Sound for Theatre ... and 2 Cameras

Well, not exactly theatre, but sound for what seemed to be a stageplay as opposed to a traditional screenplay. The day after we wrapped the feature, The Volunteer, where I was boom operator, I began mixing a short film for a few weeks in New York that presented many new challenges for me in many ways.

Basically, this film was written and directed by people who have a background in theatre rather than film, so many of our scenes were very large. This was a musical so we almost always had 10-40 characters in each scene, and often in each shot. Often with 8-12 people with dialogue in each shot as well. Of course I always look forward to the tight shots but working with 2 cameras most of the time, we would shoot one camera wide and one camera tight, so most of the time I had to stay out of both frames, depending on what we had for coverage.

Another alternative to this would be stashing mics in the scene. Often, when we had about 12 people talking in the shot (yes, individually, one at a time), they would be in groups, such as a table of 4, then another table of 4, etc. So I would stash a mic on the table. I tried beneath the table, and I tried beneath the tablecloth. Both had their own advantages and disadvantages. I could have tried to mic the actors as well, but with each person appearing in the film being Jewish Orthodox and female, religious practices actually prevent me from doing my job the way I normally do it, along with there not being a wardrobe department to help and the film being a period piece meaning the female costumes were very difficult to find a good place to place a transmitter without being seen and messing up the 1930's European wardrobe. I did find a way to mic up a few actresses for a scene, using moleskin for the first time which gave me better than expected results, reducing rustling of the clothes.

Not to mention, the additional challenge of making an audience close their eyes and believe the streets of 2012 Brooklyn sound like 1930 England. On the bright side, this certainly made me a pickier sound mixer; well this and the rooster, cockatoo and talking parrot who says "Hello" when we roll on Day 1. Plus the baby we had in a few scenes; try mixing and booming at the same time while trying to make faces at the baby in the scene to make sure it doesn't cry. Now try that while being someone that babies generally hate.

Lav mic between 2 layers of Moleskin to reduce
rustling of clothes and to stick to body.
After this project, I am in the process of making some kit upgrades to help me in situations like this. I just got myself a cardioid to reduce echoe for tight indoor shots, the Sennheiser me64, which is also good if I want to stash a mic. Right now, I only have a supercardioid which is only acceptable for indoors and for real wide outdoor shots (hypercardioid would be perfect for that). I also plan on getting some Neopax which are like ankle wallets/pouches that can wrap around the actor's ankle, thigh or belly in order to strap a wireless transmitter on it when there is no other place on the wardrobe to place it. I'm also looking to upgrade my wireless and am having nerd dreams 24/7 deciding which omni lav to go with.

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