Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

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Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:53 pm

I want to shed a little light on something that's becoming more and more of an issue with each passing year and the proliferation of multimedia events and the inter-web. It seems to be caused by a combination of many factors including the quality of video equipment, the relative ease of video editing, and of course YouTube and other means of mass distributing video.

Often, as a live FOH mixer I am asked to provide a "feed" for recording, most times for synchronization with video. Some times it is something that is just for personal use of the artist or client, but lately, it is most often for promotional or commercial use. This is where the problem starts. Many people assume that you are obliged to provide them with the output of your work, just because they ask. I have been outright lied to as to what was going to happen with the end result of what I was producing. "It's just for archive." has turned into DVDs for sale. "It's just for the band." has turned into YouTube artist or promoter website videos. This may all seem harmless, but I believe it goes to how the production technical contributions of individuals is seen as insignificant in the eyes of many that we work with.

This is a double sided issue. The first is a lack of control over the quality of what gets mass distributed with your name attached. The second is when you do a substantial job on a production, and receive no additional compensation for said output, and no credit. I have been doing this for quite a while, and am still finding myself in situations where I can't say no to providing this service without appearing to be a trouble maker, mostly because many out there continue to do this with no questions asked. Unless otherwise agreed upon, I should be able to control the output of my work and be compensated and credited accordingly. It does matter. I would be unsure, but hearing others in similar situations making the same observations tells me people need to start changing the way they work.

I recently supervised audio and mixed FOH sound for "The 2012 Saint John Arts Awards" at Imperial Theatre. It's a complicated setup with many elements of live and recorded materials, much like any typical large "awards" show. On the setup day, I'm approached by a rep from Hemmings House who will be doing a video recording of the event, and asked what I can provide. Because of the schedule, I have very little to offer other than a slightly modified send of my PA mix out, and whatever help I can be in and around getting what I am actually there for which is producing audio for the actual event. In this kind of situation, I would much rather see a proper full split going to a record rig, because I know what is going to happen next on a high profile show like this, with a proper video production company in attendance. I understand the budget was non existent, but....

It came to my attention yesterday that videos of the performances are now on YouTube, on the director's account. It is clearly promotional material, and each video I've seen includes credits for each artist included, the artists who produced background elements of AV, Hemmings House, and Judith Mackin. I don't expect them to name every person who was involved in a production, but in this case, as part of an event lauded as a way of recognizing those who work in our community in this business, I would at least expect a nod to Jason Kinney who lit the show, and myself for mixing the music performances, both of which are critical elements in what are now promotional materials for everyone else named. If these videos were the kind of thing that nobody was going to see or hear, I wouldn't care, but I know that won't be the case. The selective inclusion of credits shows where consideration of value lies, at least in this case. I just thought this a good demonstration of what happens unless you take steps to make sure your are credited for your work wherever possible.

I know that this will always be an issue in this business, but this one particular deal, because of the purpose of the whole event, seemed pretty ironic. Something that complicated this particular date for me was that I was working for Imperial Theatre, not the company(s) producing the event, and thereby couldn't make any substantial noise about what I saw coming without putting my client in the middle.... no pun intended.

I want to be clear that I am not singling people out as the only cause of this issue in the business, but merely as a recent obvious example of how this is happening. I don't have the answer, just a lot of questions.

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It just fills Forum pages..." --compasspnt

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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:15 pm

This is a thoughtful and thought provoking post. I recall being asked, a few years ago, to provide a handful of feeds from my monitor desk to be recorded for a (planned) DVD release. I told the client that they need not credit me. Not having confidence in the quality of the final product, I felt better not being named.
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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:45 pm

Yeah Scott... Like I said, I just hope to help change people's attitudes, and if I make some tech out there feel more confident in asking questions when faced with a situation like this, I'll feel like it's a worthy exercise in honesty.
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It just fills Forum pages..." --compasspnt

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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:42 am

It's interesting that you were not credited for this. My brother was one fo the photographers for the event and the organizer (I think her name was Judith) was encouraging people to share the photos but was absolutely clear about making sure the photographers were properly credited. I'm sure it's just an oversight, but even so... it is pretty indicative of the larger underlying problem that you speak of.

