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Avoiding Sound Problems on your Next Shoot
Ignoring the sound recordist on your shoot can cost you dearly. It is very easy to avoid some of the problems that could haunt your project down the road, though.
Time is your enemy on a shoot, but make friends with the location sound mixer and you could save a lot of money.
Here are some simple steps you can take to help you get the most out of your shoot.
- Listen – It sounds so obvious, but this simple step is often overlooked. Take the time to record at least a minute of room tone or “fill” for each setup before you do your first take. Then listen back on headphones in another space. Your brain will trick you by allowing you to mentally filter out extraneous noise - a microphone will not. Once you take yourself out of the space and listen on headphones, your brain gets out of the way and you can hear what is really being recorded.
This method accomplishes several things.
1.) You verify that audio is actually being recorded;
2.) You make sure that there is no buzz in the mic cables or battery problems;
3.) You have your room tone/fill for every setup;
4.) You have the chance to correct any issues before you waste a great take.
- Notation – Make sure that the sound recordist clearly marks what is being recorded on each track of every take. A random stack of unnoted tapes or disc full of randomly named files will cost you dearly down the road. And in an era of file based recording, nomenclature is more important than ever. Have a discussion about what you expect. It may be a good idea to have a meeting with your recordist and editor before the first day of shooting.
- Silence – “Quiet on the set!” Really. Don’t be shy about getting what you need. And what you need is clean clear sound from the start. This means that when you are rolling nobody is moving, nobody is talking, and all cell phones are off – not on silent. If there is an air conditioner or other machine running that is creating noise, see if you can get it turned off for the duration of the shooting. Reducing broad-band noises after the fact compromises the quality of your sound.
- Reality – Do not expect to record whispering dialog at the airport unless you also expect to record ADR. Do not expect to record dialog in gymnasium without it sound echoey. Remember that you can always add reverb, but it is very difficult to take it away.
- Pickups – Do your wild pickups and alternate lines in the same space as the rest of the scene. Occasionally, we all need to record pickups or alternate lines for a scene. If they are recorded in the same space as the original takes, they will be much more convincing when used in the edit…same mics, same space, same everything. Just because they are alternates does not mean that they are not important. Insist on silence for these takes as well.
Have Fun...and remember your sound recordist's name. If they're good, you'll want to use them again. If not, you won't make the same mistake twice.
Learn more about the author, Tony Friedman.
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