How to get a professional sound for a project for newcomers.

pedramyz

Member
This thread is for those who are new to sound tech and intend to make a project ( short films, feature films,..) with flawless sound.

For starters I'll ask certain rookie questions.

I have previously directed some short films, but none of them were serious enough for me to get specific sound equipments( I just used the mic on the cameras). Now that I have decided to work on a more or less more serious project ( Entering important film festivals) the sound has become a sensitive issue. The more I get into the technical know hows of good sound recording, the more complicated it gets. Below are some examples of these rookie questions:
1. What are my options if I want to make my movie sound professional if I don't have that much budget?
2. Should I hire a professional sound recorder if I want to get the best result? If I couldn't afford one what should I do?
3. We often notice different layers of sound in scenes. footsteps, wind, environment, dialogues,.. all together co-exit in a scene. How is that done? Do you only record the dialogue at first then you add other layers of sound to the scene in the editing or mixing process? Or do you simultaneously record several sounds of the environment with bunch of different mics?
4. types of specific mics for specific purposes?
Anyone who intends to answer these questions, please note this thread is for new comers. So please go easy on the technical vocabs and techniques please.:D
 
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indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
2. Should I hire a professional sound recorder if I want to get the best result? If I couldn't afford one what should I do?
Yes. Especially if this is a serious project. You can't be worried about the sound as director even if you know what you're doing. You have to direct. So you will be needing someone to do the sound. Whether that is a friend, student, or pro.
 
1. What are my options if I want to make my movie sound professional if I don't have that much budget?
Get your dialog recording right in production. That’s the focus of production sound, and if it’s done right and done well, you can do anything else in post.

I’d say audio post is actually the more intricate part of making a movie sound like a movie. That’s where the full soundscape - the audio version of the visual world you’re making - comes to life. It starts with clean dialog, but then it’s all about layers. Many, many layers.

Most of what you hear in a professional motion picture didn’t happen on set. Foley, the art of performing sound effects while watching picture playback, is used to create the sounds of human movement as well as detailed sounds of other objects moving in the picture.

SFX, or sound effects, are either recorded “wild” (outside of a studio, not synced to any picutre playback) or pulled from prerecorded libraries. And sounds that you hear are often a) not the sound of the actual object you see and b) usually layers/composites of several different sounds.

Ambient sound beds lay the framework for any scene. For example, a scene in a city diner will have a constant bed that’s made up of “walla” (generic voices murmuring in the background) and muffled city/traffic sounds bleeding in from outside. These are all added in post, NOT captured with the dialog. The occasional clank of silverware on plates and bowls may also be added in the background (again, in post and NOT recorded on set).

A scene of two people walking down a rural dirt road will have a constant sound bed under it comprised of a light breeze rustiling in the trees, birds chirping in the background, etc. Again, all added in post. And Foley will add the footsteps on the dirt road.

These foundational elements make the visual world believable, because we interpolate what we see in part based on what we hear.

And getting all of these elements - dialog, Foley, SFX, ambient beds, music - to work together comes from getting the mix right, and that’s another specialized skillset and a reason to have an experienced sound designer/editor/mixer on your post-production team.

2. Should I hire a professional sound recorder if I want to get the best result? If I couldn't afford one what should I do?
Abolutely. Having a dedicated and knowledgable recordist (also known as PSM - Production Sound Mixer) who has the right gear will always give you the best results in production sound. And finding a professional sound designer and audio post mixer will give you the best results for everything else in the sound world.

But if you just don’t have the money to hire a professional... do you actually not have the money? Sure, your budget may not allow for a full day rate for a PSM, but if this is a short film and you’re doing it out of the love of the art, you might be able to find a sound pro who has some free time and is looking for a fun project on the side. That person may work for a discounted rate, or for beer, or just for the fun of it.

The other option is to put together a team of beginners like yourself that includes someone who wants to focus on sound. A very basic kit (which I outlined for you in another thread) can go a long way. Just one microphone used well can get you clean dialog in most situations, but you have to have someone who is dedicated to swinging the boom, operating the recorder, AND actively monitoring through headphones.

