The biggest project I am taking part in is the Big Screen Olympic Videos. Right from the start, I had expressed my preferred role as a Sound Operator, so I joined Team 1 with that role.
Recording sound on location is a tricky task – it requires good preparation, attention to details, and focus. What is more, most of the locations we are filming at are sports halls, where there is a lot going on and I have to make sure I have a good balance of ambient sound in the background and a clear recording of our interviews. The final videos will be screened on the big screens in Coventry city centre, which means the sound should be really clear so viewers and passersby can hear what is being talked about, over all the sound pollution of traffic.
So with all that in mind, I set off to do my role.
The first sport we had to film was Swimming, it was with my team (Team 1), and it was the first time most of the crew had worked together. I didn’t even know most of them as they were all from Year 3. We were meant to film in the Sports Centre in Coventry, where there is an Olympic sized pool.
It was decided that we’d first go on a recce there, to get to know the place, to see where the sound and light was good for our interviews, and to get used to each other in this crew. I think it was a very good decision, as there were lots of small details to take into consideration at this location, that the Producer and Directors needed to be aware of. There were specific rules of who we were and weren’t allowed to film, what we could wear inside, it was also a good time for us to test how the heat and moist inside would affect the equipment.
As I was on sound, it was my responsibility to make sure I was using the right settings, and that I test the sound around the pool. It proved to be tricky, as the big pool area was very noisy, and the walls and windows were reverberating quite a lot. Me, the Assistant Director, and the Presenter, went around the location to test what the best spot was to film interviews so that the sound is clear enough, and the visuals work. We found that it was better to be as close to the water as possible, and especially important – to be as far from the walls as possible. Windows weren’t such a problem, but the walls were really bouncing off a lot of the noise and the microphone was picking up too much of it.
Another good thing about the sound recce was that I could see how long the batteries would last and if we needed to supply more batteries for the shoot. I was also noticing the ambient sound, and tested a few spots where it was best to capture a wild track of the location.
Two days after the recce, we went to record the actual video. The DoP and camera operators had already tested a lot of camera angles, so they quickly set up, waited for the cameras to accommodate to the heat and moist, and started capturing cutaway shots. The light was a bit different from the recce, as we had made the recce with natural light while our shoot was in the evening – so the house lights were on. To be honest though, I think it looked much better with the houselights.
While the operators were filming cutaways, I went on to record a few ambient wild tracks. Then, we set up for the presenter and first interview. There was a bit of a miscommunication going on with my department, as I wasn’t always given clear directions when to record. There were times when the directors were only directing the camera operators, forgetting that I needed direction too. I had to check if the cameras were recording or not, and to be following what the operators were doing, which made me a bit stressed. Also, since I was using a rifle microphone and even a boom pole for some of the clips, I was having a hard time dealing with all the cables and equipment with only two hands, whilst also making sure I am operating the recorder properly and not moving about the cables as they were making unwanted noise.
Another problem I had was the audio levels of the presenter and the interviewees. Our presenter had a very quiet voice, while everyone that we interviewed was much more louder. Since I was only using one rifle microphone and placing it between them, it proved extremely hard to keep the levels consistent. So bad that I made the mistake to say in front of an Olympic champion I couldn’t work with her voice! That was embarrassing for the whole team, and later in a meeting the Director specifically asked me to not talk like that on set, and speak to him in private whenever I had a problem. It was good having this meeting after the shoot, as I could also express my concerns with not being properly directed, which is of course a common mistake camera-focused directors make – but when capturing sound separately, especially in a multi camera shoot, they need to think about every crew member and whether they know what they are doing.