Sound recording

Sound recording for the beginner

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Getting the best out of your microphone

If you have expensive, high-quality microphones that's great, but the chances are you might have to use what you have available. It's important to know the limitations of your microphone, what audio you need to capture, and how best to capture it.

If you're using a not so great microphone, maybe the quality of your audio won't be up there with a Hollywood film, but you can still get the audio you do want, record lines of dialogue clearly, and avoid some common sound issues.

Here we'll help you find as much as you can about your microphone before filming your main project, and test your microphone’s quality by filming some practice footage with audio.

Activity

We know it's obvious, but make sure your microphone is turned on. With in-built microphones, you might have to check the audio settings of your camera to make sure it is. You would usually find audio settings in your camera's menu. Before testing your microphone, you might want to watch the section of this video on YouTube about the strengths and weaknesses of different microphones.

Proximity test

Get one or two people to act out some lines for you from your script, or simply make up some lines as you film. Make sure the microphone is directed at your actors.

Go outside and film your actors with your microphone and capture lines of dialogue. Record them close (within 3 metres), a medium distance (3-10 metres) and then far away (10+ metres).

  1. Playback with some headphones and listen to what you’ve recorded. Where were the actor’s lines most clearly heard?

  2. What affects did background noise or wind have on the audio you recorded?

Head inside to a room and conduct a similar test. Record the lines with your actors close to the camera, a medium distance and then a long distance away. Make sure the microphone is directed at your actors.

  1. Playback with some headphones and listen to what you’ve recorded. Where were the actor’s lines most clearly heard?

  2. Did you film in a controlled space where there was no one else inside or an uncontrolled one where there were people and noise you had no control over? Describe the effect of the space you used on the sound you recorded.

  3. Was there an issue with echoes with the audio recorded?

  4. Was the audio from your characters loud and crackly in any of the shots?

Directing the microphone

Film your actors with your microphone as they read some lines. Start with the microphone facing your actors, then move it to a 45-degree angle from them and keep recording for 10 seconds. Then move the microphone so it’s facing at a 90-degree angle away from them. If you’re using an in built microphone or one mounted on your camera, this will involve you moving the camera away entirely. Don’t worry, you're just testing.

  1. Playback and listen to what you’ve recorded. What affects did moving the microphone away from your actor’s have?

  2. Was the audio good at times, even when not pointed directly at the source of the sound you want?

  3. Could you hear any unwanted noises, such as the camera or tripod moving, or people’s grips on microphone or microphone stand?

Using headphones

Does your camera have a headphone jack? If so, try recording with headphones plugged in so your sound person can listen and hear if all the audio you're trying to record is coming through clearly. We recommend that you don't operate the camera and act as a sound person at the same time as it's a lot to focus on at one time.

Reflection

Based on the activities above, what problems might you run into when recording sound for your film with the microphone you have, and how might you overcome them? Follow the link below on overcoming audio challenges if you need more advice.

Sounding good? Head back to the Film It main page or try Sound recording for the advanced if you want to explore this topic further.

Overcoming audio challenges

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2.2 Sound recording for the advanced

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