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Tips for capturing good audio?

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  • Tips for capturing good audio?

    I just ordered an Audiotechnica AT897 shotgun microphone online to plug into my portable Tascam DR40 Linear PCM audio recorder for capturing dialog for a couple of shorts I'm working on this summer. I will be ordering another AT897 soon so that I have at least two, which can both be plugged into the DR40 discreetly. I will be shooting both indoors and out for these projects.

    I have a bit of experience with audio equipment from a conference audio/video (PSAV) job I did a few years ago, but beyond that I don't know much about technique for capturing audio on set.

    Does anyone have some good tips and tricks to get the most out of my limited equipment? Any good tutorials?

    I should also mention that I have a USB large diaphram Blue Snowball microphone and will have access to a laptop for recording with it. Perhaps for ambient sounds. Foley...

  • #2
    I am not an audio expert, but I do know of one simple tip. Before each shot that you film, clap your hands in front of the camera, and also where you hear the audio. This will make sinking the sound up in post a lot easier. Also, buy a windscreen if you don't have one already. I look forward to hearing more good audio tips! (Because I could probably use them :)
    -AF

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    • #3
      It sounds like you have ordered some good equipment. I also use the DR40 and a similar quality shotgun mic. They should serve you well.

      Here are a few tips:

      1. Make sure the microphone is as close to the sound source as possible and pointed at it. Use a boom pole. (yes I know this seems obvious but it might not be for someone)

      2. pay attention to what the audio sounds like when the mic is placed in different locations. It will sound different depending on mic placement. Usually dialogue is best recorded from above the actors' heads.

      3. Have someone who's job it is to monitor the sound with noise canceling headphones and also keeping an eye on the level meter on the DR40. This person should be notifying you of all undesirable audio or other problems.

      4. After the first take in each location, listen to the audio yourself to make sure it's what you want and there are no problems.

      As to Anonymous Filmmaker's suggestion, I would suggest actually getting yourself a clapper board. Presumably you're going to be slating your shots anyway, so just get a dry erase clapper board. They're not expensive.

      That's all I have for now.

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      • #4
        Oh, something else I thought of when reading Vance's tips: record a little bit of audio in each location, just to use as backup if necessary for re-recording, or anything else if necessary.
        -AF

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Anonymous Filmmaker View Post
          I am not an audio expert, but I do know of one simple tip. Before each shot that you film, clap your hands in front of the camera, and also where you hear the audio. This will make sinking the sound up in post a lot easier. Also, buy a windscreen if you don't have one already. I look forward to hearing more good audio tips! (Because I could probably use them :)
          Originally posted by Vance Baryn View Post
          It sounds like you have ordered some good equipment. I also use the DR40 and a similar quality shotgun mic. They should serve you well.

          Here are a few tips:

          1. Make sure the microphone is as close to the sound source as possible and pointed at it. Use a boom pole. (yes I know this seems obvious but it might not be for someone)

          2. pay attention to what the audio sounds like when the mic is placed in different locations. It will sound different depending on mic placement. Usually dialogue is best recorded from above the actors' heads.

          3. Have someone who's job it is to monitor the sound with noise canceling headphones and also keeping an eye on the level meter on the DR40. This person should be notifying you of all undesirable audio or other problems.

          4. After the first take in each location, listen to the audio yourself to make sure it's what you want and there are no problems.

          As to Anonymous Filmmaker's suggestion, I would suggest actually getting yourself a clapper board. Presumably you're going to be slating your shots anyway, so just get a dry erase clapper board. They're not expensive.

          That's all I have for now.
          Thanks Vance!

          I have noticed that the DR40 produces some it's own noise when I am using the internal microphones and I'm not sure if it will still do this when I plug in with the AT897. However, I did use it to record some piano the other day and then played around in Adobe Audition to remove the noise and it did a fairly decent job.

          I think I have a pretty good ear, so I will make sure to follow your advice and listen both before and after the shoot, but I am going to have to trust someone else to do the job while shooting. If I'm lucky, I'll find someone with some kind of audio experience and an ear for it, but in my position, I can't be picky and might have to train someone. (unfortunately and fortunately there is very very little for filmmaking outside of Vancouver and Ontario in Canada, and so there is little for 'out of the box' skill around here).

