Over the course of my career as a sound recordist, I’ve had the privilege of capturing audio for various documentaries, and have been fortunate to witness truly extraordinary stories. From the resilience of cancer survivors (A MILD TOUCH OF CANCER) to the intense training of firefighters (NAT GEO'S ONLY IN OZ), and from the lives & experiences of elderly queer communities (COMING BACK OUT BALL) to the unwavering passion of Mad Max fanatics (BEYOND THE WASTELAND). It’s always a pleasure playing a part in sharing these stories to the world.
Effective communication is at the heart of recording for documentaries. It is essential to talk with the team and clearly articulate what is necessary for capturing high-quality audio. In the event that something doesn’t go according to plan it is important to promptly address the issue, because in documentary filmmaking, opportunities for retakes are often scarce. Part of my role is to ensure I am alert and aware of the potential challenges moment to moment, and to problem solve with the team if necessary.
The importance of effective communication also extends to the talent, particularly considering that documentary subjects often have limited experience in front of a film crew. I always begin by speaking to the talent about my role in the production, and explain the microphone procedures, especially in regards to those procedures that can feel slightly invasive on their personal space (such as placing lavaliere mic’s in clothing). Equally important in maintaining the comfort of the talent is by minimising intrusiveness. Opting for smaller transmitter packs or cables, utilising shorter booms, and employing a c-stand for booming whenever feasible are all excellent choices to ensure their comfort.
Not too long ago, I had the privilege of being involved in an extraordinary documentary titled "Beyond The Wasteland" (directed by Eddie Beyrouthy), which delved into the fervent fan community of Mad Max. Given the dynamic nature of the project, involving three cameras, numerous subjects, and occasionally just one audio recordist, we had to devise creative solutions to ensure optimal audio quality. Our approach involved equipping all talent with transmitters that had an internal recording function that shared timecode across all devices on set. This setup allowed us to effectively capture audio even if we had to boom an interview while a character engaged with another camera, since all the audio would be captured perfectly in sync.
As requirements differ substantially for different documentary projects I prefer to provide tailored cards on request. Contact me for more information.
For documentary projects, I recommend that all potential subjects are given a recorder/transmitter and mic, as well as each camera receiving a scratch track and timecode. This ensures that in the worst case scenarios (battery failure, off-camera dialogue etc) that all audio is still available and easily accessible to post. Have a look at my equipment page to see whats available.
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