3. We often notice different layers of sound in scenes. footsteps, wind, environment, dialogues,.. all together co-exit in a scene. How is that done? Do you only record the dialogue at first then you add other layers of sound to the scene in the editing or mixing process? Or do you simultaneously record several sounds of the environment with bunch of different mics?
Answered above. Dialog is the job for production sound. Everything else is replaced/recreated in post.

4. types of specific mics for specific purposes?
This is a very broad question, and probably a bit more than you want to chew on right now.

For production, there are three basic mics that can be useful: shotgun, hypercardioid condenser, and omnidirectional lavaliere (with a wireless system). There are other mics that show up on professional sets, but for the beginner, these are the basics.

The shotgun mic will take the lion’s share of work on the end of a boom pole. Where the shotgun may not be the right choice is in a really reverberant/reflective environment, like a dining room with all hard surfaces, or a bathroom, or any other place where hard surfaces bounce the sound all over the place. That’s where the hypercardioid takes its place at the end of a boom pole. Without getting into the math of it, the same physics that give a shotgun mic its focused pickup pattern most of the time is also its weak spot in reflective rooms, and the hypercardioid will sound more natural in those spaces.

The lavaliere is a good backup if budget allows, and a wireless mic system can enjoy proper placement in places where the boom pole just can’t reach, such as really wide shots that leave too much headroom for the boomed mic to be of anyuse.

Back to the basic beginner’s kit, though, a good shotgun with boom pole and shockmount and wind protection, and a good recorder and good headphones, can get you where you need to be. Just be sure you have someone who is focused on that and that alone during production.

But hiring/recruiting someone dedicated to sound means that person has to worry about all this and, as Indietalk said, you can focus on directing. Just buying a decent starter kit does not guarantee good dialog in production, because that is something that takes practice.
 
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pedramyz

Member
A very basic kit (which I outlined for you in another thread) can go a long way. Just one microphone used well can get you clean dialog in most situations, but you have to have someone who is dedicated to swinging the boom, operating the recorder, AND actively monitoring through headphones.
The Zoom H1 isn’t going to get you anywhere close to where you want to be. This is NOT a recorder for getting clear dialog.

So, pedramyz, there are three things going on here. First, dialog is a MONO source and the H1 only has a stereo mic pair built in. And those mics pick up WAY too much of what’s going on. Second, the mic needs to be as close as it can be without being seen in the shot. The most basic way to do this is to have a mic on a boom pole.

Sure, you could try putting the H1 on the end of a boom pole... but then how are you going to keep control of it and (even with an extender run for connecting headphones) watch the meters and other display info? And the stereo mics just aren’t going to be helpful anyway. The absolute most basic kit is going to have a field recorder, a mic with a boompole and shockmount and wind protection, a cable to run down the boom pole from the mic to the recorder, and a good pair of headphones.

You want good dialog so you can submit to film festivals? You need to get it right in production. If you can, recruit an experienced sound person who has the right gear and who knows what to do with it. This may or may not cost money. If it’s a passion project and doesn’t have a lengthy time commitment, you may be able to find someone willing to throw you a bone for free or at a seriously reduced rate. You only have to ask, and the worst answer you can get is, “No.”

If you’re commited to purchasing a small kit for yourself, you still need to have someone on your team willing to learn and focus on sound and sound alone. The H1 could possibly work except that it only has 1/8” input for an external mic. That pretty much hems you into something like the RØDE VideoMic series and an extension cable. Not idea, and certainly not the best quality recording thanks to the pre-amps in the Zoom H1 and having to run the 1/8” extension (that means you’ll have some noise floor).

My recommendation for a bare-bones, low-budget kit would be something like the Tascam DR-60DmkII, the Audio Technica AT-875 shotgun, a boom pole/shockmount/windscreen kit for the mic, an XLR mic cable for microphone>recorder, and GOOD headphones like the Sony MDR-7506. There’s a decent, inexpensive custom bag for the DR-60DmkII from Strut that comes with a cheap (but useable) chest harness. Use the headphones during production. If you aren’t listening, you aren’t recording.

Good sound ain’t cheap. Crappy sound gets expensive to fix later.

