Location Sound Mixer Anna Khromova discusses working with the 833, her obsession with mic placement, and covering essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Khromova discovered that location sound was her passion while attending film school.
I started doing sound when I was at the New York Film Academy, where we learned production sound mixing as a part of the Documentary Filmmaking program. I loved it from the beginning. I found it fascinating how vibrant and colorful the world around us is when you can hear it up close. From that very first moment, I have always done my best to record the highest quality sound possible to share those experiences with the audience.
One of my favorite things about this profession, along with the privilege of working on set with incredible people, is the diversity of projects I am able to work on. I admire the craft of actors and always feel grateful and honored to be a part of their art. However, I still prefer to work on documentaries for several reasons. First of all, I find it incredible to be trusted to capture and share those personal stories. Next, working on documentaries allows me to travel to and explore new places, most of which are truly unique and closed to the general public. Last but not least is the excitement of the hunt that you experience when working on doc projects. There are no second takes there, and you have to be on top of your game all the time. If you missed the moment, you missed it forever.
Khromova chose the 833 as the centerpiece for her lightweight rig.
For about 95% of all projects, I boom and mix at the same time. The other 5%, I split nearly equally between mixing and working as a boom op for other sound people. I like to keep my bag light and small.
Currently, I have the Sound Devices 833 as my main mixer/recorder and the MixPre-6 as my backup machine. To put it simply, the 833 is a fantastic mixer/recorder that is extremely easy and intuitive to work with. There were several features that made me get on the waiting list at Gotham Sound immediately after the announcement by Sound Devices. All six inputs on Sound Devices 833 can be set to mic level, which is crucial to me as a Sennheiser G4/G3 user. The 833 is lightweight, small in size, and really durable.
I wanted to have all the Scorpio features in the size and weight of the 633, and I’ve got it. I was impressed by the internal hard drive. During my working process, I prefer to come on each set with an empty, formatted SD card. So, having the internal hard drive adds not only redundancy and safety, but also saves me a lot of time as I do not have to copy all the files at the end of the day. Instead, I do it once or twice per month. The ability to arm tracks during recording has been useful on set, as well. For the wireless system, I use Sennheiser G4s and G3s for my IFB system. My boom microphones are Sennheiser MKH-416 and MKH-50. I love this combination as it helps me to handle all kinds of situations. For timecode, I use Tentacle timecode boxes. Most of my accessories are from three companies that I like the most: K-Tek, Rycote, and Viviana Straps.
Khromova relies on Dugan Automix for balance while focusing on the perfect mic placement, whether booming or placing a lavalier.
I use Dugan Automix all the time. For a person who is mixing and booming at the same time, it is an extremely helpful feature. I always prioritize booming over mixing, because you cannot adjust the position of the boom microphone in post-production, but you still can remix. I hear from my clients that they are happy with my production mix, and I believe it is thanks to Dugan Automix.
I am a perfectionist, and with hiding mics on set, I feel like it is my advantage rather than an obstacle. My favorite way to hide microphones is to tape them on the clothing: right on the edge of a t-shirt or a sweater, under the second button of a shirt or a blouse, inside a tie knot, or in hair when actors do not wear anything. When there is a lot of changing outfits involved, I try to tape a microphone to the actors’ bodies from the very beginning to save some time during the day. It is especially helpful on days when you are the only sound person on set and have to juggle six to eight wireless systems. The accessories I use are Rycote’s fur covers and all kinds of stickies, like Topstick, Joe’s sticky stuff, and transparent medical tape. I almost never use a moleskin sandwich. Instead, I prefer to utilize low-profile vampire clips and COS-11D rubber mounts. I have multiple of them in different colors.
Working in a diverse production landscape like New York is meaningful to Khromova, especially during the pandemic.
Before COVID-19, most of the projects happening all around the city were independent films. I am happy to see how many directors and producers understand the importance of high-quality sound. The diversity of the projects I was working on is the perfect example to prove it.
One of the projects that is especially meaningful for me is the one that I am working on right now. I feel honored to be a part of the crew who covers stories of New Yorkers who help those in need in times of the crises. All production days are organized by a nonprofit organization, “Engines for Change,” and all crew members are volunteers. We brought our gear and expertise because those incredible stories must be told. I am proud to be part of this project.
We all understand how important it is to be careful and follow safety protocol. All the gear is wiped with alcohol at the beginning of each shot. Gloves and masks must be worn at all times. If the sound situation is okay, I try to use a boom only. In noisy environments, I use lavs, but subjects mic themselves while I explain how to do it to them from a distance. For all my recordings, I use my 833 or MixPre-6. I bring the MixPre-6 with me more often because it is smaller and therefore, easier to cover in plastic and disinfect between shoots.
We have been covering motorcyclists delivering masks and other PPE to medical workers, and driving nurses to hospitals and back home after long shifts. Some volunteers are biking or in cars delivering groceries to seniors. Others have been staying at home sewing masks from pre-cut materials. Businesses have changed their manufacturing to produce hand sanitizer, masks, face shields, and more. Most of those people are not paid for what they are doing but they just can’t stay on the sidelines.
For more information on “Engines for Change,” please visit: