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    Film Premiere at Cinequest 2021
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    Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    Hi, all!

    Wanted to share the news. This was one of the last big projects I worked (sound mixer) before the pandemic shut down production. TV series have been coming back, but no features have started up here yet.

    This was a great production to be on, with a fantastic cast and crew. If you have the time later this month, since Cinequest is all online this year, “A Hard Problem” is a good one to watch.



    After the death of his mother, Ian must pack up the house where he cared for her in her waning years. A strained relationship between him and his sister leads Ian to discover there are complicated circumstances behind the life he didn’t realize he was living.
    Knoxville-based location sound mixer.

    Instagram @sonolocus


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    Senior Member scorsesefan's Avatar
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    Nice trailer. Congrats, Alex.


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    Sounds good, Alex.

    From a location sound perspective, did you encounter any noteworthy challenges during production? Or perhaps a new tool/technique you experimented with on set? We don't get a lot of sound related discussion on this forum, but feel free to share a little of your experience from this job.


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    Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scorsesefan View Post
    Nice trailer. Congrats, Alex.
    Thanks! We’ve all (cast and crew) been on the edges of our seats, waiting for the final film to drop. COVID delayed a lot of things, but it’s here and I really hope people watch and enjoy it!

    Quote Originally Posted by dred View Post
    From a location sound perspective, did you encounter any noteworthy challenges during production? Or perhaps a new tool/technique you experimented with on set?
    Thanks, dred.

    There were definitely challenges. Most of them centered around the main location of the film, a lake house where we shot for the first 4 weeks. There was a large, loud fan running in the upstairs attic/crawl space that, depending on which downstairs room we were using at the time, could be very apparent. Subtle enough, but still a massive pain. The homeowners gave us very clear instructions that this was not to be turned off. Apparently, because of the design and age of the house, this was a ventilation system that pretty much kept the house from exploding. There also was no easily-accessible switch or breaker for it. So, we lived with it. At least it was constant and consistent.

    I’m not a huge fan of relying on “fix it in post”. If you can fix it on set, fix it on set. If you can fix it in pre-pro, even better. But, the fan issue is one of those things that Izotope RX would have no problem dealing with.

    Directly across the lake from the house is a small, community airport. Directly behind the airport is a very active train track, and just above the train track is one of the busiest highways in the area (that leads straight from downtown Knoxville to the main airport, which was just a few miles away from us). To complicate matters, the little airport across from the house is also a flight school, so there were days that prop planes would to touch-and-gos repeatedly, and planes would circle the area. Between that, the freight trains, and jake brakes and loud engines from the highway, there were times where we simply had to stop down and wait. It was much worse shooting outside, but we spent a bit of time shooting interiors in a room that faced the lake and had quite a bit of glass.

    The opposite side of the house was heavily wooded, as the property was tucked back off the main road up a rather long driveway. But it wasn’t all that far from the neighboring property lines. The day we shot the scene shown in the trailer with Ian and his mother walking down the path in the woods, there was a Bobcat running on a nearby property, cycling between rumbling and the backup beeps. Our UPM headed down the street with a couple hundred in cash to see if he would mind taking a break for a few hours. He was a real gem. Apparently, he was done with the bulk of his work but told her where to stick the cash, and proceeded to run the Bobcat back and forth incessantly for the next 45 minutes just to spite us.

    The woods also created one other issue during one of our night shoots, when working on a scene out on the grass. We shot in August/September, and it was still quite warm outside. Warm enough that the summer bug chorus was in full swing, and I believe every cicada in Knox County was hanging out in the trees by the house that night. Not much you can do about that*, but at least they weren’t driving Bobcats. It could have been worse, though: this summer, we’re due for Brood X. Millions of the loudest cicadas ever that hatch every 17 years.

    *Firing off a carbide cannon is one way to buy a couple minutes of silence at a time, as it will shut the bugs up briefly, but we did not have access to one and were shooting late night/early morning in a residential neighborhood.

    The diner scene featured in the trailer had a fun challenge, too. A refrigerator unit behind the counter made a loud, constant squealing sound. I’ve eaten there many times, and when the diner is in full swing it’s not really that obvious with all the other sounds (calling orders with the line cooks, all the grill noises, chatter from the customers). But try to silence the room to shoot a scene for a film and that noise is almost deafening. The owner (a super nice guy) was on site with us and told us we couldn’t turn it off. It was an older unit, and he was afraid if we turned it off that he wouldn’t be able to get it to turn back on. But we figured out that a little pressure applied to the top, where the vents are, alleviated the squealing, and dropping some furni pads on top solved the problem. We had to be careful not to block the ventilation altogether, but we were able to get the squealing to stop and I was able to get clean dialog.