The third thing going on here is stuff that you aren’t going to record on-set. Production sound is ALL about dialog. Period. The “vague and quiet music” is added in post. Things like footsteps, clothes rustling, objects being picked up, set down, dropped... anything caused by human movement... that’s also added in post. It’s usually Foley if you have the time and the know-how, but can be done using prerecorded sound effects. Whispers... if they’re part of dialog, you do the best you can to record them in production and if that doesn’t work you’ll ADR them in post.

This is for those who haven't read the mentioned thread.
 
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pedramyz

Member
And Foley will add the footsteps on the dirt road.
How do you sync the walking animation with the footsteps sounds? That seems like a really intricate job! Each actor/actress walks in a different pace. Sometimes you don't have a full control over your actors walking pace.
 
How do you sync the walking animation with the footsteps sounds? That seems like a really intricate job! Each actor/actress walks in a different pace. Sometimes you don't have a full control over your actors walking pace.
Again, this is Foley. It’s done in post-production, not on-set. A dedicated Foley artist actually watches the playback of the edited picture and performs the footsteps along with what’s seen on screen. So, whatever walking pace the individual actor had, that’s what the Foley artist recreates.

https://vimeo.com/174250897

And if you’re using pre-recorded footsteps from an SFX library, it just takes time to slip each individual footstep sound into place... one by one. Again, this is done in post, long after the footage is shot.
 
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pedramyz

Member
Again, this is Foley. It’s done in post-production, not on-set. A dedicated Foley artist actually watches the playback of the edited picture and performs the footsteps along with what’s seen on screen. So, whatever walking pace the individual actor had, that’s what the Foley artist recreates.

https://vimeo.com/174250897

And if you’re using pre-recorded footsteps from an SFX library, it just takes time to slip each individual footstep sound into place... one by one. Again, this is done in post, long after the footage is shot.
Wow! So much work! Amazing.
 
Anyone who intends to answer these questions, please note this thread is for new comers. So please go easy on the technical vocabs and techniques please.:D
I posted your last question first. Why? Because it's very difficult to discuss a something if you don't speak a common language. The "technical vocabulary" and associated techniques are one of the very first things you should learn. As with any other discipline - be it filmmaking, medicine, law, architecture, etc. - it can become quite complicated. As many on this forum know I was a working musician for 25+ years, switched over to music engineering/recording, and then sidestepped into audio post. Even with all of that experience behind me it was several months before I felt I had a solid grasp on the processes of audio post, and quite a bit longer before I felt I felt that I was truly competent.

This is not meant to discourage you. However, you do need to understand basic techniques and associated tech speak. At the very least you will understand what your sound team is doing and what they are conversing about, and you can intelligently exchange ideas with them.


1. What are my options if I want to make my movie sound professional if I don't have that much budget?
You learn all of the techniques and technical jargon (yes, a very daunting task) and spend A LOT of time - much, much more than a professional or even a talented up-and-comer - getting your sound right. As a one-man-band audio post facility it takes me between 2 (two) and 10 (ten) hours per linear minute to do the audio post on a project. You'll have to spend 2 (two) or 3 (three) times that as you are a complete neophyte. The positive side is that no one hears your mistakes; at least until you release your project.

4. types of specific mics for specific purposes?
This goes along with technical knowledge, so here we go with some tech talk. The three most common types of microphones are Dynamic, Condenser and Ribbon. There are two types of condenser mics; Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC) and Small Diaphragm Condenser (SDC). Small Diaphragm Condenser mics are most commonly used for production sound.

Now we get into Polar Patterns - Omni, Lobar, Cardioid (subcardioid, cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid) and Figure 8 (bi-directional).



Production sound uses SDC Lobar/shotgun & hypercardioid mics on boom poles, and omni & supercardioid lavs.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? And we haven't even gotten to mixers, recorders and time code, much less audio post. That's the problem, you can't know everything, and that's why you need audio assistance from someone.

For a start on production sound basics you should read "The Location Sound Bible" by Ric Viers.

2. Should I hire a professional sound recorder if I want to get the best result? If I couldn't afford one what should I do?
Of course you should hire a professional, or, at the very least, retain a talented up-and-comer. You are hiring knowledge, experience and equipment. If you don't want to expend the resources then you have to acquire the knowledge, experience and equipment yourself. The biggest problem is that, even if you spent months gaining knowledge and bought cheap prosumer gear, you will be directing and someone else will be running sound for you, so all of your efforts become moot.


