Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Playback and the Angry Inch: Sound for Musicals

You don't want to know how long it took me to think of that title, I'm not a pro-titlemaker. If you can think of something better, please, entertain me. As I was saying, every now and then I'm asked to mix location sound on a Musical film or commercial. Musicals can be real fun and exciting to work on; they're so much different from standard genres particularly logistically.  What I often notice, though, is hiring managers on low budget musicals sometimes expect a 1-man-band sound person to also run playback. That thought is as silly as Pierce Brosnan's musical number "S.O.S." in Mamma Mia! Seriously, it's bad

Just because music is sound, does not mean it is the responsibility of the Sound Department, let alone the Sound Mixer. With that logic, ask the Steadicam Op to choreograph and pull ropes for stunts during the scene he is shooting because it's visual. This is the Music Department. If you want to put the Playback Operator on the call sheet under Sound Department, I won't attest, but my point is, when there's playback, there needs to be a Playback Operator. The Sound Mixer is far too busy to coordinate the songs, beats, metronomes and all playback with the Director and Choreographer while mixing and recording the scene. And to think I've been asked to do this all while booming myself. People make a living out of playback.

I've been the playback Operator on a musical feature film, I've been a PA on network television using playback and I've been the Sound Mixer on a few musicals along with plenty of non-musical films that require playback for certain scenes. If the budget calls for it, you have a Sound Mixer, Boom Operator, Sound Utility and a Playback Operator when necessary. The Playback Operator owns or rents a playback equipment package; an entire station at a cart or table. The Playback Operator works directly with the Director and the music department on when they want playback to start in a scene and when to stop. This conversation also involves the Sound Mixer to a certain degree to ensure everyone is on the same page and location sound is recorded in the most effective manner; what sound is usable, what is not and what is needed. The Playback Operator attends rehearsals in pre-production and creates a proper metronome of the song in a computer program to get talent in rhythm before the song actually starts.

Our friendly Playback Operator (Not Really)
In my experience as a Playback Operator, we've had a slightly smaller budget. I was doubling as a Sound Utility and Playback Operator. I had a table, a small pre-amp mixer, professional loudspeakers and a laptop using Audacity to create the proper metronome and play the songs. I got the appropriate songs from the Music Department in pre-production, some were edited during production and we kept in constant contact on having the proper files. I coordinated very closely with the Director on when he wanted the song to start playback and when to stop. This is far too much to ask a Sound Mixer to do him/herself. It's not even a question of being cheap during production with expectations of spending a bit more in post; it's physically impossible, unless perhaps you're Vishnu, but I bet Vishnu might charge accordingly.

When mixing musicals, for microphones, I like to use Neumann on the boom with DPA 4071 (used in Les Miserables) as my lav mic for vocals to help catch the full range of the voice whether it's loud belching or whispers. Neumann is fantastic for baritone and the choice for Beyonce, Celine Dion and The Beatles. For instruments and band-like scenes I may use stereo microphones, usually cardioid, or a DPA 4061 or 4071 on a string instrument.

On Ultra-Low budget musicals I've seen the AD department take a laptop or a phone and playback the song through cheap consumer speakers. There was no metronome, music was sometimes distorted and I'm sure the ADs were putting aside some very important work they could have been tending to. But it seemed to work for what we needed. When it comes to musicals and playback, communication is key but it requires a plan, preparation, proper hands, and realistic expectations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Follow that CARdioid!

Often times I'm asked to capture sound for dialogue scenes in cars. They can be a bit tricky depending on the car, camera angle and where the mouths are moving, but in general, in my experiences, car scenes are quite systematic and easy to get good sound without a sweat. I'm going to breakdown my most common car setups.

In narrative, or anything I have time to set up, I do not mic the talent for car scenes, nor do I put a boom pole in there. Putting a lav mic on talent, as common as it is, should be the last resort for miking on almost any shoot I can think of. I don't do that in cars (unless it's run 'n gun reality TV/documentary and they're already miked) because they almost never move in a car much, so why waste time to go to holding to bother talent and wardrobe department to put a possibly uncomfortable microphone on each speaking talent when I can just place one or two microphones in the car while talent goes through the works, and camera/lighting sets up?

