The Production Sound Mixer

This Week's Film Crew 101 Guest:

Mathew Price is a Production Sound Mixer whose skill can be heard in some of your favorite films and tv shows (he's worked on The Sopranos, The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel, Daredevil, You, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to name a few). In this episode, he talks about the nitty-gritty of capturing sound on a film set and how to build a career that lasts. 

 

Listen To The Episode Here:

 

What does a Sound Mixer do?

The Production Sound Mixer is the head of the sound department and is responsible for recording all of the audio that occurs while filming. Their main focus is capturing the actors’ vocal performance but they also record sound effects and any other sounds that might occur.  

Before shooting starts, the Production Sound Mixer will often meet with the producer and director to discuss the best method of capturing sound alongside the director’s shooting style. In pre-production, they will then join a small team visiting locations to check for potential sound problems, like passing trains or road noise as well as look for noisemakers on set such as restaurant refrigerators, ringing telephones, and loud HVAC units. 

During filming, sound mixers ensure all the audio from wireless and boom microphones are recorded with clarity at a good level for every take. If they flag a problem, the director decides whether to do another take or correct it in post-production.

 

What is a Sound Mixer good at? 

 

Hearing: Be able to focus their hearing to concentrate on dialogue often in loud and distracting environments

Understanding sound:  Know how it moves, how we hear, how sound can be equalized for rich and clear dialogue

Knowledge of equipment: Understand electronics, especially the tonal differences between different mics as well as also mixing, recording and music playback gear

Attention to detail: Be able to hear vocal patterns, such as the different variations of clothing rustle and environmental noises. Understand the sound editorial process. Keep accurate and sound reports for the editors and post-production people

Film production: Know how sound can tell a story, understand the requirements of other departments, especially camera, lighting and wardrobe

Communication: Be able to interpret the director’s needs, give instructions to other members of the team, persuade other departments of the importance of the needs of the sound department and share decisions made while under pressure

 

Who does a Sound Mixer work with? 

 

Boom operator 

Cable Utility 

Sound trainee 

 

How do I become a Sound Mixer? 

A good route to becoming a sound mixer is to start as a trainee, often by working on smaller productions,  and then work your way up through the roles outlined above.

 

What is the salary range?

 $650 - $1,200 per day

 Union: Local 52, Local 695

 

What is in the Sound Mixer's kit box?

 A mixer, recorder, various directional and lavalier mics, wireless mic transmitter/receiver sets, video monitors, etc. 

 Kit box rate: $300 - $650 per day

 

Position Terminology

Boom:  A boom operator holds a boom pole with a directional mic attached at the end. They then follow the dialogue and often hide mics on set and/or wire the actors

Radio Mic:  Microphones placed on the actor to get quality sound while allowing the actor to move freely.

XLR: The name of the connector on the end of most microphone cables. 

Lav Mic: Small microphone (also called a lavalier or lapel mic) that allows for hands-free operation by connecting to a pack that can be placed on an actor and transmits to the mixer.

Wild Lines:  Dialogue that is recorded separately without the camera rolling.

Room Tone: Subtle, low-volume ambience presence unique to every room. Room tone is recorded for every room used in a film. 

ADR: Stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement (also referred to as 'Looping'), ADR is the process of re-recording dialogue in a more controlled environment after filming, usually to reflect changes in dialogue or to improve audio quality from noisy locations.

Ambience In film: 'Ambience' refers to the myriad of background sounds that make up the character of a space. 

Second Sticks: If the clapper wasn’t visible in the shot when the slate was called, the camera team will call for second sticks to mark the slate a second time. 

Duvetyn:  A fabric that has a matte finish and can be used to dampen sound.

MOS Minus Optical Sound (MOS): Refers to filming with no sound being recorded

Open Walkie:  When someone has left their microphone open on their walkie talkie.

Video Playback:  A system used to play back and check what was just shot on set.

Music Playback: Used if there are music performers in a scene or sometimes just to create an atmosphere on set

Time Code Note:  Time code is an embedded, coded signal on film or videotape, generated when the camera rolls. It provides information such as time of recording, frame number, or exposure. Making a time code note is a way to identify a particular place or selection in the footage for future reference.

 

Learn More: 

Learn more about Mathew Price: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0697038/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Learn more about Brian Gililland: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1439903/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Books to read: The Location Sound Bible by Rick Viers.

 

This episode is sponsored by the Cherokee Nation Film Office. Click the banner below to find out more about filming with the Cherokee Nation. 

 

 

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