You Are The Umpire - Q&A session with Paul Trevillion, John Holder and Vic Marks - audio recording

After posting Paul Trevillions fine interview with Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special recently, i was delighted to be contacted by both Paul and his agent, Peter Willis. They were both pleased with the way the TMS interview had gone, and were kind enough to invite me to the Guardian/Observer offices on Wednesday 3rd June for a Q&A session arranged with Paul and the umpire John Holder and chaired by Vic Marks of TMS and The Guardian to celebrate the launch of You Are The Umpire.

It was a fantastic evening - well attended by numerous fans clutching copies of the book, and all of us trying not to seem too sycophantic, but i personally was very excited to be able to stand and have a pleasant chat with the contributors. I found John Holder particularly to be a hugely intelligent and perceptive chap, with some fascinating insights into the world of cricket, especially for an armchair fan like myself. As he pointed out, he has the best place in the world to watch cricket from!

Below is an audio recording i made of the evening, which with kind permission from the contributors and The Guardian you can listen to. It’s a lovely collection of memories and observations from Paul Trevillion and John Holder, so enjoy. Its a bit long so i’ve chopped it into two sections. It’s perhaps not up to my usual standard of recording, done as it was on a small handheld flash recorder placed in the front row. Still, enough there to enjoy hopefully…

Part One (first voice is Paul Trevillion, Artist)

You Are The Umpire Q&A session with Paul Trevillion and John Holder, chaired by Vic Marks. Part 1 from matthew on Vimeo.

Part 2

You Are The Umpire Q&A session with Paul Trevillion and John Holder, chaired by Vic Marks - Part 2 from matthew on Vimeo.

The Walpole Awards - CNBC

The Walpole Awards 2008

The Walpole Awards 2008

Another shoot for the Luxury Channel – this time at the Walpole Awards in London. The Walpole Awards for Excellence are ‘to honour individuals and companies who exemplify British Excellence by their work and achievements across design, craftsmanship, business, culture and sport. The awards are presented annually at a reception hosted by British icons, most recently Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Simon Callow and Natasha Kaplinsky at The Banqueting House, Whitehall.’

I got to record a fascinating interview with Vivienne Westwood – an interestingly opinionated woman.

Vivienne Westwood at the Walpole Awards 2008

Vivienne Westwood

Sound recordist for Turin Brakes music video

I have been working with a couple of my old colleagues from the National Film and Television School – Anna Higgs and Gavin Humphries. They won the pitch to film the video for Turin Brakes’ new single through their production company Quark Films. It was a three day shoot and another of my fellow alumni from the NFTS was the DOP – Edu Grau; an excellent cameraman who I am sure will go far. As you can see from the video above the premise of the film was an obsessive relationship between two girls. It was nice to work with the people I studied with at film school, in the real world, and a good tune too.

The 2008 Monaco Yacht Show - CNBC

Superyachts in Monaco bay

Superyachts in Monaco bay

I have spent a week in France filming the Monaco Yacht Show for The Luxury Channel

The film can be seen online through their website but was originally broadcast on CNBC, and fits neatly into the Luxury Channels remit of producing quality films about high-end luxury goods and lifestyles. In practical terms it meant that we got to spend the week filming on some of the worlds most luxurious super yachts, which was just jaw dropping. I have never been witness to such a plethora of golden taps, ermine hand towels and on-board private helicopters.

The Monaco Yacht Show is held every year in the prestigious bay of Monte Carlo and is a high point in the year for yacht shows, as Monaco harbour is very deep, and thus allows some of the larger boats that are simply too big to go to other shows to exhibit there. And the boats really are big - the prefix ‘Super’ is not misleading at all. We saw a variety of boats, from the smaller, faster speedboats such as the Riva, to larger ocean-going yachts that are dreamed up by enthusiasts for speed and handling, to the bloated, cashmere heavy hulks struggling against the weight of the all the gold on board. We visited a good selection of each, and despite knowing little or nothing about boats, and having little or no money, I was soon sizing up the boats like a pro, and spent some time deciding what I would spend my imaginary millions on. I decided in the end that a J-Class (the type of boat raced in the Americas Cup the 30’s) would be my boat of choice; it has the sleek lines, build quality and racing pedigree of a proper boat, without all the crassness of a Super-Yacht, yet was still luxurious inside. That or the beautiful Saudade by Wally. And maybe a Riva as a launch boat - they are just so reminiscent of that 60’s euro-cool that I always associate with David Niven and The Pink Panther films.

Grinning like a twit at the helm of a superyacht

Grinning like a twit at the helm of a superyacht

The Riva Aquarama also has two V8 engines, and so during filming I paid particular attention to recording the engine sound as it sounds so fantastic. The twin V8’s gave such a deep, chest bellow simply when idling, but when we were ripping across the water at about 60knots they were in full roar. I got some great wildtracks as a result using a combination of my Rode NT4 stereo mic, and trying different axis and perspective with the sennheiser MK60 boom mic. We were moving across the water at such a rate that a full Rycote and windgag system was almost struggling to contain the wind noise. I say nearly - the people at Rycote such as Chris Woolf certainly know what they are doing as there was not a bassy wind rumble to be heard…hats off to Rycote.

this boat had a helicopter on the back...for when you need to pop ashore i suppose?

this boat had a helicopter on the back...for when you need to pop ashore i suppose?

Domaine De Lavagnac, France

Ah bliss. Three days filming a corporate video in the South of France. While corporate work is not always the most exciting, the pleasure of filming at the Domaine de Lavagnac overrode any other considerations. Ambitious plans for a golf course and private residences are afoot, and I can see the attraction, I have to say.

lavagnac

While we were there we stayed in fantastic accommodation at the Domaine Saint Hilaire owned by Jonathan and Anne James. It is a truly beautiful place set in the wine fields near Montagnac. My wife and I returned there for a blissful week later in the year, and spent a very pleasant time picking grapes, and enjoying the wonderful results in the form of their own wine. It really is good stuff, and I cannot recommend a stay at the Domaine St Hilaire enough. It’s a fantastically well-run place in the most beautiful part of France, and the quality of the accommodation and the hospitality shown by the James’s must be experienced.

A traditional French breakfast of cat; 'chat avec muesli'

A traditional French breakfast of cat; 'chat avec muesli'

‘Colliding Particles’ - International Conference for High Energy Physics (ICHEP), Philadelphia

I have just returned from 10 days in Philadelphia, where Mike Paterson and I continued to shoot for the online film ‘Colliding Particles’ that he and I have been working on for some time. It is very much Mikes brainchild, and I am just fortunate enough to be asked along to do the sound. I really love working on this film as it has given me a chance to indulge my geek fascination with physics, and have been lucky enough to see some great things so far, such as the inside of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva:

Inside the LHC...

Inside the LHC...

For this episode we travelled to Philadelpia for the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) which was being co-hosted with Princeton at Philadelphia University. The conference is a chance for scientists involved in particle physics and related subjects to get together to discuss the latest developments, and present their findings to their peers. It is also a chance for them all to get together and have a good chat - probably where much of the real work gets done. One of the contributors from the Colliding Particles film, Prof. John Butterworth, was presenting a talk on his work to find the Higgs Boson, so we went along to film that, and to try and show how the conference system works. You can see the latest episode here or watch the lower quality version below.

It was a good trip - Mike is excellent company, and the conference while largely unintelligible to us both, was good fun and we met some great people. The organisers and hosts were very generous with their time and hospitality, and Philadelphia is a great city. I highly recommend the sushi.

Action For Children tv ad (sound recordist)

I have just completed the sound recording for a new advertising campaign for what was previously the National Childrens Hospital. It is for their name change to ‘Action For Children’, and involved travelling around the country to interview various kids who had been helped out in some way by Action For Children. Action for Children supports and speaks out for the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK, and some of the interviews were an eye opening experience. A lot of these kids had lived far more and far harder in their relatively few years than I ever would hope to. It was a fairly humbling experience listening to them talk about difficulties I had barely even imagined. Action For Children does some really good things for them, and it was gratifying to hear the improvements the charity had helped many of them to achieve.

The advertising campaign hits tv screen soon, and can be seen here or below;

It was another chance to work with a friend from the National Film and Television School, Chris Wilson. I was studying sound recording at the same time as Chris was completing his final year of the Post Production Sound  course, and we worked together a few times. He is a talented chap, as shown by his successes so far.

