A picture maybe worth a 1,000 words, but a picture with the right sound is worth a lot more. Every audience appreciates great sound in a film that enhances the realism of the film. However, it is not always that sound is given the the prominence it deserves and in many cases there isn’t enough expertise of people skilled in the art of sound recording to go round.
Every production needs a sound mixer who knows the kind of microphones to use and how to maintain good audio levels to give the cleanest audio tracks. In this regard, it should be of great importance to hire the right talent to work on the sound production and ensure that the best possible sound is captured.
What do you need to ensure that you leave the set with best sound possible?
Using a good quality soundboard, the sound mixer’s job is to control and adjust loudness level, monitor interference and clarity of sound. The sound mixer is responsible for picking and elimination sounds that shouldn’t be heard such as distracting background noise, wind, creaking doors, footsteps etc.
In addition, the sound mixer is responsible for:
- Slating each take and keeping a written log that the editor can follow in post production.
- Ensuring that usable dialogue is recorded at the proper tone
- Recording required voice over and any lines that need to be repeated for clarity after a shot
In most cases, you can plug the sound recording equipment into the camcorder and record pristine high quality sound that is enjoined into the visual footage. However,productions with bigger budgets prefer to record the sound separately as modern sound recording devices capture excellent quality sond and also are a good backup.
A while back, most sound recorders came with DAT tapes but these have quickly replaced by modern devices that record into the inbuilt memory with capacity to store up to 120 hours of sound. As a plus, it is very easy and fast to transfer the sound files from the devices to the computer using a USB/Firewire port.
This is the most important item of your recording equipment and should be carefully chosen. All microphones are not the same and should be carefully picked depending on the situation and desired effect. Microphones may vary in capability and weaknesses, however a good measure for a microphone is its consistency.
Types of Microphones and their Use
The are 2 types of the shotgun microphone.
This short gun mic has a narrow directional angle and with a closer reach. Therefore, this should used to capture sound in close and medium shots to capture dialogues with the microphone placed very close to the actors but out of the shot. The mic will capture only the sound in its direction and is a great option to cancelling other unwanted sounds.
Illustration of the Short shotgun field
This microphone has a long , narrow field directly in front of the camera but extends further than the short gun. This is best used in a wide shot where the microphone cannot get too close without having the camera in the shot. It is highly directional and is insensitive to sound from the sides.
Illustration of the Long shotgun field
The Omni microphone attempts to replicate the human ear by hearing everything at once at the same level of loudness. This microphone is best used for events , crowds and ambient sound. Most inbuilt camcorder mics are omnidirectional and thus are a poor choice to capture dialogue or localised sound.
Illustration of the Omni-Directional Mic field
This microphone is commonly used in documentaries/ TV for sit-down interviews and films where dialogue is required in a long shot. The microphone is worn unobtrusively on the lapel, collar, tie or pockets. Care has to be taken to ensure that handling or clothes rustling noise when the speaker moves does not ruin the sound recording.
Get the right Ambiance
What’s a seaside shot without the sound of the waves?
To create a believable picture, appropriate background sounds that match the environment must be present. Unique individual sounds help make the entire picture believable key to creating dynamic sound. However, all the background sounds must be relevant. Therefore, sounds such as bustling traffic, opening doors, footsteps, machine noise(air-conditioner, refrigerator) must be accepted only if they are relevant to the setting.
It is common practice to record the ambient sound while shooting on location. Whenever that is inadequate , the ambient sound can be added during editing where it is layered under the dialogue to create a realistic sounding scene..
In closing, it must be emphasized that sound plays a very big role in how the audience receives a film. Using the right equipment and having the right people for the job will ensure that the right sounds are captured and the audience’s expectations are met.