What I used to do, and many other mixers still do is place a lavaliere mic such as a Countryman B6 on the car ceiling in front of talent's face, and run the wire to the visor where I hide a transmitter. I didn't like this because no tape seems to stick well to the leather or headliner interior, it's sometimes in the shot, the range of the lav mic isn't enough, and they don't sound terribly natural anyways, and often, talent will release the visor to check out how sexy or imperfect they look in the little mirror and then I hear (Ah! Whoops! Um, Sound Guy!" as I sigh knowing the transmitter just fell on their lap.

So what I do now is place a wireless cardioid microphone in the car. This has much better reach than a lav mic and can pick up multiple people very nicely, smoothly and naturally. I have a mini mic stand set with a cast iron base, 4" stand, optional 13" gooseneck and a mic clamp to place this below frame (almost always just below talent's elbows). I usually either put that on the stand (sometimes I use a roll of gaff or two to to prop it up acting as a middle ground between the 4" and 13" heights); I'll use the stand in the back seats to capture everyone in the back. I can angle this straight up if someone in the front looks back to talk, it's a perfect position, near the center console. For the front seat, I usually ditch the stand and take a neopack, wrap it around the butt plug transmitter and place that in a cup holder and angle that towards talent if I can. All this works for moving or non moving cars. Also, going with a condenser microphone like this with a wind screen on it is more reliable against wind than a lav mic with a windscreen. So, much quicker and easier to set up, move and strike, less risk of wind noise, or rustling, much better sound quality, and fewer microphones are necessary, meaning less gear/money needs to be involved with this method, depending on how many speakers need to be captured at a time.

Some vehicles are funky though, and may present more challenges but depending on how you look at it, can actually make things easier. I had to mike a stationary army jeep for dialogue between talent sitting in the driver's seat speaking with talent standing outside of the car by the driver's side. The jeep had a leather roof which was raised at sections by metal frame bars. Our wide shot was very wide, so booming was far from ideal. So I attached the wireless cardioid to the mini mic stand and simply placed it between a metal bar running across the width of the car and the leather roof and angled the mic towards talent and out of frame, hidden by the curve of the roof. This caught both of their dialogue well, with lav mics in the mix a bit for safety/proximity.

Schoeps GVC swivel for MK4
I'm personally not a HUGE fan of Sennheiser microphones as they're known to pick up a lot of the higher frequencies which includes more reverb than I need for interiors and more leaves, rain and traffic than I need for exteriors. However, I love Sennheiser cardioids for car interiors because it's almost like a sound booth, so you shouldn't hear many of those background sounds. The higher frequencies in the voice in cars are a bit hard to come by as the lower frequencies travel throughout a car a lot, which is another reason why I love using a condenser mic rather than a lavaliere, and using a Sennheiser at that. Another great microphone for this would be a Schoeps MK5 which is very tiny/easy to hide, sounds incredible and is switchable between cardioid and omni directional polar patterns for different situations. Although, I would be more likely to use a Schoeps MK4 cardioid capsule on a GVC swivel which would give me a ton of flexibility literally and figuratively, especially if I'm placing a mic in a cup holder. For bus or airplane scenes, the mic stand on the floor in front of talent with both 4" and 13" gooseneck is what I normally do. If they're speaking into the window off axis, the voice will travel off the window nicely for an effective pickup into the mic, although if there's dialogue on a bus or commercial plane, I'm often able to get a boom in there anyways.

An additional challenge to some car scenes is getting that sound into my mixer. Sometimes we'll do a driving shot with a camera mount on the car and I mix from a follow vehicle with the Director, AD, DP, and often more keys. With this, I'll use a Lectrosonics HM butt plug transmitter into a UCR411a receiver with fresh batts on both ends for best range as we stay within a block of the car. sometimes there's nothing you can do to prevent RF, but if it's going to be that much of an issue, there are some transmitters out there that can record a compressed RF free backup track, or if there's no dialogue, I'll just place the mixer in the car, test the levels, hit record and send them off driving. When I'm in a follow van, instead of handing everyone comtek IFBs, I send one comtek feed to the front of the van and plug it into the 1/8" auxiliary input of the van, set the levels with the car's volume knob and we all can hear the dialogue clearly without 10 comteks floating around draining batteries.

