Creakive Problem Solving

In filmmaking, the set is the playground. It's not just where the actors play their roles, it's also where the crew plays their tools (Would have been knarly if "tools" rhymed with "roles", I felt the need to rhyme there :-) ) Anyways, I mixed a short film recently where we had a very easy scene to shoot, with the exception of a few overlapping difficulties.

We shot a scene on a bed (no, not that kind of scene) which was easy for me since the characters were physically close to each other for much of the 4 page scene. However, the floor in the bedroom was extremely creaky. The slightest of movements will make an annoying creak on my soundtrack which can really annoy any audience member in a bed scene. I was given suggestions to use foot foam, and sound blankets. I kept an open mind, however, I ultimately rejected these ideas because the creaking occurs when there is a certain amount of weight put on a small amount of area that happens to be loose. So, the foot foam and sound blankets would not prevent the weight being applied to these small areas, they would only help eliminate the clacking sound of hard shoes on a hard floor. The foam and blankets absorb that pressure and keep the noise to a minimum.

Now, this issue would have been easily avoided with some preparation for shots on sticks, which we did much of. However, the intended featured shot of this scene was steadicam. FAAAAANTASTIC :-) . The steadicam shot was our final shot of the day, so until then, I made markers on the floor (about a dozen) with painters tape so myself and camera department knew where not to step during a shot to avoid creaks. This method sufficed for the shots on sticks, however, once we got to the steadicam shot, it was going to be impossible to get a shot longer than 5 or so seconds without either the steadicam op making a creaking sound or myself making a creaking sound. Luckily, we had some time for the steadicam to be built, so I took my time to brainstorm a solution for this creaking.

Since the creaking happens when a certain amount of weight is put on a small amount of area, I figured I would have to make the crew lose about 50-100 pounds per person. Most of the crew was not fond of this idea in such a short period of time, so I was in another pickle. Rather than losing weight, I figured it would be best to make that small area on the floor that is loose, a larger area. A dance floor is what I was thinking, however with the budget of this shoot and it being last minute, we could not get a dance floor on set in time if not under budget. So as I walked around the location pondering, I found about 10 planks of 4'x2' pieces of wood, likely from an unassembled shelf (Thank you ikea for your complicated assembly instructions!) It would have been ideal for the wood to be 1 plank of wood to cover the room, but going from old loose, grooving 1'x1' squares on the floor to 4'x2' flat thicker squares was a huge improvement. This did not eliminate the problem completely since the wood planks we put down were not nailed down and were still somewhat loose on a slightly uneven floor, but it cut down our LOUD spots from about 12 to about 3, and those 3 didn't sound as bad as the initial creaks. So, this made it much easier for the two of us to operate in the space given and should certainly give the editor enough to work with in post.

Sometimes, it's not how good your equipment is or have good your boom op is or how good of a mixer you are, but rather it's creative problem solving that makes all the difference in the world. The voices could have sounded as beautiful as Aphrodite herself, but when overlapped by a non-diegetic "ehhhhhhhh!", it no so good.  Another cool solution with a bigger budget would have been to use a crane with a remotely operated head which can give similar movements as a steadicam along with some over head shots (barring shadows). Then I can just lav up the actors if I can get a boom in there. But most apartments cant fit a crane in the bedroom, so it'd likely be shot on a soundstage and if we had creaky floors on our soundstage, my boom pole would turn into a weapon for the construction crew.

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