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Old May 6th, 2012, 04:41 PM   #1
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Audio for Movie

I'm an amateur filmmaker and I been trying to get my short film to look as good as Hollywood. I though that shallow depth of field, lighting, color grading is going to get me there. I'm editing right now and I realize that the reason that my film don't look like Hollywood is because of the audio. Right now I'm using rode video mic pro plug into zoom h1 on a boom and it doesn't sound as good as I like it to be.

I'm wondering what do you guys do for audio in your short films. How much do you use ADR and Foley and do you do that much post processing on it?
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Old May 6th, 2012, 07:02 PM   #2
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Re: Audio for Movie

I try to avoid ADR. Dialog is the only thing I record live. Everything else (music, Foley, sound effects) is done in post.

The VMP and H1 isn't a bad place to start on a budget. I like the Fostex FR-2LE as an "affordable", clean, step up recorder. Regarding mics, there are many options from a few hundred to well over a thousand dollars. It really depends on your budget. The keys are to get the mic well placed at about 18-inches from the speaker and well-aimed in a fairly quiet environment.
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Old May 7th, 2012, 11:42 AM   #3
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Re: Audio for Movie

Hi John, so if you want to only record dialogue, then wouldn't you use a lav instead of a shotgun?
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Old May 7th, 2012, 01:36 PM   #4
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Re: Audio for Movie

Hello Victor,

Boom mics literally an inch out of the frame continue to sound better than lavs because of the quality of the mic and size of the diaphragm. Here's a little video I shot some years back that should help to explain.


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Old May 7th, 2012, 02:42 PM   #5
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Re: Audio for Movie

Quote:
the reason that my film don't look like Hollywood is because of the audio
Try turning down the sound on any blockbuster movie to see that what it looks like IS very important.

I think you are getting very confused over the components - the building blocks.

It's no single feature - it's a combination of everything. Audio is very, very important, but replacing the audio with really excellent quality audio will NOT turn the product into a movie. Sound just stands out - that's all.

So is 'movie feel' (not look) down to a properly employed mix of technical and artistic elements? I think it is.

Fixing the sound is one important area, but what kinds of camera support do you have? What is your lighting like? What are your production values - and of course, budget?

Throwing the background out of focus, having excellent audio and wobblycam doesn't a feature film make?
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Old May 7th, 2012, 05:16 PM   #6
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Re: Audio for Movie

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Try turning down the sound on any blockbuster movie to see that what it looks like IS very important.

I think you are getting very confused over the components - the building blocks.

It's no single feature - it's a combination of everything. Audio is very, very important, but replacing the audio with really excellent quality audio will NOT turn the product into a movie. Sound just stands out - that's all.

So is 'movie feel' (not look) down to a properly employed mix of technical and artistic elements? I think it is.

Fixing the sound is one important area, but what kinds of camera support do you have? What is your lighting like? What are your production values - and of course, budget?

Throwing the background out of focus, having excellent audio and wobblycam doesn't a feature film make?
I already know that to get the "movie feel" is more than just the sound. I own a glidecam and a slider and I use them to add some production value. I been trying to learn up some cinematography techniques but I realize that my weakness right now is my audio. No point in getting great images when my characters sounds hollow and you can hear the noise from the air conditioning.
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Old May 7th, 2012, 06:12 PM   #7
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Re: Audio for Movie

Regarding air conditioning, even with perfect technique and top gear, HVAC can be problematic. The best case is to turn things off, if you can. A bad audio environment might lead you to another location or force ADR. You can use noise reduction, but this sometimes distorts the dialog and makes it sound underwater. It depends on the nature of the noise and the amount you are trying to remove.

Here's a trick. Put your car keys in the refrigerator to ensure that you remember to plug the thing back in!

