Last week, on October 28th I attended the premiere screening of the first ever feature film I’ve worked on. The film is called Äpärä (Bastard) and it’s currently showing nationwide in Finland at Finnkino cinemas. My role on the production was the boom operator and dialogue editor.
Bastard is an indie production directed by Samppa Batal. The shoot took place in September 2015 in Finland, and I had the honour to work with some incredibly talented people out of which I want to mention Lari Rissanen (sound designer and sound recordist), who taught me a lot about sound work on set, and Miikka Pakarinen (cinematographer) whose shots are just stunning (I’m amazed how he managed to do the focus pulling himself during the long hand-held, somewhat improvised shots!).
And when I say long shots I mean it; most of the scenes were shot in one go, resulting in 15 minute long takes. And when you have 5 characters talking around the dinner table, partly improvising for such a long time, it’s quite a challenge for the boom operator! Simultaneously trying to catch everyone’s lines and check where the camera is moving so you don’t end up in frame; so hard but oh so fun! Suffice to say I learned a lot during that production.
I’m incredibly happy that this indie production we all worked so hard for is now out in the cinemas in Finland. The reviews in different magazines have also been amazing, most of them giving the film 4 stars! A version with English subtitles is currently being worked on and hopefully we’ll catch some international interest with that too! On a personal level I have to say it’s a dream come true; ever since I was around 11 years old and decided I want to work with films, my dream has been to see my name at the end credits of a film.
Take a look at the trailer by clicking here and have a look at Bastard’s Facebook page here. And if you live in Finland, go watch it in cinemas! You can buy tickets here.
It’s been forever since I wrote in this blog, almost a year actually! The main reason being that this blog was created as a part of my assignments whilst conducting my exchange at Edinburgh Napier University in 2014-15. So after returning to Finland I didn’t really feel the need to continue. But, lots of things have happened and exciting stuff is coming up!
I’ve soon spent a year back in Finland where I have been finishing my studies at Arcada University of Applied Sciences. Only one more module to go and then I’m ready to start my thesis and completing the last work experiences and placements. Alongside my studies I have also taken part in my first professional feature film shoot as the 1st boom operator.
I have also started my own freelancing company under the name SonicOak (that name has kinda turned into my brand now haha, using it everywhere). With the help of that I’ve been able to slowly buy some bits and bobs to a much needed sound kit. I’ve also got an awesome website up, designed by the brilliant Ally Robins. Go check it out by clicking here!
One of the most exciting things going on right now is my final project at uni, which is a part of my thesis. It’s my first ever audio play which is going to be published on it’s own website in May. I’ll make you a proper post about the process of working on that.
Even more exciting is that the year long wait of moving back to Edinburgh is slowly coming to an end. That’s why I decided to breathe some life to this blog; I’m hoping to continue writing more frequently about my everyday life and work once I move over in June. So stay tuned! Yay!
The edit for Beyond the Cul-de-sac was locked on Friday 17.4. and I started the sound edit straight after that. Over the weekend (and Monday since it was a bank holiday) I worked at home with my ProTools and moved over to the edit suites at Screen Academy on Wednesday 22.4.
The quality of the sound recorded on set was good and I didn’t have to do much to clean up the dialogue. But still, a lot of work had to be done to make the soundscape of the film come to life. After cleaning up the dialogue I focused on the ambiences and recorded some sound effects plus added music to the party scene.
The most challenging scene sound wise was at the climax, where they arrive to Mr. Johnston’s house and the dogs escape. I had to add a lot of effects such as the car alarm, dog barks etc. to build up the action. In the end I think the scene works really well.
The song used for the party scene is called Meaning of Tonight by Chain Reactors. Originally we were supposed to use a version with vocals, but Lewis preferred an instrumental version of the same song so we ended up using it.
I’m quite happy with how the sound design turned out in the end.
The shooting days for Beyond the Cul-de-sac were 26.-29.3. plus an extra pickup day on 4.4.
