Guest post by Eric Beltran
Sound recording and design is often one of the most overlooked aspects of a film or video production, especially for beginners.
To learn about the dangers of the new, more sensitive equipment, how to choose the right mic and where to position it, and the advantages of using separate tools during both production and post, check out our previous blog: Sound Design and Video Production: How to Turn the Ugly Duckling’s Quacks into Music.
However, that’s not what we’re getting into here. We’re talking about some of the things you can do, moves you can make, when you’re on a short film or video production, specifically.
Now, like with any production, the fact remains that you can get away with poorly shot material, but you will never be able to get away with having shoddy sound. And when it comes to a short production, speed and resourcefulness are key to avoiding this.
First, avoid built-in tools and get some real audio equipment.
One common mistake that many beginners make is that they use the microphone that’s built into their camera to record the audio for their short film or video production. Its convenience and simplicity seem a perfect fit for a short.
Now, while I am not saying that you should never record sound straight from the camera, I am saying that the sound recorded from that microphone should not be the primary source of audio for your short film or video.
First of all, the DSLRs that are being used to make many short projects, while they have made production easier, even the highest quality ones tend to lack in onboard sound recording capabilities. They’re just so convenient and simple that people don’t want to complicate the process with an additional sound recorder.
Add on top of that the inevitable variety of distances of your shots, and what you have is a recipe for inconsistent sound that will be unusable. So, like with any film or video production, it is important to use an external audio recorder if possible.
Now, like I said earlier, you can still record audio through the camera, but with the purpose being to sync the sound with the audio recorded from the external audio recorder later on in post-production.
This is my Boomstick!
You might want to seriously consider getting a shotgun condenser mic and a boom pole as your primary recorder. You’ll find this is often the most efficient way to record sound during your short film or video production.
A short production calls for quick action and problem solving. Most of the time, there’s not much of a choice in microphone. Therefore, you want something reliable and durable, and a shotgun mic offers these advantages.
Shotgun mics have a highly-directional pick-up pattern, which makes them great for less than ideal acoustic conditions. It’s also what gives the creator more control. You just need to pick the right mic position.
Now, whether it’s you or someone else, the boom operator should know the script well and where the story’s going, so that they can stay with the right person at the right time, which is critical.
Remember, though, that in using a shotgun mic, you want to get in as close as possible to the actors without having the microphone enter the frame. It is preferred to come from above the actors and point the microphone down towards them, for the best possible results.
Now, if the project calls for a long shot in which the boom will be an issue, you’ll need to cross that bridge when you come to it. The alternative is a wireless mic, but they’re expensive and commonly have interference issues.
So, when on a short production that lacks a variety of microphones to choose from, the shotgun may be your most versatile option, and the one that’ll leave you with consistently good results, if you use it correctly.
Get extra takes to ensure cleanliness.
Directors in any area of film or video production tend to demand more takes of a scene when they don’t feel that they’re getting what they need from the actor.
However, sound design should also be considered as a reason to go for a few extra takes. With multiple takes, a clean version of the audio, one without that garbage truck backing up outside, should be easier to find.
With today’s cameras, it’s easy to notice little discrepancies or issues in the visual, but audio is different. Modern audio equipment has evolved too, picking up more detail than ever, but it can be harder to notice and control.
Often, you’ll find out in post just how many unwanted noises you picked up because of the hectic and commonly loud environment that usually defines a film or video production.
Consider people and places.
With all of these extra things to worry about, you may want to seriously consider bringing in an extra person to be your boom operator or sound recording assistant. Just be sure to get someone that will take their job seriously.
Lastly, remember to thoroughly check out the acoustic conditions of the location beforehand. It’s crucial to getting any type of quality sound, and that’s no different with a short film or video production. The same goes for room tone. It’s just as integral on a short as it is on a production of any other length or nature.
Recording audio may be the last thing on your mind when shooting a short film or video but, believe me, it will be the first thing that you and the audience will notice when it’s done poorly.
KVibe Productions is a full-service video production company. Whether it’s a product video production, a corporate video, or a commercial production, KVibe offers the total package of multimedia services from development through distribution.