Fighting The Sirens


Anyone who works in the entertainment field knows that audible distractions can really throw a wrench in the works while filming, recording, or taping. Interruptions on set prolong the time that talent and crew must be on set to get clean, usable takes. Otherwise benign sounds like a cough, jangling keys, or a barking dog will register on audio recordings, requiring the director and talent to pause until the noise has subsided, then re-shoot the take.

I have been on set for many different projects over the years and have been witness to various noise distractions. However, I had never experienced a nonstop cacophony of sirens and horns while on set until a couple of weeks ago, while I worked on a commercial set in New York City. Our first day on set was punctuated by a relatively steady stream of horns and sirens which added another ten minutes to our shoot day, since we had to pause for every single one, then launch into an additional take each time we had an interruption.

Day two was even worse, because evidently an “incident” in NYC right near the studio warranted a profusion of police vehicles, ambulances and fire engines at the site. In addition to all the sirens which blared for several hours, irate drivers on the road insisted on expressing their frustrations by leaning on their car horns. It’s no exaggeration for me to say that the steady interruptions emanating from the neighborhood added another twenty minutes to the shoot that day.

It’s difficult to maintain your cool when you land a perfect take, only to have a siren or horn blare right at the tail end of the take. Guess what that means? It means the take is rendered worthless because of the extraneous noise.

Everyone on set became increasingly irritated by the challenges to getting a perfect take. It became a bit of a joke as we kept rolling, launching into another take, only to have another siren assert itself and ruin that one as well. It was like a big F*&% YOU to all of us on set, and it kept occurring!

The clamor of alarms continued mercilessly, and our frustrations rose in direct proportion. Towards the end of the second shoot day, we switched to uttering expletives to more adequately express our increasing annoyance with the whole situation. The one positive note about all the interruptions and our reaction to them was that we all bonded even more during the project.

If you are planning to shoot a commercial, television project, film, music video or other entertainment related footage in New York City, and the studio you shoot in isn’t soundproof, you had better brace yourself for the probable onslaught of noise which will challenge the patience of everyone on set.

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