3. We often notice different layers of sound in scenes. footsteps, wind, environment, dialogues,.. all together co-exit in a scene. How is that done? Do you only record the dialogue at first then you add other layers of sound to the scene in the editing or mixing process? Or do you simultaneously record several sounds of the environment with bunch of different mics?
Audio post is all about details and layers.

When beginning a project I put together my cue sheets for dialog, Foley and Sound Effects. The larger the project the more important this map/guideline becomes. On a feature project this can me take up to a week.

The first chore (at least for me) is to get the DX (dialog) tracks right. The DX edit is using dialog from the unused alternate takes, DX wilds and ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) to fine tune the dialog between the characters. You can fix mumbled/unintelligible words, excessive noise, and the like. You can even change the "tone" of the dialog. As an example, in the project "Last Exit" the female character in the opening scene came across as a bit too strident and abrasive, so by using dialog from alt takes I was able to make her more worried and vulnerable.

You can start with "Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art" by John Purcell.

The next job (in my personal process) is to give each scene a sonic base, the ambient sound. I have assembled a library of ambient canvases to use - empty street, busy street, office, forest, meadow, restaurant, bedroom, etc., etc., etc. These are my sonic canvases for each scene on which I can "paint" all of the aural details.

Now comes Foley, performing all of the human-made sounds - footsteps, punches, cloth, props handling and the like; details, details, details! This process becomes especially important if you are using DX wilds or ADR.

Your reading assignment - "The Foley Grail: The Art of Performing Sound for Film, Games, and Animation" by Vanessa Theme Ament.

Sound effects is the next job on the list, which for me is completing the ambient atmosphere and then adding everything from doors to vehicles to phones to weapons to… You get the idea. I personally (budget permitting) go into the field to record my own sound effects; I get the rest from libraries.

Reading - "The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects" by Ric Viers.

After that I drop in & edit the score and source music.

Then we mix.

And that's just the process. You'll also need the proper equipment (mics, preamps, DAW, Foley props, etc.) and, of course, the knowledge and techniques.

Once again, this is not meant to discourage you but is a forewarning of what you are letting yourself in for if you decide to handle all of this yourself.

Here's a few more books to read:

Audio Postproduction for Film and Video - Jay Rose
Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound - David Yewdall
Audio-Vision - Michel Chion
Sound Design - David Sonnenschein


So that's where you start.

As IndieTalk and AcousticAl have pointed out it is preferable to retain someone to handle the chores for you; filmmaking is a team sport, after all.

That's it for now.

Peace,

Uncle Bob
 

pedramyz

Member
I posted your last question first. Why? Because it's very difficult to discuss a something if you don't speak a common language. The "technical vocabulary" and associated techniques are one of the very first things you should learn. As with any other discipline - be it filmmaking, medicine, law, architecture, etc. - it can become quite complicated. As many on this forum know I was a working musician for 25+ years, switched over to music engineering/recording, and then sidestepped into audio post. Even with all of that experience behind me it was several months before I felt I had a solid grasp on the processes of audio post, and quite a bit longer before I felt I felt that I was truly competent.

This is not meant to discourage you. However, you do need to understand basic techniques and associated tech speak. At the very least you will understand what your sound team is doing and what they are conversing about, and you can intelligently exchange ideas with them.




You learn all of the techniques and technical jargon (yes, a very daunting task) and spend A LOT of time - much, much more than a professional or even a talented up-and-comer - getting your sound right. As a one-man-band audio post facility it takes me between 2 (two) and 10 (ten) hours per linear minute to do the audio post on a project. You'll have to spend 2 (two) or 3 (three) times that as you are a complete neophyte. The positive side is that no one hears your mistakes; at least until you release your project.



This goes along with technical knowledge, so here we go with some tech talk. The three most common types of microphones are Dynamic, Condenser and Ribbon. There are two types of condenser mics; Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC) and Small Diaphragm Condenser (SDC). Small Diaphragm Condenser mics are most commonly used for production sound.