          Do you have any advice for post editing to get a really nice warm voice sound?

          AF, It's funny you mentioned clapping my hands. I was doing that for a bit when I was recording audio using my USB microphone, and my inexperienced help was giving me this strange look like "aren't you supposed to clap after the performance!?" So I explained it's purpose to them and they were really amazed. LOL But my first major equipment purchase was an acrylic clapperboard with the colored clapper sticks from myclapperboard.com... That was an exciting day for me; made me really feel like I was on my way to becoming a pro, so I made it my facebook profile picture. From the bit of test footage I've done with it, it is way better than clapping my hands; really easy to see when the sticks make contact on screen and it makes a nice sharp thin spike in the audio track that is super easy to sync.

          I am wondering what you mean by recording a bit of audio in each location. Do you mean when I'm scouting out my locations? Or just extra for like ambient sounds and foley?

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          • #6
            All good advice.

            If you have a little extra cash, buy 2 wireless mics, they were invaluable when we shot outdoors. While it's not perfect. Everything we shot with the wireless mics are useable where the over head mic is not for outdoor shots. They were easy to set up and use.

            If you haven't bought a boom pole spend the extra $20 and get the lightest one you can get. The person holding it will thank you. It's tough work holding that pole.

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            • #7
              I meant for ambient sound. If you later discover you couldn't use the audio in one of the shots, it will sound more natural if you do the voice over on top of that.
              -AF

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Anonymous Filmmaker View Post
                I meant for ambient sound. If you later discover you couldn't use the audio in one of the shots, it will sound more natural if you do the voice over on top of that.
                I've also found that room tones change just a bit, so by having room tone, there might be a take that's usable,but the BG sound is off just a little, so you use the room tone under it.

                Another thing I found useful when ADR wasn't possible is, adding room tone and outside noise under the dialogue. It's noisier, but, at least it's consistant.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by spacecadetmotionpictures View Post
                  But my first major equipment purchase was an acrylic clapperboard with the colored clapper sticks from myclapperboard.com... That was an exciting day for me; made me really feel like I was on my way to becoming a pro, so I made it my facebook profile picture. From the bit of test footage I've done with it, it is way better than clapping my hands; really easy to see when the sticks make contact on screen and it makes a nice sharp thin spike in the audio track that is super easy to sync.
                  Yeah the shoot I did this weekend we forgot the clapper board when we went to the first location so we were clapping our hands. It works in a pinch, but yes the clapper board is much easier to see and makes a nice clean sound.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Vance Baryn View Post
                    Yeah the shoot I did this weekend we forgot the clapper board when we went to the first location so we were clapping our hands. It works in a pinch, but yes the clapper board is much easier to see and makes a nice clean sound.
                    Clapper boards were valuable when shooting film. Becasue there is no sound on film. With MiniDV or most digital recorders there is sound (good or bad). So, clapper boards are at best a novelty nowadays. I say action and clap.

                    I personally use the sound from the video to sync the real sound. Most of the time I'll watch the video with the bad sound, edit that way,and then add the good sound once I have the sequence edited. It sounds like it would add work, but it doesn't. If you have ten takes and are only going to use 2 or 3 you're not syncing 10 clips just the necessary ones. Because you can edit bad sound dialogue to good sound dialogue it's all around easier.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by UniqueAmI View Post
                      clapper boards are at best a novelty nowadays.
                      I completely disagree with you.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Vance Baryn View Post
                        I completely disagree with you.
                        Okay. But, why?

                        What practical purpose do clappers have that mediocre organizational skills can't accomplish?

                        Clappers were necessary for syncing sound, noting takes, scenes, and sound takes.

                        Nowadays there's crap audio on most digital recorders that make syncing sound easier. If you open the crap sound in Final Cut (which I use), I can see my handclap without moving anything it's just there. I do the same to the real sound and I'm done. I don't have to watch and wait for the clapper board to come into frame and clap. Audio waves are much easier to notice and cut.

                        Since footage can almost immediately be downloaded to a HD, within minutes you can create folders for each scene and drop the appropriate takes within each folder.

                        I don't know how the computerized clapper boards work. I'm told they make syncing sound extremely easy. But, again I don't know. I just know they're expensive.

                        Clappers are cool and fun. But, after a while, just a burden.