For narrative driving shots, camera often requests the car drive very slowly to minimize bumps and it looks much faster on camera than it really is. So, I take that a step further and get a group of Pas I sucked up to at crafty to push the car in neutral rather than running the engine. This makes it easier for the actor "driving", easier for camera, and I don't hear the car rumble or engine running. I record that wild and it's added in post separately to ensure it's smooth, consistent and at the desired levels (very quite, unless you're Christopher Nolan, then we'll boost the wild car tracks so we can't hear the dialogue :-). It's a natural effect, eh?)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

DPA 4061 v. DPA 4071 Lav Mic Battle Royale

If you're thinking about trying out one of these lavaliere mics, you're thinking about both. Danish Professional Audio is known for manufacturing great microphones for music and some of their lav mics have become very popular in that line of work. The DPA 4061 and 4071 (Used in the musical film, Les Miserables) have made a crossover into location sound recording as body mics. In the following video, I briefly do an A/B comparison with the two microphones.

To clarify, the Lectrosonics SMqv that the 4071 was run through had the Low cut filter set to 35Hz which is its lowest setting. The SMd that the 4061 was run through did not have a low cut filter. The recording was done in a room with a window open and a pretty high amount of ambient sounds from outside.

It's so hard to tell from such a quick test like this; we'll have to tell from more field tests. I had admired the 4071 after hearing other A/B tests with that compared to the 4061 and other lavs. It sounded a bit more reliable than the 4061 and better under thick clothes. After my brief test here, I thought otherwise. It seemed less reliable, especially with all that wind noise it picked up, a bit more rustling, a bit more ambience and more bass, which isn't bad. Quality wise, they both sounded very similar and very good. This was my first experience with the 4071, so I can't say much about it but I've owned the 4061 for a few months now along with some B6s and here are my thoughts on that:

The Countryman B6 is great. It's natural sounding, small, and catches high ends of the voice which are easily lost in body micing. However, it is a very sensitive microphone. The 4061 seems to be much less sensitive than the B6 and even sounds more natural. I've been told that the SPL of the DPAs are incredible, much better than the Countryman B6, allowing me to get yelling to whisper scenes clean and not distorted. The 4061 doesn't sound as hissy as a B6 yet still is more effective under thick wardrobe. The DPA wires, however feel very cheap, similar to an ME2 wire, but more malleable. The 4061 is significantly larger than the miniature B6 but not too big; it's about the size of a Countryman B3, whereas the DPA 4071 is slightly longer than the 4061 and does not include a changeable frequency cap like the 4061 does.

I was hoping that the 4071 would sound better and be more reliable, but right now, I'm leaning towards the more affordable 4061 over the 71 and B6 in most applications. When work slows down, I'll make a more expansive video with field tests and I'll throw in the B6 to compare as well.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Neumann kmr81i vs Sennheiser mkh416 Battle

My Sound buddy Mike Moote and I totally geeked out one day at his pad and this is what we did; a comparison between his Sennheiser MKH416 and my Neumann kmr81i supercardioid shotgun microphones.

There's still much to be said about the two microphones. Make your own opinion on what you think about them.

My personal opinion after owning the Neumann kmr81i for the past 4-5 months and using the Sennheiser mkh416 on occasion is that I personally like the sound of Neumann much more. It makes outdoor scenes, especially, sound a bit more like a VO booth which is what drew me to it initially. Neumann is more known for their studio microphones and they have their sound. Sennheiser is more known for sounding natural, catching higher frequencies in the voice more than other microphones such as Neumann.

What I do like about the Neumann is even if the microphone is far from the speaker's mouth, it still sounds much closer than it is, catching the bass in their voice quite well. It doesn't pick up reflective reverb as much as most other supercardioid shotgun mics, and it doesn't pick up sounds like crickets much either. The downsides are that it picks up wind noise a lot and it's not as durable as a Sennheiser in situations involving humidity, intense heat or sand.

