My battle with the boom shadow
Hey guys and gals. So I'm working on a feature and the gaffer and myself are lighting the very first scene on the first day. Lighting is set and we're ready to rehearse and the boom op/sound mixer walks in and asks "Is there a reason you're using these lights?" For a split second I thought he was joking, but seeing the critical expression on his face, I saw he was serious. He then asked if I could turn specific lights off. It was a small room and I'll admit the lighting scheme was making it difficult to boom, but I've never been asked by a boom op before to change my light.
I tried to be accommodating. None of us have ever worked with this guy before. But me, the director, and my camera dept who were in the immediate area were all taken aback. I made a slight sacrifice to hook him up, but it resulted in a degraded setup. We wrapped the scene and I immediately asked the producer to call a meeting between him, the director, the boom op and me. We hashed some things that seemed to tide us over, but the very next day, the boom op again was asking the camera to change its composition to again accommodate the boom in the shot. Now camera and 1st AC are getting ticked.
At this point I knew this wasn't the conventional sound guy. Have any of you run across this?
Trust me, I know how dire a good sound track is. I appreciate it almost as much as the mixer and director, but how much accommodation should there be? It's also a matter of ethic and bringing the issue up to me tactfully, which was not the case. I want to just give him the "work with what you get" ultimatum but I don't want to overreact and put the producer and director in a tough spot.
Thanks for your suggestions!
[Chris Taylor] "Lighting is set and we're ready to rehearse and the boom op/sound mixer walks in"
I think there's the key to the problem... the sound guy shouldn't just "walk in" for the first time after the scene is lit and you are ready to pull trigger. He or she should be involved as the setup is coming together.
That being said though, I've never seen a sound guy simply ask "can we turn out some of these lights?" A good sound guy (or gal) will usually work with the existing lighting plot... and either be able to boom without shadows, find a different way of doing it (booming from underneath, for example), using room mics, or using radio mics.
Doesn't sound like a guy who's fun to work with.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
It sounds like he is testing you. Like Todd stated earlier, try to get the sound and boom person involved early on in a setup for this reason. No one like a whiner last minute in front a full crew.
My question is: are they using a Lav on these actors to accomodate your wide shots? Most sound guys will do this to get a good reference and then throw the boom guy in for the closeups.
Maybe you don't have too many wides but the bottom line is this guy is not very experienced in the hazards of production.
Flip Flop Films
You sound guy is way out of line. I'd talk quickly and quietly with the producer and director to replace him ASAP. As noted above, he must be inexperienced. Being booted for bad behavior will be good training for him.
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
Thanks a LOT guys, now I can't get the Cat Stevens song out of my head....
"I'm being followed by a boom shadow...."
Well, someone had to bring it up.
Glad it wasn't me (this time).
I normally shoot and/or light, though I have done sound on a few occasions.
When I do, it's my responsibility to keep the boom and its shadow out of the shot.
I've had situations where we had audio challenges and the audio guy brought them to the director's attention and asked about emphasis, preferences, etc. so they could advise the director and crew on what options they had available and what arrangements would likely create the best audio in their estimation, but it's always been a completely cooperative deal.
I want a sound guy to advise me if the setup or environmental conditions are affecting the audio quality, but I appreciate a sound guy who will first identify the options he/she has to address the issue without affecting anyone else's contribution.
Lighting is a weird one...is there no option to boom in underneath?
Well, when we do a lighting setup, we ask the sound guy if he is booming or doing something else. But, our sound guy is right there with us, not dropping in at roll time and telling us we have a problem. He must be there during the set-up.
Set-up is when some sound people (and other crew) are on the phone or smoking somewhere. Then, they show up last minute and cause problems. We dump them after the second problem. Also, I don't hire smokers for this very reason, regardless of the fact that their breathe makes me want to puke. But that's another subject.
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Starting as a sound guy who has now "crossed over" to shooting and editing, here's what I'm thinking.
1. Some folks forget it's a team. I have been at shoots where lights and camera forget this. They don't want to be bothered by the sound guy (or gal) while setting up. ""Soon as I get this dialed in, you can hook up.", etc. Once they ARE dialed in, there's no place to put a boom without a shadow. They could have thought about sound during a setup. They chose not to. So, what I get from this is that some of us are better socialized than others and some of us are better at our craft than others.
Although I mostly work with pros I've known for a long-time, I also get work from several crewing services, so sometimes I'm working with out of town people for the first time. If I haven't done it already before we meet. (and usually I have), I introduce myself to everyone. I talk to the director/producer to get the drift; what's it to be used for, etc.
I'm on it from the time I show up. I help hump their gear after I have my own gear taken care of. Maybe other soundies don't. You tell me. From our first setup on, I'm concerned about the acoustic environment. Why is it that some shooters INEVITABLY find the "only position" for the talent to be right under the noisiest HVAC duct in the room that can not be turned off? I understand about framing, having depth behind the talent, etc.. I shoot and edit myself. If I can consider the visual, why can't shooters consider the aural. To not do so is just plain wrong. To promote a "that's your problem" attitude is just plain wrong.