Now we get into Polar Patterns - Omni, Lobar, Cardioid (subcardioid, cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid) and Figure 8 (bi-directional).



Production sound uses SDC Lobar/shotgun & hypercardioid mics on boom poles, and omni & supercardioid lavs.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? And we haven't even gotten to mixers, recorders and time code, much less audio post. That's the problem, you can't know everything, and that's why you need audio assistance from someone.

For a start on production sound basics you should read "The Location Sound Bible" by Ric Viers.



Of course you should hire a professional, or, at the very least, retain a talented up-and-comer. You are hiring knowledge, experience and equipment. If you don't want to expend the resources then you have to acquire the knowledge, experience and equipment yourself. The biggest problem is that, even if you spent months gaining knowledge and bought cheap prosumer gear, you will be directing and someone else will be running sound for you, so all of your efforts become moot.




Audio post is all about details and layers.

When beginning a project I put together my cue sheets for dialog, Foley and Sound Effects. The larger the project the more important this map/guideline becomes. On a feature project this can me take up to a week.

The first chore (at least for me) is to get the DX (dialog) tracks right. The DX edit is using dialog from the unused alternate takes, DX wilds and ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) to fine tune the dialog between the characters. You can fix mumbled/unintelligible words, excessive noise, and the like. You can even change the "tone" of the dialog. As an example, in the project "Last Exit" the female character in the opening scene came across as a bit too strident and abrasive, so by using dialog from alt takes I was able to make her more worried and vulnerable.

You can start with "Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art" by John Purcell.

The next job (in my personal process) is to give each scene a sonic base, the ambient sound. I have assembled a library of ambient canvases to use - empty street, busy street, office, forest, meadow, restaurant, bedroom, etc., etc., etc. These are my sonic canvases for each scene on which I can "paint" all of the aural details.

Now comes Foley, performing all of the human-made sounds - footsteps, punches, cloth, props handling and the like; details, details, details! This process becomes especially important if you are using DX wilds or ADR.

Your reading assignment - "The Foley Grail: The Art of Performing Sound for Film, Games, and Animation" by Vanessa Theme Ament.

Sound effects is the next job on the list, which for me is completing the ambient atmosphere and then adding everything from doors to vehicles to phones to weapons to… You get the idea. I personally (budget permitting) go into the field to record my own sound effects; I get the rest from libraries.

Reading - "The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects" by Ric Viers.

After that I drop in & edit the score and source music.

Then we mix.

And that's just the process. You'll also need the proper equipment (mics, preamps, DAW, Foley props, etc.) and, of course, the knowledge and techniques.

Once again, this is not meant to discourage you but is a forewarning of what you are letting yourself in for if you decide to handle all of this yourself.

Here's a few more books to read:

Audio Postproduction for Film and Video - Jay Rose
Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound - David Yewdall
Audio-Vision - Michel Chion
Sound Design - David Sonnenschein


So that's where you start.

As IndieTalk and AcousticAl have pointed out it is preferable to retain someone to handle the chores for you; filmmaking is a team sport, after all.

That's it for now.

Peace,

Uncle Bob
after reading this, I will definitely hire a professional, hands down! I promise I will:lol:.
But I'd like to learn many of this stuff. They are really interesting. and as you mentioned it smooths the correlation between the director and the recordist.

There is a catch however, Finding a professional recorder ( with international standards in Iran). You can watch the trailers of some Iranian movies in youtube to see my point. You can check one of the most famous ones, A separation by asghar farhadi. Here is the link :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Sswx_vrWk

watch the trailer. All the scenes have no more than 2,3 layers of sound. Dialogue, and ambient( This includes Foley, sound effects, ambient, everything!). Or even one layer! They record the dialogue and other sounds all simultaneously together. You hear how their voice echoes at the beginning of the trailer? ( When they are in a divorce office). Even if they used the same process as you mentioned, still the sound for this movie is not even close to the standards of Hollywood or international standards. and we'r talking about one of the most reputable filmmakers in Iran with relatively high budgets for his movies (compared to other Iranian movie budgets). Now what is causing this poor sound? low budget or lack of professional recorders in Iran? ( I assume both). If this guy who had access to a lot more professionals and had a lot more budget than I do, can't get the sound right, Can I still overcome this challenge and make a good sound if I follow your instructions?
 
