Written By JC Cummings
Throughout my years as a Producer/Director, I’ve shot in several studio stages around the globe. I’ve had the privilege to design and build seven stages for other companies. Each had very different profiles, while all had to perform according to the same requirements to do the job.
When I walk onto big empty areas, the first gesture I perform is the clap test. The clap test is an elementary sound test, measuring the deadness or flat sound of a stage. Clapping my hands together tells me what sound challenges I might be facing. The importance of dead sound is critical for any production with dialog or active set or talent movement.
Generally, if you have an untreated cement floor, the sound will bounce. If the flooring is wood based, sound may bounce and carry. All these issues can be controlled but may not be a budgeted item. An audio tech will comment on any bounce of sound or ambient noise creeping in, a truck driving by or an aircraft flying 30,000 feet above the building— they hear it. If wall sound proofing is done correctly, it will minimize or eliminate most sound bouncing interference. Rubber based shoes (tennis shoes) are a great and easy remedy for crew members walking around. By the way— keep in mind sound op’s hate air conditioning noise coming on and going off, so make sure the stage has some solutions for the air units, or at least, ask the question.
The next item I look at is the pipe and chain grid. How high is it, can I get a jib arm or crane on the stage without hitting the lights? A standard stage grid should be at least 28 to 36 feet. Many insert stages, or small stages less than 6,000 square feet, typically have lower ceilings and flying pipe and chain about 16 to 20 feet from the floor. These type of insert stages are easy to hang lights, but can create interference with tall sets, green screen setups and jib arm high shots with more than a six to 12-foot extension from center post.
Now, where are the electric boxes or plug-ins? Make sure your grip package includes distribution (distro) hot boxes. You’ll need a few, so production doesn’t overload the house system interrupting the shoot. Make sure you dedicate an area for hair/makeup and other items making your production a wonderful experience for the entire team.
Shooting on stages are considered controlled productions. If you know what you’re looking for before you record the production, it could save a lot of downtime and bring your shoot in on budget.
JC Cummings has become a sought-after Producer, Director, Showrunner, including a production logistics specialist in the film and television industries. Mr. Cummings continues to share his knowledge with over 40 years of on-set production experience and storytelling as an independent producer. Beginning in radio for a brief time, moving to film and broadcast TV, where his career led him to acquire rights and later producing a successful nationally syndicated children’s series. As success continued, Mr. Cummings was contracted to develop other television projects for broadcast networks and outside companies. www.motionpicturecompany.com
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