing, but that's sometimes impossible when the set is too loud.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...