Listen while You Shoot

By Greg Pak
When working as a cinematographer on documentaries, I wear headphones whenever possible to monitor the sound that’s being recorded. The technique allows me to hear interesting things which can improve my shooting.
For example, on a recent project, one subject was equipped with a wireless mike. Even though he wasn’t on screen all the time, I could hear his voice through my headphones. From time to time, I’d hear him start an interesting conversation. I’d turn and catch him on tape from across the room — something which would never have happened if I wasn’t monitoring the sound.
It’s worth noting that this is a much easier thing to do when shooting video — if the sound is recorded directly into the camera, you can simply plug your headphones into the camera’s onboard jack. If you’re shooting on film, the sound is recorded separately, which makes the wiring a little more awkward, since you’ll have to run your headphones to the sound person’s recorder…
In general, I’d recommend wearing headphones if possible, but give ’em up if awkward wiring hurts your shooting or the sound person’s recording.