[Editor’s note, Feb 2014: Written over 20 years ago now, many of the points below are obsolete, though fun to read. But some things never change]
- In short, running on the set is poor professional form for a
sound department. While the enthusiasm may be impressive to the unseasoned,
running tells those with experience that you have not thought far enough
in advance. When you run, mistakes are made, so you have to run back
a second time; you often get hurt, equipment is damaged, a distraction
is created and directors and producers are unimpressed. The concept
is as old as sound for film: friend and former colleague, Vilmar Zile,
who’s been mixing sound for film since the 1930’s, captured by the
Nazis during W.W.II, found himself on the crew of a film that taught
the proper way to defuse “dud” Allied bombs. That’s when
Vilmar coined the phrase: “Do it fast, do it wrong, do it over,
if you can.”
Never close an equipment case lid without secure at least one latch.
- This is the first instruction I gave to my eager-but-green cable
man on the TV show “Christy”. The recent film school grad
looked at me like I was either kidding or didn’t realize how qualified
he was. Well, on the second day I asked him to bring an equipment case
that he had been working out of all day. While the entire cast and
crew waited and watched, he grabbed the handle and took off running
(second mistake). The lid flew opened, and about $20,000 worth of microphones
spilled into the Appalachian Mountains. Like I said, “Always secure
at least one latch”.
Do nothing until the take up reel or DAT cassette is labeled.
- In doing this, any tape that has been recorded is always on
a labeled reel. In the case of DAT recording, always label the cassette
before inserting in into the recorder. The 15 seconds this takes can
seem like an eternity, especially if you have not prepared, but it’s
nothing compare to the torture of wondering if you are recording over
the previous scene.
Always have a Plan. Always have a Plan “B”. Assume neither will
- Seldom have I ever seen productions go according to plan. The
best set up for a particular scene is often going to be different than
the plan originally called for. It is important to be flexible and
be ready to quickly adjust as needed.
Be very nice to Craft Service personnel.
- First, of course, because it’s the right thing to do (they handle
your food, after all). Second, most of the producers I know began as
a Craft Service PA. So, the person bringing your bagels and coffee
will probably soon be deciding how much your day rate should be. Think
Key to free-lance success:
- Have as many clients as possible.
- Always keep an extra set of headphones for the producer’s girlfriend(s).
Develop a mental checklist for equipment.
- I always feared arriving on the set without a vital piece of
equipment. Mentally check off each piece of equipment by starting at
the microphone and working back to the tape.
If something is not directly related to sound, LEAVE IT ALONE!
- This is not a “primadonna” attitude, but a very practical
rule that has been in place for years because it makes productions
better and safer.
Always have more than you should need.
- Tape stock, batteries, cables, paperback books, etc.
Always include a “Sound Report” in triplicate.
- Date, Tape number (roll, cassette, etc.), Your name & phone
number, Project Title, Machine model, tape stock type, sync type, 0
VU reference, time code frame rate (when applicable), sampling frequency
(digital) and bit rate. One copy goes to with the tape to the transfer
house, another is for the production office records, the third stays
with you (always).
- That you are over-qualified.
- That you are not replaceable.
- That the old timers have been doing it wrong for years.
- That your lack of experience will go unnoticed on the set.