Videographers Audio Handbook

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The sound circuitry in separate recorders is normally better than the circuitry inside a non-pro video camera.

John Fielden

This does mean syncing up all the audio and video later which takes time, but it is often worth the effort. Full instructions on using a Field Mixer are beyond the scope of this guide but it is similar to using a mixing desk. Levels are constantly monitored using headphones and level meters, adjusting levels manually. Unless you have a proper budget you will probably not have a Field Mixer they are expensive.

The alternative setup is to have the mics plugged straight into the camera or into a portable recorder , bypassing the mixer. If you are recording straight onto the camera, changing levels during a shot is probably not possible. Your options are:. Auto is probably the best option when you begin as most modern camcorders handle this well, but for best results levels should be set manually. It should be noted here that if you are shooting with a DSLR rather than a traditional camcorder, it is not possible to set the levels independently.

The least desirable setup is to mount the microphone on the camera. The microphone will often end up further away than if the sound recordist were positioning it, and the sound quality will be degraded. In this setup it is also possible for camera noise to be picked up. If you use the mic that comes with the Sony PD mounted to the mic clamp on the camera you will probably pick up camera noise. The solution is to either use a better, more directional mic, or mount the microphone further from the camera.


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See Microphone Accessories below and choose a clip which positions the mic as far from the camera as possible. Lastly using internal camera mics is not desirable as they are generally low quality and often pick up camera noise. A couple of times in this section we talked about not letting sound levels get too high. When the audio gets loud it can peak off the top of the scale. If this happens the loud part of the audio will be lost; this is referred to as clipping. This is very important because if sound clips it is unusable. As you turn the audio down when in manual audio the audio will go less far up the level meter.

A good rule of thumb is to set the meters so the loudest noise you are likely to encounter goes almost to the top of the meter. The amount of headroom you leave depends on the situation. If you are in a controlled environment i. You will learn from experience but as a beginner leaving extra headroom having a slightly lower signal is a good idea to be on the safe side. Ultimately you should be aiming to set the levels at a reasonable height without clipping. Having a slightly lower level is always preferable than clipping. If you are recording 2 channels i.


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Record one channel normally as above and set the second channel slightly lower. Any peaks which push one channel into the red should be recorded cleanly on the quieter channel. So why not just set a very low signal? All audio recording equipment produces noise in its circuits. This is known as the noise floor, which is the level of background noise present on a quiet channel, introduced by the circuitry of the mixer and cables.

As you increase the level during recording this unwanted noise is NOT increased, only the sound you are recording is increased. A recording with a low signal can be amplified during the edit to a certain extent, without hearing the noise floor.

Start with the right settings

If the sound is too low boosting it in the edit will amplify the noise floor to the point that it becomes noticeable. Bear in mind you want the level of what you are recording to be well above the level of the noise floor, the higher the level you record the further above the noise floor your recording will be. It seems logical that the closer you get to the source of the sound the louder the sound i.

This is indeed true but is even more important than you may first think. As with lighting, the M2 rule applies for sound. Halving the distance between mic and the sound source quadruples the usability of the sound , and the inverse is true. As you move away from the source, the sound becomes exponentially less usable. By usability I mean less unwanted background noise. The closer you get to the sound source the less background noise you get relative to the sound you are recording.

A Conversation with Sound Engineer John Fielden

There are a number of things to consider when choosing a mic. The majority of this section talks about mono mics with a section on Stereo mics at the end. In video production the two most common are Super-Cardioid and Omni Directional. There is a discussion of other fields here. Memory Card. Prices vary, but Zoom do a range which include the budget Zoom H1 and the more professional Zoom H4n pictured right , the latter has balanced mic level XLR inputs.

Others to consider are the Edirol R pictured left and the Sony M The advantages of recording audio separately are:. A lot of the decent quality microphones require power. This will either be provided by batteries or Phantom Power. This only works with balanced microphone lines. The power supply is applied to both signal lines identically, somewhat like interference. Phantom power draws current from the camera batteries, but not enough to significantly affect the battery life. There is enough to go wrong in filmmaking without having to worry about microphone batteries dying at a crucial point, so phantom power is preferable if your camera can deliver it.

