Greetings! My name is Jesse Flaitz. I am a Brooklyn based audio engineer with a specialty in audio production and post production for film/TV/web content. I started in the industry in 2009 when I began recording music with some friends and started working with small venue sound equipment. I still enjoy music recording/editing but I’ve always felt my true calling was sound for picture.
I have experience working sound for features, shorts, reality, advertising, corporate, web series and documentaries and I am dedicated to getting the absolute best sound possible for any given situation. Thank you for you interest in Pedantic Sound, please feel free to e-mail or call for rate, availability and any other questions you might have.
Foley is probably my favorite thing to do in post audio. On set, my main goal as production sound is to get the best quality dialogue track I can, anything beyond that is bonus (ambience tracks, wild tracks etc.). Foley recording is used to supplement all of the sounds that were not captured on set that need to be heard. Almost all footsteps, handshakes, clothing movements, object handling etc. are recorded later in a studio. Often the sound you hear is not the the sound of the actual object. The foley studio is full of random objects, from a car door to a shopping cart (the cart is often used to emulate the squeak of mattress springs).
On set, footsteps can really ruin good dialogue sound, especially something like high heels in a hallway, or boots on a cement floor. The sharp high power transients cut right through dialogue and make mixing and editing properly rather difficult. For many narrative projects, they get around this by laying down carpets on the floor out of frame so the actor footsteps make little to no noise. This makes for a much cleaner dialogue track, but since those sounds are no longer recorded, we have to recreate them in the foley studio.
In the studio there are several surfaces that the foley artist can walk on in sync with the actor in the movie. Under different floor panels are concrete, tile, wood, and fake grass surfaces the foley artist can use to walk or run on. That, in addition to the 20 or so different pairs of shoes the foley artist has (from high heels, to boots, to dress shoes) can recreate virtually any footsteps on any surface in a film. The mixer can then add some effects to those tracks and mix them in separately from the dialogue recorded on set.
The recorded foley tracks in conjunction with the sound effects edit and dialogue tracks all come together seamlessly to create a sonic environment that, when done properly, make you completely believe the movie’s locations. Foley is one of those things where you never notice it until it’s not there. I did production sound on a short film recently where they did no foley recording in audio post. You immediately notice certain sounds missing on screen. You don’t hear the footsteps, the coffee cup getting put down isn’t quite as present as your brain thinks it should be, you know that vinyl windbreaker should be much more swooshy than it is.
I work a lot with this one foley artist Shaun “The Walker”, and it’s great watching him work. He’s been doing this a long time and all you have to do is say “Hey Shaun, I need guy pressing play on cassette player”, and he will come up with that sound from whatever objects are around him. It’s often not a cassette player sitting in the foley studio, so maybe he’ll use a clicky pen and a dvd case to make the sound. We can get through many many foley cues in a day by being just a little creative with what we have to work with.
Production and post-production sound, NYC.
It’s rare to hear from someone that they love their job but I am one of them. It seems every day of work is an opportunity to meet new people and experience new things. I do various different projects ranging from full length narratives to documentaries and TV series and each one seems to expose me to something I’ve never seen.
One of my favorite jobs is actually recording interviews and seminars. It’s like getting payed to take a class everyone else pays for. I’ve recorded interviews with Pervez Musharraf (first picture below), former president of Pakistan, who had fascinating things to say about international politics, the president of the New York Public Library (second picture below in one of the main reading rooms), a TED talk, several seminars on small business and marketing (something that pertains directly to me as a sole proprietor freelancer), and more.
Seeing a movie on the big screen that I’ve been a part of is another one of the great feelings I get from working this business. There is something supremely satisfying about having a completed project that was a collaboration of so many people. Film lasts forever and I can’t wait to see what else I’ll be able to work on.
Production and post production sound, NYC.
There are hundreds of specific issues that need to be addressed when scouting for locations, but a very important one that is often payed little attention: Sound. The environment in which you choose to shoot will have a large impact on what is, and is not useable from a sound perspective. This mainly becomes a problem for scenes with a lot of dialogue, since fixing dialogue later is often the most difficult, and expensive, part of audio post.
I worked a project recently that shot a short scene with a few lines of dialogue around the Unisphere in Queens. It was an absolutely beautiful location with many fantastic backgrounds to lay out shots. The problem was, not only is the Unisphere about a half mile from Laguardia airport, but the Queens art museum just a couple hundred yards away was under construction and there was a landscaping crew on the other side of the park. To top it off, all of the water fountains started going just as we began to shoot.
Thanks to the beauty of directional microphones, the vast majority of the dialogue ended up being quite useable, but when there is that much going on in the backgrounds, you don’t leave yourself much wiggle room when trying to mix.
Which leads me to my other point: Why signal to background noise matters.
Without going much into specific metering and what a decibel means to you (maybe for another post?), I want to touch briefly on why loud backgrounds are a problem. Especially when you are doing long conversational scenes it is extremely important to pick locations with as little noise as possible. The reason for this comes into play when trying to do a mix in post. It’s all about options people, your dialogue is married to your background noise (yes you can reduce some noise in post, but it is expensive and time consuming). When you are mixing, if you bring up that dialogue, you bring up the BG noise with it.
