In the film, the main character lends a camera and starts filming his life, so most of the time he is in fact holding the camera in his hand, filming himself or whoever he is with.
By the nature of POV, every cut is a jump cut.
We wanted the film to sound as natural as possible, so everytime there was a cut, it would also sound like a jump cut. If a car was passing, it would be cut abrubtly.
If there was any music playing, a certain amount of time would be cut from the music, it might be 5 seconds, 30 seconds or it might switch to a different song. All the music was worldized through impulse reverbs.
This is all pretty straight forward work, and it would probably sound like a crappy documentary if we kept it this way. But we panned all the sounds too, dialogue, music, effects, everything.
Sometimes if the guy who held the camera would pan it across the room (360 degrees or more), the dialogue sound would pan too, matching the apparent direction of the actors. If there was music playing, it would pan too, matching the position of the loudspeakers. If the main character was speaking to somebody while pointing the camera at them, his voice would come from somewhere behind your left ear, as if your head was where the camera was.
So pretty often, dialogue was louder in the surrounds than in the front speakers. It would also be uneven across the front speakers. As would all the other elements of sound.
I think the effect was good. If you had a center seat in the front half of the cinema, you would be able to get the full surrounding effect. If would sound natural and almost real. If you sat close to the surround speakers, you wouldn't have the same sense of direction, but you would be able to hear and understand all of the dialogue.
When panning the sounds around the house, sound was never panned discreetly to one speaker or speaker channel, but always blurred a bit between channels. You would always get a sense of direction of the sound, but you would never be able to locate the speakers. A lot of reverb was also used to blur the feeling of sound coming from a speaker. The reverb was also used to make sure some sort of dialogue would always come from the front speakers, so the mix would be mono compatible.
I also worked as recording mixer while we shot the film, and the microphone setup was like this: The camera was a DV-CAM with two microphones placed on top. A MKH-50 pointing forwards and a MKH-60 pointing backwards. The sound from the camera mics was recorded on the DV tape. I had a Sound Devices 744 and I recorded the actors with radio mics (DPA) and a boom.
If there were two actors or less I would have 2 channels left on the 744 to record the POV of the camera in MS (MKH-50 and MKH-30). I was alone on the job, as there wouldn't be room for more people on the set (the actor, who also held the camera in his hand, would pan it across the room with no warning, so you would have to duck or get out of the way quickly, I often had to get rid of the boom and simply hold the microphones in my hand in order to get out of the way in time). All in all this gave me a pretty detailed sound field to work with in post production. Lots of sound sources to pan across the channels.
It's also interesting to hear that the director wnated to play with panning and that he was involved in the evaluation of the degree of what was going to happen. To me it shows that sound does not seem to be a complete afterthought to him, but something he has in his mind before he comes into post.
I assume during shooting and maybe even while scriptwriting things. Working with someone like this, seems to make things (results) a lot better (I don't dare to say easier).
Excerpt from thread "Children of Men" Feb 2, 2007 at Sound Design discussion list
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