There are two reasons for using both.

Roll Sound! A Practical Guide for Location Audio by John Fielden - Read Online

A lavelier will get the clearest sound but if anything brushes against it or there is clothing that rustles the sound will not be usable. If you are using a radio mic you may also get radio interference. If there is any problem with this you could use the boom mic sound instead, which will not be quite as crisp but if done properly will be sufficient. But booming when using the lavelier is not just as a backup. Mixing a little boom audio with the lavelier will give a richer more realistic sound as you will also have a little room tone.

For an interview sound mix this is the icing on the cake. A Lavelier should be clipped to the front of the contributor a little left or right of centre pointing downwards. It is pointing down as things are less likely to brush against it. In drama it is necessary to hide the microphone either inside clothing, in a hat or behind a pen in a pocket etc. For documentary this is often not necessary but it does look better.

The main issue is that if anything, even a hair, touches the capsule of the microphone you will get loud unwanted noise. When putting the microphone under a layer of clothing e. Try it out and get the contributor to move around. If you are not also booming its better to play safe and mic outside clothing. Miking up contributors with a lavelier can be a tricky business so a good sound recordist with knowledge of the dark arts is a real bonus. You may want to use a Softie or blimp. Often the boom will be held above the head with the microphone just above contributor off shot.

You are trying to get the microphone as close as possible to the mouth and pointing at it. Coming in slightly to the front pointing the microphone down at 45 degrees works well see picture to right. An alternative is to use a Pistol Grip to hold the microphone below frame and pointing up See Holding Microphones. You will have to work with the camera operator to ensure the microphone is just off shot.

Move it in and get them to tell you when it is in shot. You should also arrange a hand signal for them to use if you dip in shot. If doing run-and-gun this requires real coordination.

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The boom op must be able to judge when the microphone is in shot and also not get tangled up in the leads, even when the camera op re-frames. A real challenge! If you do not have a sound recordist it is still possible to use a lavalier and shotgun by putting the shotgun on a microphone stand but this is not ideal as moving the mic on the stand is often difficult during a shot.

The best way to record a gig is to either to use multi-track recording or have a second mixing desk recording the mix to stereo but this is beyond the scope of this guide and probably your budget. The more do-able solution is to record a 2 channel desk mix and ambient sound. If you talk nicely to the sound engineer preferably beforehand they should be able to arrange to record the mix from the desk onto your portable recorder Solid State SD recorders are a good option. A decent line out signal from the desk will be necessary. The issue with desk mixes is that they are mixed for a room full of people so can come out a bit flat but they can sound good enough mixed with some ambient.

The best way to do this is do a stereo recording at the back of the room. As the mixing desk is often at the back of the room this may be a good place to position the mic s. This does mean you need 2 recorders and will get 2 recordings which you will need to synch up in edit. Mixing the desk mix and room recording will give you a richer more live sound. This is very much an emergency option.

Wildtrack is a general term for non-sync ambient sounds recorded without video. A recording of a person walking on a gravel path is a good example of sync i. You would normally record the audio at the same time as you video the person walking. The sound of the feet hitting the gravel would have to be in sync with the video of feet hitting the gravel.

General environmental sounds like birds singing, motorway noise or roomtone are examples of non-sync wildtrack; they do not have to be recorded in synch with the video. Roomtone is a special type of wildtrack. Generally when an interview is edited bits are removed. It also allows you to add extra pauses which help you get the pacing correct. Without roomtone the gaps will be very noticeable by the total silence, It also adds texture to the sound design.

If there was music edited in under the interviews, room tone may not be needed as music is another great way of hiding edits. However It is also still good to have the wildtrack recording so you still have the option of using roomtone when editing. Recording location wildtrack is a good idea and it can be recorded at a different place or time. If you interview someone in a rather dull office environment you could go and get audio wildtrack of a busy office and add it to the mix later.

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