    There’s a bar scene, also shown briefly in the trailer, that was shot at a restaurant and bar in downtown Knoxville. The kitchen is extremely loud, and the doorway (no actual door, so it’s just an open passage way) is right next to the bar. We couldn’t shut down all the equipment, so out came the furni pads again. And some C-stands. I put up two layers with a little space between them to cover that doorway, and that alleviated most of the issue. The floors in that space, though, are very old and very creaky wood. We had some extras playing servers walking around in the bg, and the floors created a huge challenge with shoes clicking and wood creaking. Hush Heels came in extremely handy that night, and I also laid down a couple of furni pads on some of the creakier spots in the floor.

    So much of this job simply comes down to problem solving. That said, the bulk of production was pretty routine as far as sound goes. Most of the film locations are interiors. Only a handful of exteriors.

    There’s not much else I can discuss at this point. There were some interesting specialty shots, but I can’t reveal any spoilers. Once the film is out there in the wild, if there are questions, I’m happy to answer.
    Knoxville-based location sound mixer.

    Instagram @sonolocus


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    I now have a new expendable item to invoice - Topstick, Ursa Foamies, Joe's Sticky Stuff ... carbide cannon?! lol

    Excellent stuff, Alex. While the dialogue still sounded fine, I thought I might have noticed some light RX processing on the EXT walk and talk. Figured it was just some lav rustle, but yeah, a rogue Bobcat operator is problematic.

    Izotope RX is amazing, but I am with you, the absolute best course of action is to get sound department involved in pre-production. Unfortunately this hasn't been my experience for the most part, which means the first thing I am doing at a new location is problem solving the space, checking with wardrobe, etc. This is all part of the job, of course. But ideally we would have solved some of these problems beforehand.

    With that being said, I am typically the sole member of the sound department, so I make sure to establish a super friendly/positive relationship with crew, especially AD and gaffer/g&e. Did you have a boom op on this one, or were you mixing out of a bag?


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    Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dred View Post
    While the dialogue still sounded fine, I thought I might have noticed some light RX processing on the EXT walk and talk. Figured it was just some lav rustle, but yeah, a rogue Bobcat operator is problematic.
    The ground cover was pretty crunchy, even after we went over it. Some crew tracking off to the sides were off the path where there was no way to minimize that completely. I had almost assumed that, between that and the Bobcat, it was one of those “guess they’ll have to ADR it” scenes.

    We had another one of those where we had a rain effect set up that made DX impossible. I discussed that with the AD and directors ahead of time, and they knew that rough (very rough) reference track was the best I’d be able to deliver. Grabbed a few wilds, and I seem to remember shooting the scene a couple of times without the water so we had clean takes, but I have a feeling when I see the full film, they’ll have ADR’d that scene.

    Please realize, too, that this is a teaser trailer and likely not reflective of the final feature and its full audio post mix.

    Quote Originally Posted by dred View Post
    Izotope RX is amazing, but I am with you, the absolute best course of action is to get sound department involved in pre-production.
    Locations were set by the time they brought me on. We had a location “scout” (really, it was a tour) a few days before production and I made RF scans and took notes, but at that point it was what it was as far as what we couldn’t control. And the Bobcat, to be clear, was not a known issue or even potentially-known issue. We learned about it when it happened. Just like the crew that showed up at the property next door to remove a very large oak tree and put it through a massive wood chipper. They were on a hard schedule and could not come back later. That was also a fun day for sound.

    But this is location sound... things pop up that you cannot predict. You can scan RF. You can search maps for airports and railroads. You can make notes about where thermostats are located in the building and which zones they control. But you can’t figure out every neighbor’s demolition schedule.

    Quote Originally Posted by dred View Post
    Did you have a boom op on this one, or were you mixing out of a bag?
    It was me, myself, and I. Always better with a boom op, but sometimes on indies you end up on your own. Also challenging that pretty much every setup was wides and tights. Two Alexa Mini LFs. But I greatly enjoyed the work.

    It’s also the project that taught me how non-supportive my Porta Brace harness was. I started having intermittent issues on set when I’d been bagged up for a while. Shortly after this project, I ditched it for a K-Tek Stingray harness. Haven’t had any of those issues since.
    Knoxville-based location sound mixer.

    Instagram @sonolocus


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    Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    The film premieres tomorrow. If you’re interested, tickets are available here:

    https://www.creatics.org/cinejoy/moviepage/140402

    Cinequest runs online March 20-30.
    Knoxville-based location sound mixer.

    Instagram @sonolocus


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