Reflections On Being An Indie Film Producer #10

The Director’s cut
Sound, part 2

Post Production Sound

The reason post sound production is expensive is that there are 3 components involved. They are:

  1. Sound editing
  2. Sound mixing
  3. Sound design

Sound editing involves the most basic aspect of post sound production. Essentially, making sure the sound is there, synched with the video, and adding additional sounds to fill in the gaps. Fortunately for us, Gib Jaffe has extensive experience as a sound editor and delivered Blood Pledge with a complete sound edit.

Our process started with the sound mix. As mentioned earlier, we didn’t have the budget (at least $15,000) to pay for a full service mix and design. After further discussion, we decided to complete the sound mix and design ourselves.

Like the technological advances for cameras, I presumed there would be similar developments for sound. And of course, there were. Initially, we considered editing with Adobe Audition, an excellent “prosumer” package. Two issues arose, and they were:

1. Poor sound quality in many scenes.
2. Constant background noise from an unruly stream nearby.

Working with Audition would take at least a year to clean up the sound this way. I now understood why post sound is so expensive. After a month of learning from the sound pros on YouTube, we realized we were not going to get satisfactory results.

And then, the light at the end of tunnel: Izotope Post Production Suite. Simply put, it’s like having a sound engineer and designer working with you. The software is magic—deep machine learning coupled with AI produced high-quality results. We completed the sound mix in two months.

And that's when the fun started: sound design, which I quickly learned is a form of storytelling. Sound design relies heavily on the use of sound effects, subtle background noises, and voice modification through plugins. And these are creative decisions to augment the viewer’s experience of Blood Pledge.

To enhance the “alien” voices, we used Kronos simple monsters, which converts normal dialogue into various kinds of frightening voices. Plus, since we used ProTools, we discovered more cool plugins native to that program.

In the end, it took six months to complete post sound, which was mostly handled on weekends. Total cost came in at about $1,500—Izotope Production Suite on sale, Kronos simple monsters plus a monthly subscription to ProTools. Also, we purchased a pair of Sony studio headphones (MDR-7506) – essential for getting a “neutral” sound.

You can check out the results here: Blood Pledge

Reflections On Being An Indie Film Producer #9

The Director’s cut
Sound, part 1

Production Sound
We decided to purchase our own sound equipment and hire a boom operator to use in conjunction with wireless mics to capture the actors and all ambient sound during the shoots. We bought a Tascam DR-70D 4 channel recorder and 4 wireless mics and transmitters on Amazon from some off brand sound company in China. The total cost for the equipment came in at less than $1,000, including the boom setup and mic.

I would not use this configuration again. Although the sound quality was decent but certainly not comparable to say a Sennheiser system, the biggest issue became reliability.

By the end of the shoot, we had no working wireless mics and a channel failed on the Tascam recorder. Wireless transmitters take a beating during shoots, especially during physical scenes! The channel loss was not an issue as we were only using 3 channels, but we had to keep track of the lost channel so it was not inadvertently used during the shoot.

Fortunately for us, Janet Place, the producer, brought her Tascam recorder as well as 2 wireless mics, so we managed to finish Blood Pledge with the bare minimum.

Post Sound
They say in Hollywood an audience will forgive for poor footage but not poor sound. Psychologically, that’s definitely true. Fortunately for us, Gib Jaffe, our editor, also had years of experience as a sound editor. We had about 10 clips where the sound was simply unusable. He came up with a great plan–have the actors re-record their lines using their cell phones and email the recordings.

The results were surprisingly good. Once edited into the clip, it was hard to distinguish between the source and rerecorded sound. After Gib had completed the edit, he gave me several recommendations for the studios that specialized in sound mix, foleys and sound design. The estimates came in at $15,000 to $35,000! Post production sound is expensive, and we did not have that kind of budget… What to do?

In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss how we solved this major hurdle.

You can hear the results here: Blood Pledge

Reflections On Being An Indie Film Producer #8

The Director’s Cut
Choosing your camera, part 2

There are four considerations to be made when purchasing a consumer digital camera for shooting a microbudget feature. They are:

1. System
2. Color model
3. Lenses
4. Resolution

I discussed the first two items in last week’s blog. Today, I’ll expand on the lenses we used. We chose to use the lens provided with the Lumix, which was the equivalent of 50mm SLR. We also purchased a zoom lens, which came in quite handy for extreme close-ups as it had a macro feature. Thus, we completely shot Blood Pledge using two consumer grade lenses.

