As a television producer and director, there are certain things you should require from your audio people. This post looks at what those things are.
A good number of years ago, I produced and directed a LIVE prayer event from a church right by Central Park in the heart of New York. The event was on September 11th and commemorated the events of that day a few years earlier. It was a sombre but significant event with national prayer leaders flying in from all over the US for this one evening.
I used the facilities of a company I know in the USA called Skystorm. I had worked with them several times and knew how good they were. I liked them as not only were they excellent at what they did but they were also easy to work with. They are still one of my “go to” companies when I need anything state side (if you ever need a production company in the US please do check them out).
Because of budget limitations though, we decided to use a local vendor for the audio side of things and have them supply us with stereo feed for the broadcast. That was a mistake……..
During the broadcast, I became aware that although I could hear all the “stage” activity, bands, speakers etc. I couldn’t hear any audience at all. When I checked with the guy running the audio, he told me he wasn’t aware I wanted audience mics so didn’t add any.
OK, so that’s my fault for not having spelled out our requirements when we discussed the production but, anyone used to mixing for TV would know that audience response mics are important – right?
Well, it appears not so. The rest of this article is an attempt to spell out what I would suggest all of us on the video end require from the sound teams we work with so we can all be on the same page.
I have (except the story above) worked with some of the very best audio engineers in the Christian media space and have always found they have been on the same page as me. But, after the experience in New York, whenever I am working with a “new to me” sound team, I will always have a detailed conversation about what I am looking for. That is a lesson I have learned. Don’t be afraid to have these conversations as we are all on the same team and having them will help build that sense of team work as well as ensuring our viewers get the best end product.
I get that we are all at different stages with different resources and budgets so I know that what I am about to outline might be a stretch for you right now. That’s OK, I have been there too. My “audio” coverage of events has progressed from getting a simple stereo feed from the front of house desk, with no dedicated person on broadcast sound, through to mixing via “group” outputs, all the way to having a dedicated sound team and separate broadcast mixes. I have worked with all extremes.
What I am laying out here is what we should all be aiming for. My hope in this article (other than giving you a laugh at my failure above) is to give video people the tools to have a conversation with their audio guys and the audio guys an understanding of what we would like from them.
I don’t want my sound team so focused on getting the perfect sound that they give me a mix that “eliminates” God. A good friend of mine, and the BEST sound engineer I have ever worked with, coined a phrase when he was reviewing a mix done by a recording engineer rather than a LIVE engineer that has stuck with me. Paraphrased, he said “They’ve mixed God out of it”. What he meant by that was that the mix was so perfect, so sterile, so close to a studio album that it completely lost the experience of what happened at the event. I don’t want that – I want the people at home to experience what the people at the event would have experienced.
Is there anything you would add to my list above, I'd love to know?