Sennheiser is known for sounding very natural and being an extremely durable and rugged brand in the field. The 416 is a supercardioid lobar pattern shotgun mic that has a longer reach than many of its counterparts, including the Neumann kmr81i, it seems. Longer reach, more isolation, but much more reverb pick up; it's not a microphone I would intend to use indoors as I could get away with the Neumann for some indoor locations. However, it is a microphone that has a strong presence in noisy outdoor locations such as a NYC street or documentary style walk through of a fleamarket.

The Neumann's lack of natural sound is not a deal breaker by any means; it sounds so good that it will be conceived as natural without question as long as its not mixed with a microphone like the 416.  I did mix a scene with the Neumann and a Sennheiser ME64 cardioid microphone as a stash mic. The two did not mix well together at all. They both picked up good sound, but you can really tell the Sennheiser picked up many more highs than the Neumann and that was distracting to me. I've been told that Sennheiser mixes well with Countryman microphones and that Neumann mixes with Schoeps microphones better than any other make. So if you can't stick to one brand, I hope that leads you in the right direction.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sun Tzu's Art of Boom Shadow

When I was trying to get my foot in the door in the industry, I PA'ed on some union features and TV shows. On one of those, I was chatting with the boom operator looking for advice from a seasoned vet. One of the things he told me to expect when you're a boom operator is, he told me, "I have to constantly teach G&E how to light." I wasn't too sure exactly what he meant and was surprised that union Gaffers, grips, electricians, etc. still have to be taught how to "light" by a boom operator.

Fast forward a few years and I think I'm starting to understand what he had told me. I've been mixing, and booming a variety of formats over the years including plenty of narrative. I've worked on some smaller shoots but lately, I've been privileged to work with some fantastic DPs, Gaffers, Grips, etc. Some of whom I've worked with on a handful of different projects. Once I got a pretty good amount of experience as a Boom Operator, I've learned the hard way and the easy way on how to avoid things like reflections, and boom shadows in frame. Working with a crew that has plenty of experience, and knowledge of how to light a scene, I've become a bit spoiled. It's become extremely rare for anyone to see my boom shadow in frames. It shouldn't happen if the shot is lit well and I have a clue of how to do my job. However, occasionally, I still find myself on smaller shoots with low budgets and a lesser experienced crew.

All of the sudden, boom shadows are a regular thing on rehearsals or take 1. Of course, pretty much everyone blames the boom operator for the boom shadow. Now, I've heard the joke, "It's not the pole the makes the shadow, it's the light." A joke it may be, but it's true. Look at the variables; experienced DP, Gaffer, grips, electricians, etc, plus a boom operator and no boom shadows. Now, keep the same boom operator, replace the DP, G&E crew, and possibly lighting kit, and all of the sudden we have boom shadows galore. Yet, it's still the Boom Operator that everyone blames, rather than the only changing variable.

Lets breakdown a boom shadow so we can understand a bit better, why we're seeing it and why we're not. First off, if there is a light, and if something is in its path in any kind of way (which there always is), there will be a shadow. There are always shadows. The key is to throw the shadows off screen. This is not usually too challenging, because it's my understanding that the standard set up for "good" lighting is to have a key light basically in front of, but mostly to the side of the subjects in frame, throwing shadows to the side, off screen. The same goes for the fill. It's also important to keep the subject far enough away from walls, especially white walls to avoid this. With this, we have dynamic looking lighting rather than a flat look, pointing lights straight into the subject's faces. If the key light is right above the camera pointing straight towards talent, they look flat, possibly blown out, and they don't pop from the background.

Boom poles are not the only thing that casts a shadow. Talent casts shadows as well, and their shadows move every time they move. So if the light is straight on enough to cast talent's shadows in frame, it'll likely cast boom shadow into frame as well, giving us poor lighting and distracting, ugly moving shadows from many things in the frame.