My role at the shoot was to work as the sound recordist and I had Miranda as my assistant for most of the time. In some shots she was acting as an extra so I had to handle the recording and boom operating myself.
The technical set up worked really well and sound wise the production went quite smoothly. As mentioned in a previous blog post, one set up required 23 AA batteries and when the shoot was over I had used 170 AA batteries altogether (unless I misplaced some of them before I got the chance to count them). This is ridiculous and ended up costing the team an approx of £110, out of which I paid £40 from my own pocket. Not acceptable.
When picking up the equipment prior to the shoot of Beyond the Cul-de-sac I was disappointed to realise that I didn’t get the SD 744T recorder I had originally booked, because it was used by MA students. Instead I got the Tascam HD-P2 stereo recorder, which is fine but only has 2 input channels. Beyond the Cul-de-sac has scenes with dialogue between 3-4 people, so a 4 channeled recorder would have been ideal. But I had to work with what I got and decided to go with the following set up:
I connected the SD 302 mixer to the Tascam and and since the mixer has 3 channels I linked channel 1 to the left input of the recorder and channel 2 & 3 to the right input. This way I could use all the 3 channels simultaneously, however, I was only able to mix 2 of them separately. So I decided to keep the boom microphone separate in channel 1 and to mix 2 radiomics together in channel 2 & 3. I would record in stereo mode because I would then be able to split the stereo track into 2 mono tracks in Pro Tools. The radio mics would still stay in the same track, but at least the boom microphone would be separate at all times. This was important because the sound of the boom differs so much from the lapel mics.
At this point I also realised that both the Tascam and the mixer work with AA batteries (why??) instead of for example rechargeable lithium batteries. So, including the 3 radiomics, one set up would mean 23 AA batteries in total. This is a ridiculous amount considering that we had to pay for them ourselves.
But all in all this set up worked very well, even if it is a bit risky not to be able to mix the radiomics separately because either one of them may cause rustling sounds from clothes on top of the other ones dialogue etc.
In order from the script:
– Cooking sounds (frying something, boiling sounds)
– Sounds of bicycling
– Cars by street corner
– Mail slot opening
– Sounds of dog collar
– Party people
– Chatting, laughing, yelling
– Bottles, cans, footsteps, banging
– Car alarm
– Dogs barking inside house
– Garage door opening
– Ripping lost dog sign
– “Happy birthday” song by family
As one of my technical crew roles I worked as a sound assistant for Miranda in the project “Bill”. I spent 2 days at the location out of a 3 day shoot.
The audio set up was fairly simple because the film only has 2 characters. We had the Tascam and the option to choose between 2 radiomics or the boom microphone.
During the first day we did all the interior shots in a small flat. Our original plan was to use the boom for better acoustics and since the space was small enough to catch both characters in. But due to the lighting and the boom casting a lot of shadows we decided to go for the radiomics instead. This was because the camera would follow the actors in a very documentary type of style, so it would be very hard to boom without the shadow of the mic turning up in the frame at any point. At first it was a bit challenging with clothes rustling etc. due to the characters moving about quite a lot, but after some tests and changes of mic placements it started working really well. When the shoot was finished we also recorded some SFX on set.
The exterior shots were done during the following day. We continued with the radiomics since many of the shots were quite wide. The radiomics worked really well at the first location; they sounded even better than during the first day. At the second location we had some problems with the signal, but I’m confident that we got all we needed, especially dialogue wise. After the shoot Miranda recorded some ambiences whilst I packed the kit together.
All in all it was a very nice shoot that ran smoothly. The whole team knew what they were doing, the actors were professional and we were able to finish early during both of the days.
Sergio asked me to help out with the sound recording to his project on Wednesday 11.3. My job was to record a reference track of the song played on the violin, so that it would be easier to sync it to the official one recorded in the studio.
I met up with Sergio and Aaron at Sergio’s place on Wednesday morning to check the sound kit. They had booked a Tascam HD-P2 and a boom microphone for me, which is basically all I needed for the shoot. I did some changes to the settings in the recorder and made sure it recorded in mono summed since I didn’t have a stereo cable.
