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location-sound Outdoor Audio Recording

Hello fellow filmmakers!

Our film club is in the process of learning and growing and working our way towards our first production. I have experience in filmmaking and working in the industry, however where I fall flat is audio recording, especially outdoors. I have been watching some tutorials, and have tried some techniques to no avail. We are filming outside with a Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun mic, recording to a Tascam DR-40. We are picking up everything, and not even a glimmer of hope of taking it out in post. We have the mic pointed directly towards the actor, and using a dead cat on a boom pole, no more than 3 feet away from the talent. I have switched low cut audio on, and have the recorder set to cancel out anything below 40. Not sure what else to try.

Thank you,

Peter
 
Solution
We are picking up everything, and not even a glimmer of hope of taking it out in post. We have the mic pointed directly towards the actor, and using a dead cat on a boom pole, no more than 3 feet away from the talent. I have switched low cut audio on, and have the recorder set to cancel out anything below 40. Not sure what else to try.
Hi, Peter.

A couple of things:

”Pointed directly towards the actor” doesn’t necessarily mean much. If the mic is aimed horizontally, directly in front of the actor and aimed straight, it is also pointing at anything and everything happening behind the actor. The mic should be overhead, slightly in front of the actor, and aimed down. Ideally, aim at the sternum to get a good balance of direct...

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
even a pro under those circumstances is gonna stop recording when a helicopter or some shit flies over.
It's never going to sound like the talent was in a soundproof studio if you're recording outside.

Like if youre near the woods with crickets chirping constantly.. then you're gonna have crickets chriping in your audio
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
then you're gonna have crickets chriping in your audio
Definitely true. But a good post-production audio person can reduce the sound.

True story: I picked the post-production audio guy for my movie Detours because I went with my line producer to see a really bad movie that she had worked on (she said upfront it was lousy) because a mutual friend was hosting an after-party. The movie really was bad, but I noticed that someone had done an amazing job of muting cricket noise in the repeated outdoor scenes - I knew from a short I'd made how hard that it is to do. I found out who did it, and hired him :evil:
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Definitely true. But a good post-production audio person can reduce the sound.

True story: I picked the post-production audio guy for my movie Detours because I went with my line producer to see a really bad movie that she had worked on (she said upfront it was lousy) because a mutual friend was hosting an after-party. The movie really was bad, but I noticed that someone had done an amazing job of muting cricket noise in the repeated outdoor scenes - I knew from a short I'd made how hard that it is to do. I found out who did it, and hired him :evil:
Yeah I dealt with crickets by adding MORE of them lol, I glued all the seams together with extra cricket noises and it all flowed very naturally.

Reducing them is a whole other beast! Good ear and nice producing.
 
I figured this was the case, I was just hoping there was a, "hey get this other microphone" haha, I found the mke 600 to be a good middle of the road mic. We were filming by a park, and it was just practice. Hopefully our next location would be more "controlled" @mlesemann could you share your secret contact? haha I can take out basic noise in post, but this was like, on the same levels as our actors...
 
We are picking up everything, and not even a glimmer of hope of taking it out in post. We have the mic pointed directly towards the actor, and using a dead cat on a boom pole, no more than 3 feet away from the talent. I have switched low cut audio on, and have the recorder set to cancel out anything below 40. Not sure what else to try.
Hi, Peter.

A couple of things:

”Pointed directly towards the actor” doesn’t necessarily mean much. If the mic is aimed horizontally, directly in front of the actor and aimed straight, it is also pointing at anything and everything happening behind the actor. The mic should be overhead, slightly in front of the actor, and aimed down. Ideally, aim at the sternum to get a good balance of direct voice and chest resonance. Pointing down aims the mic at the torso and the ground, using the side rejection of the shotgun mic to help avoid whatever is happening off in the background.

The deadcat does nothing except mitigate wind. It will not affect how much ambient noise you pick up,

Low-cut filters only keep low frequencies at bay. It’s good for trying to filter out the rumble of a distant highway or air conditioning unit. It can also help with handling noise from the boom pole. It will not otherwise affect how much ambient noise you pick up.

Proximity and placement are key. However, you need to take account of your location. Is there a lot of activity in the background? There’s only so much you can do, and professional film productions taking place on location and outdoors will do everything they can to control the activity surrounding production. Roads will be blocked. Pedestrians will be held back. Further, locations that don’t need to look like a city (read: suburban, or rural) will be chosen to have minimal traffic and people in the area. You can’t shoot a scene in the middle of Times Square and expect not to record all the crap that’s happening on Times Square… unless you’ve paid big $$$ for NYPD to help keep traffic and people locked down.

As for what you’ve already shot, well, “fix it in post” goes only so far. It does go farther now than it used to as there are programs that can perform near-magic on noise removal, but there’s still a risk of losing some of the sound you want in removing the sound you don’t. Also, “fix it in post” costs extra. “Get it right in production” does not. Keep practicing, and be advised that there are a LOT of crap YouTube “tutorials” out there.
 
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Solution
@AcousticAl Thank you so much for this, I'm going to implement the top tactic you mentioned for sure, as well as trying to work on our location. We haven't filmed yet, it was just practice. We are trying to work out all the kinks now.
 
Booming is an art form as much as a science, and it is not a passive process. You need to be actively holding and moving the boom to keep the mic in place and to follow the action. The only time to have a boom locked down on a stand is when the talent is standing still.
 

Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
“fix it in post” costs extra. “Get it right in production” does not.

PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!!! It will save you A LOT of time/money if you get the production sound right. If you have solid production sound the dialog edit becomes an artistic endeavor rather than rescue mission.

Sound is HALF of the experience.
 
I know this is a month old now but one thing from my end is to manage your expectations when recording outside. It's not going to sound like it would in an indoor studio, and it shouldn't. You're going to get natural sounds and when you edit in post you're going to be thankful you did.

I've said this a few times around here but noise isn't the enemy. We're surrounded by it all the time. You'll need to learn how to mitigate it, like by doing proper location scout with audio in mind (shameless self plug) but a film with no natural tone is a stale one, and one of the many reasons I love indie films so much.

I think part of the problem is you're not used to how things sound in a boom mic or how that will translate in post when you edit it. I suggest taking time in between projects to get your tascam and boom to different spots around your town and play around with how different locations sound. What a mic hears is very different from what we hear and the magic really doesn't happen when you get those recordings in post to someone who knows what to do with 'em.
 
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