Case Study: Anatomy of a Fast Paced Commercial Video Production
Recording Sound for Pepsi’s “OH! So Refreshing” Campaign
Not too long ago I had the pleasure of working with Bruton Stroube as the production sound mixer for Pepsi’s “OH! So Refreshing” campaign at Mike’s Place in Kent, Ohio. A fast paced commercial production composed of interviews, verite scenes, & b-roll. This production moved quickly with a fully staffed camera department shooting with two RED cameras, agency representatives on site, remote clients via zoom, & working in an active restaurant environment with all these requirements.
Working In An Active Restaurant Environment
Whenever working in an active business such as the restaurant we were filming in, there are two main challenges. One we have to keep a minimal footprint to not disrupt patrons, and two, we have to contend with the additional noise that comes with working in an open restaurant. Fortunately this production is just one of many commercial shoots I’ve worked on over the years, and being able to deliver high quality work while working at a fast pace in challenging environments comes with the territory of working as a professional production sound mixer.
Before going into production, I like to have a conversation with every client; By understanding the content, what the use case is, shooting style, number of talent, and any other technical requirements that may be necessary we can go into filming better prepared while setting expectations within the workflow up front.
Recorder & Mixer
Oddly on this shoot, I ended up using two different recorders for the first two days and the pickup day a month later. While I pretty much exclusively use my Sound Devices Scorpio these days, at the time it was out for service, so my Sound Devices 664 was what we used for the first two days, and switched back to the Scorpio for the 3rd day.
Boom Mic Choice
When working in environments with a higher noise floor, rejection becomes a major consideration. While my Schoeps CMC 641s are my preferred interview mics, a shotgun with an interference tube will handle off-axis bleed from unwanted noise sources much better. The DPA 4017b is an outstanding choice in that regard, it works fantastically indoors compared to many other shotguns, does a great job with attenuation of off axis sound, and simply sounds really good! .
With a number of scenes shooting both wide & tight simultaneously (typically a curse for production sound) where booming wasn’t realistically going to deliver the best resulting audio, having high quality wireless lavaliers allow for delivery of quality audio despite this challenge. My go to choice is a DPA 6060 Lav as they have an extremely small form factor making hiding them extremely easy. The 6060s are also one of the best sounding lavs available outside of its older brother the DPA 4060 which is only marginally better, but that’s a minor trade off for form factor.
Timecode & Sync
When shooting multiple cameras or with separately recorded audio sync becomes a concern for every production. How you sync the sources in post-production starts during production enabling the editor to have a streamlined process. An optimal workflow enables the editor to spend less time dedicated to to aligning audio and video but instead on refining the cut. Since the RED cameras we were shooting with take both timecode & genlock via a 4 pin lemo connector, we maintained perfect sync for all of the filming. When recording interviews we additionally slated those with a timecode slate for redundancy. A small addition to the production workflow that saves hours in post.
Another thing that helps speed up post work flows is having reference audio embedded into the camera’s video files. Given we were working in an active restaurant with a decent amount of movement the logical choice was to remain wireless with camera hops on both the A & B cameras. Having this audio baked into the video clips allows the editor to just start cutting then only sync the audio they need once it’s picture locked. Without reference audio they would need to sync every single clip before they can start cutting the video together. This vastly speeds up the workflow allowing them to dedicate more time to refining the actual edit.
When productions have on-site clients or agency representatives its quite common for them to need wireless IFB headsets so they can listen in to the content while filming. This is especially helpful in uncontrolled environments where you wouldn’t be able to hear what talent is saying from more than a few feet away…let alone around the corner at video village.
It’s not uncommon for additional clients or agency representatives who couldn’t be on site to want to watch & listen remotely via zoom or similar video conferencing calling platform. On this specific production the DIT had a Teradek that was pushing video into zoom via an SDI capture card. We married audio with a USB interface & an additional “camera hop receiver” feeding directly to zoom. This allowed for a totally wireless zoom feed so we could move independently through the space as needed.