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watch the trailer. All the scenes have no more than 2,3 layers of sound. Dialogue, and ambient( This includes Foley, sound effects, ambient, everything!). Or even one layer! They record the dialogue and other sounds all simultaneously together.
A movie trailer is not an accurate representation of the film as far as audio is concerned. Trailers are driven specifically by dialog, heavy music, and added sound effects that are not part of the actual film. I guarantee there’s more in there than you think you hear, and that the film itself has a sound design that is more complex.

Dialog itself has tonality dependent both on the physical environment and on the framing of the shot and distance of the actors from the viewer’s perspective. Sound standards do vary from country to country. There are film aesthetics typical of some nations where dialog is distorted, predominantly ADR, and often poorly done. Especially on hugely-popular, low-budget action films. But by and large, clean and clear dialog is not unique to Hollywood

But what the trailer shows isn’t actually bad at all. Some scenes are in some pretty reverberant rooms, but the mic is still in close. Ask around and see who in your community is available who has the gear and the experience. Ask to see their previous work, but remember that the finished film is rarely accurate to the original production sound because SO much happens with audio post-production. If you have working, professional PSMs/recordists in your area, I think you’ll find yourself in a good starting place.

Besides, part of your job as a director is to communicate your needs to the other departments on your crew. As Bob said, this is a team sport. You have to be able to give a clear explanation to your sound crew just as you do to your set designers, wardrobe, lighting... that’s a big part of what being a director is.
 

pedramyz

Member
A movie trailer is not an accurate representation of the film as far as audio is concerned. Trailers are driven specifically by dialog, heavy music, and added sound effects that are not part of the actual film. I guarantee there’s more in there than you think you hear, and that the film itself has a sound design that is more complex.

Dialog itself has tonality dependent both on the physical environment and on the framing of the shot and distance of the actors from the viewer’s perspective. Sound standards do vary from country to country. There are film aesthetics typical of some nations where dialog is distorted, predominantly ADR, and often poorly done. Especially on hugely-popular, low-budget action films. But by and large, clean and clear dialog is not unique to Hollywood

But what the trailer shows isn’t actually bad at all. Some scenes are in some pretty reverberant rooms, but the mic is still in close.
I didn't say it's bad, I said it's not close to Hollywood or international standards. Besides, I watched the movie in theater, not much of a difference between the trailer and the actual movie, with the exception of the music. The dialogues constantly echo in interiors, Most scenes are either raw with no foley or if they do have foley the sounds are really unnatural. ( You saw the scene where the guy headbuts the other?) You hear the sound for that action?! That's exactly the same sound happening in the movie.
I know this movie won academy awards, and everybody likes to praise this movie in every aspect possible, but if we are not biased here, the sound for this movie doesn't feel the same way as american movies do( Not neat enough somehow). why?
 
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Berlin International Film Festival .....that's not bad pedramyz. I think its not the same because of a lower budget. Why not look for a new recorder in Europe?
 
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pedramyz

Member
Berlin International Film Festival .....that's not bad pedramyz. I think its not the same because of a lower budget. Why not look for a new recorder in Europe?
Well there is the matter of budget as I said. Asking a Europian recorder to travel all the way to Iran( providing if Iranian government give them visa), and stay here for at least a week is gonna cost a lot of money. Besides I don't think any professional recorder is willing to spend all these resources to help an unknown filmmaker in Iran. That's a big ask from Europian recorders.
 

CamDoz

Member
This thread is for those who are new to sound tech and intend to make a project ( short films, feature films,..) with flawless sound.

For starters I'll ask certain rookie questions.

