The Documentary Sound Guy

Have sound bag, will travel

Who is The Documentary Sound Guy?

I am a location sound recordist in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  I specialize in sound for documentaries.

I’ve been recording sound professionally since 2006.  I’ve worked on everything from giant Hollywood blockbusters to your brother’s neighbour’s short student film, and my favourite is documentary.  There is nothing else I’d rather do.

I’ve hiked half a day to a pristine alpine meadow for a shoot.  I’ve stood waist deep in the ocean waves to record dialogue in a kayak.  I’ve plugged in to helicopter comms at an active heli-logging operation.  I’ve recorded a daredevil waterskiier as he skied on and off the shore of the Squamish river.  I love documentary because it takes me places that normal people don’t go.

If your project is about doing something that other people don’t do, I want to be part of it.  If it’s history in the making, I want to be there.  Or, if it’s the story of an ordinary person sharing what they do for the first time because nobody ever asked them before, I want to be in the room with a microphone.

If you have a documentary, I can help it get made.

Expert at Unscripted

Documentary isn’t like Hollywood.  There are no rehearsals, the shots are made up on the fly, and the entire production can change in a heartbeat.

I thrive in this environment.

It’s little things, like knowing what the shot is by watching the lens, or anticipating that a subject will stand up a split second before it happens.

Experienced

I didn’t get into film school.  But film school didn’t teach sound.  So, when their film students needed a sound guy, that was me.

Two years and dozens of student films later, I had a career in sound.  That was 2006.

Since then, I’ve done hundreds of productions in Vancouver’s highly competitive film industry.

Well-Equipped

“It’s not the tools, it’s how you use them.”

True, but cliché.  Using tools effectively means using tools that are right for the job.

For me, that means choosing the tools that are best for documentaries:  Tools that are small, lightweight, durable in the cold and the rain, and which last a full day on one set of batteries.

Ready to Travel

Documentaries don’t just happen in the city where you live.  They happen “out there”, away from the conveniences of modern life.

I’m an adventurer; I love heading out into the wild.  And my kit is built for it:  It’s weatherproof, I can carry everything I need in one load, and I have spares of everything.

Multi-Skilled

In a doc crew, wearing multiple hats is inevitable.  Sound is my main skill, but not my only one.

Need a stand-in?  I got that.  Someone to pinch-hit for B-Cam?  I have camera experience.  Want to find a gorgeous city skyline?  I grew up here.

Need someone to ride a bike towing camera on a skateboard, while operating the Ronin gimbal AND record sound at the same time?  I’ve done that.

Documentary Specialist

You’ve found the perfect sound guy.  He’s skilled, has the right equipment, loves your project, and his price is reasonable.  And he’s unavailable for the next four months because he’s booming a TV series.

My schedule is built for documentaries that shoot sporadically over months.  Because I specialize, I’m more likely to be able to cover all your shooting days, and I’m often available on short notice.

Experience

How to Pick a Sound Guy

(or, why I don't have a sound reel)

Unlike shooting or directing, recording sound is 90% technical and 10% artistic.  The art of sound comes later, in post.  On set, it’s my job to collect raw materials for good sound design:  Clean dialogue, good ambience, and usable sound effects.

What this means is that a nice sounding audio reel only demonstrates a minimum level of competence:  I was able to record audio that was good enough to be cleaned up and polished by the sound designer.

What makes me a good sound guy isn’t the fact that I can record enough good audio to fill a 60 second sound reel.  It’s the fact that I can record good audio consistently on the first take in an uncontrolled documentary environment.  That’s a much higher standard.

The Brain-Body Connection

Chalkboard Media
View Trailer

East Hastings Pharmacy

Antoine Bourges
View Trailer

Family Camera

Subject Chaser Films

One Life, No Regrets

Regret Me Not Productions

Streets of Plenty

Sideways Film
View Trailer

Worksafe BC

44 Projects

RhythmNation

7 Projects

AV Strategies

5 Projects

Lindytown Films

Promo for YouTube

Diana Dai

T&T Family Reunion

Aurora Novus

Apple iPhone 3GS

Blink Media Works

Metropolitan Fine Printers

Levon Henderson

5 Projects

Elemental Inc.

