Lights, Camera, Community: sounddude

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Level 53 user sounddude knows the television industry... that's because he works in the television industry. With experience on shows such as COPS, Extreme Maker: Home Edition, and American Idol, sounddude knows TV from within. But he's no reality junkie; give him some Battlestar Galactica and Twilight Zone and he's happy. How did you come up with your username?

sounddude: I'm a sound recordist/sound mixer for the film and television industries--the person who records the dialog for movies and TV shows. We sit behind carts with digital recorders and all kind of cool gadgets in order to capture the sound that you hear on movies and TV shows. We can also be the guys holding the long boom poles with the furry shotgun mics over people's heads for news and documentaries. I got coined as the "SoundDude" many years ago by a good friend and I have used it as a username ever since. What's the best part of working in the industry?

sounddude: You get to travel all around the country and all over the world, working on various shows and films. You find yourself in places doing things that virtually few have ever done before, like the time I was standing 20 feet off the runway at a Naval Air Field recording the sound of fighter jets doing touch-and-goes for the Discovery Channel show Wings. Not a whole lot of folks have been crazy enough to do that before or since. Or recording the sound of an experimental Russian built hydrofoil boat doing speed trials in the Bahamas, from the inside of the boat, which could have lifted off the water at any time, turning itself and us into splinters. It's a challenging job but very rewarding and, most of the time, lots of fun. What's the worst part?

sounddude: It's still just a job. Like most jobs it can be boring, difficult, unrewarding, tiring. Sometimes you are grossly underpaid. Sometimes you get stiffed and don't get paid at all. On occasion, you work with the worst examples of the business, whether they be producers, directors, or actors.

Imagine working in 120-degree weather, with a screaming director, a maniac producer, and a prima donna actor, in the middle of nowhere for 12 hours a day. And then maybe not getting paid for it. It doesn't happen that often, but it does happen. As you stay in the business for a while, you learn to foresee some of the jobs that could turn out like that. But you can't always tell before hand. You are the editor of tons of shows, most of them from yesteryear. What is it about older shows that you like so much?

sounddude: Part of the reason I edit the old shows is that no one else seemed to want them and I wanted to at least try to fill in information about them for those who may be interested. It's a slow process and the information on the older shows is not easy to come by and many times inaccurate. I think it comes from a love and fascination I had for television growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s. The television set was this portal in your house that transported you everywhere, all around the world, into exotic places and situations, back in time, or forward into the future, deep under the sea or out into space. So for a kid with a vivid imagination already, I was planted in front of it every moment I could be. How do you compare today's television with shows from the 1970s and earlier?

sounddude: That's not an easy question to answer quickly. Today's television shows have massive budgets and shows like Battlestar Galactica are using feature-film-level special effects every episode. The original Star Trek had a micro budget for special effects per show. So today, the shows like 24 and Heroes and Lost and Galactica are actually mini-movies made for television and are very well produced. But the 1950s and 1960s were a special time of creativity just like the music of the same era. There were so many different types of shows that had never been done before and they did so much with so little. The writing was incredible, and the acting was so good compared to a lot of what is on today. It's safe to say you wouldn't have the hit shows of today without the heritage of those shows in the 50s, 60s and 70s. How has the landscape of television changed in your opinion?

sounddude: There was a two-fold restraint that existed in the 50s and 60s. One was a self policing attitude that kept storylines and scenes from going "too far". The other was Standards and Practices, also known as "the censors." This also acted as a restraint to keep television from becoming too bawdy. Sure, it was misused to keep shows like the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour from expressing constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech from being expressed, but it also slowed down the raunchiness of the base nature of man from spoiling television too soon. Today we see full frontal nudity, simulated sex, hear most of George Carlin's seven dirty words and there's very little held back, all in the name of freedom of expression. And it's negatively influenced our youth and our society as a whole. Of course, that's just my opinion. You are a fan of 24--how is Jack Bauer and the new season holding up in your book?

sounddude: I think it's holding up pretty well, though the writers have started to repeat themselves now. I guess there are only so many terrorist scenarios that can take place and only so many things Jack can do or things that can happen to Jack. As of this past week, he's being framed, again. He's on the run from everyone, again. There's a mole in the government, again. There's a powerful American who's out to attack the U.S. for profit and power, again.

So even though I still love the show for the raw action and patriotism, and for it's extreme production value, it is starting to seem a little familiar. I hated to see Bill Buchanan killed off. But 24 did that to nearly all of CTU a while back and kept all it's fans. There's still enough to love and enough characters to hate to keep me interested. I'm just bummed Galactica is coming to an end. What a show THAT was! Describe a typical day of shooting on COPS. Was there ever any danger?

sounddude: You sleep until about 1 p.m., prep your gear, drive to the police station, find your officer, I'd wire him up, load the car with our gear and hit the road looking for trouble. Sometimes we'd work the midnight to 7 a.m. shift. Many nights, nothing happens. It can be the most boring show to work on, and the most exciting, all in the same week, even the same night. But when it happens, every nerve is on end. Yes, there's danger. Police officers are in danger every shift they work, so being with them, so were we. Think about how many hours a year we were driving, sometimes at high rates of speed.

That alone increases the danger level exponentially. But I only felt nervous a couple of times in nine years, both times were while we were in the middle of riots. If you roll up on or are dispatched to something in progress, we'd jump out of the car and shoot it. Sometimes, someone would shoot back. And yes, the crews do wear bullet-resistant vests. After the action is over, you get photo releases from the suspects and start patrolling again unless it's time to go in, in which you review the footage from the day, get something to eat and collapse into bed, only to do it all over again the next night. Repeat that for weeks and weeks, up to nine months a year. That's a sneak peak at what it's like working on the TV show COPS. What do you do in your spare time?

sounddude: What spare time? Lol! Well I'm also a musician and I've toured the world backing singers and guitarists; 13 overseas tours into 24 countries at last count. I love photography, which I used to do professionally. My wife and I love to travel, especially out west in the desert and mountains. I read a great deal, both books and online. I've just gotten my classic English racer bicycle fixed so I'm back biking again. I'm kind of a low-end webmaster of sorts and help maintain a few websites, mostly for friends. I love classic films and I watch TV when I can and of course, I spend what time I can find to research old television shows and add that information to the database here at Thanks so much for talking to us!

Comments (4)
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Mar 20, 2009
Great interview. Thanks.
Mar 20, 2009
Awesome interivew dude.
Mar 20, 2009
Great interview. Sounddude's a great guy, but he's not around here enough. :) This feature may be my favorite thing about the new
Mar 20, 2009
Interesting interview :)