A Guide To Recording Sound For Video

This is where a lot of filmmakers fall short. It’s imperative that your video has good sound. Video and sound are as important as each other. If your visuals aren’t looking great, make sure your sound mix is perfect, and your audience will forgive you. If your visuals are much better than your sound mix, it will get ripped to shreds. A lot of this boils down to a great sound design in post-production, and in the film & video industry, more money is put into creating a top notch master sound mix. First you need good sound recordings to use for your master sound mix.

Listen To My Voice
All sound mixes in video productions are completely artificial. There are two things you want when recording sound during production. The first is good quality voice recording. All other sounds have the ability to be re-recorded and manipulated after production. The second is ambience. Because the sound gets mixed in post-production, the only thing the sound designer wants from the production recordings is crisp clear dialogue. The ambient sound is mixed under this.

microphoneH4n_screen_meterDirectional Microphones & Metering
There are different types of microphones used for a specific purpose. I use a directional microphone capturing 90° of the sound from where I point it, thus getting the specific sound I intend to capture. On my sound capturing device is a sound meter in decibels from -48 going up to 0. It’s best to avoid recording anything over -6bd as your sound will be distorted when played back. I recommend capturing sound between -24db and -6db.

Setting Up Your Sound Recording Device
Like a camera, you can set how many frames per second of sound you want to capture. I recommend keeping it as the same frame rate on your video. The last setting you can change is the frequency. Simply put this is the information of your captured sound. Most sound frequencies in the final video is outputted at 48000 kilobytes of information per second. I record 92000kps so I have as much dynamic range to manipulate in post-production, and then export at 48000kps.

boomopAs Far In As You Can
In video production you want to get the microphone as close as you can to the subject without the camera seeing it. You simply have to communicate with the camera operator to mark this position, and then camera can roll. A good tip I picked up from sound recordist Eduardo João Gama is to point the microphone at the person’s chest to get good quality voice recordings. (Don’t know why, possibly something to do with acoustics, all I know is it works.) I have a 3 metre boom pole, which is great for getting the microphone into medium sized shots. However, in a single take you might want to film a close-up of someone talking and zoom out to a wide shot. This is where a radio lavalier microphone comes in handy. Connecting a receiver to your sound recording device, and a transmitter with an attached microphone hidden under the shirt of the person you are filming, you will be able to hear everything they’re saying without getting a boom pole in the frame.

@EduardoJoaoGama

Recording Sound Effects
With recording sound effects and other sounds that is not dialogue on screen, the process is the same as when you record dialogue on set. Make sure that the sound is recorded clearly for the sound editor and mixer. Using a playback monitor to show the video you want to overlay with sound can help you judge the length, volume and intensity of the noise you are producing for your sound effect.

Know Your Sound Recording Device’s Limitations
With limitations to the amount of time sound devices can record, they’re pretty good. I use a Zoom H4N and the most amount of time I left it recording was three hours to record a stage show. However it was pretty hot when I picked it up. The next time I recorded for that amount of time, it packed in, so know the limits of your sound recording device. For recording a whole day of sound I recommend using a 16GB SDHC memory card with your sound recording device. Now you know how to capture good sound. Later I will be covering how to clean, manipulate and mix sound in post-production.

So when recording dialogue and sounds, remember:

  • The voice is key. Everything else can be rerecorded after.
  • Use a directional microphone.
  • Pay attention to your sound meter whilst listening.
  • Use the appropriate settings on your sound recording device.
  • Get the microphone as close you can without it being seen, using a boom pole or radio
    microphone.
  • Sound effects are recorded during post-production.
  • Know the limitations of your sound recording device.


A Guide To DLSR Video

Introducing The DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
DSLR cameras are a great tool for capturing high quality video with cinematic capabilities. This is because the sensor inside the camera captures full 1080i HD video, and the choice of lens can give a cinematic look. There are limitations and it’s best to know what your camera can and cannot achieve before using it for a project. Especially if that project is set to a strict schedule with no extra time.

