We gathered together Saturday, as Tanya posted we would, to do some re-shoots for Episode 7. It took a couple hours, and we shot some great stuff. However, when it came time to do wild audio (we should talk about wild audio in a future post), we discovered that the camera had been switched to record the audio from the internal mics, not from the boom mics! Needless to say, this meant we got horrible, unusable audio on every take that day.
We will try again next Saturday.
So how does something like that happen? How could we not have noticed that the audio was improperly set?
Well, the real reason is that we are not yet "professionals." I put that in quotes because some of the stuff we do is, we feel, approaching professional-level caliber. However, we do not have the many, many years of experience under our belts that would have had us check, unthinkingly, the audio settings. Nor do we have a professional crew to look after this kind of minutiae for us.
There were definitely signs that should have led us to know something was amiss. I was running camera, and I did notice that the mic level knobs were set evenly. Tanya, who was running boom, asked for the headphone levels to be bumped up quite a bit. The audio level meters on the camera LCD would leap into the red when I was talking, even if the boom was far away. And the video settings had been changed, probably by Adam when he had used the camera to document our latest publicity photo shoot.
Normally, since we use a handheld boom in one mic input and a camera-mounted boom in the other, the mic level knobs are set differently. Tanya asking for the headphone level boost means something was not set the same as it usually is. If the levels read my voice even if the handheld boom is nowhere near me, it means the in-camera mics are picking me up. Duh! And, another big duh, if the video settings had been changed, that means the audio settings might have been changed as well.
These details are a huge 20/20 hindsight thing. None of the clues clued me in. As for Tanya, she is not a boom operator for a living, so while there might have been clues to the audio not working right, she might not have noticed them or they might not have been enough to clue her in, similar to the clues I missed.
It is incredibly exasperating when something like this happens. You feel both angry and stupid. Tempers run high. But what is always important to remember is that we will never let that happen again. That is what we in the sub-"professional" industry call a "learning process."
This is not the first technological snafu on Episode 7... I had somehow changed a camera setting while we were prepping to shoot the Jennifer with Batteries shots. (You'll know what that is soon enough!) I ended up shooting the rest of the day's scenes in 4x3 instead of our usual 4x3 anamorphic (that jargon is also a topic for another post). How I did not notice it in the viewfinder is beyond me because 4x3/anamorphic mix-ups are one of my peeves at work—our editor comes to me to check footage for 4x3 vs. anamorphic! On the set that day, however, there were lots of things to worry about, so maybe I was simply distracted. But you can believe that I now check the camera every time to make sure it is always on the correct setting! So it shall now be for sound.
No matter how good you get at shooting a show or a movie, there is always a learning process lurking in the shadows. Or out in full-view. We just hope to eventually get beyond the technically destructive learning processes and keep experimenting with the creative learning processes, the ones that can hopefully make our show better and better with each shoot.