THE FIRST UNIT PRODUCTION SOUND CREW for 24 is made up of Bill Gocke (production sound mixer), Todd Overton (boom operator) and Corey Woods (boom/3rd). Bill had several years experience under his belt using DAT and Nagra as his primary recording device. But for the fifth season of 24, Bill upgraded to a Deva V, the 10‐track digital hard disk recorder from Zaxcom. Now he is handing in DVDs at the end of the day and backing up on DAT. Why the upgrade? Like most shows these days, 24 relies heavily on wireless, and post is increasingly supportive of devices that can record multiple discreet tracks as well as transfer files easily to a variety of devices and software programs. The Deva excels in
this area, with a removable hard drive and an internal DVD‐RAM drive to make recording and moving audio a breeze. To make it even more versatile, there is a firewire out connector on back. We weren’t sure how Bill was going to react to the non‐linear Deva, taking into account his many years of linear DAT recording. But he was a fast convert. “I like it” he says. “It’s easier to operate than the older recorders. And it’s better for post.” Though the technology is still fairly new, there was essentially no learning curve or downtime during the transition from DAT to Deva. And of course, post is happier than ever. This is also a large problem sound professionals are facing today. Not only is everything two camera, but with so much reliance on wireless, the boom op and 3rd have to spend most of their prep time
getting wires on actors rather than dealing with lighting issues. Subsequently, these people must be quicker on their feet, and be prepared to deal with last‐second issues that may have been avoided if there was more time. Despite these changes, it’s not all bad news: wireless technology has become so good that throwing a wire on an actor is no longer producing unbearable issues. 24 is a highly dramatic show and thus the dialogue fluctuates anywhere from shouting to whispering. “Often the vocals are more breathy than solid,” Bill says when asked about the strength of the actors’ voices. “When it’s too quiet, we have to amplify on our end, and that amplifies clothes noise which is never easy to deal with.” But despite this common problem, the sound crew does a terrific job of disguising clothing noise and recording what really counts. Production on 24 is fast and efficient, just like the show itself. Everyone knows their job and does it well. But production sound is only the first step in
the challenging process to make 24 a reality. Next comes telecine.Telecine
THE FIRST AUDIO STEP FROM THE SET IS TO send the day’s recordings to Level 3 Telecine in Burbank. Sean Peterson is the telecine colorist who works the graveyard shift. Sean marries the developed film to the mono mix. A Fostex DV824 is used to load the Deva’s DVD RAM audio files and chase timecode. After several seasons of using DAT as the primary media, Peterson now transfers from the original Deva DVD‐RAM discs. It started out a bit rocky, because Sean was used to summing the left and right 2 tracks on a DAT, but he soon realized that the overall mix found on track one was the right one to transfer. Suffice to say, Peterson is happy all his hand syncing days are over now that he works with Deva DVD‐RAM discs. The Deva has a built in pre‐roll stamp, saving him at least 10% in time every night
compared to his days of dealing with a lack of sufficient pre‐roll. Peterson’s main advice to the production mixers is to take organized logs and notes that detail all the rates, settings and especially which camera is shooting. He said he was extremely pleased with Gocke’s notes and they make his job much easier. Sound mixers: take heed! With all the multiple file types, frame rates and sample rates out there, “it is essential to log in the right details to post.” Bill Dotson uses the production sound mixer’s mono mix as a primary source for the final mix. In the event that a word is swallowed, mumbled, or background noise impaired, Bill will solo the isolated lav microphone tracks for each actor and has had excellent results finding usable audio in those pre‐fader tracks. Dotson expressed his serious satisfaction with the DEVA making it onto the latest season. In fact, having used it before, he was the one who requested a Deva be used on set. Bill noted that the spotting session, which is attended by the producers of the show, goes much smoother when he can dip into the iso tracks. He estimates that 20% of the dialogue is now completely remixed by post from stratch from
the pre‐fader tracks alone. Bill Dotson says that “Bill Gocke is a hell of a good production mixer” but is often up against set elements out of his control. In light of this, he has requested that every actor wear a wireless mic that is recorded to an independent track. That gives post the option to fix it in pieces or often re‐mix the entire scene when necessary. Production sound mixers may not want to hear that takes place, but “the bottom line is that the audio for the show now sounds better and that’s all that really matters.” Bill estimated that before the show went to multi‐track recording, they had many ADR cues per hourlong
episode, half of which were principal lines. Bill says that his using the isolated tracks alone have cut the ADR back by over 20%.