Production Sound & Video

Summer 2019

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30 One of the "10 Holy Truths" I teach my UCLA students is: The most important thing experience teaches you is what you can get away with, and what you can't. And you usually have to make this decision instantly. HOW I GOT MY GODLIKE REPUTATION PART 2 by Jim Tanenbaum CAS I consider my ultimate loyalty to be to the project, to make it the best movie possible, so my always getting the best sound possible is subordinated to working as quickly as I can with the minimum impingement on the other departments, so long as I get sound that is at least "good enough." Of course, my idea of "good enough" is pretty damn good, but not perfect. What is "good enough"? For starters, remember that production dialog will be put through a dialog EQ: rolling off the bottom end and cutting off the top at 8 KHz (or for some upscale mixes, at 10 KHz or even 12 KHz). And unfortunately, the dialog will often be buried under the music and effects. (I defy most production mixers to distinguish between a Sennheiser and a Neumann on the release track under these conditions.) The director, editor, and producer have heard the actors' lines hundreds or thousands of times in post production, and it has become permanently imbedded in their brains. They can still hear it even when the dialog track is completely muted. The re-recording mixers will try to push the dialog levels, but they are often overridden by the higher-ups, especially for dialog following the punchline of a joke. (I think it would help to have a laugh track to play on the dubbing stage at the appropriate times.) I try to get my "good enough" production sound through to the release print in spite of this. To avoid holding up production, I bought a second Nagra IV for a spare as soon as I could afford it, and also a Nagra QFC cross-feed coupler, which mated the two recorders so they could record identical tracks, and use all four mike inputs and the two line inputs. Since the 7"-reel lid adapters weren't available way back then, this helped me tremendously in (A tutorial for those without half a century in the business, and a few with) I don't need a mix panel—just thin fingers dealing with the 15-minute runtime at 7½ IPS of the 5" tape reels. When I got near the end of the first reel, I just started the second machine to give some overlap, and then reloaded the first Nagra at my leisure. Unfortunately, calling for a tail slate caused too much confusion, so I had to note the overlap on sound reports and depend on the transfer house to handle the splicing. More unfortunately, the quarter-frame resolution of the magstripe sometimes caused a glitch at the splice, so I used the 2-recorder overlap only when absolutely necessary. Now that "running out of tape" is no more, I still avoid production delays by having my bag rig ready to go for car shots between stage setups. And the disaster of losing a recorded ¼"-tape is also a thing of the past, but I always put the day's flash-memory card in a DVD case, along with the sound report, and make sure not to reuse my primary CF cards until well after shooting is finished.

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