I have previously directed some short films, but none of them were serious enough for me to get specific sound equipments( I just used the mic on the cameras). Now that I have decided to work on a more or less more serious project ( Entering important film festivals) the sound has become a sensitive issue. The more I get into the technical know hows of good sound recording, the more complicated it gets. Below are some examples of these rookie questions:
1. What are my options if I want to make my movie sound professional if I don't have that much budget?
2. Should I hire a professional sound recorder if I want to get the best result? If I couldn't afford one what should I do?
3. We often notice different layers of sound in scenes. footsteps, wind, environment, dialogues,.. all together co-exit in a scene. How is that done? Do you only record the dialogue at first then you add other layers of sound to the scene in the editing or mixing process? Or do you simultaneously record several sounds of the environment with bunch of different mics?
4. types of specific mics for specific purposes?
Anyone who intends to answer these questions, please note this thread is for new comers. So please go easy on the technical vocabs and techniques please.:D
With my sound recording, in the last several years, I've been hands off, and I love that. The intricacies of sound record and design are tough...it is a very technical craft.

If you can find a sound person that is non-union, but recommended from another sound person, then maybe you could convince him your project is worth working on for less money. I got some great sound from my guy that last two films I did for $325 a day. But even that is a lot of money for a smaller production.

I think if you are doing a lot of little films, and need good sound, you should invest in:
-A cardioid condensor microphone
-A Boom pole
-A Digital recorder

For budget stuff, I've heard great things about this mic, performs as well as a $1200 mic:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/644381-REG/Audio_Technica_AT4051B_AT4051b_Cardioid_Condenser_Microphone.html

For a recorder, get this:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1084690-REG/tascam_dr_60mkii_portable_recorder_for_dslr.html

And get a decent boom pole in your price range that can hold that mic well with some shock resistance.

Big thing: Record .WAV files, and record 48khz and 16bit or 24 bit audio on to the recorder, and sync it in post. Use a clapboard on set to sync the audio, or if you don't have one, clap your hands in front of the lens. A sound file of that size and format, if recorded correctly, will be very clean. It will sound a lot cleaner in the file than it does when you are monitoring the sound, thats just the price point of that recorder. Make sure your recording levels are bouncing around -12db or so...don't let it get much higher than that...if you record something with levels too high and it clips (when the recorder can't distinguish different sounds because it's too loud) it will distort and then you can NEVER fix it.

Turn off the air conditioner, any fans, any computers. Unplug the fridge. Get it nice and quiet in there. GET ROOM TONE!!!!! With the room in the same condition as when you recorded, get everyone in the room to be silent, and record the sound of the room for 20 seconds. Same for exteriors. Then, when you are editing, you can blend everything together nicely.

For example, if you have some dialogue from one character, and you turn around and record the dialogue for the other character, the direction your pointing the mic could result in SLIGHT differences in tone between the two sound clips. What do you do? Put room tone that you recorded, from that particular room or exterior, underneath the whole conversation, and it will make the sound seamless. Sometimes you can just have the room tone in between the different dialogue instead of underneath, if the sound is clean enough, so that it acts as a transition.

Having dialogue that switches tone in a small way between characters or shots, is the #! most common problem with indie films. And it will absolutely distract the shit out of your audience. Blend it all together. Sometimes some shots that seem to edit together in a clunky way, will all of the sudden make a seamless sequence when you make the sound seamless underneath it.

Now, for sound design, all of those elements you mentioned, they are either recorded separately or bought. Then, they are just layered with the other sounds in the movie. So, dialogue should hover between -18 and -12. If someone is screaming or something, they can go up to -6 at most. Don't let stuff get louder than that unless you really want to blow the audience's ears out. ***These are levels for MIXING in post, for recording, like I said, keep it around -12db level.

Music should change level depending on how important it is in the moment. If no one is talking and the music is driving the film in that moment, it can get as loud as -12 or so. If there are people talking or other important things happening, the music can hover as low as -30, or maybe it is light music and can be like -25 or -20.

Other sounds in the movie, like the wind, the birds, cars in the background, if they truly are background noises that should blend in, have them hover at -30 or so. If its a louder city and you want those cars to be noisy, bump it up to -25 or -20 or so.

Something I did when I was designing sound on my 2nd short film, and I'M NOT ADVOCATING DOWNLOADING THINGS ILLEGALLY. But if there is a way to get a feature film in a format that you can import into your editor, do it, and watch the audio levels, you will see how they did it. I did that with a big hollywood film, and the levels were approximately what I mentioned above. I also asked a professional, and he said the same thing about the levels.

