Some gigs are bigger than what one production crew can produce. Think with me for a moment reality shows with multiple cast members. When this happens, more than one crew will be introduced into production in order to ensure multiple teams can follow multiple storylines. The head Production Sound Mixer is called the Production Sound Supervisor for the production. With this title upgrade, more responsibility.
What is a Production Sound Supervisor?
The Production Sound Supervisor is a role that is not meant for the feint of heart. It involves not only a steady background recording for productions, but it also involves managing crews. It can get extremely elaborate in the planning process.
National Geographic Rock Stars
In one of our Mantis Discussions, we discuss with Jack Sparks his different Sound Supervisor Roles over the years as well as how to organize a big show with multiple audio mixers. Jack Sparks and I both had the opportunity of working on an incredibly demanding show called Rock Stars on National Geographic. The show involved construction workers that go around the United States repairing mountains that are next to highways that could fall and damage cars. We spend months hiking up huge mountains in the rain with crews as these workers hung off the side of the mountains purposely making the bricks that are loose fall.
If you have ever seen a “Caution Rocks Falling” sign, it means that this crew hasn’t been there yet to make it safe! It is a dangerous job for crew and construction workers alike because a rock can hit you at any moment. Working on this job was extremely difficult. It involved extremely long takes (over 4-5 hours). It also involved these workers hanging off the mountain, and because of this it made changing gain on transmitters and changing frequencies even harder.
Production Sound Supervisor Responsibilities
Production Sound Supervisors are responsible for all the sound of a project, even if they delegate the recording to another sound mixer. Out shoot had 2 sound mixers to record everything. At the time we were working on Rock Stars, the recorders on the market for ENG Bag use could only handle up to 16 tracks. This made it challenging because we had up to 16 people we had to wire every single day. So, between the Production Sound Supervisor and an additional Sound Mixer, we were able to get everything that needed to be recorded.
We split the cast up accordingly, which means we had to have two kits for the production. The Sound Supervisor is in charge of initially setting up and invoicing for both kits. They are the go-to when anything goes wrong with sound. They are in charge of everything including sometimes compensating their crew (depending on if it is union or not).
This recording was a LIVE DISCUSSION that was recorded on July 3rd, 2018 @ 2:00 PM Pacific Time on Facebook. We archive them here for everyone for free. Be sure to check out the others.
Video Mantis Discussions is a talk show with guests of all calibers.
If you want to learn more about Recording for Reality and Documentary shows, you need to start with the basics. Check out Recording Better Interview Audio here at Video Mantis to teach you how to get a sound that really connects with your audience.