Sovereign Hill – Ballarat

The Crew

Director: Justin Weyers, Assistant Director/Producer: Luke Keys, Producer/Casting: Teagan Glenane, Dialect Coach: Penny, D.O.P: David Franjic, Assistant Camera: Michael Gordon Hill, Sound Recording: Hassan Lahrech, Gaffer: Albert Garcia (Savage), Make Up: Lou McLaren, Tech Director/VFX: Jesse Sanders, Wardrobe/Client: Erin Santamaria, Naomi Holden, Chontal Hickey, Megan Anderson.

Sovereign Hill is an open-air museum in Golden Point, a suburb of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Sovereign Hill depicts Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851. It was officially opened on 29 November 1970 and has become a nationally acclaimed tourist attraction. It is one of Victoria’s most popular attractions and Ballarat’s most famous.

Set in the Australian 1850s, the complex is located on a 25-hectare site that is linked to the richest alluvial gold rush in the world. The site comprises over 60 historically recreated buildings, with costumed staff and volunteers, who are able to answer questions and will pose for photos. The recreation is completed with antiques, artwork, books and papers, machinery, livestock and animals, carriages, and devices all appropriate to the era.

Last October, I finished a two weeks long shoot, on green screen for the new Sovereign Hill open air museum show. That experience was something completely different from the usual shoots. We filmed the reconstruction of the Gold mine rush, with most of the main characters involved back then. The really nice part was the costume and make up departments brought a massive wardrobe on set with clothes dating from back then, their attention to detail was astounding!! Nothing was out of place and it had to be historically accurate too, the research work these guys have done was so amazing!! The make up work of Lou McLaren was absolutely breathtaking. In the second week, there was a talent on set ready to be miced up, I went to him and introduced myself as the sound guy, he looked at me with a big smile on his face saying: ‘We’ve met last week!! I was a different character!!’ I looked at him confused, I simply didn’t recognized him at all!! I burst out laughing and apologized for not recognizing him!

I also had for once, more time and opportunities to try out and experiment on different mic placements, on a wide variety of clothing. Some were extremely difficult to deal with, as hair and hat were not an option!! My favorite spot is the hat!! Placed right in front of the forehead, great spot. I tried that technique from a good friend of mine, Ray Beentjes, who showed me, when I was in Wellington, NZ, how he placed the mic in Gandalf’s hat for The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit shoot. If I remember well, he took the same placement when he was recording the ADR’s with Sir Ian McKellen. You avoid any form of clothes rustling and body movements, my trusty Sanken COS 11 D did a fantastic job at picking up crystal clear dialog with plenty of low end frequencies!! I was surprised at how close it was sounding to my Sennheiser MKH8060 shotgun mic when we were shooting close ups!! Really impressed!!

My second favorite spot is hidden and pinned in the hair, as close as possible to the middle line of the cranium and as close as possible to the forehead, I still managed to pick up really clear speech and the resonance of the cranium provided me with convenient low end frequencies too, it was great!! One thing to be careful of though is, make sure the wire is well hidden in the hair, hopefully the subject has long hair or a scarf covering the back of the neck and the wire!! For some scenes, it was very very tricky!! The actress didn’t have a scarf and her collar was not very high at the back of her neck, I got away with hiding the wire under a skin tone, clinical masking tape and had to ask the make up department for help in disguising my masking tape to match the skin colour, it worked a treat!! Except for one scene, I attempted the same trick but the clinical masking tape was slowly coming off, I turned around and asked David Franjic, the DOP, if it would be noticeable as it was a wide and far shot, but his sharp eagle eye spotted it, he told me ‘Sorry mate! I can see it!’ I had to quickly go and change the position of the mic and hide it in the collar between two takes, while the entire crew and the Director stares at you doing your thing!! No pressure!!! Especially when you think about how big it will look when projected on big buildings, for the next 15 years or so!!!

We spent the first week shooting in a fairly small space at Dragon Studios in Collingwood, Melbourne, the good part is, it was acoustically friendly and treated, that made my work a lot easier, no particular issues that week except one actor had a scene where he had to move around quite a bit, standing up, putting props down, picking them up again several times and in the middle of a take, the mic body pack dropped from the back of his pants!! My jaw dropped even lower, my heart stopped for a few seconds and I rushed on set, apologizing profusely to Justin, the Director who said ‘That was a great take!!’… Quickly fixed it back, this time with gaffer tape!!!

Due to the confidentiality of the project, Sovereign Hill has requested not to post or reveal anything about the shoot or the characters, here are a few pics that have been approved by Sovereign Hill.

Click thumbnails to start the pictures gallery.

Photos Credits: Teagan Glenane (

We spent the second week in another green screen studio that was much bigger, in Hit Makers, South Melbourne… That space was far more challenging for sound for several reasons… The reverb time in the room was fairly long, even though there were some curtains covering the high walls and some absorbing acoustic panels on the ceiling, the space was necessary as we needed to shoot wide angle scenes with very large props… The closest spot for my boom mic was about 1 to 1.5 meter from the talent’s mouth, not ideal at all!! That week went very well too with no major issues.

We finished the last day of shoot in Ballarat at the Wendouree Centre Performing Arts to record some scenes of an indigenous family speaking in their dialect. After wrapping up, we were invited to a sumptuous dinner and drinks  by Luke Keys, our producer and managing director of Mass Motion. This guy surely knows how to finish a shoot in splendor!! Thank you Luke!

I will most likely post a blog about the post production  and Dialog editing process for this project but at a later stage… Bear with me…

Coming up next, Disney’s Alice Pleasance…