Continuing in my do anything once for free just for the experience manifesto I took the opportunity to play soundman on a small but ambitious production this past week.
The soundman’s job, like many positions on a film crew, is a pretty unsung responsibility. Sound really is fifty percent of your film and bad sound will pull an audience right out of the moment faster than anything on the screen. Yet the director of photography’s title still seems to come with a little more prestige than that of the soundman.
So I donned my headphones and hoisted my boom pole and did my thing. The experience was a great one. My back is still a little sore and my sleep schedule will be screwed for another few days but that’s par for the course. What was really great was not being the guy in charge. I felt like I was on vacation. Or at least, maybe, visiting a dominatrix of some kind.
Just thinking about a shooting location in strictly sonic terms was a great eye-opener. Being in the vicinity of an airport is a fairly obvious no-no but scouting locations previously I wouldn’t have immediately thought about the perils of situating your set near an open intersection. On straight bits of road cars roll at an even clip but at intersections you have to consider the volume of accelerating engines. Also, if you’re in a low-income housing area you may want to consider that a lot of those cars may have noisier mufflers than elsewhere. The neighbourhood garbage pickup rotation is also something that’s worth factoring in to your schedule.
This of course assumes that you have a pick of several locations. And anybody who’s ever tried to put together a small but ambitious shoot will tell you that this is a pretty rare luxury. But anything I can do to help out my soundman will be on my mind the next time I go into a production.