In my years on the road I learned something pretty valuable. People often don't value the things they didn't have to pay for. If someone had to pay an invoice for your board tap, they'd have remembered to credit you I bet.

I think the first step for you is to discuss this with your employer to see if they feel it should be included in your normal job description. The same discussion should then be had with any employer that hires you as a contractor to make sure it's clear up front what the parameters are. If you can make it a policy of your employer instead of yourself then you wouldn't have to worry about it.

I agree with where you are coming from. I have dealt with similar things on the composition end of things. "What's the big deal? The song's is already written, someone already paid you to make the song and it won't take you any more work. Just give me a high quality mp3 even, it doesnt' have to be 48/16 wav. It will be good publicity for you. blah, blah..." It's not different than what you are describing really... Someone wants to profit from your work and they use the justification that it's work that is already there anyways so why can't they profit from it?

Problem is that the same people would understand if someone was taking their music and using it for personal gain without proper credit/payment. Basically technicians aren't artists, so who cares? The point is that you can't make a movie without paying and crediting the key grip. Sure the actors are first on the list of credits, and the get paid more. But without the technicicans that movie will never see the light of day.

Without the technical contributions, "The Originals" would have been in the dark and unplugged. I guess it's just taken for granted, which goes back to they didn't directly pay for it. You are simply the guy that came with the Imperial when someone sent a check to the Imperial. If they had to pay you seperately, then they'd probably remember you come credit time.

Aside from the whether or nto you get paid side of things I think the larger is at play here is that my brother is considered an "artist" and you are a "technician." Although knowing very well the work that you both do I find that distinction to be grossly overstated. What he does is incredibly technical, and what you do is just as artistic.
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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby sean.boyer » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:57 am

Steve Albini actively encourages people to NOT credit him on their records (like you couldn't identify one in a half second of listening anyway...), but, that's HIS choice, and the artist/event promoter/production company/whatever should ALWAYS at least ask. I think it's ludicrous (and embarrassing) to not credit your production crew.
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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:08 am

sean.boyer wrote:Steve Albini actively encourages people to NOT credit him on their records (like you couldn't identify one in a half second of listening anyway...), but, that's HIS choice, and the artist/event promoter/production company/whatever should ALWAYS at least ask. I think it's ludicrous (and embarrassing) to not credit your production crew.


That's interesting about Steve Albini, I wonder what his reasoning is for that. But like you said, it's not like it matters.

You're right though, the prerogative is on the technician to decide if he/she should be credited. Again this kind of situation shines a light on what the perception of the production crew is in the eyes of the people organizing these types of events.
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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:16 pm

I know that for most people, things like what I highlighted are simply an oversight. That is ultimately the problem... discounting the importance of essential team members of what is the end "product".

I don't normally single out specific examples of my work, but this one was just too obvious to not give details, and that would have inevitably outed those involved, so rather than being trying to be cheeky, I just said it.

What happens in examples like this is, someone says "That clip with GTB at the arts awards sounded really good... Know who did it?" and the response is... Hemmings House.....

It's right there in the credits.
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Re: Disregard for technical contributions is a problem.

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:59 pm

I want to point out that me or my buddy Steve Albini declining credit isn't an argument against techs being properly recognized for their contribution. I hope it's clear that neither sean.boyer nor myself were intending anything to that effect. It is a multi-faceted issue. What I really find to be a prickly pear is this- how fair, reasonable, or in line with Malcolm's understanding of his duty as the house audio technician is it to ask him to provide a direct feed to be recorded (to accompany video or not) when he wasn't told of this additional task prior to accepting the gig and he has no control over how it will be used or who will hear it, regardless of the quality or his satisfaction with the mix? This must be considered in light of the fact that his primary task was to provide a live mix for the house and therefore his ability to provide a quality mix for the direct feed is severely compromised.
If the venue advertised the ability to provide such a service and it was previously agreed upon (in the written contract) it's a different story. The required provisions, equipment or personel, are planned and in place. It also provides the opportunity to address issues regarding credit and quality control in an appropriate and, dare I say, professional manner.
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