However, as a Boom Operator or Sound Mixer, I'm not going to walk up to the DP or Gaffer and say, "Your lighting sucks, fix it so I can do my job." I need to figure out a polite way of bringing it up. When I had little experience doing this, I was often too nervous to ask a Gaffer if he could help get rid of a boom shadow. But after working with some fantastic people, I've learned that often, if there's something that can help me do my job, it'll also help other departments. For example, if we see a boom shadow on the wall in the background, often, I can request from G&E that we can throw up a flag or some black wrap around a practical, or whatever light is casting the shadow and we only have this flag cut light off the wall which is where my boom shadow was. This helps me in being able to keep the boom close, getting good sound and it actually helps the visuals as well, because even a great crew will just light what they want to, and often not care about how the light hits other things in frame. I've had DPs and Gaffers tell me that the flag I requested helps them because it makes the background darker, which makes the talent pop out more. They never intended on throwing all that light on the wall in the back; it was just easy.

A few years ago, I gripped a few indie features and was a Grip PA on a network reality show. I asked tons of questions and picked up a lot from my department on all the crazy tools and resources they have and use to shape light. It's really helped me because on smaller shoots, and even a bit on bigger ones, when I see a boom shadow during rehearsal or beforehand, I can quickly request something very specific rather than "What can you do to get rid of my shadow?" I can notice a boom shadow, and a hot spot on talent's face during rehearsal, request from Gaffer, referring to the overhead practical casting a hotspot on talent's head when they walk underneath, "I'm getting a boom shadow from this light overheard. Are we able to put some diffusion on that or some black wrap so the light still hits talent, but doesn't hit the wall behind them, eliminating my shadow?" They then reply, "Oh, yeah, sure, that actually helps us, because we got to fix that hot spot anyways." Then I grab them a banana and gushers from crafty. :) Actually, I've noticed CapriSun and Twinkies are most popular amongst our G&E saviors.

But this doesn't stop at boom shadows. Some shoots I'm on have no budget for Art Department or Wardrobe Department, so I'll get talent wearing a transparent white shirt. I'm about to put a lav on them. Sound doesn't like white nor do we like transparent shirts. No one has brought anything up because it's not their job. But I'll ask the actor if this is their final wardrobe, expecting to get, "Of course it is, this white transparent shirt is my character." Rather, what I almost aways get is, "Oh, I guess. I don't know. I just brought this shirt. Maybe we should ask the Director if she likes it." Short pause. Yes, lets ask the Director, the Director says it looks bad, then asks the DP who says the white is no good for lighting, they change the wardrobe and I can easily hide a lav mic on them and everyone's happier. Or if we have no Art Department, we walk onto set to start shooting on location and we have unscripted mirrors that don't play, all over the place. Camera puts their camera in the only spot where we don't see their reflection. But if you ask yourself, If a Production Designer were to design and build this set from scratch, would they have any reason to place all these mirrors in the scene? No. Get rid of them before we start shooting and have to keep them for continuity by the time it's a real issue.

All of this goes back to my conversation with the union Boom Op I spoke with years ago. He also told me that when there's a boom shadow, people ask him, "Can't you just use the lavs?" He replied with a firm, "No. There's a reason the most expensive lav mic costs only a small fraction of the cost of a standard shotgun mic."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

3 Ways to Reduce Echo/Reverb on SOUNDTRACK Soundtrack soundtrack

Lately I've been doing a lot of shoots in Open Studio space; Green screen/black drop shoots. This is usually good for all departments since it's a controlled space often meant for this but unfortunately it doesn't seem to help sound as much as it does other departments. Even if air ventilation, compressors, etc are all controllable and/or off, these types of spaces are always so open and hollow, creating an echo which you wont see on screen.

If we were shooting in a cave or an abandoned warehouse, we see it's echoey, so echo wouldn't sound so bad with the image. However, when we see a plain white or black background from a green screen or black drop,  for example, our eyes don't see a "location" so our brain doesn't expect to hear a "location" such as the wide open studio space with hardwood floors, stone walls and 50 foot steel ceilings, especially since these shoots are usually all medium and tight shots. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to take that echoey location sound out of the soundtrack but I do have some tricks.

