Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recording Audio for a Feature Film

Here are a few tips for recording audio for movies using a directional mic:

Where to point the microphone
  • Imagine that the microphone is a flashlight, with a beam projecting straight out from it.
  • Aim the imaginary beam directly at the mouth of the person who is speaking (not at their chest, not at their forehead).
  • If the mic is close to the actor you may need to adjust the angle slightly. For example, if you’re getting plosives or sybilants, adjust it upward or downward slightly... such as, angling up slightly past the mouth (toward the philtrum) or toward the chin. (If possible, aim it from in front of the actor, from above or below his or her mouth. So the mic will be pointing at the actor’s mouth, but he or she won’t be speaking directly into it. If you come in too much from the side, or miss the mouth, it may sound okay to you, but be missing some frequencies and sound tinny in the movie. If the actor is speaking directly into it, or is too close to the microphone, some consonant sounds like “s” and “p” phonetics may be distorted.)
Generally speaking, the microphone should be held as close to the actor as possible without being visible in the frame. It’s also important that the mic’s SHADOW not be in frame.

If you hear anything other than crystal clear audio during a take, let the director know. (That means, buzzing or hissing, vehicles going by, footsteps or creaking sounds when the actors are speaking, distant voices in the house, etc.) The mic picks them all up, at much higher sensitivity than the human ear, and they can make a shot unusable.

If you hear any buzzing, let the director know about it. Usually buzzing is caused by electrical interference. Make sure that if the if the microphone’s cable is near any cord with current running through it, that it crosses it at a 90 degree angle, rather than lying along side it.

Have fun making movies! The attention you pay to audio will make a big difference in the quality of your finished movie.

Nils Osmar is a Filmmaking Instructor who has worked as a fine and commercial artist, book and magazine illustrator, portraitist and cartoonist. His artwork has been published in the United States and Europe, and featured in several national magazines. In addition to his work as a visual artist, Nils has been active in Seattle's theater scene as an actor, director and playwright.


James Duval said...

Thank you. It is important to get this basic information out to people.When I started making movies, finding information that could save me time and effort was nearly impossible. Everything from the lighting to sound seem liked a guarded secret. We now live in a world that anyone can make a movie. The more they know the better the movies. Thanks again.

preetigee said...

The 48 Hour Film Project is back in Mumbai in Nov. 2010! Teams are invited from all over India. It's the most exciting and thrilling competition in which you have only 48 hours to make a film from scratch- script, shoot, edit, score, add titles, etc. On Fri. Nov. 12, we give the registered teams a prop, dialogue and a character which MUST be included in the film and submitted on Sun. Nov. 14! So are you up to the challenge?
Register now... log on to http://www.48hourfilm.com/mumbai or call me for details on 91 98200 10052!- Preeti, Mumbai Producer, 48HFP 2010

Jack Alexander said...

It's impressive the way a short film can kick off a career. This short went viral and got a movie deal from Lionsgate Studios. Can you see why?


film financing said...

I really like indie films. You get to really see how the directors and writers intended to show the film without the pressure of pleasing the mainstream public. It's filmmaking at its purest.

- Jessica Wade

filmmaker blog said...

Great advice. Great sound designers and boom operators are the unsung heros of indie film projects. It's such an important part of the craft.

Maliek said...

Great advice for the newbies out there! There are so many things to be aware of when trying to create great films. Some people do not understand how important great sound is to a project. People are lucky to have this blog as a source of information to help them along.

XDinterface said...

Very good article! Recently I made a short movie with some friends and we used a shotgun mike in some of the scenes. Here's the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQmPPJEQwFA

Peace out,
XDinterface studios

Boxclever Films said...

Would be useful to go into a little more depth I think, but still a very useful post. Sound is so often overlooked!

aprister said...

very good advice. I've been using a boom mic for a while now, trying to get the best quality audio. Shotgun mics make all the difference in the world and a lot of filmmakers overlook audio.
Check out my trailer where I used a $170 boom mic for all the audio. You might be really impressed.
Also feel free to check out my blog where I often post stuff like this too

Missy Beasley said...

Sound is one of the very most important thing in filmmaking. I always appreciate remembering the basic tips in keeping the sound crisp and clear.


FX School said...

It's quite amazing but true that these days a short film can get once career lift, but thanks sharing these stuffs with us. The lighting and sound are two different variant for the filmmaking.