Honestly, a good sound person is SO WONDERFUL. He will maintain certain things for you and ask you questions. Something like this for example: When you have someone walk away from the person they are talking to, but the camera stays in the same place.....should his voice sound the same as he walks away? Should the boom pole and mic follow him? No, probably not, it should sound as if he is across the room, so the mic should be across the room somewhat, but it should still be clear....how do I get that balance, AH! The sound guy will do that.

Also, most sound people hide a lav microphone on the subject, under their clothing or something, just as a back up in case the boom doesn't get what you want.

But if you can't hire a sound guy:

-Get equipment comparable to the stuff I listed above
-Record things cleanly at the right levels, so the max level hovers around -12 and doesn't go above -6 (you will adjust the levels later in sound design)
-Think about where the mic should be when you record people. If its a normal convo and you want them to be perfectly clear, get the mic a foot or two away from each person. If someone is far away from the main character and talking, maybe it should sound that way, but it should still be the right level and crystal clear, and SUBTLE.
-Record or purchase the sound effects you need to do your sound design. Sometimes you might want to be a whole "soundscape," like a recording of a busy office that lasts 10 minutes, or recordings of an outdoor environment. The footsteps: you can buy those. Make it subtle though, make things blend, don't draw too much attention to certain sounds.
-Get on a sound forum where all the experts are! They will help, sound guys are really great about offering technical assistance, they love it.

Also, this is a great course, invest in it:
https://school.learnlightandsound.com/p/production-sound-for-film-and-video

Don't let the sound process get you flustered or confused, just get clean recordings that don't clip, get different sounds recorded separately on separate tracks, and edit them together later. The more clean audio you get separately, the more you will be able to edit it and perfect it later in post production.

If you record something, and you love the shot, but the audio is just not right, like there is a loud noise in the background, or a crew member make a noise: just do a re-take man. Some bad audio will ruin EVERYTHING.

Good luck!
 
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pedramyz

Member
Wow! Never thought to see this thread popped again. Such a thorough and comprehensible guide! Beautifully detailed.
Thanks man!
 
I have a really different take from everyone else here. As a working pro, I like used gear and think good 'enough' quality audio for short films in non-professional environments can be achieved cheaply and easily.

Specifically, I would do this:

- Buy a used mic. I bought an ECM 674 for $70 used. Because no-one has ever heard of this mic, they are ignored, really cheap used and the built-in high pass filter helps hugely with decent-enough sound (for what you want) even though you don't know what it is.
- Get a used recorder. Now, mine died on me when I went pro because they take a pounding in a professional environment but for shorts where they don't get much use, they're fine. Get a Tascam Dr-100 Mk2 or in a pinch, a 60D Mk2. Maybe a Fostex FR2-le as they're excellent but ancient and they will eventually die on you (mine did) and again, $150 USD.
- Get a cheap boompole and shockmount. $100. There are loads of Rodes out there.
- Buy a blimp and deadcat if you're recording sound outside. Buy used and do not cut corners. $300 USD for this.
- Get some headphones. If you don't have any, borrow some from a friend.

So total is $620 USD if you're filming outside and $320 USD if you're filming inside. So write stuff where there is absolutely minimal dialogue outside and you'll save yourself $$$$.

Next bit: Practice with the kit. Practice, practice, practice. Hold the mic as close to the subject's mouth as possible.

This is the minimum budget for OK sound for low-budget shorts. I am a generalist so my kit is around $3,000 USD for recording a single person talking on an interview which most sound pros would think is pretty cheap. But then again, I have a small, production house so have to think both sound and camera and put money where it's needed.
 

IronFilm

Member
Big thing: Record .WAV files, and record 48khz and 16bit or 24 bit audio on to the recorder, and sync it in post. Use a clapboard on set to sync the audio, or if you don't have one, clap your hands in front of the lens.
For goodness sake don't ever record in 16bit!

And even though I started out on the Tascam DR60Dmk1 myself, that was a different era. With the Zoom F4 going for so dirt cheap on sale, and with timecode boxes so silly cheap and small as well, then I highly recommend going that both instead with a Zoom F4 recorder and Tentacles
 

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