Boulder, Colorado’s Looking Glass Arts, which provides high school students filmmaking and acting tools, techniques, and craft combines top-flight equipment such as Sennheiser microphones, headphones and wireless packages with a teaching style that that purposefully melds technical skills, art, and philosophy.
“As the tools have become cheaper, I’ve watched one art form after another,” Looking Glass Arts Co-founder Mickey Houlihan remarks. “Sound engineering is a great example – people used to devote their lives to understanding the tools and developing the sensitivities to capture just the right sound. Now anybody can record anything with his or her computer.
“I have a camera and I like to take pictures, but that doesn’t make me a photographer. I feel that the arts play a critical role in our society, and the debasement of that scares me.”
Three concurrent teams of students spend one week training on techniques and equipment, one week shooting, and a final week editing everything down to a seven-minute short. The course culminates in a screening party.
Production values are important to Houlihan, and he emphasizes to students that the easiest way to tell the difference between an amateur’s work and a true filmmaker’s work is sound quality.
Each of the three teams works with a Sennheiser ME 66 shotgun microphone at the end of a boom. The output from the microphone feeds a Sennheiser evolution SKP 100 G2 plug-on wireless transmitter.
Both the boom operator and the director of photography monitor with Sennheiser ew 100 ENG receivers and Sennheiser eH 150 headphones.
When a shotgun mic won’t work, the crew has access to a Sennheiser ME 2 lavalier microphone with an SK 100 G2 transmitter.
Because the ME 66 is powered by a Sennheiser K6 powering module and because the K6 can run on battery power, the students can use a fully wireless system.
“Getting good production sound is essential,” said Houlihan. “There’s no time in the schedule for ADR or Foley. And we’re not on movie sets. There’s lots of extraneous noise – cars, dogs, leaf blowers, airplanes, you name it. The first few years we did the course, the boom operator didn’t get a lot of respect.
“We’ve worked to change that by bringing in big name sound recordists who explain the art of their field and by underscoring the importance of good sound to the effectiveness of an entire film. It’s good that we’re working with Sennheiser, the same manufacturer used by the Hollywood studios.”
Until recently, Looking Glass Arts didn’t have Sennheiser wireless equipment and instead ran wires from the mic to the camera, and headphones from the camera to the boom operator. “People get distracted and wires get yanked,” said Houlihan. “And with HD cameras on tripods, I was often nervous. Now, in addition to preventing our equipment from hitting the ground, the sound person is free to move however he or she needs to in order to get the best sound.”
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