FOUR TIPS TO GETTING GREAT SOUND FOR YOUR FILM
Everyone always focuses on which camera to buy and shoot their film with. People obsess over it. Don’t fall into this trap because image isn’t everything. In fact, it’s nothing without clean sound.
I’ve made several mistakes over the years, some repeatedly. I’ve also made some great decisions that I now like to refer to as happy accidents. Call it what you will, here’s 4 tips on getting great audio for your film.
#1 - USE PROPER EQUIPMENT
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sound equipment is used for recording sound. DO NOT RECORD INTO YOUR CAMERA. The camera isn’t meant to get good audio, it’s not designed for that. It’s a visual device so make sure you use each device for its intended purpose, nothing more.
When we shot Daydreams of a Night Clerk, we recorded audio directly into the Canon 5D Mark 2. On top of that, the gain was turned up as high as we could get it. These two mistakes would result in a film littered with audio that contains a HISSSSSSSSSSSSSS throughout. Attempting to remove this in post would result into the robotic sounds coming from my actors. I will never forget this lesson.
This was a simple and stupid mistake that essentially ruins the audio of the entire film and it was completely avoidable. Save yourself and save your film by recording with proper equipment. For my upcoming film, “What About Molly?”, I’m using the Sound Devices MixPre-3 and the Rode NTG3 microphone.
#2 - ALWAYS GET THE CLOSEUP
There will be days on set where you’re rushing. Sometimes you’re trying to save time so you can get in everything scheduled for the day and sometimes you’re trying to rush before the sun sets on your beautiful shot. Whatever the case might be, do yourself a favor by slowing down and always getting the closeup.
I’ve shot scenes in a two or three shot before and simply moved on. Mistake. Coverage is your best friend and so is the closeup. ALWAYS get the closeup. The closeup of an actor will give you good, crisp and clean dialogue. It will also save your ass in post production. You never know when you may need or want to cut away to an actors reaction. By having the closeups, you have this option.
You can also take the burden of continuity away with closeups. Did your actor eat with the fork in his/her left hand and then switch to his/her right hand for 4 different angles? Worry not! Cut in to the closeup of your other actor so it’s a non issue. Like I said, always get the closeup.
#3 - ALWAYS RECORD AFTER SHOOTING
This is one I fell into one day on set. When filming “Lost In Time”, we have a scene where the character of John walks through this old creaky opera house. We captured this in a wide shot, dollying with a wheelchair. Since there was no closeup, I needed a way to get clean audio. I made a split decision on set that worked like a charm.
I decided to record all the images first and then we would run all the scenes again, capturing just the audio. This was a risk and it really paid off. I’m not saying you should do this on every scene you shoot, in fact you should ALWAYS record audio when the camera is running. What I’m saying is, take the time to also record audio without the camera, after you shot the scene.
The benefits of recording this way is you can get really good dialogue. Also, if it’s a shot where an actor is walking or there’s a lot of background sound, you can capture all of that. Get those sound effects ON SET as it’s more natural and saves you time from having to do it in post production.
#4 - UNPLUG THE REFRIGERATOR
After recording my screenwriting seminar the other day, I sat down to edit. That’s when I heard it, the slight hum. What the fuck is that? Goddammit…The fucking fridge is plugged in…I have made this mistake so many times, I’m now adding it as a note to my shot list. Unplug the refrigerator.
Microphones used for film are extremely sensitive and pick up everything. Even on set, you may not hear something that you do when you get to post. Hence, the refrigerator issue. I had no idea but honestly I should’ve known. Let’s take a look at how many times I’ve made this mistake now.
Daydreams of a Night Clerk - Fridge is running in the gas station.
Lost In Time - Fridge is running at the coffee shop.
Screenwriting Seminar - Fridge is running in several takes.
UNPLUG THE REFRIGERATOR!
Take these tips and use them. Don’t make the same mistakes I have, learn from them. Get yourself some proper audio equipment, get some closeups, record a few takes once the camera is done rolling and for God sake, unplug the fucking refrigerator.
Share your additional tips in the comments! We’d love to hear them.