View Full Version : Sound help


cobak04
10-01-2009, 12:05 PM
I am not sure if this is the appropriate place but the classifieds devide by region and this is a question for all places. I'm an independent film maker and help out a lot of other film makers I know whenever I can. Recently though I've had trouble finding good info on sound design for low budget films. I know some basics but there's got to be tons of practical tricks out there to get good sound on a low budget. I'm a believer that sound is one of the most important parts of a film and am amazed that there's not more info on cheap sound design. I'd love to talk with some independent sound designers about production recordering and post(editing and foley). Independent people would be great because you're used to working with little to no budget. If I get enough good info I plan on putting together a book and website to help out others with low budget sound design. Send me an email or pass my email on to someone you know who does sound to cobak04 at gmail dotcom.

Uranium City
10-01-2009, 12:24 PM
Welcome. You've come to the right place, but if you're a believer that sound is one of the most important parts of a film and am amazed that there's not more info on cheap sound design you may only have half of it correct.

If you up your membership to a premier, you'll have access to some really cool forums where you can post questions to our knowledgeable gurus.

Alcove Audio
10-01-2009, 02:55 PM
The first problem is you have to define "low budget." Compared to "Hollywood" $500k is a low budget; over $1,000,000 (that's right one million dollars) was spent on audio post by the distributor of the the infamous micro-budget "Blair Witch Project" in order to make the sound palatable to the general movie-going audience.

A second problem is that certain tools are required to do acceptable audio post, and even a "minimalist" facility like mine is expensive to put together. Unlike NLEs, DAWs run their programs in real time (meaning all of the effects and processing are not rendered but happen as they are heard), requiring a powerful computer w/lots of RAM. Then there are expensive plug-ins, nice pre-amps and mics to name just a few of the needed items. It also requires sonically isolated, sound treated rooms (control room, studio room) with accurate speakers.

The third problem is that there are no "tricks", it's question of knowledge and experience. Yes, you can acquire the knowledge, but book learning and internet research aren't enough. Putting that knowledge into practice takes, well, practice. I've been doing audio post for over eight years now and I am still learning something new every day. Foley especially is a true art-form.

The fourth problem is that most fledgeling filmmakers completely ignore sound until they get into audio post, when they suddenly want to know if there is a plug-in, or, if they have the budget, someone like me that can magically save the sound of their project. Quality sound begins in preproduction and the recognition in the script that the characters live in a world of sound as well as sight. The next step is capturing quality production sound, which is much more than owning a budget shotgun mic and handing the boom it is on to whichever PA isn't busy. Specific mics apply to specific situations, swinging a boom requires a great deal of technique, and then there's noise control, audio/video sync issues, etc. I have been on sets where the director would spend three hours setting up a shot, yet would not give the sound crew even three minutes to get the sound set up properly or capture room tones, dialog wilds or sound FX wilds. This is a case of shooting themselves in the foot (actually, higher up and to the center line), and ends up costing them a lot more money in audio post. Every dollar you spend on production sound saves ten in audio post, and every minute you spend on the set saves an hour in audio post.

Now, I'm not saying that quality sound cannot be achieved on a budget; that is, in fact, my specialty, as a large percentage of my work is on indie film. But it requires a great deal of discipline and an awareness of limitations.

cobak04
10-02-2009, 07:39 PM
You make a good argument my appologies for not defining it further. I definitely understand and appreciate the value of doing things properly and spending the $ and time where it should be. Sounds as though there are three choices then: let small indie movies have horrible sound and be unwatchable, never make any indie movies at all, or share some experience and ideas for what CAN be done so that movies as a whole can get better.

Ok sure, it takes practice and experience, BUT a website or book CAN provide exercises and things for someone to TRY and help em learn. Im looking for practical information that will get a director or young aspiring recording artist a good start. I cant afford college or a budget over $1000 so there is not much info out there for me without college. The point of this info is to train directors early on to work with sound and show how important it is. So again I completely agree but there is a point before they get to expensive gear and hiring a sound guy that needs to be addressed. Otherwise you will end up with more stupid directors who dont understand why the audio was so bad and blame you not themself. Why dont you shoot me an email and we can talk further.

Alcove Audio
10-02-2009, 11:57 PM
Sounds as though there are three choices then: let small indie movies have horrible sound and be unwatchable, never make any indie movies at all, or share some experience and ideas for what CAN be done so that movies as a whole can get better.

As I stated at the end of my post, "I'm not saying that quality sound cannot be achieved on a budget... But it requires a great deal of discipline and an awareness of limitations."

It has been my experience that 99% of beginning filmmakers don't have the discipline or even the desire to do anything about sound. Bravo for you if you do!

There have been numerous discussions here at IndieTalk and on other filmmaker forums about budget sound gear and how to use it. You can start with my blogs. Another wonderful resource is FilmSound.org. Don't ignore the history articles and the ones written by Randy Thom and Walter Murch, they are just as, if not more, important than the technical and how-to articles. There are also some excellent articles on the Equipment Emporium site. Then there are forums for production sound and audio post professionals such as the Google production sound forum, JWSound.net, and the Sound Article List and Sound Design forums on Yahoo!. Lurk there for a while and go through their archives. There's also quite a bit of stuff on YouTube.

Then there are excellent books:

Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music Voice and Sound Effects In Cinema - David Sonnenschein
(Focuses more on the artistic side)

The Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound - David Yewdall
(A little dated but excellent, leaning more towards the technical side)

The Foley Grail - Vanessa Ament
(A great read and the DVD is very interesting. Vanessa is a regular contributor to the Sound Article List and Sound Design forums on Yahoo!)

The Sound Effects Bible - Ric Viers
(Ric is a another contributor to the Yahoo! forums. You can also check out his web site.)


There are many more out there, but these are a good place to start. BTW, when I started out in audio post I found most of this via Google. As for your budget, $1,000 is about right for budget production sound equipment; you can probably save a few bucks buying used gear. There's no sense in buying junk which will frustrate you more than help you.

cobak04
10-03-2009, 04:31 PM
thanks! i will be delving through these all day today.