Eggheads - BBC1

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I spent the day at the BBC working on Eggheads for BBC2. I like working at Television Centre – you always have the feeling that you might take a wrong turn and find Wogan necking with Anne Robinson, or fall into Noels gunge tank or something. I might be suffering from an overactive imagination, but that’s the effect it has on me.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Madrid - Oxford Digital Media shoot

A lovely week in Madrid working with James Tomalin of Oxford Digital Media, and Fred Davis of the Said Business School. Although it was an educational film, it was a lovely trip to a beautiful city, and the food was good too. The principle difficulty workwise was the change in radio mic frequencies necessitated by working in Spain. In the UK we are licensed (well, those of us who pay for our licenses!) to use channel 69 for wireless radio mics. I thought this was the case in Spain too after checking online, but when I got there I had dreadful problems with RF signal breaking into the link between transmitter and receiver, and spent a lot of time trying to find clear frequencies. A good excuse to try harder with the boom, and it sounded better as result.

gran-via-madrid

‘Colliding Particles’ CERN; into the heart of the LHC

I have been lucky enough to be asked to work on a film funded by the STFC about the work currently being done in Geneva on the Large Hadron Collider built at CERN. It is a fantastic opportunity to go and film in one of the most incredible pieces of engineering ever. I won’t try and go into the complexities of the work done there too much, but will settle for an explanation given by one of the scientist we interviewed whilst there; ‘It’s like wanting to know how your watch works – you want to know what is inside, so you smash it open with a hammer and see what comes out’. A nice analogy for hurling particles around a 27km loop at just sub-light speeds before smashing them together at a potential 14tev…

Mike Paterson filming inside the LHC

Mike Paterson filming inside the LHC

On a practical level it meant that director Mike Paterson and myself got an amazing tour of the facility by various highly qualified scientists involved, and even got to go inside some of the experiments such as Atlas and ALICE which in a few months time will be unpenetrable due to the magnetic fields generated. As you can see below the sites are all incredible pieces of design and construction, which hopefully will lead scientists to a deeper understanding of the state of particles moments after the big bang. The discovery of the fabled ‘Higgs Boson’ is the ultimate aim for many of the experiments, but it is important to also recognise the other advances this undertaking has given us – the internet and CAT scanners are just two examples.

p050208_15581

While I was there I caught up with an old school friend of mine from Cherwell School in Oxford, Jamie Boyd. Jamie is part of the Atlas experiment, one of the largest experiments at CERN designed to find (or not!) the Higgs boson. He seems to have a nice life at the base of the Swiss Alps and it made me wonder why I hadn’t paid a little bit more attention in school!

The films are being made by Mike Paterson, a good friend of mine and an excellent filmmaker. All the films are available at www.collidingparticles.com so please be sure to have a look, and subscribe to future episodes.

‘Lewis’ - ITV1. boom op / sound assistant

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Laurence Fox gets a taste of real work

Laurence Fox gets a taste of real work

I am still working with Richard Manton and Steve Fish - we have started shooting on the new series of ‘Lewis’, the ITV follow-up to ‘Inspector Morse’. It’s a bonus for me, as many scenes require shooting in my hometown of Oxford. The concept of cycling to work is an attractive one after several weeks of driving to London 6 days a week.

The show stars Kevin Whately as Inspector Lewis – now filling the role in Oxfords police force that his previous boss and friend Inspector Morse once filled. Kevin Whateley is joined by Laurence Fox as Hathaway;

As well as a great supporting cast including one of my teenage heroes Rebecca Front -

It’s a great show to be working on, and the crew are all good friends from previous series

Steve Fish exercising brain cells between takes

Steve Fish exercising brain cells between takes

Dick Manton with the all terrain sound trolley

Dick Manton with the all terrain sound trolley

Filming a back street fight-scene at night

Filming a back street fight-scene at night

Booming a scene at sunset

Booming a scene at sunset

International Criminal Court - The Hague

Gone Dutch

Gone Dutch

Having finished working with Dick and Steve I am back to solo PSC location sound recording. I miss the daily contact with a big crew, but it is nice to be the one in control of the faders again!

First up in a job in Holland for the International Criminal Court. We spent four days filming inside the court itself and around Den Haag. We needed to recreate a desert scene (part of a piece about the ICC collect evidence for their trials) and so went to a place called Soeste, which is a series of sand dunes inland, about 40 mins north of Den Haag. It was a beautiful day, and the scene worked really well.

The only problem was the sand – it was so fine that it got into all my kit, and I fear for the damage it might do. Professional audio equipment does not generally like sand very much, and it can really gum stuff up – I had to thoroughly clean the boom as every time it was opened or closed I could feel tiny granules scratching the pole. I will have to attack the kit with a soft paintbrush and some canned air.

Getting into the International Criminal Court with a digibeta camera, radio mics, and vast amounts of filming equipment was not the easiest of obstacles. We had to have most of our kit searched, logged, weighed, and then transported to the shooting location. We were slightly limited with what and who we could film, as the court has been the location for the Slobodan Milosevic war crimes trial amongst other things, and so is fairly security conscious. It is due to host the Sierra Leone war crime trials later this year.

International Criminal Court - http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Home

Primeval - ITV1. Boom op / sound assistant

Look out! The sun can be damaging to unprotected skin...

Look out! The sun can be damaging to unprotected skin...

Spent the day (my birthday) up to knees in Somme-like mud filming scenes for episode 2.3 of Primeval in which a sabre-tooth tiger is running amok in a theme park. So far we have battled (filmed) sabre tooth tigers, raptors, co2 breathing worms, and a futuristic shark hybrid. All in a days work you know.

I have been doing a lot of booming, which is a different skill in a drama setting like this, opposed to say documentary. Whereas for factual you are more concerned with getting as much as you can as well as you can, in drama there is a more nuanced approach. Headturns can catch out the unwary boom op, lines and actors movements need to be learned before shooting, and dropping into shot causes the entire crew to fix you with a steely gaze of irritation when a retake is called.

Dick Manton uses Sennheiser 416 mics for exteriors, and lovely sounding Schoeps capsules for interiors. With the addition of a Micron transmitter for a wireless boom, the whole setup is not too heavy, but with the boom fully extended, and long dialogue scenes it can get become slightly like a test of endurance. The voice of Dick over the wireless headphone link telling me to ‘steady there’ is a sure sign the shakes have started.

The 'Primeval' cast

The 'Primeval' cast

Primeval will air on ITV1 in January 2008, and stars Dougie Henshall, Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt, Lucy Brown, Ben Miller and Karl Theobald

Primeval - series 2 for ITV1. Boom op / sound assistant

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I have just started work as Sound Assistant on the ITV show Primeval made by Impossible Pictures, the company behind ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’. It is the Saturday night ITV answer to BBC1’s Dr Who and is based around the adventures of a team of scientists who have discovered ‘anomalies’ that allow a variety of CGI dinosaurs to be transported to the present (as well as occasionally sending people the other way, into the past/future). For practical purposes this involves running around booming scenes in which a variety of actors fight/run away from/look scared at nothing. This nothing will later be transformed into a variety of terrifying dinosaurs and creatures by the clever people at Framestore – the same visual effects people currently handling the new Batman Film – The Dark Knight Returns. It can be quite an entertaining experience watching actors acting at an empty space, but there are also a fair amount of scenes involving stunts and special effects. So far I have seen people riding motorbikes around a shopping centre, vast amounts of slime hurled in peoples faces, and watched in a mixture of horror and admiration as the steadicam operator, Roger Tooley, clipped himself and the rig to the lead actor Dougie Henshall (who plays Cutter) and slid down a zipslide, filming all the way.

It’s great fun, and I have the pleasure of working with Richard Manton and Steve Fish – sound mixer and boom op respectively – who are both excellent sources of information, experience, general knowledge, and great stories. I am very lucky to be working with soundmen of their skill and experience, and hopefully some of their talent will rub off on me. It’s a change of pace for pace for me – drama schedules are usually based around an 11hr shooting day, with 12 day fortnights worked by all. The crew end up doing long hours, and someone is always doing something on the set. It’s not always you so many hours are spent being whiled away together. I am more used to working in small fast moving shoot environments, so I’m taking a bit of time to adjust.

Dick Manton, grabbing a snack in the Cretaceous period

Dick Manton, grabbing a snack in the Cretaceous period

A night shoot in Canary Wharf

A night shoot in Canary Wharf

‘Pevsners Cities - Oxford’ Documentary for Five tv

fivetv6

I have spent the week filming a documentary for Five which explores the classic and revered architectural guides of Nicholas Pevsner through the eyes and mind of architectural historian, Gavin Stamp. The film was produced by independent production company Wag TV.

It was a pleasure to work on, as I have lived in Oxford for most of my life, but was given a tour and explanation of the architecture which revealed a very different city to the one I am so familiar with. So many fascinating aspects of the architecture were explained, and it made me look at my hometown with very different eyes. The crew were extremely nice, and a pleasure to work with. Cameraman Neve seemed to be enjoying making a beautiful city look even better.

