Simon Hayes is now a firm advocate of DPA technology and has used bodyworn d:screet™ 4061
and 4071 Miniature Microphones
on many of his films. Their impact, he says, goes beyond the obvious and is actually making a big difference to the way many movies are recorded.
To learn more about his views, we caught up with Simon on the set of his latest film project (David Yate's Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, due out next year through Warner Bros.). We posed a number of questions and his answers give a fascinating insight into current state of film sound, how it is shaping up for the future and how DPA bodyworn microphones are helping to advance the cause of great cinema audio. Since using DPA d:screet™ 4061 and 4071 Bodyworn Microphones on films such as Les Misérables and Guardians of the Galaxy, are you noticing a growing trend towards using sync sound in the final mix, rather than focusing on ADR?
Yes, I am noticing that. I think directors and producers are realising that it is possible, on all types of movie, to get good quality sync sound with the right production sound mixers using the right equipment. The major steps forward that have allowed production sound mixers to do a better job are the advent of multitracking and the ability to put better sounding microphones onto those multitracks. I use DPA lavaliers because they are the only microphones capable of closely matching the sound I get from a boom. This means multitracks created with boom mics and DPA lavaliers can easily be edited together in the final mix. Until I came across DPA, I wasn't comfortable prioritising lavaliers because they sounded either too chesty or too tinny depending on what brand I was using. When I first heard DPA's d:screet™ 4061 and 4071 microphones, the sound was so transparent and natural that I felt it could be cut with the boom without any uncomfortable shift in the timbre of the voice. Of course, we still need booms but we can now mix and match between the two depending on the requirements of the scene. Does the change in how film sound is recorded reflect other changes in the film industry?
Certainly: the advent of digital cameras has brought about a massive shift in the way films are made, and this dovetails with the advances in production sound that have come about as a result of multitrack recording and high quality microphones. Shooting digitally means film stock costs are not so restrictive because you are using hard drives instead of 35mm or 16mm film. As a result, multi-camera shoots are increasingly common. The fact that we can now multitrack and use lavaliers more comfortably is a very welcome development because often if you are shooting multi-camera, the booms can't get close enough. If you are shooting wide and tight while trying to capture a close up, having a boom sitting on the edge of the wide shot isn't going to give you a sound that matches the close up. The way round this is to run the boom to match the wide shot perspective and use DPA lavaliers to capture the close up perspective. The two can then be cut together because the sound is so closely matched. Are you aware of other sound recordists using miniature mics in the film world, and as an Oscar-winning sound mixer, do more people now ask for your advice?
The production sound film community is a lot more open with discussions now than it used to be, mainly due to the internet. Before the internet, people were quite guarded about their work and the tools they used, but nowadays there is more dialogue between production sound mixers and assistant sound technicians. Everyone talks on forums and certainly that has helped good microphones like the DPA range to get exposure. People are far more aware of which products are good because they are so often spoken about on the net.
My attitude is that when I find a good product, I'm quite happy to shout it from the rooftops. If production sound mixers are able to choose equipment that allows them to do a great job, directors and producers will have more confidence in what we do and we can all grow together as the whole industry gains confidence in what can be achieved on the set with the right sound team. There needs to be an education process so that producers and directors understand that we have now got better tools at our disposal and can supply a better product. Thanks to DPA, we are not stuck in the days of poor quality lavaliers that didn’t sound great being even more compromised by recording to only two tracks. This isn't about how much budget sound is given – it's more about how it is allotted. I'd like to think that as producers become more aware of what is possible on the set by using first class sound crews and equipment, they will be more likely to allot parts of the sound budget to production sound such as hiring a big enough production sound crew to run two booms at all times with a second assistant sound working full time with costume on the radio mics.Working in this way can seriously reduce the need for technical ADR and save a lot of money from the sound post budget but more importantly can make huge creative gains too by capturing those magical and unique on set performances by the actors. You are well known for coming up with quirky microphone concealment/placement techniques - can you describe some of the methods you use to fit DPA bodyworn microphones to actors you have worked with?
Sometimes positioning microphones is very intricate, but on other occasions it's more conventional because we are placing them on the actor's costume. The secret is having a really collaborative relationship with the costume department – and knowing when it is better to sew mics into a costume and when you can just place them on the day. My ethos is to get it as close to the edge of frame as I can and have the minimum amount of fabric between my DPA lavalier and the mouth of the actor. If I follow these rules, the vocal timbre and sound will be natural and useable. If I have to start compromising and backing the microphone off behind the costume or covering it with fabric, then I know I'm preventing it from delivering the best sound it is capable of. Sometimes you have to make that compromise, but I try very hard not to.