Article Written by Fred Ginsburg, CAS, Ph.D.
Above production still taken by Kim Edward Welch, StudentFilmmakers Magazine.
Calling for the roll: FILM SHOOT.
See further down in article for instructions if shooting on video/electronic cinema. Before the shooting sequence begins, the sound mixer has recorded a HEADER ID at the beginning of the sound roll, HD, or media card.
A proper HEADER contains the following information:
- Production Number and Working Title.
- Date and Location.
- Name of Sound Mixer.
- Make/model of audio recorder.
- Track format (such as Mono, 2-track, 4-track, 8-track, mon0 x #, stereo pair x #)
- Sampling and Bit Rate (such as 16 bit, 48k or 24bit/48k)
- Timecode Rate. Such as 23.976, 24.00 native, 29.97 non-drop, 30 non-drop.
- Always specify non-drop or drop-frame if using 29.97
- Always specify NON-TIMECODE if your recorder cannot record timecode!
- Slate what the reference tone level is going to be recorded at (such as negative 20 dB)
- Record 30 seconds of reference tone onto your recorder.
Include this HEADER ID file once on every sound roll, hard drive, or digital media that you turn in for dailies.
ASST DIRECTOR: to sound mixer
“Put us on a light and bell. Quiet on the set.”
Light and Bell System is remote controlled at the soundcart, and activates the RED warning lights outside the stage, sounds one long blast of a buzzer or bell, and sometimes also controls the ventilation/air conditioning system.
- Sound Mixer activates Light & Bell from the soundcart.
- When Crew hears one long blast of buzzer, they know to cease all activity and remain silent.
- RED LIGHTS outside the stage warn people not to enter!
The Assistant Cameraperson (aka Clapper/Loader) holds the slate in front of the face of the actor, so that camera does not need to reset focus/framing.
Always begin with the sticks in the OPEN position!
Sound mixer needs to make sure that a nearby mic, such as the boom or the actor’s lav, is ready to record the clack of the sticks closing.
ASST DIRECTOR: to sound mixer
Sound Mixer switches the recorder from STANDBY/PAUSE into RECORD/PLAY.
Sound Mixer announces the scene and take number into the slate mic at the mixing panel.
- Always use alphabetic “words” when you slate, since “letters” (aye, bee, see, dee) are harder to differentiate during playback.
- Examples: alpha, beta, charlie, david, edward, frank, george, henry.
- Or just use any words that begin with the right letter!
- After voice slating the scene & take, the soundmixer should take a lengthy pause, in order to record a few seconds of room tone.
- Turn off your slate mic.
- Make sure that your primary mic for the scene is OPEN and set to the level expected for Dialogue!
After a moment, the SOUND MIXER shouts:
Exception: If this is the first take at a fresh location or major set change, then the sound mixer should attempt to record 30 seconds of ROOM TONE at this time.
- The Mixer would record scene/slate, and then shout “Please remain quiet while we record 30 seconds of room tone, as requested by the Producer.”
- Of course, the crew will begin murmuring and whispering after only several seconds, but get whatever you can for the Editor.
- Calling for the roll:
- Even several seconds of good, clean room tone is highly valued by the Editors!
- Make sure that you record room tone with the same mic, same position/angle, and same gain (volume) settings as you would use for dialogue in that scene!
- When any additional recording is futile, re-slate the scene/take and call out “Finished with room tone, let’s do it… SPEED!”
- After voice slating the scene/take and calling “SPEED” — make sure to close your slate mic and open the mic that will hear the clapstick.
ASST DIRECTOR: to Camera Operator
“Roll Film!” (or “Roll Camera”)
Camera Operator begins shooting film.
immediately verifies that film is rolling, and then shouts out:
Note that the camera operator does not waste valuable film footage by shouting something like, “Everything looks good. I don’t see any warning lights or hear any strange sounds coming from the magazine. So, yeah, I guess Camera is rolling”, while then awaiting yet another long pause for the Assistant Director to call for the clapstick.
As soon as the Camera Operator alerts us that all is well with the camera by calling out to “Mark it”,
the person holding the slate responds by announcing “Marker” and then gently clacks the sticks.
Continue to hold the closed slate in place for a full moment, so there is no blurr. Then remove the slate from the scene.
As soon as the clapstick slate has been removed from the shot… the Sound Mixer must double-check that all “slating” mics are closed, and that the appropriate DIALOGUE mics are open.
…while the DIRECTOR calls out for:
Calling for the roll: VIDEO SHOOT
Similar to a film shoot, but note the following differences when shooting film style in video.
- The HEADER ID should be recorded, along with color bars and reference tone, at the beginning of each camera ‘reel’ (hard drive, media card, etc.).
- The HEADER ID should also be recorded, along with reference tone, on the audio recorder (if a separate audio recorder is being used for backup or double system audio).
- Note that the reference tone level recorded on the video will be set for the particular video system in question, and may be a different level than what is being used for the digital audio recorder.
- Make sure that your log sheets and verbal HEADER ID’s denote any difference.
Instead of the ASST DIRECTOR calling to: “Roll Sound”
The initial command would be to:
- Remember, since audio is being recorded onto the video camera, the video camera must be rolling BEFORE the sound mixer can verbally slate the scene & take.
- If a separate audio recorder is being used as well, then the Sound Mixer must put it into RECORD mode at this time.
The video CAMERA OPERATOR would verify that the video is recording by shouting out:
“Video is recording!”
The ASST DIRECTOR would then call out to the sound mixer:
The sound mixer would verbally announce the scene & take into the slate mic.
- Just as in film, the sound mixer should take a pause in order to record some room tone.
- If this is the first take of a new location or major setup, then the Mixer should try for “30 seconds of room tone”.
After the pause for room tone, the SOUND MIXER would shout:
Just as on a film shoot, the CAMERA OPERATOR would call out for stix,
The person holding the slate would echo back, “Marker!” and then close the clapsticks.
And the DIRECTOR calls for
Summary: Film Shoot
“Put us on a light and a bell.”
“Scene & Take #,
Summary: Video Shoot
“Quiet on the set. Put us on a light and a bell.”
“Video is rolling.”
“Scene & Take #,
Fred Ginsburg, CAS, Ph.D., is a highly experienced and award winning professional sound mixer whose decades of work includes features, episodic TV series, national TV commercials, corporate, and government. He is a member of the Cinema Audio Society and the University Film & Video Association. Fred holds doctorate, graduate, and undergraduate degrees in filmmaking; has published more than 200 technical articles along with a textbook, instruction manuals, and hosts an educational website. Fred instructs location recording and post-production sound at Calif State University Northridge.