ITW of Félix BLUME about sound recording on (En)

“The Sound Catcher”. Where do good sounds come from and who makes them and how are they recorded? Questions we thought we should ask a professional in field recording: Félix Blume, sound engineer for documentary films and Freesounder.
ITW by Kay Burki, November 2011

The Sound Catcher

Where do good sounds come from and who makes them and how are they recorded? Questions we thought we should ask a professional in field recording: Félix Blume, sound engineer for documentary films and Freesounder. Here is the full interview. by Kay Burki:

What is your Profession, how would you call yourself?

The usual name for my profession is “sound engineer”, and I work most of the time on documentary film shootings, sometimes for video-artists too. I like the word “Preneur de son” (in French) which means something like “sound catcher”.

Can you describe a typical work flow?
The good thing about independent documentary filming is, there is no “typical” configuration. If I try to describe the most usual work flow, it begins of course with the shooting, which involves only one person in the sound department. Most of the time, sound is recorded on a separate recorder, and synchronized with the image by timecode. During or after the shooting, rushes (raw material, KB) are synchronized, and the editing begins. Once  it’s finished, it’s time for sound post-production: sound editing, sometimes some extra recordings of music or foleys (additional sound effects,KB) and later the sound mix. At the same time, they’re doing color correction or special effects, in order to make a final report on tape,  digital copies and in some good cases film copies are made for screenings, film festival contributions and TV broadcasting.

How did you come to your profession?
I came to sound through music, at first I wanted to do sound reinforcement for live music in concert. I studied and worked a bit in that way at the beginning, but I quickly found more interest in shootings and sound for video. I discovered at the same time a passion for documentary films.

What was your training for your profession, do you have a degree?
I studied 2 years in France, at an audiovisual school, with a technical formation (BTS Audiovisuel in Toulouse); after that, I studied 3 years at INSAS film school in Brussels, in the sound department.
What would you advice people who would like to do such work for a profession also?
I would say that it can be beautiful work, and a really good way to travel and meet people, but you first need to be passionate, to love sound, to be patient, curious and to be really specific in your choice. If you know what you want to do exactly, people will know what you’re able to do, and they will call you for their projects.
And the most important thing, as most of passion-works: you must do what you really like, and not search for money with that job!

What can you tell about the copyrights on recordings of yourself? At what time do you own the copyrights of a recording or someone else does (like a publisher or producer of a movie)?
Most of the contracts don’t specify anything about sound copyrights. For the pictures that’s clear though, the camera-operator doesn’t keep any pictures, and all the rights are owned by the producer and the director.
For sound, it’s different. I’ve got a copy of all the sound recording of each shooting I’ve done, and I made a lot of wild-tracks during the shootings, which can be seen as a still picture made by the camera operator (can he use it for himself or not? ).
I take the right to use and share all the wild-tracks, as long as they are not directly in relation to the subject (no music, no voices for example). If I’m not sure, I talk about that with the director and ask him his point of view… And since I share them for free, there’s no problem.
What did make you decide to add your sounds to
I think internet is a beautiful opportunity to share things, ideas, video and sounds. Unfortunately, most of the sharing platform are used by “pirates” to share things they don’t own. is for people who want to share the sounds they do own, with anybody who would like to use it or need it for any other project. I like the idea and I try to put in the best sounds I have!
I add all the sound under Creative Commons 0 License, that means I share the sounds, for any use you want, without any need to mention me. I’ve recorded the sounds by myself, or on projects, and I think the best way to make this sound travel and exist is to share them.
The end of the copyrights? Maybe… And I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing !
What equipment do you use?
I usually use (and own) a Sound Devices recorder 744T, a Sound Devices Mixer 552, a MS microphone setup with 2 Schoeps CCM41 (super cardioid polar pattern, KB)& CCM8 (figure 8 polar pattern, KB) in a Zephyx windscreen, a Sennheiser MKH8060 hypercardioid microphone in a rycote, 2 lectrosonics digital hybrid HF transmitter & receiver, some additional wireless Sennheiser Evolution sets (ew 100-ENG, KB) i.e. to send sound to the camera and director, some Sanken COS11D lavalier microphones (for the wireless sets),  some HD25 Sennheiser headphones and a PSC boom.
I do most of the sound with a MS setup. It’s a really good way to make good sound in documentary shooting!
What are your best sounds on Freesound?
I really like the one recorded in South Argentina, in a farm close to Ushuaia, during the “Patagonian Rodeo”. Once a year, the farmers go in line through the fields and the forest, screaming and whistling, in order to send the sheep to the corner of the field, and take them to the farm for the sheep’s shave. They can’t see each other but can recognize themselves with their specific screams and keep in line.
Which countries or regions impressed or did you like most on your trips?
I really like America and it’s big spaces (each time it is more difficult to find a place in Europe where you don’t hear cars far away). I work a lot in America Latina and I love the people there. Lately I worked a lot in Mexico, a beautiful country!
What other interests do you have?
I think human relationships are the most important thing… I love meeting new people, discover different lifestyles and listen to stories people tell me.

What is your next project?
I’m about to shoot a documentary in USA. We will stay in a small town close to a marine base. After their mission in Afghanistan, the marines stay there for a few weeks, to make a “debriefing”, re-adapt to “real” life, and try to forget about war. They’re hanging around and we will film their deambulation in the town…
Thank you Félix Blume for your contributions to and for this Interview!