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Apr '17 | Crew Spotlight: Shawn Doyle, Sound Mixer

April is all about shining the spotlight on our amazing video crew. (If you missed Steadicam Operator Drew Dorsey’s spotlight last week, check it out here!)

Up next, we asked our expert Sound Mixer, Shawn Doyle, to share some tips and tricks, as well as some best practices for capturing the highest quality audio on set.

But first: we couldn’t help but start the interview here.

PP: So what has been your coolest on set experience?

 

Shawn: One of my proudest moments of my career happened last year when I got the job of booming a live broadcast between then President Barack Obama and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg. Getting to shake the President’s hand and having him compliment our work was something I will never forget.

PP: Now, that is a cool experience. How did you get into on-set and post-production audio in the first place?

 

Shawn: I started recording bands in high school, then went to college for recording music in studios. After graduating I found myself doing AV and live sound at concerts. Then one day I covered for a friend on a video shoot and really enjoyed myself. Since then I’ve worked hard at learning the craft and I’ve been fortunate enough to make a living of it.

PP: So let’s break this down for people who aren’t familiar with the wide world of sound. There’s the sound you record on set, and then there’s the sound mixing that can happen in post production. And you do both, right?

 

Shawn: Yes, sound recorded on-set is called Production Sound and it involves getting all the necessary elements for the project’s Editor to work with. It’s really important that you hire an experienced Production Sound Mixer because if you miss something on set, you’ll never get those speakers or actors back, and that means you’ve potentially got a very expensive problem on your hands.

Post Production Sound Mixing involves using the resources you captured from the shoot and applying specific sound techniques that help move the story forward. During post is also when you can fix any problems with the sound that are distracting, as well as sweeten the overall experience with elements like music and sound effects.

PP: Recently, we collaborated on an editorial project where we received all of the video files from the client and then quickly realize that those assets were going to need some audio help. Let’s talk about that specific project so people can hear the difference your work makes to the overall experience.

 

Here’s the video before Shawn did his mix.

 

And here’s the video after Shawn worked his magic.

 

 

PP: It’s remarkable what a difference post-production sound mixing can make! Can you give us a broad overview of what you did?

 

Shawn: The sound from a few sections was only recorded from a mic mounted on a camera in the back of the room.  This is far from ideal and results from lots of reverb in the recording of her voice.  I tried to remove as much reverb as I could from this by eq’ing out some of the most reverberant frequencies of the room and also used some specialized plugins, then I tried to make the different recordings match a little better in their tonality so the contrast wouldn’t be as jarring.  Beyond that I edited the music on beat for a seamless music track and mixed the levels to sound as full as possible.

PP: So, to wrap it up, what’s the biggest benefit of hiring a Production Sound Mixer such as yourself?

 

Shawn: Peace of mind. Hiring an experienced Production Sound Mixer guarantees that you’ll have someone with professional equipment on hand to troubleshoot any sound related issues that may arise in the field. This makes for a smoother, faster shoot, and ultimately a higher quality product.

Sometimes people try to save money by doing sound themselves, or by not hiring a professional and then they’re shocked when they watch their video and it has bad sound. It’s usually a mistake they only make once.

PP: And what’s the biggest benefit of doing a final sound mix in post?

 

Shawn: The question should really be “What is the benefit of hiring a professional sound mixer for post?” because whether or not you hire a sound mixer someone will be doing the sound and if you’re not hiring a specialist then most likely the editor will be doing it and they’re probably not happy about it. Most editors are not trained in sound any more than they need to be in order to do their job. They don’t have the skill set or experience to fix many of the sound problems that you may encounter in post and they’re not as concerned with how it sounds because that’s not their job.  A sound mixer spends their career and their free time obsessing over things that most people don’t even realize are present in the sounds they hear.  They spend years developing a critical ear, curating a set of specialized tools to fix those problems, conforming to industry standard delivery specs, and practicing their craft so that they are fast and efficient with their time when working.  An experienced sound mixer can do in a few minutes what an editor may never be able to do and may waste many hours attempting to fix.  If you don’t hire a professional sound mixer to work on your sound in post then your project can only sound as good as your editor is at mixing.

PP: If you were to give an aspiring sound mixer some advice, what would it be?

 

Shawn: Preparation is crucial. I work hard to be prepared before a shoot so that no one is ever waiting on sound. Also, take every opportunity to learn something new. It’s amazing how seemingly insignificant experiences in my past has contributed to getting fantastic results because of one little thing I learned on a project. Finally, on-set etiquette is probably the most important part of my job. Knowing whom to ask, and for what, all while remaining cool when things don’t go as planned, is as important as any technical skill.

Up Next!

 

Up next in our crew spotlight is our wonderful Makeup Artist Nikol Elaine. Visit us next week to get the scoop on what you should be doing the day before your on-camera interview. Plus, learn some trade-secrets on the products that make the magic happen!

 

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kdee

K'Dee Miller is the founder and resident producer and writer of Patina Pictures.

Her feature films have premiered at Sundance Film Festival, AFI Fest, Newport Beach Film Festival, among others. Her corporate video clients span from technology companies such as DocuSign, CrowdFlower, and Shapeways, to nonprofits, like the Bay Area's women's advocacy organization, Watermark.

She's studied her industry from every angle, receiving production training from The Juilliard School, an MFA of Writing from University of San Francisco, and a BFA of Acting from Marymount Manhattan College.

She is currently in the process of writing two memoirs about growing up in the wilderness of Alaska.




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