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Old 11-29-2018, 03:31 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by pedramyz View Post
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.
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:

For a recorder, get this:

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:

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!

Last edited by CamDoz; 11-29-2018 at 03:39 PM. Reason: Forgot one technical thing
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Old 11-29-2018, 03:59 PM   #17
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Wow! Never thought to see this thread popped again. Such a thorough and comprehensible guide! Beautifully detailed.
Thanks man!
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:38 AM   #18
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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.
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Old 01-14-2019, 06:47 AM   #19
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Another beautiful guide! Thank you.
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