American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 20

Pro Perspective
Geoffrey Haley:
The Sonic Mnemonic
Geoffrey Haley has been a Steadicam
and camera operator in features and television for the last 20 years. His credits include
the series Six Feet Under and Dexter (AC
March '09), and the features Fast Five, Star
Trek Beyond (AC Aug. '16) and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. He has been
thrice nominated for the Society of Camera
Operators' Operator of the Year Award, for
The Fighter (AC Jan. '11), American Hustle
(AC Jan. '14) and Steve Jobs (AC Nov. '15).
Before launching his career as an
operator, Haley's life centered mainly on
playing music. He studied psychophysiology
at Stanford, where he focused on how the
brain filters external stimuli and organizes its
memory functions. Specifically, he studied
mnemonic devices and ways to make them
more effective. As a musician, he began to
experiment with using tonal memory as a
substitute for the more typical verbal
mnemonic device.
"I knew that tonal memory is fairly
ubiquitous in our culture as well as most
others around the world," he says. "It's easy
for people to remember songs and tunes.
Jingles get stuck in your brain like earworms.
So I figured that tonal memory might be a
quick way to memorize a visual or verbal
pattern that might otherwise be more difficult."
Once out of school, Haley got
involved in filmmaking and became a
20

July 2017

camera operator. When it came to memorizing complex choreography - such as fight
sequences or complex actor-blocking in long
Steadicam shots - he realized that his previous experiments might come in handy.
"I call it a 'sonic mnemonic,'" he
offers. "I use tones as codes for spatial positions so that I can easily learn complicated
actor blocking or camera movement and
commit it to memory very quickly. In a fight
sequence, I'll assign a tone to each area of
the body, and I'll hum the tone as the actors
or stunt performers are rehearsing. That
hummed sequence, I find, is very easy to
remember; when we are ready to shoot, I
just hum the sequence in my head as the
action begins, and I can easily remember
where the hits will be and what areas of the
body I have to cover.
"I tend to use the same tones for the
same areas over and over," Haley continues.
"I also tend to use thirds or fifths - the basic
elements of chord progression. That's a very
common chord construction in Western
music, which is based on a 12-note scale. It
may seem complicated, but it's very organic.
You know those people who say that they're
terrible with names but they're great with
faces? That's all about how the brain
processes the two functions of recall versus
recognition. Additionally, almost everyone
can hum and remember hundreds of tunes,
but recalling the lyrics is a far more difficult
task. Why is note progression of the music so
much more easily remembered? Because,
tonally, the entire world library of Western
music can be broken down into a series of
American Cinematographer

just 12 different notes - and that's a lot
easier to keep straight in your head than
having to remember an often-random series
of the 30,000 words that the average American adult has floating around in their
memory."
Haley notes that sometimes the
patterns of tones work themselves into
already familiar melodies. "When I last saw
Paul Walker, just before his death, we were
shooting a fight sequence on Furious 7. As I
was learning - and humming - the final
bit of fight choreography between him and
actor Tony Jaa, I quickly realized that what I
was humming was actually identical to John
Williams' main theme to the movie Superman, an irony that was not lost on me a few
days later when I learned of Paul's tragic
passing."
The operator adds that sometimes
the memorized progression of notes can be
very similar, but not completely identical, to a
popular song or familiar jingle. On such
occasions, to avoid slipping into the familiar
song rather than the technically accurate
sonic-mnemonic sequence, he changes the
rhythm or interval spacing between notes,
so the resulting melody doesn't sound
anything like the similar-sounding jingle.
"I've never really told anyone about
my use of sonic mnemonics to help me
when I'm operating on set, probably for fear
of seeming like a hopeless nerd," Haley
confesses. "But hey, the genie is finally out of
the bottle. So ... nerds of the world unite -
one note at a time!"
- JH
➣

Top-right photo by François Duhamel, courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Left: Camera operator Geoffrey Haley. Above: Haley and director
Danny Boyle plan a Steadicam move for Steve Jobs.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - July 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 7
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 8
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 9
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 10
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 11
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 12
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 13
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 14
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 15
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 16
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 17
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 18
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 19
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 20
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 21
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 22
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 23
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 24
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 25
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 26
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 27
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 28
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 29
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 30
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 31
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 32
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 33
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 34
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 35
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 36
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 37
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 38
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 39
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 40
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 41
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 41A
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 41B
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 42
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 43
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 44
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 45
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 46
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 47
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 48
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 49
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 50
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 51
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 52
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 53
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 54
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 55
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 56
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 57
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 58
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 59
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 60
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 61
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 62
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 63
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 64
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 65
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 66
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 67
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 68
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 69
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 70
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 71
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 72
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 73
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 74
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 75
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 76
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 77
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 78
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 79
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 80
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 81
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 82
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 83
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 84
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 85
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 86
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 87
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - 88
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - July 2017 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1119
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1019
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0919
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0819
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0719
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0619
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0519
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0419
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0319
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0219_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0219
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0119_v2
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0119
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1218
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1118
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1018
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0918
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0818
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0718
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0618
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0518
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0418
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0318
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0218
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0118
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1217
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1117
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1017
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0917
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0817
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0717
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0617
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0517
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0417
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0317
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0217
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0117
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1216
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1116
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1016
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0916
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0816
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0716
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0616
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0516
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0416
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0316
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0216
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0116
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1215
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1115
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac1015
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0915
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0815
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0715
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0615
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0515
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0415
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0315
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0215
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ac/ac0115
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com