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Carmen’s Hip Pocket Reference
By Carmen Borgia (who else?)

Does this sound ok to you?

In an effort to clear up some misconceptions about the craft of film sound, I have put together some concise definitions for commonly used terms. Kevin, Matt and I exhaustively researched the information below over a pitcher of Jagermeister. We stand by these definitions until our headaches go away.

5.1 sound:
The debate rages whether this is a six channel or somewhat less than six channel system. Some believe that there can only be whole channels, but if that is the case, how can there be a tenth of a channel, as is clearly occurring here? This confusion is compounded by the fact that the “.1” channel in fact feeds a single, very large speaker, and not some fractional portion of a normal-sized speaker. Can somebody tell me what’s going on here? Perhaps the world is simply not ready for true six channel sound.

ADR:
Automated dialogue replacement, formerly called looping. If you can tell me what part of it is automated, I’ll buy you a falafel. ADR is most frequently done when there is a technical problem with the production audio. It is laborious, time intensive and sometimes even works. When the ADR’d audio is acceptable to the director, it is unacceptable to the engineer and vice versa.

Audiophile:
Can we find true love in the world of sound? It is not certain, but when considering the coexistence of an uncontrollable craving for finely recorded sound with the demands of modern relationships, some formidable obstacles exist. The need for a quiet room. The budget for gear that precludes the acquisition of housing or clothing. The Wife Acceptance Factor. This postulates that the larger the piece of sound equipment, the less compatible it will be with existing decor. Yet, while you may love your equipment, it will never love you back. This cautionary poem will sum up the basics:

An audiophile from Great Neck
Had an amorous yen for his tape deck
While copping a feel
He got caught in a reel
And wound up wound up to his neck

Cell phone:
A device to distract directors and producers during budgeting, planning and mixing. It will increase the time necessary in postproduction, and will provide funding to complete postproduction.

Civilian:
An audience member. They don’t notice things that we know to be critical such as distorted audio and bad lip-sync, but notice other things we overlook in the process of manufacturing a film such as plot, character and theme.

Audio clean up:
People are forever asking me to do this to their dirty, dirty sound. It usually means to attempt to improve poorly recorded audio from the field. I’ve occasionally heard of production personnel insisting that the sound be recorded clean to begin with, perhaps by recording it in a cleaner field.

Coffee:
Production punch. It helps us show up on time and function properly when we do.

Commercial client:
A person with more money than content. Everything takes longer; on the other hand, we get to charge more. (See independent filmmaker.)

Decision:
One or more events that occur when the project screens this evening. If we did not have to actually manufacture a film or master tape before screening there would be no deadline, and thus no need to make decisions. Once, while mixing a film in New York City that was set to screen in Park City in thirty two hours, the client suggested that we would be in better shape if we possessed an extremely powerful projector that could project the print to the screen at Sundance directly from our facility, thus giving us more time to decide if we were finished. We were excited by this possibility until an engineer pointed out that we were not allowing for the curvature of the earth, which would likely change the aspect ratio of the film for the audience.

Digital Video
Either the savior or the nemesis of modern video art, we’re not sure which. We’ll look back on it fondly when the next format comes along.

Independent Filmmaker:
A person with more content than money. (See commercial client)

Location:
That chaotic, confusing place outside of the studio where one is forced to carry all of their equipment. Locations have unusual features, such as geography and weather, which complicate the recording of audio.

High-heeled shoes
These are the things that people always ask me if I wear when I tell them, I do foley work. Yes I do, sister.

Home studio
A recording or post studio in a person’s home. The quality of such facilities range from being every bit as good as a commercial facility to “a really awesome, but you know, kind of old computer they let me have from work that I think has Garage Band on it”. Home studios are popular because they are inexpensive to equip and a joy to share, things which are also true of scrapbooking and gas grilling.

Mixer:
The person who makes the final blend of sound elements for your film. She or he cares more about the overall effect of sound in the film than whether the composer is your boyfriend.

Post house:
A home constructed upon poles of some sort, which are stuck into the ground. Frequently found in wetlands, swamps and bayous.

Quote:
What I give someone when they ask me how much it’s going to cost to do their sound. These people expect me to provide a precise quote for a film, even before they shoot it. Or they write it. Some clients will ask me how it will sound when it is finished, and I always sing out, “doo-bee-doo doody-doody doo!”

Rate:
What I charge per hour to work for someone. Also, what the Motion Picture Association of America does when you have nudity in your film. My rate is lower if you have nudity in your film.

Schedule:
A flexible, negotiable timetable that determines when you must absolutely do things. The more important a project is, the less important the schedule is, with the most important projects of all having no schedule whatever. All scheduling issues vanish when the final check clears.

Film student:
A person learning to make movies, as distinct from one whom simply picks up a camera and shoots the film without first learning to do so.

Video:
Picture and sound on tape. The word is deceptively from the Latin “to see”; deceptive because any person of even meager mental capacity can plainly perceive that videotape, obviously, also contains audio! At least two channels of it! In recent years, a powerful and righteous movement has sprung up to rename videotape videaudio tape or, alternately, audivideotape. Send your contributions for this vital cause to www.societyfortherenamingofvideotapetoaudiovideotapeorsomething.com. We’re waiting to hear from you.

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Carmen Borgia is the head of audio services for DuArt Film & Video in New York City. He oversees a post production sound department that provides mixing, sound design, restoration, transfer and printmastering. His department caters to independent projects in all formats from mono optical up to digital 5.1.

 

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