Finally, you can try to bury the HVAC in sound design or music. Check out Star Trek. Every scene on the Enterprise has a low rumble, which probably let the audio team get away with more than a few problems. Place a factory outside a tenement house, a river near a nature scene, traffic sounds in a city, or the drone of a television in the room and you can provide a bed for the dialog. Rain, crickets, surf, and fog horns are other options. The two keys are to establish the location so the sounds have context, and to consider how the sound design reflects your character. For instance, you might choose to place an owl hoot, cat howl, dog bark, or coyote wail after a certain line of dialog, but you probably wouldn't want the owl for a dumb character or a cat for a tough guy.

On one project, we had particularly noisy dialog (I didn't record it!) and I ended up having to write nearly wall to wall music to help cover it up. Less music would have been more effective for some scenes, but even with noise reduction, the hiss was too much for an appropriate sound design.

A fun approach is to do a short film with no dialog at all. That eliminates the problem of recording sound on set. Now, create a Hollywood-level soundscape with just music and sound design. The goal is to make it sound great and to also reflect the mood, the character, and the emotional turns. Nail that, and adding dialog is relatively easy. :)
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Old May 8th, 2012, 07:30 AM   #8
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Re: Audio for Movie

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Originally Posted by Victor Nguyen View Post
Right now I'm using rode video mic pro plug into zoom h1 on a boom and it doesn't sound as good as I like it to be.
There are so many factors that combine in making good audio. Firstly, the mic: The Rode Video mic is down the low end of the scale of Rode shotgun mics. Zoom h1 is an ok tool, but it's not real professional grade audio. These two tools can get you "good" audio, but not Hollywood grade audio.

Great audio comes from a great mic, plugged into a high quality preamp, then followed by pristine A/D conversion.

But....

it also needs to be recorded in a suitably treated environment ( if indoors) or a quiet enough one ( if outdoors) and the boom needs to be operated by someone who is good at getting close to the source, while staying just out of shot.

..and this is just a basic starting point.
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Old May 8th, 2012, 12:28 PM   #9
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Re: Audio for Movie

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Originally Posted by Tony Koretz View Post
it also needs to be recorded in a suitably treated environment ( if indoors)...
Regarding treatment, some of the cheapest accessories you can get are stands and blankets. Some use moving blankets, others prefer duvets, but most any cheap blanket will do. Hang them behind the camera on any one parallel wall to help stop resonances. Windows are especially reflective - and the blanket can help block unwanted light.

Top mic: $1,000+
Top recorder: $1,000++
Blankets and stands: Cheap!

The bottom line is that expensive equipment in a room with bad reflections will still sound bad. Mid-priced equipment in a well-treated room will sound pretty darn good. The recordist with mid-priced gear who turns off the HVAC, hangs blankets, uses good technique, and uses mid-priced gear will get much better results than someone with the very best equipment with HVAC running, bad reflections, poor technique. No contest!

Hiring James Earl Jones helps too. ;)
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Old May 8th, 2012, 12:32 PM   #10
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Re: Audio for Movie

If we were to place value on how much each factor contributes to the overall quality of your audio recording, I would likely put the greatest value on the environment (ambient noise and acoustics, plus mic placement). This affects the final outcome so much more than the quality of the microphone, preamp, A/D converter, etc. The next most important factor would be the actual editing/processing of that audio. Incredible things can be done to the recorded sound by today's software if an experienced and skilled person knows how to do them. This can, again, affect the final quality of sound significantly more than the mic/preamp/processor quality.

The point is as follows. A cheap, $40 Audio-Technica shotgun with a Zoom H1, in a quiet space, properly positioned, will provide a more usable recording of dialogue than a $1,500 Senheiser in a noisy room, capturing dialogue from 10ft away (with pristine preamp and A/D).

As for the value of audio in the overall picture of a film, it should not be underestimated. Audiences will easily forgive poorly lit, even shaky images (especially if there is a plausible excuse for it), but will never forgive poorly recorded audio. Most common example of (deliberately) poor image (Blair Witch Project) has a clear and clearly understandable audio track. Without it, the film would have been trash. Obviously, it didn't hurt that the sound engineer was recording outdoors, in a forest, with plenty of natural acoustic absorption and very little unwanted noise.

