SFP: 'Bored to Death'

Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson

HBO COMEDY SERIES TAKES TO THE STREETS

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The production sound crew of Bored to Death (L-R): Griffin Richardson, Bryant Musgrove and Chris Fondulas

The production sound crew of Bored to Death (L-R): Griffin Richardson, Bryant Musgrove and Chris Fondulas

Richardson's sound cart, “which has a lot of mileage on it,” is centered around a Fostex DV824 — “an 8-track that records simultaneously to a DVD-RAM and to a hard drive, so that's good for backup. If somebody drops the DVD-RAM, or stomps on it accidentally, or maybe there's a corrupted file on there somewhere, you're okay. I'm a little excessively paranoid about backing everything up. Digital is such a great thing in so many ways, but files can get easily corrupted. I also have a Sound Devices 788T [as backup], which is fantastic. It's incredibly compact and portable — I can easily go over the shoulder with it. For 30 Rock, we had to shoot a scene in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and we weren't allowed to bring any carts — it was whatever you could carry. The 788 is like the size of a hardcover book, so it was just perfect for that.”

The mixer in Richardson's cart is an Audio Developments AD 149. “It's a great-sounding machine — expensive, but really solid; it can handle being out in crappy weather and dust and being bounced around in trucks.” As for the boom mics, for interiors he and his team rely mostly on the blue Schoeps CMIT 5U shotgun and some Sennheiser MKH 60; exteriors will usually be handled by a Neumann KMR 81 shotgun. He runs the booms wireless using Lectrosonics transmitters.

Not surprisingly, some locations for the series are more conducive to gathering clean audio than others; alas, the production mixer rarely gets a vote. “You know going in that there are going to be places that are really difficult,” Richardson offers. “If it's a place that looks great and everyone wants to shoot there, you have to figure out a way to make it work, sound-wise.

“A couple of times I had to beg them, ‘Please go in and loop this scene!’ [Laughs] There was a shot right next to the Williamsburg Bridge with this subway passing through, which they really wanted to see because it's a very striking image. That's fine, but you're going to hear it, too. In a case like that, if it sounds a little rough, it's okay because at least it's got the visual to go with it. They wanted it to look and sound real, and it does. We were shooting in tiny little bars, under bridges, over at Brighton Beach, all over the city.”

Then there was the skateboard chase in one episode: “Jason Schwartzman is trying to recover a stolen skateboard, and this gang of kids chases him down a hill on their skateboards. They had a Steadicam rig mounted to an off-road kind of [vehicle], and we originally thought of going over-the-shoulder for that, but instead we put the boom op on there wireless, and the range was good enough we got almost all the audio — this great sound of one skateboard coming down the hill and then eight or 10 coming behind it. It sounded so cool.”

At each locale, in addition to shooting all of the dialog scenes, Richardson would also capture upward of a minute of room tone or ambience “to capture the general sound of each space so they can loop it and layer it in [in post], maybe use it to cover any edits they need to make.”

As he worked each day, Richardson would “put a rough mix on track 1 of my machine, and then have every mic on its own track, 2 through 8, and I'd send that rough mix through a Cat-5 Ethernet cable to the HD video decks that are on set [being viewed by the likes of Jonathan Ames, producers from HBO, the writers of that particular episode and others]. Then, since they have that mix on the tape, they can start cutting the picture with that. Once it goes over to post, I turn in my DVD-RAM that has all of my tracks for every single take, identifying who's on what track, what mics were used and what takes were good and bad as far as I was concerned. Then they have to sift through that mountain of stuff and make something usable out of it.” (At Soundtrack, the post team included mixer Bob Chefalas; editors Louis Bertini, Dave Ellinwood, Nick Renbeck and Dan Ward; ADR and Foley recordist Doug Murray; and Foley artist Leslie Bloom.)

It's too early to tell whether this series will have life after its first eight-show run, but count Richardson among those who would love to be part of it again if it does survive. “All the people involved with this series were amazing to work with — funny, creative. It was also pretty stressful at times. There were days when we were shooting all night and it was raining. But then you get that one good take and it makes all the headaches worth it.”






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