Chimera-type lighting is wonderful. USE IT MORE! I'm amazed that a little diffusion eliminates the boom shadow. It let's me use my Schoeps cmc641. For you shooters, this is like using a prime lens. It grabs audio like no lav can. I'm not making this up. That mic is industry standard for interior dialog in major motion pictures. That's why I want to use it as often as possible. After a shoot a few years back where the shooter hemmed and hawed a little but let me use my Schoeps, he was cool enough to call me from his edit bay the next day to say, "Man, that mic is f***** KILLER. I'm sorry I ever doubted you. You make my pictures sound GREAT!" In addition, booming usually means less time in post production. Those dollars to mess with multiple mics add up.
When you get this sort of mutual respect going, I'm going to be there for you to ask if that plant is in the best position, or would you like me to turn it for you. Does that reflection off the picture glass in the background catch you eye? Would you like me to angle the light or frame to lose it? I'm not "in your s***" when I ask about this. I'm trying to make the project look and sound as good as it can. This has become an evolutionary path for me. These days I get hired on shoots where there is NO AUDIO. My job is to grip and gaff, help setup camera, and consult on framing, exposure and lighting.
Can I boom from below? Maybe. I do appreciate suggestions. Shooters, lighters, and soundies all get hyper-focused at times. When I try and tell you it's not working, please believe me. We ALL need to be open to suggestion and we need to keep the boundaries low so we can talk about stuff. Shooters and lighters do need to remember that it's NOT just YOUR set, it's my set as well.
When you spend 30 minutes tweeking, please know that you've been talking all of that time, sometimes pretty loudly and I haven't had the chance to hear what the space sounds like. Are your lights making noise? Are there other noises I haven't been able to hear because it hasn't been quiet enough? Please give me the time to fire up and listen to the sound. If you rush me though it because you're all ready to go, I may miss noises that will result in the director chewing my butt.
We're shooting in a APC (armored personnel carrier) rehab factory. There is noise EVERYWHERE, I'm trying to find out if there's some special angle I can orient my boom to that will ignore the noise better. The shooter is getting all hyper because I'm "moving the mic around all weirdly." The "I'm from LA" attitude from this adult male did nothing but show his inexperience. I stayed cool, knowing that he and I only had to work a day or two together and we'd probably never seen each other again. (And if you're him reading this, yes there were a few things I could have helped you with, but your "shut down" attitude killed it.)
Please know that the noise is not "mine." I don't own it. I didn't cause it. If there is noise, my next duty is to tell the director what I'm hearing and ask him/her if it's a problem. I may be told that there will be music under everything so don't be hyper critical about sound. If I'm uncertain. I hand the headphones to the director and say, "Hear that noise? Is that OK with you or do we need to fix that?"
Steve, I'm with you. It's a team. ANY amount of "That's YOUR problem, man" is just plain wrong.
(I do work with producers who smoke and I will bum from them, but no more than 3 per day. :))
If you have been around a while, you may have seen "The Letter" form the sound department. If you haven't and want to learn something about what's going on in the mind of a sound person, here's a link.
I'll mosey back over to the Cow Audio Forum, now. Stop by sometime.
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
For a good laugh about the interaction of sound and camera, among other things, see "Living in Oblivion," a funny film about an indie production.
Hey guys, I appreciate your feedback.... and sorry for the delayed update.
Well, a lot has taken place with our sound mixer since I posted this. To name a couple things he's done: He started pulling key staff aside one-on-one to tell them that he doesn't want to be involved in our production, noting his vast experience in shows with much higher budgets. Once he got ahold of the director, he told him he was leaving the show. This put the director/producer in a very tough spot, to the point of almost making him sick. He also started passive-aggressively acting out, like jumping on set and taking photos of everyone working. After that, I realized how... um..... "unprofessional" he was.
He cited how prolific his resume is, which at that point made no sense. I can't think of anyone who'd dare hire this guy if they knew him, let alone re-hire him. I understand our budget is small, but he was getting paid, so I and everyone else never understood why it mattered. Everyone on the crew was getting along great, except of course for the sound diva.
So after day 6, he went bye-bye, and luckily, we found another great sound man quickly, and let me tell ya, the difference was like night and day. The tension on set plummeted and my creative freedom trippled.
So my hesitations we confirmed. For the integrity of this forum, I won't name the guy. Luckliy, he doesn't work in Seattle where I am so avoiding him will be a little easier. Hopefully none of you will have the displeasure of working with him.
Glad to hear he left before it was too late (ie there is bad sound or weird shadows or any other unprofessional messups on your finished product). I've been around guys like this a lot, I don't know why they don't go into a different profession if they're not having fun making films and videos..