                        The only thing a clapper could still be semi-useful for is if you note while on set the take you think will be the used take in editing. Even though I know the last take is usually the best take, I still look through everything to see if there's a nugget within another take.

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                        • #13
                          AF, good advice. Now that you've said it, it seems like such a duh thing to do, but I didn't even think to do it.

                          I have to agree with Vance about the clapperboard. I haven't had much experience using it in production yet, but from the test footage I've been doing, it is a godsend. It's so easy to scrub through the footage and spot each take, especially if I don't stop the camera to create a new file with each new take (which I didn't do because I was also in front of the camera for this).

                          I'm going to try and get some wireless Lavs at some point, but I'm pretty sure I won't have the budget to get them before I start shooting Walk with the Devil.

                          Unique, I am curious about one thing though. How do you do all of your cuts with the original attached audio and then cut the good audio into that? Right now in my tests, the first thing I do is sync the good audio and attach it to the video so that all the video/audio cuts stay together. It seems that cutting the good audio to match the video cuts afterwards would be a lot of work.

                          I was also reading up on ADR, and quite frankly it kinda scares me a bit. I definitely hope that my audio captured on set is good enough to avoid having to ADR.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by spacecadetmotionpictures View Post
                            AF, good advice. Now that you've said it, it seems like such a duh thing to do, but I didn't even think to do it.

                            I have to agree with Vance about the clapperboard. I haven't had much experience using it in production yet, but from the test footage I've been doing, it is a godsend. It's so easy to scrub through the footage and spot each take, especially if I don't stop the camera to create a new file with each new take (which I didn't do because I was also in front of the camera for this).

                            I'm going to try and get some wireless Lavs at some point, but I'm pretty sure I won't have the budget to get them before I start shooting Walk with the Devil.

                            Unique, I am curious about one thing though. How do you do all of your cuts with the original attached audio and then cut the good audio into that? Right now in my tests, the first thing I do is sync the good audio and attach it to the video so that all the video/audio cuts stay together. It seems that cutting the good audio to match the video cuts afterwards would be a lot of work.

                            I was also reading up on ADR, and quite frankly it kinda scares me a bit. I definitely hope that my audio captured on set is good enough to avoid having to ADR.
                            Let me just tell you about ADR, it's easy (if the person knows what they're doing) to record. But, a lot of actors suck at it. I've only had one person come in to do ADR that was a great actor and was able to do ADR with no problems. Everyone else was like pulling teeth. I'm a method actor and I'm not methoding,,, Yep.

                            The reason adding real audio is easier for me after I've edited the scene is because of the amount of takes I have for each scene. I can have 30 takes per scene (wide - med - close ups - special shots) so to put all the audio onto each take is time consuming. Many times you won't use the audio from that take anyway. But, if I use 8 takes, and edit the audio in after it's cut, it takes no time to cut and paste. Plus, it's just extremely easy in Final Cut to move a frame forward and hit a distinct audio wave that stands out like a sore thumb. Maybe it's just me, by looking at certain waves I know exactly what's being said.

                            You've made a use for your clapper board which is useful but not necessary. You could also stand in front of the camera and jump up and down for a moment to diferentiate between takes. There's a lot of ways to get around a clapper. I'm not saying it's not handy. But it's not indispensible anymore. It's something people use because it's a classic "moviemaking" tool. It's the one thing that if it magically disappeared from the set, you could go on shooting without losing a beat. In your case, you'd be more careful with stopping between takes. Of course when you slate without a clapper you have to mention the sound file being recorded... "Okay, Sound 42 and action" followed by a nice handclap.

                            I edit on the word Action. The A in action stands out better than the handclap.

                            Of course a lot has to do with how you're going to handle post production. I never bothered slating or saying the scene number or take. Every night after shooting every take was split up and went into their respective folders. I had 100 scenes for my last project, so I had 100 folders. I used the shooting script for the scene numbers.

                            Everyone works differently. So, my ways might make many peoples head spin. Find your easy way and have fun doing it.

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                            • #15
                              If you do a lot of audio syncing, I would look in to a product called Plural Eyes. It was bought recently by Red Giant and you can see it here. I've heard that it automatically syncs up sound pretty well, but I haven't tried it myself. I saw the film that they advertise in the promotional video, and the audio looked perfect!
                              -AF

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