The good thing about these shoots is that the frame-lines are pretty much always haircuts, so I can get a boom in there real close, not to mention the general simplicity of the entire shoot and shots themselves. BUT, reducing echo on a shoot like this is by far the biggest challenge for sound and I feel like I earn most of my paycheck by doing so. Here are some of my tricks:

1) I use a cardioid shotgun microphone as opposed to a standard supercardioid which I know many mixers and boom ops still use indoors. As long as the environment isn't too noisy (traffic, AC, etc), a cardioid is a great microphone choice with tight shots to help reduce echo due to its pickup pattern. There's is a more dramatic dropoff for anything outside of its range. These microphones are my go to for interviews and small echoey rooms such as kitchens and sometimes large echoey rooms as long as I can get it within 4 feet of the mouth, preferably within 2 feet. The downside other than lack of range is they pickup more background noise since it's less direct. I also like cardioid for improvised conversational shoots since the axis is about twice as forgiving as a supercardioid so if you're a bit late in angling the mic on someone who decides to speak, you're halfway there and if not, it's a smoother transition. Schoeps makes incredible cardioid and omni boom mics such as the mk5 and mk41. Sennheiser also makes a more affordable yet solid cardioid mic best used for interviews, the MKH50.

2) Lav mics generally pick up less echo than shotgun mics, even a cardioid, so I usually have the boom real low in my mix and rely on the lavs. However, not all lavs are the same even if they are omnidirectional. A lot of mixers including myself love the Countryman lav mics, particularly the B6. However, the B6 was not made for interview, green screen, or black drop shoots. I mention its advantages in my earlier post with my review of it, but it's poor for these types of shoots because the B6 picks up the higher frequencies more than most lavs, more than any lav mic I've used. That's bad because when we breakdown the sound of echo, what is it, compared to echoless sound? Echo is produced in hollow reflective rooms. The sound bounces off these walls, windows, glass walls, glass doors, glass ceilings, steal beams, stone, etc which gives us a higher frequencied, quieter reproduction of sounds loud enough to reach the wall and bounce back into the microphone. So, an echo is higher frequency and since the B6 catches that more than most lavs, I like to give my B6s a break on these shoots and use a Countryman B3 which focuses more on the intimate sounding bass in the voice. Also, the Countrymans come with frequency capsules so I always make sure I'm using a flat capsule in echoey locations, as opposed to a +4 or +8db at 15kHz; that's just counterproductive on these shoots. I'm sure there's plenty other good lavs on the market that don't catch echo as much as a B6 or even a B3.

3) The biggest thing I do to help reduce echo on a shoot like this is to build a sound blanket fort. Like I said, the problem with these locations is the reflective walls, the open space, the high reflective ceilings. Things that reduce that echo are as simple as carpet, furniture, people in the room, curtains, and those cheap foamy ceiling blocks you often see in offices and schools. But the thing that I can add to a big open space like this are sound blankets. It's tough since I cant put them behind the talent since it will be in the shot, but I can put it in front of, to the side of, usually beneath and sometimes above the talent. When I can, I coordinate with the DP and Key Grip on where to and building sound blanket walls, ceilings and gaffing down sound blanket rugs. I have a 10 foot long, 10 foot tall green screen stand which I use solely for this purpose. I set that up as a wall and clamp two sound blankets on it, dampening the echo sound and stopping that sound from bouncing back into the mics. When I can, I also set up a blanket above the talent using a 10x10 frame and C-stands with help from everyone's best friend, the Grip department :-). Sometimes flags or a scrim on the 10x are easier though. I surround the microphone with these blankets to prevent the voice from bouncing back into the microphone.

People often think that speaking louder always helps sound. Not always, I'll assure you of that. In a room like this, it likely sounds good, so I can raise the levels higher so they can speak real soft and still sound good on my end. It's when the talent gets excited and speaks loudly, yells, and ends their spiel loudly that hurts us because those are the sounds that are loud enough to reach the glass walls in the way back and the steel ceiling way up there and bounce all the way back. With all this work, it's frustrating because it's still very difficult to reduce echo; it's a lot of work for a minimal effect, although anything we can do, we will.

