Category Archives: Production

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…

Digital filmmaking 101 – Dale Newton and John Gaspard

I didn’t think I’d like this book. I bought it months ago, put it on my shelf and promptly forgot what it was about. I picked it up again based on the title as I kinda thought it was about the nuts and bolts of what you teach film students, and since I’m tutoring a video production paper again I thought I’d flick through it for ideas.

It’s not that kind of book. At all. It’s better.

What it IS is a really great guide to producing low budget movies. These guys have been there and done it, right and wrong, and they still love the process. And they love to share their knowledge and experience.

They discuss scripts including ideas for how to write low budget films. They show you how it’s possible to make a feature for around $8k (US$), what that includes, where to spend more money if you have it, and where to pinch pennies. They even tell you exactly what gear you’re going to need. They make suggestions for how to raise funds, breakdown your script, cast and crew up, and how to make it through production. They even have a section for special effects on a low budget, with lots of anecdotes about their own indie effects.

I was surprised that they went into great detail (and books usually lose me at this point) and it was still interesting, readable, and on every page I found hints and ideas that I will utilise on my next ultra-low budget film. And though they are very realistic in their expectations for their movies, their excitement is infectious.

Now excuse me, I have to go work on my application for Escalator!

Good luck with yours 🙂

A collaborative film production platform

I’m kinda loving Wreckamovie at the moment. The basic premise is filmmakers can crowdsource elements of their production. Music. Artwork. Crew. Ideas. Whatever. It’s kind of fun to see what other people are doing, and actually find that there are people you can quite easily help. I’ve passed on a few pieces of original music, and also recommended some composers who aren’t in the habit of pushing their product but who will benefit from having their music as part of a movie soundtrack.

Initially the name a is a little off-putting but Wreckamovie was created by the filmmakers from Finland who made the feature Star Wreck. They then decided to create a free platform that would allow other filmmakers to easily crowdsource their own movies. They also like to claim they are “wrecking the traditional model of filmmaking”. Okay, sounds like a good afterthought. 🙂

One thing to note is that if you submit a file (“shot”) it seems you are thereby giving permission for the project to use the materials or ideas royalty-free, so might be good to make it clear if you have terms you’d like to have them agree to first.

Wreckamovie sounds to me like both a great tool to get your film made, and to help other indie filmmakers!!