Ever watched the credits at the end of a movie and wondered what all of those people do?
Well, here’s your answer. Below is a simplified list with a real world description for most of those positions.
Unless you are doing a throw back to Charlie Chaplin or your entire film is a voice over, you are going to need to have an audio department. These are the guys who put the words the actors are saying onto the screen. This department is not to be confused with a Sound Designer or Foley Artist who adds in the other noises such as footsteps, creaks, etc. in post production. These guys only focus on the audio coming out of the actor’s mouth or audio captured in the field.
This is the guy you see on the set with headphones looking down and twisting knobs back and forth. He is listening to the sound (your actors’ voices and any background noises)as it comes from wireless packs or a boom pole or both and watching the levels of the sound. If anything needs to be tweaked, he tweaks it on the fly by turning the knobs on the mixer to adjust the levels. This allows the sound to stay at a consistent level and prevents any cracking or abrupt noises from happening. A good mixer will save you a lot of grief in post production.
This is the guy holding the boom pole (long pole with a microphone on the end) in the scene over the actors as they deliver their lines. It is important to have a good boom pole operator as you do not want to have to constantly stop your scene because the boom pole keeps dropping into the top of frame.
I add this person to this department although they may belong in another. This is the guy that follows the dolly back and forth and keeps the audio and video cables from getting caught in the dolly wheels.
VTR or Video Assist
This is the person who lets you see and hear what you just filmed. Think of them as a beefed up VCR for you retro folks out there or DVDR for you younger ones. They have the ability to playback any scene you shoot so that you can make sure you have what you need, and that you shot what you thought you shot.