Location Sound Basics
This overview summarizes the most important points about on "location sound recording" or "field recording", split into pre-production, production and postproduction.
- How do I design the soundtrack of a short video, which on the one hand shows a "real" application situation, on the other hand clarifies a concept?
- Which audiovisual styles do I orientate myself on (feature film / documentary / reality TV / advertising...)?
- How can I use sound to support the narrative?
- How can I use the sound to have more possibilities on the visual side (and vice versa)?
Also read: Randy Thom, Designing a Movie for Sound http://filmsound.org/articles/designing_for_sound.htm
Some functions of audiovisual narration:
- Creating credibility and realism through sound
- Rhythmization / vectorization of the image
- Diegese: Is a sound part of the depicted world?
- Narrative perspective, camera perspective, sound perspective
- Sound semiotics: sounds and music as signs (e.g. ticking = time), "potentials of meaning".
- Sound semantics: material / movement / space, setting, scenography / symbols / keysounds ...
2.1. Audiovisual storyboarding, spotting
- Storyboarding (audiovisual)
- Spotting sounds: determine sounds for individual settings according to script / storyboard
2.2. Planning the recordings
- Location: Access, Soundscape
- Foley: Suitable room (quiet, "dry"...)
- Effects / Sound Design Raw Material
- Set Dialog
- Voice Overs / Dialogue Replacement
2.3 Microphone: technology and application
Rule Nr. 1: What you hear is NOT what you get!
Microphone is not a camera lens
Microphone types (dynamic, condenser, ...)
Professional connectors: XLR. Advantages: Grounding, shielding, stability. If available, always prefer!
Polar patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid, shotgun, pressure zone mic.
Stereovariants: A-B, Eight, XY
Mono (dialog, effects..)
Stereo (Atmos, certain dialog settings with static / perspective miking)
Sound change through distance & alignment.
Phantom power 48v with condenser microphones: via circuit or batteries.
Choosing a microphone for dialogues
(priority: sound quality, naturalness, effort, reliability):
- Hypercardioid or shotgun with boom, over head
- Hypercardioid or shotgun with boom, under head
- Cardioid, hypercardioid, boundary zone or shotgun combined (depending on ambient noise and proximity)
- Lavalier in a set (wired)
- Lavalier on the protagonist (wired)
- Wireless lavalier
Combine multiple microphones to be able to correct mistakes in post-production.
In addition to the recording microphone, it is worth recording a more distant microphone or a room microphone (stereoatmo).
Lavaliers are the first choice for certain settings (e.g. conversation recording, discrete environment).
Preserve the natural power of a performance
Useful for SFX recording ("ride along", or remote sources)
Needs an "operator".
Use Shockmount (damped microphone mount / "spider")
Mic selection: Narrower polar pattern = more sensitive for motion tracking
Boom orientation: ideal from the top front towards the mouth. At most two close persons can be recorded in this way
Lavaliers (von Louise de La Vallière)
Beneficial when recording conversations. Disadvantage: sometimes they have to be hidden, and they don't sound as good as a good boom mic. If a lav is mounted incorrectly, clothing noises can completely destroy the recording. The closer the less "natural" spatial sound characteristic -> can be counteracted by simultaneous recording with room microphone.
Polar pattern usually omni, alignment not so important.
Consider head movements: The more freedom needed, the further away from the mouth. Sometimes two lavs are mounted
Ensure cable relief (e.g. by attaching the cable to the clothes)!
Adhesive tape / gaffer tape helps to mount the lav so that it does not rub against clothes (Attention: glue residues!).
Lavs as static mic also makes sense, but only if source is close enough.
3. Production: on Location
Rule Nr. 2: Trash In, Trash Out (and 2b: You Can't Fix it in Post)
- One minute of silence! Atmotrack, room-tone
- Always monitoring with headphones! Whenever possible, a separate person should monitor the recording!
- Do not use "in camera" mic! (unless it is intentional aesthetics, or a sync guide track is needed)
- Video standard: WAV, 48Khz / 24 Bit -> minimum quality
- Single or double system: Normally the camera-internal recorder is sufficient if the microphone is used correctly. If an additionally external recorder is used ("double system") -> SLATE & shotlist & logging.
- An external recorder can also beused as a backup track or for the ambient mix, or if several sound tracks are necessary.
- Sound check before the recording!
- Adjust level: Only if absolutely necessary, never during a sound event
- Only use automatic gain regulation / limiting in an emergency
Room & Ambient Sounds
- Carefully listen for reflections and noises. Optimise mic position accordingly
- In closed rooms rather cardioids, outdoors rather shotguns, with additional Atmo Track
- Always record "a bit too much" material (-> "handles", flexibility in cutting)