Now, I'm not a post-guy, but there are some plug-ins that help reduce reverb; keywords "help" and "reduce", not get rid of. One trick I know of and have experimented with is using a noise gate. The reverb that bounces back which we don't want is a lot quieter than the voice which we do want. So, with a noise gate, you can select a db threshold where the echo does not go over, lets say -16db, so anything under -16db, you lower by another 32db perhaps. It also includes an attack and delay to help isolate this effect only to the reverb but it doesn't do much. I've tried this effect and you can only reduce a very small amount of quiet echo before you start seriously messing with the talent's voice which you never want to do. Either way, there are other tricks out there, likely better, but all in all, echo needs to be reduced on location as much as possible and unfortunately even as a sound mixer or sound utility, there is only so much we can do. Be careful when selecting cheap studio spaces for important shoots and please be sure to advise the Sound Mixer of the location beforehand if there is no tech scout. Happy Shooting y'all!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Don't Want to Hear Your Voice!

As the Location Sound Mixer, sometimes it's not dialogue I need to capture, but other sync sounds. Of course, often, some sound guys might lav up an actor who has no dialogue or boom from above when the only sounds in the scene are footsteps. These might be dumbfounded moments, but when an entire scene has no dialogue or any sounds from actor's mouths, you need to think what sounds do we want and what sounds don't we want?

Last week I wrapped mixing a feature film in NYC. One night, we had a scene with a few characters riding a bicycle through NYC, particularly Times Square. I was told to mic the actors but I knew they were not saying anything and since it was a bit of a chase scene on bikes, even if I missed some panting sounds, those are easily added in post as "Efforts." So, what sounds did I want? We spoke about not recording sync sound on this, rather recording foley sounds of the bike upside down recording the wheels spinning. But that plus many other sounds on the road, screeching of stopping, turning, riding over sewer tops, moving NYC street ambience, it would be quite a project. So I took a look at the bike and saw a spot where I could hide the lav mic close to the wheels and the pedals out of sight (under the bike seat) along with hiding the transmitter beneath the seat as well. The helmet-like shape of the seat and a foam windscreen protected the lav mic from wind noise. I also used a Countryman b3 rather than my main B6s because they are less susceptible to wind noise and other unwanted high frequencied cars driving by which we don't want too much of. We are fighting other traffic sounds so getting it close to the wheels and pedals is ideal. Fortunately, we shot this at 3am on a weekday, so traffic and other ambience was minimal- something more ADs shooting in NY should consider.

We lead the bike in an Action Camera Truck with lights, camera, video village and myself on the back of the truck shooting the cyclists. We also did some shots with the camera on the front of the truck following the cyclists from behind. I got sync sound of the bike ride throughout Times Square and it sounded much better than I thought it would. I didn't hear the spinning of the wheels as much as I thought I would but that was natural. Just add some more NYC street/Times Square ambience in the background which I had recorded earlier and you have a nice effective natural sync sound of that scene. We did have a few takes where the actors panted a bit which my lav did not pick up well (the rider in the back sounded OK, but the lead cyclist in the front seat of the bike was muffled as the mic was below his buttocks. However, like I said, that is something that is extremely easy to add in post as "efforts." Another reason why I wanted the mic on the bike rather than the actors was because with them riding the bike, they might be moving a lot, and I might get some rustling on the mics or it might fall off from their sweat and could then get caught in the moving pedals and gears or be dragged on the street. I was also trying to avoid the sound of the generator on the truck, so I only used the boom for slate rather than to add that NYC street ambience I felt we were missing.

We had other shots like this however, we did not use the follow/lead truck. We had the camera on a dolly on the sidewalk, catching the cyclists as they pass by. For this, I already had a lav mic on both actors, so I decided to leave those, and also use the boom. I brought in the lav levels as they got closer and closed them as they passed, catching their pants effectively at the right time and getting the perspective sound from the boom. I still would have liked another mic on the bike or a better way to avoid the moving shirt from occasionally bouncing and hitting the lavs, but it was for such a short moment, that we got what we needed from the lavs, or worse case scenario, adding "efforts" for this would be very easy to match.