Our first location was Murrayfield Stadium. It started off alright but then the weather took a turn for the worse and our poor actress was freezing whilst trying to play her violin. In the end we pretty much got the shots we wanted at Murrayfield and headed back into town to discuss how to proceed with the day.
In the original call sheet we were supposed to continue the shoot at Calton Hill and then finish off at Arthurs Seat. The weather became better towards the afternoon, but we still decided to skip Calton Hill. We did a couple of shots on Princes Street and then headed off to climb up Arthurs Seat to film the sunset.
I got some recording done, but in all fairness the actress was so cold most of the time that she wasn’t able to play the correct tunes. During some shots she didn’t even play the song that’s going to be in the video, so they will just have to fake it in the post. In the end it was a challenging but fun day.
As my second technical crew role I was the sound recordist for Cheryl’s film “Strangers”. The shoot took place on Friday and Saturday 13.-14.3.
I picked up the sound kit on Thursday 12.3. and was disappointed to find out that the 744T recorder wasn’t available and that I was given the Tascam HD-P2 instead. I had booked the SD 302 mixer to be able to use 3 channels simultaneously (2 radio mics and the shotgun mic), but now I wasn’t able to attach the mixer to the Tascam because I didn’t have the right cables for it. I decided to leave the mixer in the film store and work with what I had.
The main shooting locations for Strangers, and also where most of the dialogue would take place, was Waverley Station and the roof of Princes Street Mall. These were both challenging environments because of all the background noise of people, buses, trains and other traffic. This is why I knew I had to use the radiomics to pick up the dialogue, but I would’ve also preferred to use the boom mic just in case. So I made the following plan:
In all the shots without dialogue I would be using the boom microphone and have the record mode on mono summed. I would attempt to pick up as much sound of movement and footsteps of the characters as I could, and also ambiences. For the 2 dialogue scenes, which both happened to be between only two people, I would use the radio mics. I would connect the radio mics to the stereo inputs and change the settings in the recorder to stereo. This way I would record a stereo track where I had one of the characters on the left side and the other one on the right side. I would still be able to control the levels separately during the recording. In post it is simple to split a stereo track to 2 mono tracks, and that way the editor will have both of the radio mics separately and also centered. I did a couple of tests and felt fairly confident before the shoot.
The shoot itself was scheduled so that almost the whole film would be shot on Friday, only a couple of interior shots would be done on Saturday. So the whole crew was expecting an intense day with a lot to do in a short amount of time. I was originally supposed to have a 1st year student as my boom operator, but due to the restricted access to Waverley Station and the decision to work in as small a team as possible, I decided to do the recording work by myself. Personally I think it was a good experience for me to work totally independently, since I’m used to having at least 1 sound assistant on set. Now I had to manage mixing, boom operating, setting up radio mics, carrying the kit and writing occasional notes by myself, in a very tightly scheduled shoot.
All in all everything went very well during the day; all the crew members did an excellent job. I’m also very pleased with my input; the sound quality of the recordings are surprisingly. good. I’m glad I encountered some technical challenges because I actually had to do some problem solving to make this recording to even take place. Very proud of myself and the others, looking forward to seeing how this project turns out!
Some snaps from the shoot:
On Sunday 1.3. we filmed the remaining shots for Jaani Peuhu’s music video. It was just a half a day- shoot that had been rescheduled from the previous week due to the rainy weather.
In addition to Scott who plays the main character we had 3 other kids in as extras. Everything went really well, the kids were very professional considering their age, and the team worked really well. We had some setbacks with occasional rain and the location (Stockbridge) was also closed down by the police because of some kind of accident/emergency. But we still got permission to finish our shoot there.
My role was once again to be responsible of the clapper board and log sheets, and also keep track of time.
Now the music video moves on to edit. Aaron is going to be the editor and me and Maija will be helping him out.