I would have liked to have purchased a professional F1.4 lens, however the cost was prohibitive at the time. We had about half our shots at night and wanted to use the only artificial candle light for a spooky feel. Unfortunately, both lenses only opened up to an aperture of F2.4 and F3.5, which required extra lighting.

So, if you have a lot of night shots, I would recommend getting the F1.4 lens. However, these lenses start at $700 - the price of our camera system.

1080 or 4K?

4K is all the rage these days, and NASA is already using an 8K camera system on the International Space Station. We decided to go with 1080 or what is also known as “HD”. Two reasons:

1. Cost
2. Intended audience

The Lumix G7 supports 4K shooting, and I considered recording all the shots in this mode. However, during our test runs, the camera would occasionally lock up, especially during complex scenes involving a lot of movement. Although that made me reconsider using 4K, we discussed our viewing audience and knew Blood Pledge was destined for home TVs.  4K makes perfect sense for theatrical releases. Add to that, the HD test runs looked fantastic on a 70 inch 4K TV. Plus, there was the cost.

We needed about 30 64GB SD cards for the entire shoot. HD cards at that time were about $11. Doing the math, that comes out to $330. Not bad considering what film used to cost and process. For a 4K 64GB SD card then, the cost per card started at $70 and the brand that worked best with our system was $90. Yikes! That’s $2,700! And add to that, there was the issue of card i/o speed, or how fast a card could “read” the scene, which, as I mentioned, was not reliable.

So, when choosing a consumer camera, I would recommend taking these 4 aspects into consideration. Unfortunately, the marketing of digital cameras rarely touch on these specs but they’re vital to the shoot.

You can see the results here: Blood Pledge

Reflections On Being An Indie Film Producer #7

The Director’s Cut

Choosing your camera, part 1

Because of our microbudget, we chose to purchase two affordable digital cameras instead of hiring a DP and getting a professional camera package. As I had a background in IT and photography, I did my homework on the most recent technologies available for shooting on a consumer grade camera. In 2018, Panasonic had just released their latest consumer camera system – a “4/3 mirrorless” with a 16 megapixel sensor. The reviews were glowing.

The Camera

The Panasonic Lumix G7 was an entry level camera with a zoom lens, which had an impressive set of features for a camera under a $1000. Panasonic's color model produced lifelike colors and the image quality was superb. Plus, the camera sported a “cinematic mode 24 frames” which I used for all the shoots.

Be Prepared!

We knew the Blood Pledge production was going to be intense, and we had to complete over a hundred scenes at 5 locations in 11 days. So… I recruited my neighbor, Ted Leplat, who is a veteran stage and film actor with over 50 years of experience, to practice filming with me so I could gain an in-depth knowledge of this camera. Ted was more than happy to work on the project. He got hours of footage for his reel, and I learned every aspect of the Lumix system. We shot in every kind of light - day and night, indoor and outdoor, studio, candles, incandescent, lampposts, headlights and fluorescents. All these were in the script and practicing this way, allowed for trial and error to determine the ideal settings.

The editor was in denial

I can’t recommend enough knowing your camera. With just two days of shooting, the limitations of a consumer-based camera became obvious. They’re not designed for complex moving images common in feature films. Yet, the film's editor Gib Jaffe and our colorist Jaynee Thorne, both who have decades of experience in post-production, didn’t believe we shot Blood Pledge on a $700 camera despite its limitations!

Can’t control the weather

My secret? Ted and I practiced together for 6 months before and when I arrived on set in North Carolina, we completed the 11 days of shooting without a hitch. We were prepared for anything. However, since I chose to use a manual aperture setting for creative control, about 5% of the film unfortunately had been overexposed, mostly due to changing outdoor lighting conditions. North Carolina's weather differs greatly from sunny SoCal’s. Fortunately, Jaynee used her magic wand, notably DaVinci Resolve, and produced outstanding results.

Here’s the breakdown for the Lumix G7 camera:


  • Excellent color model
  • 1080—4K quality
  • Cinematic mode


  • No real time monitor support
  • Autofocus not suitable for a feature
  • Found manual aperture settings gave better results with more creative control but required longer setup times.

You can see the results here:  Blood Pledge