A rare and affectionate behind-the-scenes tour of a fascinating architectural landscape.’ - Sunday Times

‘A serious exploration of architecture… this was absorbing television.’ - Daily Telegraph

‘Exactly how I want my architecture served up!’ - The Guardian

‘Sensitive and understated.’ - The Sunday Telegraph
It was the first outing for my brand-new-secondhand, fully paid-for kit of SQN 4S series III mixer, and Sennheiser MKH60/MKH70 boom mics.

sqn

I was really pleased with how it went – the mixer is an old favourite, easy to use and very reliable. It may not have all the nice flashy LED’s of the SD442 (or indeed the virtually total lack of background hiss) but I can use it without looking as I know where the buttons and faders are, which can make small adjustments whilst booming a lot easier!

Unfortunately the nature of many of the pieces to camera meant that it was largely radio mic stuff. ☹. The presenter (a smartly dressed man at all times) wore a stiff shirt with tie and jacket. This is almost my least favourite outfit for fitting radio mics to (after the worst – waterproof outdoor jackets), as there are so few options. Hiding the capsule under the collar has the advantage of giving the mic a little air which helps the overall sound, but it is tucked under the chin too much, sounds quite throaty, and can be a little too off-axis if the presenters turn their head too much. The option of looping the cable up the back, around and under the collar, with the capsule buried in the tie knot makes more sense in terms of central positioning, but again can be regarded as a little too high and close to the throat. Also, dependent on the fabric of the tie, this can be a scratchy option, and if the capsule slips back up into the tie it can become quite muffled. I opted for the best sound, but most problematic solution which was to work the capsule into the jacket/shirt around the mid-chest area. This is hard as this are of the body/clothing moves a lot when walking and talking, and the capsule is hard to conceal here.

Cristiano Ronaldo TV Commercial - sound recordist

Me and Ronaldo...well...i'm near Ronaldo.

Me and Ronaldo...well...me near Ronaldo?

I spent the day working on a Portuguese television advert for ‘Modelo’ which involved Cristiano Ronaldo posing as an airline pilot, flanked by hordes of attractive air stewardesses. It was a strange day really, as I got to watch firsthand the current world footballer of the year doing tricks with a football whilst wearing flat-soled leather shoes on a tarmac runway. Dammit he was still too good. And smug. But you can’t really blame him, as he drives his sports car away with a few of the stewardesses still inside with him. In his position I would be beyond smug I think. Anyway, I turned up to the shoot with a small Sound Devices 442 location mixer, a couple of sets of AudioRMS 2020 radio mics, a 416 in Rycote, and an HHB portadat with timecode; I was the entire sound department on my own. When I was introduced to the camera team, I was introduced to over 15 people! It must be a reflection of the skills of the average camera op I suppose – quantity not quality ;)

Anyway, I must remember to take more kit to advertising shoots. Everyone takes all their toys, lays them out proudly on the ground like a male-peacock displaying its finery, and then struts about the set, jerking their necks and warbling. Nobody ever uses more than 10% of this equipment, but that is just missing the point isn’t it?

And here is the finished film!

‘Northern Star’ - Documentary for BBC1

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I have just finished filming a documentary on the 1967 discovery of pulsars for Irish company Independent Pictures, called ‘Northern Star’. It was a fascinating shoot as I got to meet Jocelyn Bell who many believe should have won the Nobel Prize for her work, as well as Professor Anthony Hewish who was the eventual recipient of the award, and Jocelyn Bell’s supervisor at the time of discovery. The film will be broadcast on BBC1 Northern Ireland later this year.

Additional links


Jocelyn Bell biography

Anthony Hewish biography
Pulsars!

Filming with Jocelyn Bell at Jodrell Bank space telescope

Filming with Jocelyn Bell at Jodrell Bank space telescope

A space-age 1960's control desk

A space-age 1960's control desk

left to right - Anthony Hewish, Jocelyn Bell, Matthew Share

left to right - Anthony Hewish, Jocelyn Bell, Matthew Share

sound recordist

sound recordist

sound recordist

sound recordist

sound recordist

sound recordist

Careers in Sound - Sound Mixer

There are many different roles to fill in Sound for Film and TV, so here is a brief explanation of some of them;

Sound Mixer

This is usually the title given to the person who sits at a sound desk/trolley on a film or tv set, and presses the record button and moves the faders, and is generally in charge of the sound team; often a 2 or 3 person team (comprised of sound mixer, boom operator/sound maintenance and sound assistant/second boom). A sound mixer is different to a sound recordist; both have the primary function of recording high quality location sound, but a mixer is often more likely to concentrate on the recording and mixing aspect of the sound acquired on set by the boom operator, as well assume overall responsibility for the sound team. Mixers may also be involved in pre-production planning aspects of the sound such as radio mics concealed in costumes or location choices.

One of the UK's top Sound Mixers. With trolley.

One of the UK's top Sound Mixers. With trolley.

Sound mixers will often work from a trolley - this is because the trolley allows them to have equipment such as a flatbed mixer and recording device attached at a comfortbale height to work at, in a portable system. They will often be working with many channels of sound from separate sources, and so mixing them into a form that is useful to the post production audio process is vital. Sound quality is paramount, but if you can mix 8 different actors mics down into 2 channels of neat, smoothly faded sound then it is a great help to the audio process. It is also great fun - one of my favourite bits of the job. I enjoy the satisfaction of following a scene and managing to seamlessly shape the dialogue to the flow of the action. Sound mixers will often own their own kit, including the mixer, mics, recording device etc and hire themselves and their kit to a production, as well as bringing along their own staff.

‘Beat It’ – FIVE tv

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I have spent the last few months travelling between Manchester, Whitchurch and Worthing working as sound recordist on a series of films for Five TV about people with emotional issues that have led them to seek help for the behaviour it has led to. The three people involved then follow a course of treatment to hopefully help them to… yup…’Beat It’. The film is for my old boss Nick O’Dwyer of Landmark Films. I worked as a production assistant for Nick at Landmark Films for several years before I went to study sound at the National Film & Television School. He is an extremely good filmmaker – the best interviewer I have worked with – and a thoroughly nice chap with it. I was very grateful to him for using me for these films.

I think the films themselves will turn out well, and wish the participants all the best. Without revealing too much I was impressed at modern techniques that are available for issues such as stammering, and the changes that cognitive behavioral therapy is able to achieve. Below are links to some of the organisations involved in the series.

Five TV page for ‘Beat It’ - http://www2.five.tv/factsheets/beatit/
John McGovern who is featured in programme 1 – ‘Addicted to Asda’ is Head of Clinical Psychology at Cheadle Royal Hospital, Cheshire. He has put together a fact sheet on help for compulsive buying, which can be accessed by clicking on the link below. John is an Honorary Lecturer at Manchester University and is interested in hearing from people, particularly those in the North West, in order to gain a greater understanding of shopping addictions.

amanda - 'Addicted to Asda'
Contact: info@affinityhealth.co.uk
Fact sheet address: www.affinityhealth.co.uk/pdf
I was amazed at the progress of the stammerers at the Starfish project. Anne & David Blight who founded the Starfish project featured in the programme can be contacted at:
Email: anne@starfishproject.co.uk
Website address: www.starfishproject.co.uk

For national enquiries please contact:
The British Stammering Association
15 Old Ford Road
London E2 9PJ
Email address: mail@stammering.org
Website address: www.stammering.org

Careers In Sound - Dubbing Mixer | Re-Recording Mixer

Dubbing Mixer/Re-recording Mixer

Dubbing Mixers (also known as re-recording mixers - an americanism maybe?) work with all the sound elements; dialogue, automated dialogue replacement (ADR), foley, sound fx, atmospheres and music  to create the final soundtrack. They are primarily responsible for ensuring that film sound is correct both technically and stylistically.

Balancing levels and blending a variety of sounds requires skill and a technical knowledge of sound and how to manipulate it.  Good dubbing mixers can often save a film that has bad location sound. Dubbing mixers may also work as sound designers to ensure a consistency of the sound and to save on budgets!

Dubbing/re-recording Mixers like most other sound roles often work on a freelance basis. They work extremely long hours under considerable pressure, and usually work on both film and television drama productions. They work in at large mixing consoles, mixing and smoothing out (cross fading) the sound, often adding a temporary music soundtrack prepared by the music editor. Dubbing mixers must be able to work quickly, to extremely high standards.

Today soundtracks are often mixed in many languages and surround sound industry standard. This process can take between 2 and 12 weeks depending on each film’s scale and budget, and so dubbing mixers are often still working in the final days of a films post-production. They also spent so much time inside that their skin is almost clear, their eyes enlarged, and they are able to survive for long periods on nothing but coffee and Miso soup.

