Producing Great Sound for Digital Video – Jay Rose

So I decided this year to learn how to do sound, well. It seems on every no-budget set the last crew member we think about is the soundie, and oftentimes it will end up being an actor whose not in the scene, or a crew member’s girlfriend who happened to drop by, and then we pay for it in post with a ton of ADR and a soundtrack as outstanding as your average infomercial. So I nominated myself as the person who will learn how to do it well, and picked up a copy of this book.

There’s a lot of technical stuff that made my brain feel like it was melting, but there’s also a lot of ideas that can quickly and easily improve your soundtrack.

  • Have someone on set whose responsibility is to concentrate on audio on the shoot. If they aren’t trained then give them this book and half a day with the sound equipment they’ll be using and let them practice.
  • Try to avoid shooting dialogue over noisy actions – having the character stop talking when they slam down the phone.
  • Record a minute of room tone in each location, you’ll need it in post, and it lets the crew take a minute to relax, too.
  • Try to grab the sounds you need on set rather than depending on sound libraries, (this one is especially for my students).
  • Record vocal and sound effects on different tracks, you’ll need this in post, too.
  • Practice using a boom mic by taping a flashlight onto the end where your shotgun mic will go, and aiming the light at the mouth of the actor. That’s where’ you’ll hold it to get the best recording from a boom/shotgun mic.
  • Get the boom mic as close to the actors mouth as possible. Start with the mic in the shot and raise it til it can’t be seen.
  • Even if you aren’t planning to use the sound from a take, at least record it using the camera-mic. You might pick up something you can use, you might need it as a guide track, and it doesn’t cost anything.
  • If you can’t record good dialogue for a scene remember long shots are easier to loop than close-ups, quick phrases/cuts are easier than long takes/phrases.
  • Sound may need a reference – if you can hear a neon sign bzzap in the background, show the sign in an establishing shot.
  • If you’re turning off the refrigerator put your car keys on it so you remember to turn it back on when you leave.
This is a great book (though I’d kinda like one that only has the technical stuff I really need to know…) and you’ll get a ton more info than the hints I’ve listed above. And you’ll get some great ideas for foley, like slamming a head of cabbage against a table for a really gory fall…

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