Firearms v Sound Mixing

  • Firearms v Sound Mixing

    Posted by Fred Ginsburg CAS PhD on 2021-10-25 at 5:48 PM

    As soundmixers, we are on the listening side of the headphones. The world’s most sensitive mics and things that can go BANG are a bad combination. Some advice to fellow soundmixers (aka recordists, though I personally loathe that term)… learn about firearms, and UNPLUG your headphones. No take is more valuable than your hearing. Anytime that I saw a functioning firearm on the set (as opposed to a solid rubber or aluminum prop incapable of chambering a blank) — I took two immediate courses of action. First, I got out of my chair, left my soundcart, and personally checked the weapon. Yeah, I took it right out of the actor’s hands, and opened the action to make sure that it was unloaded. I did not care who objected; they were not the ones who were at physical risk of losing their hearing or being shot at! My second course of action was to unplug ALL headphones or feeds (being monitored by clients, crew, Scriptie, etc.) Even though I verified that the gun was unloaded — the first thing that you learn in Firearms Safety is that the moment that (unloaded) weapon leaves your hands, it can somehow magically become loaded. So we do not take that chance, and still treat that gun as if it could or might go BANG because some asshole reloaded it when we blinked.

    Today’s audio recorders are multi-track and loaded with all kinds of cool automated features. Once you have some experience under your belt, you will realize that you do not need to listen all of the time. You know what kind of levels to expect from the actors. You can see the levels on your meters. And you can bracket your recording levels on multiple tracks, as well as rely on sophisticated signal control (in some recorders). The worst case scenario is that they will have to loop (ADR) the take. That’s a lot better than losing your hearing for life!

    Some decades ago, an award winning Hollywood soundmixer by the name of William Markey was working on a TV series, Hill Street Blues. The scene took place during a police funeral, featuring a 7-rifle salute. The shot was supposed to only be a close insert of loading the rifles and working the bolt. But the AD convinced the Director to save time, and combine the loading sequence with a quick pullback to reveal all seven rifles firing. The soundmixer was intently mixing for the sound effects of the loading, and did not anticipate the firing. His eardrums were blown out and perforated like swiss cheese!

    “Ooops, we’re sorry” does not replace your hearing.

    Fred Ginsburg CAS PhD replied 6 months, 3 weeks ago 1 Member · 0 Replies
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