Production Tuesdays: How to Record Awesome Location Sound

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Merely days ago we (or I should say I, being that I was the one operating the equipment) had quite a sound check scare in the editing suite. After filming a series of Horror 101s, we were viewing the footage, when suddenly we realized the audio was incredibly over-modulated. I shrunk into the couch as the quality seemed to from bad to worse, and the fear of having to do a reshoot became a real possibility.

Well, thanks to our editor’s expertise and hours of devotion (sorry again for that, Nathan…), he was able to build a mask of filters that leveled audios back to normal, and it now sounds flawless. That being said, audio can be one of the most fickle elements to plague any production team, so to prevent similar problems from befalling your “feature”, here are a few “sound” sound tips to help your film projects and avoid hours of unnecessary work and personal embarrassment.

The More Takes the Better: Even if your audio is tested and monitored it doesn’t mean that the microphones may not pick up something odd, such as a car passing by or an airplane overhead. This allows for a diverse range of choices in sound and leaves plenty of room for possible audio errors in an otherwise perfect take. Even somewhat trivial things such as an air conditioner kicking on may ruin your scene, therefore multiple shots may cover your production butt on those small things you didn’t quite notice.

30 Seconds to Success: If you are establishing a location you will actually want to shoot at least 30 seconds of the ambient sounds on set. This will be for use later as you construct your environment on the editing board, but will also allow you to toggle with the sound to adjust it to your surroundings, rather than simply jump in to shoot dialogue. This will also captures a much more realistic array of sound for your production.

Don’t Always Count on the Camera: While some cameras do have incredibly powerful microphones, never solely settle for the mic onboard. By utilizing a boom or a shot-gun mic you can be more definitive on what you hear. Lavalier microphones are even better in some situations as they solely capture actor’s voices rather than ambient noise; both are important to overall production.

Make Sure the Microphone Operators are Competent”: Well I feel sheepish… But this is certainly an incredibly important and serious point of information. Audio can be a complicated process, and requires the utmost professional sleight of hand to handle. But professionalism looks different for each individual operator. Make sure the boom operator remains still with a firm grip on the microphone. Make sure exterior standing mics are set at proper levels. Double check the sound quality through headsets, and get a second opinion as affirmation/support.

We hope these tips can help you to avoid my rookie mistakes, and if not, make sure to visit us at http://cnsinc.tv/ so we can help you get your audio working perfect! Oh, and don’t forget to check out our other blogs so you can see our own amazing audio techniques and corrections at work!

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"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." Edward de Bono