Futurepreneur

Knowledge Network

Knowledge Network Tour

Hello Cool World

Immunize BC

Run Studios

EA Promo

Rogers Communications

Loblaws 150 Campaign

Pound & Grain

Kick Depression in the Nuts

Bear Studios

BCMHS Mind Check

FD Element

To Catch a Pirate

Elevator Strategy

Elections BC Commercial

BBDO

GE:  Say Ahh

Madison + Vine

Samsung Vancouver

Keeping Canada Alive

Force Four Productions

Chevy Cross-Canada Countdown

Country Music Television

Entertainment Tonight

Leanne Aguilera:  UnREAL

Shameless Traveller

White Pine Pictures

The Daily with Mark and Laura-Lynn

Trillenium Media Group

Storm Warriors

WAG TV

Kayaking for Beginners

Kayaking Productions BC

Comforting Skin

Slithering Tattoo Productions

Martin’s Pink Pickle

Party for Two Productions

The Vetala Series

Jove Pictures

Fathers and Sons

Raven West Films

Taylor’s Way

Wharf Rat Productions

Deadpool (reshoots)

20th Century Fox

Pumpkin Pie Wars

Hallmark Channel

Woman of the House

Hallmark Channel

Testimonials

Adam Loften Global Oneness Project Films

I want to thank you again for all your help.  It was a tough shoot at times but you never lost your cool, which helped me keep mine.  You are an amazing collaborator and I honestly wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without you.

Sara Brar Party for Two Films

It’s coming on almost a year since we last set out on a film making adventure and … I write to you to see if you would have any interest in, and of course if you would be available, to join our team for our second feature as our sound man.

Mary Fowles Global Oneness Project Films

We really enjoyed having you on our team.  You went above and beyond and we are very grateful.  Let me know if you ever need a reference / testimonial down the road.

Kamala Todd Indiginous City Media

Thanks so much for this, Devon.  Just went through it all and it sounds excellent.  Thanks for the water sounds too!  Where is that from?

Ellen Bateman Chalkboard Media

Thanks Devon, it was wonderful working with you — glad you caught our post on the list-serve last week.

FAQ

You’ve got questions.  Here’s some answers.  If you’ve still got questions, you can always give me a call:  604-321-9706.

Are you experienced?

Ah, let me prove it to you
Trumpets and violins, I can hear in the distance
I think they’re calling our names

— Jimi Hendrix

I’ve been recording sound for film since 2006, and I’ve got more than 150 projects under my belt — mostly doc and corporate.  See the Experience Section for highlights.

What's your rate?

$750 / day
$400 / ½ day (4h) (overtime billed at $100 / hr until it maxes out at my day rate)

How long is your day?

I work on a 12 hour day.  I don’t usually charge overtime, but if you abuse the privilege, I will do it.

Do you ONLY do documentaries? Will you work on my corporate / commercial / indie feature?

I prioritize documentaries, but I don’t do them exclusively.  And, a lot of projects blur the line between documentary and other forms, particularly corporate docs, which I’ve done a lot of.

In order to keep my focus on documentary, I don’t often take on long-term projects, so if you are looking someone for your indie feature, ask me and I’ll probably recommend you a good soundie who isn’t me.

I have a shoot in smalltownsville, B.C. Do you travel?

One of my favourite shoots started with a boarding pass that had coordinates for a destination instead of an airport code.

So, yes, I travel.  Check out my travel policy for details.

Do you do music playback?

Yes.  I have a powerful, battery-operated PA speaker.  You will not struggle to hear it, even outdoors.  Just the thing for a guerrilla flash mob shoot!

Are your rates in CAD$ or USD$

All my rates are in Canadian Dollars.  Which isn’t to say I won’t accept American Dollars if you send them to me 😉

Can you supply any non-sound gear?

Yes!

I can supply most of what you need for a basic interview shoot.  Rates are negotiable based on what else I’m helping you with.

  • Camera:  Panasonic AG-AF100 w/ 18-200mm & 50mm lenses
  • Camera:  Panasonic AG-AC130
  • Camera:  Manfrotto 501 tripod
  • Lighting:  2 x generic fixtures, each with 2 x Diva-style KinoFlo bulbs (3200K & 5600K)
  • Lighting:  Limited miscellaneous gels (mainly CTO / CTB / ND)
  • Grip:  2 x C-Stand
  • Grip:  3 x Light Stand
  • Grip:  3 x Sandbags
  • Grip:  Miscellaneous clamps / tape / rope / etc.
  • Electric:  3 x 25′ AC

Can you recommend a good rental house?

It depends what you’re looking for.  Most of these recommendations are aimed at doc-style production, and all of them stock a variety of camera, grip, and lighting equipment.

Where can we get good B-Roll in Vancouver?

The “classic” Vancouver cityscape is shot from Stanley Park looking back (south) at downtown across the water.

If you are looking for less touristy shots, I’ve lived in Vancouver my whole life and I’m happy to advise.  I make a very good fixer for out-of-town productions.

Vancouver doesn't have Uber — how do locals get around?

We still have taxis 🙂

Alternately, I’m a lot cheaper than a taxi and I know the city like the back of my hand.  The downside is I only have a station wagon, so any more than two addition crew and gear and things get pretty tight.

Hire

Sync Method*
Project Type*
Project Frame Rate*
Number of Cameras*
Delivery Method*
Script / concept document