Final mix priority #1 – Your dialogue must be clear and easily understood at all times. That Mack truck that was idling next to your actor trying to talk is going to kill you later in post. I realize that, this being NYC and all, good external and internal locations are very hard to come by, but don’t decide to write a four page dialogue scene in Times Square and expect it all to be useable later on.
Your friendly, affordable sound person,
There is a famous saying in the digital world where “If a piece of data doesn’t exist in two places, it doesn’t exist at all.” I worked on a short film recently where their workflow centered around rotating out compact flash cards at every break to create faux “reels”. They wanted me to format my CF cards each time so it would be easy for them to group the audio files with the video files on each reel. This kind of thing makes me uneasy because I like to have a backup of all my production sound files on my storage drives at home. There are many reasons for this, paramount of which is knowing that 6 months or more down the line, I might get a call asking if I have the files from such and such a shoot and having them on hand can easily save a project.
With the exception of the very unfortunate flooding in Thailand last year, digital storage space has gotten to the level of absurdly cheap. You can get a 2TB drive for $150, and for sound files that equals out to thousands of hours of audio (1gb very roughly equals one hour of two-track audio at standard 48kHz/24bit .wav format). At the professional level, there is really no excuse to not have backups of backups. I have two 2tb drives configured into raid 1 for secure redundancy, and DVD backups of stems from audio post projects.
Essentially what RAID configurations do (there are several depending on what your needs are), is link together multiple hard drives to show as one, while at the same time working as back up drives for each other. With raid 1, when I put a folder of production sound files onto one drive, the files are automatically stored and written onto the other drive as well. This gives me a very secure storage configuration where the chance of lost files is beyond minimal. The odds of both hard drives crashing simultaneously are astronomically low and virtually a non issue.
I really can’t put enough stress on redundancy, shelling out $300 now can, and I almost guarantee will, save you a world of headaches in the future.
So this past weekend I had the very interesting opportunity to test my booming skills on foreign language dialogue. I was production sound mixer/boom op for this great little short headed to Tropfest and the creator had decided to incorporate six different languages into a seven minute short. It’s a great idea, but as you can imagine, it created some issues with communication. Pretty much no one could understand each other and figuring out who was supposed to say what when was quite hilarious at times. The main way I followed the dialogue was to figure out the last word of each persons line and switch the boom to whoever was speaking next. This worked pretty well for the most part, but I definitely had to stay on my toes in case someone decided to improv.
One of the more challenging scenes was at a bar and I was trying to boom three people speaking Spanish, Gaelic and ASL(American Sign Language). You might think that I could forget about micing the ASL guy because… it’s sign language. However; ASL uses lots of drastic hand movements and if you don’t have any sound for those movements it’s going to look very strange when watching it later. The one actor speaking Spanish was especially problematic. He’s a great guy and a fantastic actor, but he’s prone to adlibbing and improv. This is much less of a problem when everyone is speaking English, but when I can’t understand the dialogue it’s much harder to anticipate boom movements. At that point, body language is key, I had to look for any types of movements that would suggest to me he was finished and I could switch to the next actor.
Body language wise, the main things I looked for were sort of “conclusionary” (word? if not, it is now, I like it) movements. A pursed lip head nod, arms crossing and leaning back, a counter hit, any types of “mmhmm” and exaggerated eyebrow actions are some of the key gestures I was looking for to signal a finished line.
In total the short had Spanish, French, Gaelic, ASL, Chinese and English which is certainly something you don’t see often, I’m hoping it does pretty well. There isn’t a concrete name yet so I’ll probably update this post with the finished film title when I get it.
-Jesse Flaitz, Sound Guy Extraordinaire
Please hire a sound guy. I was going to end there, but I guess I feel the need to elaborate a bit. The vast majority of beginner film makers seem to underestimate the importance of quality sound recorded on set. The video itself is only half of someones experience when it comes to viewing the final product, and believe me, the average viewer is more susceptible to picking up subtle audio issues than you may think. They may not know why that voice sounded off, or why they just didn’t quite buy that location as being real, but the do notice. A great number of things can be edited and fixed in post, but your dialogue is of paramount importance, and capturing that properly on set will save you a world of headaches.
I’m not trying to point this out just so I can make a paycheck (but if you need a sound guy… Hi!), it’s as much an issue for me as it is for you. There is no magic “de-overmodulation”, “de-wind” or “de-gopro audio” button (my goodness gopros have terrible audio). I do what I can with noise reduction and spectral repair, but in the end you can either ADR it, which has it’s own multitude of issues (many actors do not like ADR and I can’t really blame them), or live with the audio you get. Specifically with documentaries, the second option is usually the only one, making sound guys even more important on docs.
With budgets continually tightening you can’t always afford to pay someone to capture your sound, you are probably often working for free or pittance yourself, so try to remember this: high quality location recordings are good as gold, and you might only realize this when it’s too late. If you can’t afford someone to monitor sound levels, do it yourself. Throw some headphones on, make sure there is no clipping in the audio, and for the love of God, do NOT point your camera mic at a refrigerator. Thank you.
Your friendly, and always affordable sound guy.
Currently in the middle of building some new speaker stands with my friend Zac. They are gonna be hefty to say the least. I have a 1ft sq. 1/4″ thick steel plate base welded to a 1.5″ wide 1/8″ thick 3.25′ tall steel pipe connecting the base to the 1/16″ thick steel top. As an added bonus I’m filling the pipe aprox. 1/4 full with sand. Talk about sturdy =D.