The point is, if you have limited amount of money and want to make your film as good as possible, focus on your audio. Even if your shots aren't always perfectly exposed, the audience will forgive you, unless they cannot understand the dialogue.
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Old May 8th, 2012, 10:54 PM   #11
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Re: Audio for Movie

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Originally Posted by Predrag Vasic View Post
The next most important factor would be the actual editing/processing of that audio. Incredible things can be done to the recorded sound by today's software if an experienced and skilled person knows how to do them.


The point is as follows. A cheap, $40 Audio-Technica shotgun with a Zoom H1, in a quiet space, properly positioned, will provide a more usable recording of dialogue than a $1,500 Senheiser in a noisy room, capturing dialogue from 10ft away (with pristine preamp and A/D).

.
It's true that lots can be done with today's software to correct things. BUT.....it takes extra time ( or money if you are paying someone) to do this. Getting things right when recording is Sooo.ooo important.... rather than hoping some wizard can fix things in post.
I am currently working on doing audio post on a TV show where the camera work is stellar, but the audio is very average quality in places. Sure, I am doing lots of fancy tricks to improve it, and it sounds very acceptable in the end. But............if it had been recorded better to start with, it would have been quicker to do post work on, and likely sounded better than it does after all the processing needed to correct mistakes made. It's a classic case of someone having focused on the picture when shooting far more than on the audio to "save money" (which it really doesn't do in the end).
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Old May 9th, 2012, 04:59 PM   #12
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Re: Audio for Movie

The top sticky post on the 'All Things Audio' sub-forum clearly, and in great detail, explains exactly that. No amount of audio processing can save poorly recorded audio.

About the only time audio processing can noticeably improve a recording is when the sound was properly recorded, with healthy, clean signals and little to no unwanted noise, but with lower-quality microphones, with less-than-perfect frequency response. When all else is done right, sweetening in post can make a valuable difference.

The continuing frustration of everyone involved with recording of audio for film/video tells us that filmmakers simply can't stop nursing this obsession of theirs with picture, all the while completely ignoring sound.
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Old May 9th, 2012, 11:45 PM   #13
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Re: Audio for Movie

I recently heard from a guy who works doing post sound that the most common thing he uses to sweeten audio is an EQ. Then reverb, and noise reduction is a distant third.

Sound blankets are by far the best sound equipment purchase I've ever made. EQ is something that is all about education; the best EQ can produce the worst results if you don't know when, what, and where to use it.

I'd invest in education before investing in any recorder more expensive than a Zoom h4n. I will say though that there are a lot of really bad sounding shotgun mics and I think you have to spend about $1000 to get into the performance knee of microphones.
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Old May 10th, 2012, 01:54 AM   #14
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Re: Audio for Movie

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Originally Posted by Predrag Vasic View Post
The continuing frustration of everyone involved with recording of audio for film/video tells us that filmmakers simply can't stop nursing this obsession of theirs with picture, all the while completely ignoring sound.
Yep..and it's not only filmmakers, it's makers of TV shows and videos as well. I keep trying to to tel people that taking shortcuts with audio actually means a longer road in the end once you have to try to fix mistakes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Morrow View Post
I recently heard from a guy who works doing post sound that the most common thing he uses to sweeten audio is an EQ. Then reverb, and noise reduction is a distant third.

.
EQ and reverb are certainly important. But so are compressors, limiters and transient designers. The thing is you need to know what you are doing in order to make things better rather than worse with these tools. GIve me audio tools and I can get first class results. GIve me a video camera and I would get second rate amateur results. Why? Because I have spent years learning how to record and mix sound, but have spent very little time on studying video cameras or picture editing.
Moral is: It takes just as much learning and experience to be good with audio as it does to get good with picture........but most people think they can just slap up a mic somewhere and record something and their sound will be fine.
It don't work that way!!!!
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Old May 10th, 2012, 08:54 PM   #15
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Re: Audio for Movie

Thanks everyone for your help. I keep hearing about putting up blankets, is there anywhere I can learn the proper techniques to us blankets?
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