Careers In Sound - Sound Editor

Sound Editor

A sound editor is responsible for selecting and assembling sound recordings in preparation for the final sound mix or dub. They cut, mix and fade dialogue, music and effects to create a consistent overall sound. Sound editors often specialize in only one of these areas, and some productions will have separate dialogue, effects, and music editors. In smaller productions sound editors are expected to know how to handle it all, often crossing over into dubbing mixing as well.

Dialogue editing is where the editor takes the original sound recorded on the set by the sound recordist, or location sound mixer and boom op, and using a variety of techniques ensures the dialogue is understandable, as well as smoother, so the listener doesn’t hear the transitions from shot to shot (often the background sounds underneath the words change dramatically from shot to shot. This used to be done in analogue by chopping up quater iinch tape, and splicing it back together as needed, but is largely done on digital non-linear software packages such as Pro-tools, Logic and Nuendo.

Careers In Sound - Sound Recordist

Sound Recordist

A sound recordist is usually the person responsible for all aspects of sound in small crews, such as documentary and current affairs. They will usually carry a bag containing a location mixer, radio mics, external recording device such as DAT or hard disc recorder, toothpicks, batteries, several pieces of fruit, and a small notepad for drawing pictures of other crew member during particularly boring takes. Sound recordists usually work on their own as befits a smaller crew and so have responsibility/control over most aspects of the sound acquisition. The primary role of the sound recordist is to record appropriate sound for picture and the final film, to a high standard and free from unwanted noise. This might sound relatively straightforward, but in reality this means battling the madness of location managers and directors who want to film in the outside lane of the M25 or the centre of a V8 engine, or inconsiderate airlines that insist on continually flying over your shoot causing the rest of the crew to stare impatiently at you until you say ‘i think it’s ok now’ before the next one arrives precisely 1min 33 secs later. This is why all television filmed in London is restricted to takes of no more than 90 secs. Ahem.

Mr N Broomfield

One of the UK's...practitioners of sound recording. And a fine director.

This is my primary role in Sound. When working as a sound recordist i spend an awful lot of time turning off peoples fridges and computers to remove hum, bribing workmen to halt their drilling for 10 mins, and generally asking people to stop making the noise they are often required to make as part of their jobs, in order for me to film a man talking at a camera. That may be simplifying it somewhat, but controlling unwanted background sounds is often the most challenging aspect of the job.

In the age of video i often end up recording directly to tape, which requires a connection to the camera. This can be 2 x xlr cables, a hirose cable or a wireless link depending on your finances, but the former often involve being dragged around by a camera operator, and getting glared at when you don’t move fast enough, and the latter involves panicking madly when you realise no sound is actually being sent to the camera as MI6 are supressing all radio waves in your area (see filming near the MI6 building…). Sometimes however it is necessary to record on an external source such as DAT or a hard disc recorder, for example when shooting on film. This requires the sound recordist to ensure that the sound and picture are able to be easily synced by the editor in post production. This is achieved either through use of a sync clap, or timecode. If timecode IS the format of choice then the sound recordist usually sets this up, as jam-syncing timecode between two or more devices is often beyond/beneath the understanding of camera ops who are far too busy measuring photons with their clever little light meters

Careers In Sound - Sound Engineer

Sound Engineer

Sound engineers are often the people who sit behind the glass in record studios - recording music usually. They record in controllable studio environments and are responsible for producing as high quality a recording as possible. I don’t know so much about this branch of sound, but the ignoramus’s friend - Wikipedia makes this note about subdivisions of sound engineers which is probably worth repeating:

There are four distinct steps to commercial production of a recording. Recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. Typically, each is performed by a sound engineer who specializes only in that part of production.

  • Studio engineer could be either a sound engineer working in a studio together with a producer, or a producing sound engineer working in a studio.
  • Recording engineer is a person who records sound.
  • Mixing Engineer is a person who creates mixes of multi-track recordings. It is not uncommon for a commercial record to be recorded at one studio and later mixed by different engineers in other studios.
  • Mastering Engineer is typically the person who mixes the final stereo tracks(or sometimes just a few tracks or stems) that the mix engineer produces . The mastering engineer makes any final adjustments to the overall sound of the record in the final step before commercial duplication. Mastering engineers use principles of equalization and compression to affect the coloration of the sound.
  • Game audio designer engineer is a person who deals with sound aspects of game development.
  • Live sound engineer is a person dealing withlive sound reinforcement. This usually includes planning and installation of speakers, cabling and equipment and mixing sound during the show.
  • Foldback or monitor engineer is a person running foldback sound during a live event. The term “foldback” is outdated and refers to the practice of folding back audio signals from the FOH (Front of House) mixing console to the stage in order for musicians to hear themselves while performing. Monitor engineers usually have a separate audio system from the FOH engineer and manipulate audio signals independently from what the audience hears, in order to satisfy the requirements of each performer on stage. In-ear systems, digital and analog mixing consoles, and a variety of speaker enclosures are typically used by monitor engineers. In addition most monitor engineers must be familiar with wireless or RF (radio-frequency) equipment and must interface personally with the artist(s) during each performance.
  • Systems engineer is a person responsible for the design setup of modern PA systems which are often very complex. A systems engineer is usually also referred to as a “crew chief” on tour and is responsible for the performance and day-to-day job requirements of the audio crew as a whole along with the FOH audio system.
  • Audio post engineer is a person who edits and mixes audio for film and television

Careers In Sound - Sound Assistant

Sound Assistant/Second Boom

You are the monkey on set who makes the tea and coils the cables for the rest of the sound crew. You might get the opportunity to do some second boom work, particularly during dialogue scenes where a dual track of both sides of a conversation are useful to the sound post team. But mostly you will make tea. And stand there. And stand there. And stare. And ponder how when you are the sound mixer you will enjoy watching the sound assistant stand there. and stare.And then do whtever the mixer or boom op need you to do. Well, within reason, depending on how eager you are to progress.

One of the UK's top practitioners of standing and staring

One of the UK's top practitioners of standing and staring

No, it’s the first foot on the ladder, and a very necessary one. You learn how to behave on a set, how the processes work, how to make tea, how to stand still for long periods while the camera team setup, and other useful things.

Careers In Sound - Boom Operator

Boom Operator/Sound Maintenance

A boom operator is the person who waves the microphone on the end of a pole around on a set to acquire sound. I say wave, but it is a little more refined than that - good boom operators can make a sound mixers life an easier and more successful one purely by dint of being good at what they do.  Moving a microphone around a set filled with lights and cameras and reflective surfaces, whilst remaining unseen, unheard and crucially while keeping a consistency of sound perspective and axis is, shall we say, a bit tricky at times.

One of the UK's top Boom Operators at work.

One of the UK's top Boom Operators at work.

The life of a boom op can be a hard one - many other departments on set get a generous amount of time - camera to set the shot, and lay the track, dop and gaffer to light the scene, actors to learn lines, directors to decide on where to have lunch. The boom op has to wait for them all to frame up to find the edge of frame, see the actors rehearse the scene to be sure of lines and positioning when speaking, wait for a final decision on lighting to check for shadows and reflections. All of this whilst enduring a barrage of comment from aformentioned departments along the lines of ‘Why can you see lightning before you hear thunder? Because even God had to wait for Sound! hahahahah…etc’ as you desperately try and do all these things in the 8 secs you have before turning over.

But there are advantages to being the boom operator; you are right in the heart of the action on set - often the closest person to the action when filming - and your skill could have a real impact on the quality of the final recording. You are required to know what is going on around you such as preparation or changes for the next scene, as you may well need to relay this to the mixer who is just off the set. You have to be diplomatic as you may often hear things others cannot. You are also responsible for attaching radio mics to performers. Here, diplomacy, fresh breath and warm hands are required. You may find yourself needing to persuade an actor that you really do ned to shove both hands down the front of her blouse in order to attach a mic.
Boom Operating (within TV drama and feature films) is a professional grade and a valuable skill. With practice and talent you can become a vital member of the sound crew, and you often have to fill this role before being allowed/given a chance to progress to sound mixer.

Sound Recordist kit and equipment; PSC Location Sound Recording Kit

My kit is an ever-evolving beast; it is a mixture of things I need, things I thought I needed, some things I don’t really need but wanted anyway, and things I bought because I couldn’t afford what I really wanted…too much of it falls into the latter category as it seems anything used for professional purposes in tv and film, whether it is gaffer tape or a full set of radio mics, has an additional 50% added to what would be an affordable and reasonable price for them.

