We have all seen those YouTube clips of a nice video image but with distorted sound. Sound plays such an important role when it comes to setting the mood and telling a story that special attention should be paid to getting it just right. It’s not rocket science but it does require you to investigate the settings of your equipment, know it’s capabilities and limitations, and take the necessary steps to be prepared for different conditions when filming. I have worked as sound recordist and engineer on many short films so I will share some of what I have learnt along the way.
Safety comes first
I know, not directly sound related, but when you are recording sound using headphones you can often lose track of your immediate surroundings. Always scout the location you are working or will be moving through. Check for ground level change, traffic, and and obstacles. I you fall over this will not produce a good recording!
To hear or not to hear!
It is always a good idea to record with headphones. Before you start recording you need to adjust the record level on your device. This should be high so that all dialogue is audible and that any low-level detail gets captured. A word of warning, do not set the level too high, distortion on your audio recording is no repairable and destroying a great performance is not desirable or professional. If possible do a run through of what is to be recorded, watching your level meters and listening. If in doubt, set it a bit lower than what you need.
Conditions and Weather
It might seem obvious but you should always check the weather forecast ahead of time. Depending on the equipment you are using you may have to take precautions, bring additional equipment, or even cancel the shoot. Like distortion due to excessive level, wind and rain noise can ruin a recording. Whatever microphone you are using needs to be able to work in windy conditions. Wind noise cannot be removed from a recording. Various DIY solutions can help your hear, if none of these work try moving the recording location indoors. The sound of rain on a mic or just on the ground or roof nearby is also an issue that may need addressing.
Straight from the source
While you have lots of software tools in software like Music Maker and Movie Edit Pro to process the sound in post production, nothing is more effective than getting a good recording in the first place. Some of the problems I have mention above can be tackled if your equipment has certain features. A lot of cameras, microphones and sound recording devices have functions to address these problems. One of the most use is called a high-pass filter (HPF). What this does when switched on is filter/remove the audio signal’s bass frequencies, usually below 80-100 Hz. The result of this is that any low rumble such as from traffic or industry is removed, without effecting the content of the signal, such as dialogue. Speech becomes more audible and it allows you to work in slightly noisier situations. Other tools such as a limiter controls the volume and overall dynamic range of the audio signal. This can be useful in very loud situations to avoid distorting the signal. Be aware though that excessive limiting of the signal will be audible as a “squashing” sound and is to be avoided. If you are hearing this, reduce the overall record level.
Get the best audio recordings for your video is essential for you videos to have a professional feel. It often takes experiementation and practice to get it just right, but that just takes time