Don’t let these guys do your film sound!

There seems to be not a lot of information given filmmakers in school or even in books regarding who can help with the audio side of film.

Before we do this there needs to be distinction between location audio and post- audio. These are very different jobs and usually different people as the equipment, disposition and skills are completley different. Location audio guys will have a mobile recording setup (either 2 track or multi-track) which nowadays can be on miniDisc, tape, CD, DAT, DVD, Hard Drive or a swappable media such as CompactFlash, SmartDisk, MemorySticks or something similar. Some of these units can hook into the camera or a digital slate for true professional recording with reference points for the later tedious and laborious process of logging all the footage and audio and syncing it. Location audio specialists will also have a number of special mikes including shotguns, lavalier (hopefully wireless) and boom poles and windscreens. This stuff is not cheap. The blimp windscreens alone are around $500! An industry standard Sennheiser shotgun mic is over $1000. And then headphones and perhaps a mobile battery-powered mixer for multi-mic recordings.

For post-production audio, your team can include one or all of the following:
– Music Supervisor – person with a vast encyclopedic knowledge of music who can suggest/find songs for use in film and then arrange the licensing agreements for those songs. The licensing part may actually be more work than the actual creative part especially with well known songs. Can also be the person to hire the Composer.

– Music Editor – person who edits the music to conform with the picture. may also add a temp score to the rough cut for use by the Composer.

– Composer – person who will write the music for the film. This person, depending on the deal, may also be responsible for contracting the musicians, conducting and recording the score. The greatest Composers can lift up, unite and emotional bind a story as music speaks quickest to the heart, leading the eye.

– Music Producer – a vague term in film, this person can be in charge of the music for the production. Can also be another name for the Music Supervisor or the person who brings all music elements into the production. For example, T. Bone Burnett was the Music Producer for the film “Walk The Line.” His job included finding the songs they would sing, teaching Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix to sing believably, arranging the songs, contracting the musicians and booking a studio and supervising the production of the final recordings.

– Sound Designer – These people are unique in their ability to create and recreate sounds that create hyper-realism on screen. They often will mix in unexpected sounds to beef up the results. For example, in “Fight Club” the sounds of the punches were layers and layers of sounds of meat being punched, kicked and beat. It was so powerful, the director David Fincher asked for a version without the extra violent sounds to pass the review board for an R rating instead of an NC-17.

– Mix Engineer – This person is the one to bring all the final audio elements together into a cohesive experience. These disparate elements can be dialog, sound effects, music in final mixes, or music in stems, voiceovers and source sounds. They can do separate mixes for cinema, television, web, promos, and these can be in a combination of stereo or surround sound.

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