Consequently I try to be prudent when buying kit, and rely heavily on fine purveyors of secondhand equipment, such as eBay and BBlist and Location Technical Facilities. For new items I use a variety of shops and websites such as Soundkit, DV247, HHB and Proactive, but occasionally find myself going further afield for things; I particularly like the Thomann site, who are a German company, and stock some really useful bits and pieces for audio at often crazy-cheap prices. (nb I don’t work for them, I just like them.)

My kit:

Mixer - SQN 4Sseries II

I got my mixer secondhand from a retiring sound recordist based in London, who kept it in excellent condition. I like the SQN series mixers as i have used them for so long that i am quite familiar with them - I can do small repairs, know exactly what to expect from it, and importantly i can operate it easily without being able to see it - very useful a) when booming b) when squashed into a small space during shooting and c) at night. It doesnt have any lights on the meters, but they do glow a bit. The downside of the mixer is that it is quite large and weighty compared to the newer models, and with all the other bits and pieces in my bag it can end up being fairly heavy. The mixer is also a few years old now, but despite that, it is in excellent condition and regularly serviced by SQN so sounds as good as it did when it was first made. The background noise levels are not as low as some more modern mixers, but are perfectly acceptable for TV and film use.

Microphones:

us_sennheiser_mkh4161Sennheiser 416 - The staple of many sound recordists over the years, and still one of the best. Again this mic was acquired from the same source as the mixer and is secondhand, but it is still the most useful microphone in my kit. A short gun interference tube mono microphone, the 416 has excellent directivity and feedback rejection. I mainly use it outside where it comes into its own - the system of rejection and reflection making it possible to pick out a sound source such as dialogue and reject a huge amount of background sound. In the hands of a skilled boom operator these are better than any number of radio mics. They are good inside too, but in smaller spaces the pickup pattern loosens to more of a cardiod pickup as the different reflections of sound in interiors decrease the amount of ’suck’ produced by the mic. So sometimes for interiors i use…

AKG C480B with CK63 hypercardioid capsule - this is a nice practical mic, as the C480 is a base preamplifier that has detatchable capsules so you can swap dependening on what you need; omni, cardioid, hypercardiod. The mic itself itself a fairly low noise mic, and works well in interiors. I often use it for interviews inside; it works well on a stand, and with a touch of bass cut to remove handling noise it works very well on the boom too. I can add the bass cut (or high pass filter depending on which way round your brain works) can be applied from the mixer, or from the mic itself as it has an integral low cut filter (12 dB/octave) which can be set for either 150 or 70 Hz, and it also has selectable attenuation of +6, 0, and -10 dB.

Sennheiser 3041/3063 diversity radio mics - Like most sound recordists, i am not particularly fond of radio mics but i do appreciate their necessity in modern filming, and they do get you out of trouble on probably as many times as they drop you right in it. A good set of mics is useful (although since OFCOM decided that UHF channel 69 would no longer be available to broadcast radio mics as of around 2012, with a possible relocation to channel 38 requiring retuning and in many cases ‘total crystal replacement’ at a fairly hefty cost, it remains to be seen how long mine remain ‘useful’ :-( - see my colleague Mary Miltons site for more info on this and her and the IBS’s work to resolve the situation into something workable for the future) and a fairly important part of my kit. I use these Sennheiser transmitters and receivers with ME102 omni capsules. I also use an SKP3000 wireless transmitter with P48 power, which i attach to my boom mic to allow me to have a wireless boom - this helps me avoid wrapping myself in a spaghetti of starquad cable when shooting, and frees up the boom to roam as far from the mixer as necessary, within reason. At a push i can also have 4 radio mics out, and configurations thereof; 4 mics on contributors, 2 mics on contributors and 2 wireless channels connecting mixer to camera (no need for long cables attached to the camera!), one mic on contributor, one for the boom, and two to connect mixer to camera etc etc.

RØDE NT-4 Stereo Mic - Much of my day-today recording is done on mono microphones, usually the acquisition of dialogue. But sometimes it is necessary or desirable to record a stereo track of something. I often find myself using my RØDE NT-4 for music, and wildtracks in particular. The times when you want to create a real ambience, or get sense of movement or the balance of a musical performance. The NT-4 uses a clever bit of design to replicate the 90 degree X/Y configuration of a stereo pair - the capsule on the right of the mic picking up sound on the left axis (channel 1) and the capsule on the left picking up the right hand side (channel 2).  It produces a lovely stereo image without the fiddling of a stereo pair, and more importantly with a significantly cheaper pricetag. This is one of my pieces of equipment that is brand new, and i have been hugely impressed with the performance of the microphone, whether in the studio recording music or on location. I have used it placed directly in front of an acoustic guitar, slightly angled towards the body end of the guitar, and was really impressed with how natural the recording sounded. With a bit of fiddling with the angle you can change the sound of the NT4 by rotating the capsules so that one capsule is slightly above the other; this changes the timbre and frequency response and overall sound. For stereo wildtracks on location it is really good too as it is fairly portable, and comes with a foam windshield and handy 5-pin stereo XLR to 2x 3 pin mono XLR’s for easy plugging into the mixer. It can be powere either by 40 volt phantom power, or with a 9v PP3 battery placed inside the unit. I don;t think you can find a better stereo mic for the price anywhere. Hurrah for Dick Manton who first suggested it to me.

Sound Devices 744T 4-track field recorder

The 744T is a four-track file-based digital audio recorder. The compact 744T records and plays back audio to and from its internal hard drive, Compact Flash cards, and external FireWire drives, making field recording for multicamera and film shoots a much easier proposition. It writes and reads uncompressed PCM audio at 16 or 24 bits with sample rates between 32 kHz and 192 kHz. The time code implementation makes the 744T ready for any recording job—from over-the-shoulder to cart-based production.

The pre-amps in the 744 are really impressive - there is virtually no background hiss,  there is little or no distortion, and frequencies are recorded with clarity and accuracy

744T with microphone and headphones

It plugs straight into my Macbook or PC for downloading of files, or you can attach an external DVD-Ram or best of all get a huge flash card and use that - solid state with no moving parts; pretty useful when it’s in the bag over your shoulder and you’re running after the camera op all day.

It’s a nice piece of kit, and has banished the days of sound recordists walking with a limp from years of hulking a Nagra around.

Bits and pieces - I also carry the usual vast array of ’stuff’ that a sound recordist needs…usually when i havent got it with me. These include portable recording devices such as as Zoom H2 hard disc recorder and a Sony minidisc, loads of cables; starquad XLR, minijack, phono, and lots of different tails for cameras - some with XLR returns, some with phono, some with minijack, lots of fittings for radio microphones, gaffer tape of all sizes and colours, a long Ambient boom pole and a short VDB boom pole, a Pro Tools Mbox2 which allows me to use my laptop as a portable studio along with the Pro-Tools LE software, and Logic 8; both of which i use for post production sound editing and dubbing mixing.  I use a Portabrace mixer bag over my shoulder when shooting, although recently have started using a harness that loops over both shoulders, rather than one strap over one shoulder, pulling me to one side when shooting. It seems to be better for my back.  Finally i use Sennheiser HD25 headphones which seem to be a common choice amongst sound ops of all varieties; they have a virtually flat frequency response, and a closed back design which helps block makground noise - very useful when shooting in noisy locations. They are quite comfortable, especially with the addition of velour earpads to keep my precious ears warm on those cold winter nightshoots (!), but after long days of shooting i do get a bit of a skullache from where they compress my head around the ears. I know some sound recordists who prefer different headphones, but i often find that this is because they prefer not to be able to hear all the awful background sounds they can do little or nothing about, whereas the HD25’s let you hear everything, not matter how painful that might be!

Glossary of audio terms commonly used in broadcasting

A

AMBIENT SOUND: Sound naturally occurring in any location. Even an empty, quiet room has its own special atmosphere because no space is truly silent - examples of ambient sound are traffic, hum from fridges or computers and are often recorded by sound recordists to use later as a ‘buzz track’.

AC: Alternating Current

ACOUSTICS: The behaviour of sound and its study. The acoustics of a room depend on its size and shape and the amount and position of sound-absorbing and reflecting material.

A/D CONVERTER: Circuit for converting analogue waveforms into a series of equally spaced numerical values represented by binary numbers. The more ‘bits’ a converter has, the greater the resolution of the sampling process.

ADR: Additional Dialogue Replacement, the act of changing the original location dialogue with a dialogue track recorded separately in a studio, and overlaid onto the picture. The enemy of the location sound recordist.

AES: Acronym for Audio Engineering Society, one of the industry’s professional audio associations.

AFL: After Fade listen; a system used within mixing consoles to allow specific signals to be monitored at the level set by their fader of level control knob. Aux sends are generally monitored AFL rather than PFL.

