I chose to skip film school and get straight to making documentaries of my own. But that doesn’t mean I’m skipping filmmaking education. I’m opting to learn by reading, by doing, and by watching great instructional materials like Sound for Film and Television. This 2.5-hour film by location sound professionals Barry Green, David Jimerson and Matt Gettemeier can be summed up in 2 words: audio bootcamp.
Whether you know nothing about recording location sound for your films or are working on your second documentary, as I am, you will learn something from this DVD. What’s more, you’ll enjoy learning it, as Jimmerson and crew put a lot of effort into making the sections entertaining as well as informative. There are just two hugely important techniques that will solve 80 percent of your location audio problems, and you’ll learn them in the first few minutes of the DVD. Then you’ll have them repeatedly drilled into your head through the rest of the film, so that by the time you reach the end, you know exactly what it takes to get great audio on your next film.
- Avoiding common mistakes
- How to choose the right mic for interior vs. exterior shooting
- How to use a boom pole
- Sound kit basics
- Choosing great locations
Key takeaways for me:
- When recording dialogue, a good recording level is -20db to -12db; never higher than -6db.
- Octava MK-012 mic is an excellent, inexpensive mic for interior booming.
- A hypercardiod is the best type of mic for interior booming.
- Countryman B-6 is a good tiny lav that’s easy to hide.
- Avoid clipping at all costs – it destroys the audio usability. Better to keep levels too low than too high (same is true of video highlights)
- In typical video situations, you can split the signal so you’re recording two levels simultaneously, one lower than the main. If a spike happens, you can substitute the other channel in post
- Hardwood floors, parallel walls, tile floors, open glass windows – all are warning signs that bad audio may result.
- Odd angled walls, carpeted floors, soft furniture, window treatments such as drapes – all good signs that place is good audio environment.
- Listen to the sound of a room through over-ear earphones before recording. You’ll pick up tiny details like refrigerator hum, and can correct it before beginning to record.
- Always record 30 seconds of room tone without any other sound, for use in post.
My only critique of the film is that it’s all about narrative film, and some of the techniques describe overlook the fact that as documentary filmmakers, we can’t always control the set. But ultimately the techniques are the same, and there is a good deal of time spent in this film on how to get the best sound from lav mics, which is what I use all the time (they recommend not using them for narrative work, which I agree with – but they’ll save your ass on docs).
If you’re considering making a documentary and don’t have experience recording audio beyond what your camcorder can do, this film is required and enjoyable viewing.