AMBIENCE: The portion of the sound that comes from the surrounding environment rather than directly from the sound source. The result of sound reflections in a confined space being added to the original sound.

AMP: (Ampere) Unit of electrical current.

AMPLIFIER: Sound equipment that converts the low voltage, low current signal from a tape deck, mixer etc. into a higher current signal suitable for driving speakers.

AMPLITUDE: The strength of a vibrating wave; in sound, the loudness of the sound. Another word for level. Can refer to sound levels or electrical signal levels.

ANALOGUE: Circuitry that uses a continually changing voltage or current to represent a signal. The origin of the term is that the electrical signal can be thought of as being ‘analogous’ to the original signal.

ASPECT RATIO: A term used to define the shape of the screen, presented in the form width:height. Older televisions have an aspect ratio of 4:3, British and many European widescreen films have an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, US and some European widescreen films have an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic widescreen films are usually 2.35:1. Widescreen televisions have an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 1.77:1, roughly halfway between the two standard widescreen ratios. Other aspect ratios are also occasionally used, though the ones cited above are the most common.

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: The assistant director is primarily responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly during the shooting, that schedules are kept to and that everyone is where they’re supposed to be. On larger productions, there may be grades of assistant director - usually, the second AD is responsible for supervising principal cast while the third AD handles extras and other background artistes. And shouting at the sound mixer / sound recordist because they still have their headphones on.

ATTACK: The time taken for a sound to achieve maximum amplitude. Drums have a fast attack, whereas bowed strings have a slow attack. In compressors and gates, the attack time equates to how quickly the processor can change its gain.

ATTENUATOR (POTS): The electronic device under the faders that increases or reduces the strength of the signal running through it.

ATTENUATION: an electronic device that reduces the amplitude of a signal - eg attenuator switches can be found on microphones and mixers to allow a reduction of amplitude.

AUDIO FREQUENCY: Signals in the human audio range:nominally 20Hz to 20kHz.

AUX: Control on a mixing console designed to route a proportion of the channel signal to the effects or cue mix outputs (Aux Send).

AUX SEND: Physical output from a mixer Aux Send buss.

AUX RETURN: Mixer inputs used to add effects to the mix

AXIS: A line around which a device operates. Example: In a microphone, this would be an imaginary line coming out from the front of the microphone in the direction of the microphone polar pickup pattern eg cardioid. The main focus of many boom operators while shooting.

B

BAFFLES: Sound absorbing panels used to prevent sound waves from entering or leaving a certain space

BASS TIP-UP: An increase in the lower frequencies produced as a result of close micing.

BAND PASS FILTER (BPF): Filter that removes or attenuates frequencies above and below the frequency at which it is set. Frequencies within the band are emphasised. Bandpass filters are often used in synthesizers as tone shaping elements.

BALANCED LINE: Wiring system which uses two out-of-phase conductors and a common screen to reduce the effect of interference. For balancing to be effective, both the sending and receiving device must have balanced output and input stages respectively. A “balanced” connection is one that has three wires to move the signal. One is a ground, and the other two (called conductors) carry signals of equal value. This is why they are called balanced. Starquad cable is a commonly used balanced line in location sound recording.

BANDWIDTH: A means of specifying the range of frequencies passed by an electronic circuit such as an amplifier, mixer or filter. The frequency range is usually measured at the points where the level drops by 3dB relative to the maximum.

BI-DIRECTIONAL PATTERN: A microphone pick up pattern which has maximum pick up directly in front and directly in back of the diaphragm and least pick up at the sides.

BIT: Binary digit, which may either be 1 or 0. Many modern recording devices are between 16 and 24 bit.

BOOM: Extendable lightweight support pole for attaching a suspension device to hold the microphone. Principally used by the boom operator or sound recordist.

BOOM OPERATOR: The principal responsibility of the boom operator is mic placement, sometimes using a boom pole with a microphone attached to the end and sometimes, when the situation permits, using a Fisher boom - a larger mechanical device on wheels which allows operation at a much greater distance away from the actors. He or she will also place wireless microphones on actors when it is necessary. The boom operator must decide where to place the boom microphone based on a combination of factors, including the location and projection of any dialogue, the frame position of the camera, and any unwanted noise sources. Usually work as part of a team with a sound mixer and maybe a sound assistant / technician. Sound recordists often boom themselves whilst carrying the mixer in a harness.

BOUNDARY MIC:
A microphone mounted on a flat plate that acts as a reflective surface directing sound into the mic capsule. Used for general pick-up over a large area.

BPM: Beats Per Minute.

BUSS: A common electrical signal path along which signals may travel. In a mixer, there are several busses carrying the stereo mix, the groups, the PFL signal, the aux sends and so on. Power supplies are also fed along busses.

BYTE: A piece of digital data comprising eight bits.

C

CARDIOID: Meaning heart shaped, describes the polar response of a unidirectional microphone.

CAPACITOR: Electrical component exhibiting capacitance. Capacitor microphones are often abbreviated to capacitors.

CAPACITOR MICROPHONE: Microphone that operates on the principle of measuring the change in electrical charge across a capacitor where one of the electrodes is a thin conductive membrane that flexes in response to sound pressure. (see condenser mic)

CAPSULE: The variable capacitor section of a condenser microphone or in other types of microphones, the part of the microphone that includes the diaphragm and the active element.

CHANNEL: A single path that an audio signal travels or can travel through a device from an input to an output; most recording devices have at least two channels, with more modern devices often having 4. In two channel systems channel 1 is the left channel and channel 2 is the right channel.

CINEMATOGRAPHER: The person whose job it is to set up both camera and lighting for each shot in a moving image text. The cinematographer has perhaps paramount influence over the look or tone of a shot or scene, and is often held in as high esteem as the director. Cinematography is therefore the art of positioning a camera and lighting a scene.

CLIPPING: Severe form of distortion which occurs when a signal attempts to exceed the maximum level which a piece of equipment can handle. Distortion of a signal by its being chopped off. An overload problem caused by pushing an amplifier beyond its capabilities. A bad thing for a sound recordist to do.

CLOSE MICING: A technique of placing a microphone close to the sound source (within one foot) in order to pick up mainly the direct sound and to avoid picking up leakage or ambience.

COMPRESSOR: Device designed to reduce the dynamic range of audio signals by reducing the level of high signals or by increasing the level of low signals. Effect used to squash the sound together.

CONDENSER MIC: A microphone that uses the varying capacitance between two plates with a voltage applied across them to convert sound to electrical pulses. Condenser microphones need a power supply to provide the voltage across the plates, which may be provided by a battery within the case of the microphone, or it may be provided from an external phantom power supply. A condenser mic is more sensitive and has a faster reaction to percussive sounds than a Dynamic mic and produces a more even response.

COINCIDENT PAIR: Two microphones whose heads are placed as lose as possible to each other so that the path length from any sound source to either microphone is for all practical purposes, the same.

CROSSTALK: Leakage of an audio signal into a channel that iris not intended to be in, from an adjacent or nearby channel.

D

DAT: Digital Audio Tape. The commonly used DAT machines are more correctly known as R-DAT because they use a rotating head similar to a video recorder. Digital recorders using fixed or stationary heads (such as DCC) are known as S-DAT machines.

dB: deciBel. Unit used to express the relative levels of two electrical voltages, powers or sounds.

DC: Direct Current.

DE-ESSER: Device for reducing the effect of sibilance in vocal signals.

DECAY: The progressive reduction in amplitude of a sound or electrical signal over time.

DISTORTION: Usually undesirable result of overloading sound equipment. Reducing the levels can remedy the situation.

DIEGETIC SOUND: Sound indicated not only by what can be seen, or by sounds generated from on-screen actions and objects (e.g. footsteps, explosions), but also by off-screen sounds that belong to the world being depicted (e.g. birdsong, church bells). Non-diegetic sound is typically music or sound effects not generated in the filmic world but added to indicate characters’ state of mind or to generate audience response.

DIRECTOR: The person responsible for the physical creation of a film or television programme, who is often the final decision-maker with regard to creative matters.

DUBBING MIXER: Dubbing Mixers (also known as re-recording mixers - an americanism maybe?) work with all the sound elements; dialogue, automated dialogue replacement (ADR), foley, sound fx, atmospheres and music  to create the final soundtrack. They are primarily responsible for ensuring that film sound is correct both technically and stylistically, and use the location recordings made by the sound recordist on set.

DYNAMIC MICROPHONE: A type of microphone that works on the electric generator principle, where a diaphragm moves a coil of wire within a magnetic field. Robust microphone which picks up the sound on a diaphragm connected to a coil of wire which moves within a magnet. An alternating current is induced into the wire which provides the electrical output. Most dynamic mics have low output impedance of 200 Ohms.

DYNAMIC RANGE: The range in dB between the highest signal that can be handled by a piece of equipment and the level at which small signals disappear into the noise floor.

E

EARLY REFLECTIONS: The first sound reflections from walls, floors and ceilings following a sound created in an acoustically reflective environment.

EDITOR: On its most fundamental level, film editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling shots into a coherent whole.

ELECTRET MICROPHONE: Type of capacitor microphone utilising a permanently charged capsule. A condenser microphone has a permanently polarized (charged) variable capacitor as its sound pressure level sensor.

ELECTROMAGNETIC INDUCTION: The generation of electrical signal in a conductor moving in a magnetic field or being close to a changing magnetic field. Unbalanced cables can suffer additions and degradation to the signal as a result of induction, which is why balanced lines are used on set.

EQUALISER: Device for selectively cutting or boosting selected parts of the audio spectrum. Equalisation is he process of adjusting the tonal quality of a sound. A graphic equalizer provides adjustment for a wide range of frequency bands, and is normally inserted in the signal path after the mixing desk, before the amplifier.

EXCITER: An enhancer that works by synthesizing new high frequency harmonics.

EXPANDER: A device designed to decrease the level of low level signals and increase the level of high level signals, thus increasing the dynamic range of the signal.

F

FADER: Sliding potentiometer control used in mixers and other processors.

FIGURE-OF-EIGHT: Describes the polar response of a microphone that is equally sensitive both front and rear, yet rejects sounds coming from the sides.

FILTER: An electronic circuit designed to emphasize or attenuate a specific range of frequencies.

FISHPOLE: A handheld microphone boom

FOLDBACK: System for feeding one or more separate mixes to the performers for use while recording and overdubbing. Also known as a Cue mix.

FOLEY SOUND: Sounds recreated in a sound studio. The construction or approximation of sound effects using sources other than those represented on screen. Examples would include a knife piercing a watermelon to approximate a stabbing sound, or the use of coconut shells to approximate the sound of horses’ hooves. The Foley artist is the person responsible for sourcing and making these sounds.

FREQUENCY: Indication of how many cycles of a repetitive waveform occur in 1 second. A waveform which has a repetition cycle of once per second has a frequency of 1Hz (pronounced Hertz).

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: How sensitive an electronic device (mic, amplifier, speaker, etc.) is to various frequencies; often communicated with a graph.

FX: Effects.

G

GAFFER TAPE: Cloth tape specifically for use on film shoots, usually 2 inches wide in black or silver. A good friend of all the crew.

GAIN: The amount by which a circuit amplifies a signal.

GRIP: The crew member responsible for setting up dolly tracks and camera cranes, erecting scaffolding, moving props or scenery, or the adjustment or maintenance of any other production equipment on the set.

GUN MIC: Ultra-directional microphone useful for minimizing the intrusiveness of ambient sound and a main mic of choice for many location sound recordists.

H

HARD DISK: High capacity computer storage device based on a rotating rigid disk with a magnetic coating onto which data may be recorded.

HARMONIC DISTORTION: The addition of harmonics that were not present in the original signal.

HEADROOM: The safety margin in dBs between the highest peak signal being passed by a piece of equipment and the absolute maximum level the equipment can handle.

HIGH PASS FILTER (HPF): A filter which attenuates frequencies below its cutoff frequency.

HISS: Noise caused by random electrical fluctuations.

HUM: Signal contamination caused by the addition of low frequencies, usually related to the mains power frequency.

HYPERCARDIOID: A microphone pick up sensitivity pattern where the least sensitive pick up point is more than 90 degrees but less than 150 degrees off axis

Hz: Short for Hertz, the unit of frequency.

I

IMPEDANCE: Can be visualised as the ‘AC resistance’ of a circuit which contains both resistive and reactive components.

INVERSE SQUARE LAW: Simply stated, the fact that in an un-obstructed area (like an open field) the sound pressure level will drop to half-pressure (-6 dB) every time the distance to the sound source is doubled.

I/O: The part of a system that handles inputs and outputs, usually in the digital domain.

J

JACK: Commonly used audio connector. May be mono or stereo.

JAM SYNC: The process of syncing Timecode between two devices eg hard disc recorder and camera.

K

kHz: 1000Hz

L

LAVALIER MIC: a miniature type of microphone, usually omni-directional and wireless, and small enough to be taped or clipped to an actor, to record dialogue; aka lav or lapel microphones. Often not much liked by sound recordists but can be very useful for shots where booming is impossible or to close mic dialogue.

LEVEL: The amount of signal strength; the amplitude, especially the average amplitude.

LIMITER: Device that controls the gain of a signal so as to prevent it from ever exceeding a preset level. A limiter is essentially a fast acting compressor with an infinite compression ratio. It is often present on mixer hardware to prevent the location sound recordist / sound mixer overloading the signal. (see clipping and distortion).

LINE LEVEL: A nominal signal level which is around -10dBV for semi-pro equipment and +4dBu for professional equipment.

LIP-SYNC: Refers to synchronization between mouth movement and the words on the film’s soundtrack

LOCATION SOUND RECORDING: The fine art of recording sound on location including dialogue and fx. Practised by a sound recordist or a sound mixer.

LOW PASS FILTER (LPF): A filter which attenuates frequencies above its cutoff frequency.

LOW END: A slang term for bass-frequency signals (below 250 Hz).

M

mA: milliamp or one thousandth of an amp. See Amp.

MIC: An abbreviation for microphone.

MICROPHONE: Device for converting sound into electrical pulses which can then be amplified or recorded onto tape. Signals from a microphone are very low level and are amplified in the mixing desk to line level. See Dynamic Mic, Condenser Mic, Phantom Power, Pick-up, Radio Mic.

MIC LEVEL: The low level signal generated by a microphone. This must be amplified many times to increase it to line level.

MIC PAD: A device that reduces the level of the signal and is placed just before a microphone preamplifier to prevent overload of the preamplifier.

MIC PREAMP: An amplifier to boost the low-level audio signal out of a microphone up to line level.

MIDI: Musical Instrument Digital Interface.

MID SHOT: refers to a conventional camera shot filmed from a medium distance; although it is difficult to precisely define, it usually refers to a human figure from the waist (or knees) up; between a close shot and a long shot; abbreviated as m.s.

MIX: To blend audio signals together into a composite signal OR the signal made by blending individual signals together.

MIXER: A device which can combine several signals into one or more composite signals, in any desired proportion. One of the key pieces of equipment for a sound recordist.

MIXDOWN: The process during which a multitrack recording is balanced and transferred to two tracks (stereo) for playback or reproduction.

MONITOR: A reference loudspeaker used for mixing/the action of listening to a mix or a specific audio signal.

MONO: There is only one sound source or the signal was derived from one sound source.

MOVING COIL MIC: Similar to a dynamic microphone; a microphone in which the diaphragm moves a coil suspended in a magnetic field to generate an output voltage proportional to the sound pressure level.

MS STEREO: The mid-side (M-S) stereo recording technique puts the center of the soundstage (mid) in one channel and the side information in the other. These mid and side channels can be adjusted and reconfigured to accurately represent a conventional left and right stereo image (on their own, they do not give you a left/right image). The M-S technique gives you more control over the width of the stereo spread than other miking techniques

MULTITRACK: A recording device capable of recording several ‘parallel’ parts or tracks which may then be mixed or re-recorded independently.

N

NOISE REDUCTION: System for reducing analogue tape noise or for reducing the level of hiss present in a recording.

NOISE GATE: A piece of sound processing equipment that reduces background noise by muting a sound signal when it falls below a certain level, restoring it when the level increases again; also known as an Expander.

NOISE FLOOR: The level of the noise, in dB, below the signal.

NOTCH FILTER: A device that rejects signals that have frequencies within a narrow band of audio frequencies and passes all other signals.

NYQUIST THEOREM: The highest frequency that can be recorded and reproduced properly by a particular sampling rate (a frequency that is one-half the sampling rate)

O

OB - OUTSIDE BROADCAST: A broadcast made from outside a television studio, often live, usually by means of portable cameras linked to an Outside Broadcast van, which contains the necessary equipment for broadcasting them back to the production company. Typical OBs include sporting events and news reporting. The term is not generally used to describe location shooting for drama or comedy.

OCTAVE: When a frequency or pitch is transposed up by one octave, its frequency is doubled.

OFF AXIS/OFF MIC: Sound source that is not within the pickup pattern of the mic.

OHM: Unit of electrical resistance.

OMNI MIC: Meaning all, refers to a microphone that is equally sensitive in all directions.

OVERDUB: To add another part to a multitrack recording or to replace one of the existing parts.

P

PAD: Resistive circuit for reducing signal level.

PAN POT: Control enabling the user of a mixer to move the signal to any point in the stereo soundstage by varying the relative levels fed to the left and right stereo outputs.

PANNING - The process of distributing sound signals to different channels - panning left and right.

PARALLEL: A means of connecting two or more circuits together so that their inputs are connected together, and their outputs are all connected together.

PARAMETRIC EQ: An equaliser with separate controls for frequency, bandwidth and cut/boost.

PEAK: The highest signal level in any section of programme material.

PFL: Pre Fade Listen; a system used within a mixing console to allow the operator to listen in on a selected signal, regardless of the position of the fader controlling that signal.

PPM: Peak Programme Meter; a meter designed to register signal peaks rather than the average level.

PHANTOM POWER: 48V DC supply for capacitor microphones, transmitted along the signal cores of a balanced mic cable. Some condenser microphones require a power supply in order to operate. If this supply is not from a battery within the microphone body, it is known as a phantom power supply. It is usually 48 Volts DC but can sometimes be 12v.

PHASE: The amount by which one sine wave leads or lags a second wave of the same frequency. The difference is described by the term phase angle. Sine waves in phase reinforce each other; those out of phase cancel.

PHASING: An effects created by variable phase shift of an audio signal mixed with the direct signal.

POST PRODUCTION: Studio work done on location recordings after filming is complete.

POST-FADE: Aux signal taken from after the channel fader so that the aux send level follows any channel fader changes. Normally used for feeding effects devices.

POTENTIOMETER (POT): Act as a variable resistor or rheostat. Potentiometers are commonly used to control electrical devices such as a volume control of a radio.

PRE-FADE: Aux signal taken from before the channel fader so that the channel fader has no effect on the aux send level. Normally used for creating Foldback or Cue mixes.

PRESSURE GRADIENT MIC: A microphone whose diaphragm is exposed front and back and diaphragm movement is caused by the pressure difference between its front and back, usually bi-directional pickup.

PRODUCER: The person ultimately responsible for the creation of a film or programme. Usually involved right from the start, the producer will either devise or purchase the original idea, calculate the likely budget, pitch the idea to financiers to raise the money, hire the necessary creative personnel, supervise all stages of production and marketing, negotiate deals with prospective distributors or broadcasters and be the first point of contact for anyone interested in the production in question. Although often disparaged as being purely a business role, the best producers have considerable creative input as well.

PRO-TOOLS: A trade name of Digidesign for a hard disk digital audio recording system

PROXIMITY EFFECT:In directional microphones, the boost in the microphone’s output for bass frequencies as the mic is moved closer to the sound source.

PZM: Pressure Zone Microphone. A type of boundary microphone. Designed to reject out-of-phase sounds reflected from surfaces within the recording environment.

Q

QUANTIZATION: A method of converting analogue sound signals into a digital representation.

QUADROPHONIC: A sound system which uses four independent speakers (channels are designated as left front, left back, right front, and right back). The fore-runner of today’s Surround Sound.

R

RADIO MIC: Device consisting of a microphone head, transmitter pack with batteries, aerial and mains receiver unit which allows actors and singers to be amplified with no visible means of connection. Many moodern radios mics transmit an RF signal at UHF, but can also utilise VHF, FM, and IR. Many sound recordist do not like radio mics due to the vagaries of RF tranmission/reception and the effect of concealing a microphone on an actors/contributors clothing which may rustle etc.

REFERENCE TONE: A tone sent by mixers to allow calibration of signal level of associated equipment. Typically 1khz transmitted at -18 db fs and the sound that all sound recordists hear as they go to sleep at night.

RESISTANCE: Opposition to the flow of electrical current. Measured in Ohms.

REVERB: Acoustic ambience created by multiple reflections in a confined space.

RF: Radio Frequency.

RIBBON MICROPHONE: A microphone where the sound capturing element is a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic filed. When sound causes the ribbon to vibrate, a small electrical current is generated within the ribbon.

ROLL-OFF: The rate at which a filter attenuates a signal once it has passed the filter cut-off point.

ROOM TONE:The background noise in a room without additional sound such as speaking - see Ambience.

RMS: (Root Mean Square) A method of specifying the behaviour of a piece of electrical equipment under continuous sine wave testing conditions.

S

SAMPLE RATE: The process carried out by an A/D converter where the instantaneous amplitude of a signal is measured many times per second (48kHz in the case of broadcast sound).

SHOCK MOUNT: An elastic mount for the microphone that reduces movement of the microphone it is moved - eg Rycote

SHOTGUN MIC: A microphone with a long line filter (a tube that acoustically cancels sound arriving from the side) to make the microphone pick up much better in one direction than in any other direction. The best friend of the location sound recordist.

SIGNAL: Electrical representation of input such as sound.

SIGNAL PATH Route taken by a signal from the input to a system to the output.

SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO: The ratio of maximum signal level to the residual noise, expressed in dBs.

SLATE: The voice recorded onto the beginning of a master tape to identify the tune and take, or the action of making it.

SMPTE: Time code developed for the film industry but now extensively used in music and recording. SMPTE is a real-time code and is related to hours, minutes, seconds and film or video frames rather than to musical tempo.

SOUND PERSPECTIVE:
Apparent distance of sound source from the microphone. Clip-on mics, for instance, give no change of perspective when characters move or turn because they remain in a fixed relationship to the wearer; a key consideration for the sound recordist / sound mixer.

S/PDIF — Acronym for “Sony/Philips Digital Inter Face” - an unbalanced line for home use.

STEREO: A recording or reproduction of at least two channels where positioning of instrument sounds left to right can be perceived.

STRIPE: To record time code onto one track of a multitrack tape machine.

SURROUND SOUND: A technique of recording and playback of sound used in film where the sound has a front to back quality as well as side to side perspective.

SYNC SOUND: A film or television soundtrack that is specifically timed to suit the images, so that dialogue fits the appropriate lip movements and sound effects match what can be seen on screen. In order to achieve this, the soundtrack is recorded at the same time as the images in such a way that picture and sound can easily be matched up during editing, and devices such as digislates, clapper boards, timecode and lockit boxes are used to achieve this.

T

TIMBRE: The tonal ‘colour’ of a sound.

TIMECODE: Short for SMPTE Time Code (a standardized timing and sync signal specified by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers).

TONE: Sound generated at various frequencies to align a tape machine or for other testing purposes. Typically 1khz at -18db fs.

U

UNBALANCED: A 2-wire electrical signal connection where the inner or hot or +ve (positive) conductor is usually surrounded by the cold or -ve (negative) conductor, which forms a screen against electrical interference.

V

VOICEOVER: The recording of vocal announcements over a bed of other sounds and picture.

VOX POP: Technique used typically in news and current affairs, but also in other types of non-fiction broadcasting, in which a sample of people are approached on the street, more or less at random, and asked their views on a given issue.

VU METER: Meter designed to interpret signal levels in roughly the same way as the human ear, which responds more closely to the average levels of sounds rather than to the peak levels.

W

WATT: Unit of electrical power.

WAVEFORM: A graphic representation of the way in which a sound wave or electrical wave varies with time.

WHITE NOISE: A random signal with an energy distribution that produces the same amount of noise power per Hz.

WILDTRACK: A sound track shot alone and with no synchronous picture, wildtracks are often used by post-production sound.

X

XLR: Type of connector commonly used to carry balanced audio signals including the feeds from microphones, 3 pin for mono, 5 pin for stereo. See balanced line. The UK standard for wiring the 3 pin connector is as follows: Pin 1 (Screen), Pin 2 (+ve / “hot”), Pin 3 (-ve, “cold”). (Xternal, Live, Return).

Y

Y-Lead: Lead split so that one source can feed two destinations. Y leads may also be used in console insert points in which case a stereo jack plug at one end of the lead is split into two monos at the other.

Z

ZERO DB: The common reference point when discussing sound levels. Levels above 0 dB are expressed as positive (+5dB) and those below as negative (-20dB).

About me

I am a freelance sound recordist with over 10 years experience in tv & film. I studied location sound recording at the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield, and have been working as a freelance sound recordist since 2004. I have my own full location recording kit, transport and a clean driving licence and am available for work across the UK and worldwide, with bases in London and Oxford.

I also teach Sound in various forms at the London Met Film School in Ealing Studios.

This site contains a blog about my work as a location sound recordist, as well as articles related to sound and film, lots of information about careers in sound and pro audio equipment, advice on filming and sound techniques, a glossary of audio terms and lots lots more. Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, or if you want to contact me for work please click on 'Contact' or call me directly on 07980 910873.

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