Changing The Battery And Lenses
Have more than one battery. Currently my DSLR battery will last half a day with the camera kept switched on. With lenses, a basic kit zoom lens size of 18-55mm is good for when shooting fast, giving you the ability to shoot from wide angle to close up in a second. But it will not look cinematic, for this you need a prime lens size. In my kit I have a 11mm for wide shots, a 28mm for medium sized shots and a 50mm for close ups. These lenses have a very low f.stop of 1.4. (An f.stop is the size of the aperture.) This means it has the ability to shoot shallow depths of field, thus giving a cinematic look. Never ever touch the sensor inside the camera or the inside of a lens.

The Ideal DSLR Camera Settings For Video
You want to have as much control over what you film and it’s dynamic range. For this that means changing some of the camera’s settings. Automatic focus is a nightmare, change this to manual. When shooting with automatic focus the camera is in charge and guesses the focal point of your shot. It’s always wrong so best you stay in charge of the focus. Mounting a follow focus on the side of your camera helps very well with focusing your subject. You can use it to adjust focus more easily, and also mark multiple subjects at different lengths so you can pull focus between them perfectly. For great tips on getting the best settings out of your DSLR, follow Philip Bloom.

philipbloom.net

Balancing The White
A setting to be wary of when roaming locations is the White Balance. Depending on your location and it’s main light source, the colour temperature will be different in the white areas of your image. Be sure to set the correct white balance setting with your main light source. For example if I’m shooting outside in the Sun, I will set my white balance setting to Sunlight. And when I go inside and I’m filming under florescent lighting, I will set my white balance setting to florescent light. There are presets for white balancing, but the most effective way is to balance it manually. This is done by presenting and photographing a piece of white A4 paper, and telling the camera this information is white. Simply refer to the DSLR’s instruction manual to manually set the white balance.

whitebalancepresets

The Picture Style
With the Picture Style setting on your camera, you are choosing for definite how the image will look. For example you can capture images with a standard picture style, and convert it to a monochrome (black & white) picture style afterwards. But if you capture images in monochrome, you cannot simply convert it back to colour with the flick of a switch. You want to have as much control over your captured image, so for this I strongly recommend using the Neutral picture style when recording video.

In every picture style there are 4 settings you can adjust, sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone. In the Neutral picture profile, sharpness will be set to zero, you should not change this. You should change the contrast to -4, otherwise the blacks in the image will look crushed. Last thing is to bring the saturation down to -2. The colour is very rich and reducing this will give you more dynamic range when your project enters colour grading in post-production. The colour tone will be set to zero, this is good and shouldn’t be changed. Another great free to use tool that I mentioned in a previous article is the Cine-Style colour profile. This gives you even more definition in the darker areas.

Frames Per Second
You also have the option to select how many frames per second your video records, which is 24 and 25. 24 frames per second gives you film style motion, and 25 frames per second gives you television style motion. It’s up to you which one best fits your project. Some DSLR cameras have the ability to shoot higher rates of frames per second, which is great for shooting a slow motion effect. However it’s best to choose the final output after post-production as either 24fps or 25fps.

Capturing The Speed Of Light
When using your DSLR fresh from the box, another automatic setting that needs to be changed to manual is the exposure. For the same reason as focusing, it’s best to stay in charge of your exposure. The camera will choose your exposure for the purpose of showing all detail in the frame. But maybe you want the picture to be underexposed or overexposed.

When changing this setting three other settings become available to change, the aperture, the shutter speed and the ISO. Photography 101, changing the shutter speed effects the amount of light going into the camera and the clarity of movement. Changing the aperture effects the amount of light going into the camera and the size of the focal depth. Changing the ISO effects the sensitivity of light without comprising shutter speed and aperture, just remember that the higher the ISO the grainier the image will become. Here’s a graphic to help explain.

capturechart

Rigging Your DSLR Camera
Now that the camera is set, it needs to be rigged. There are a number of specially manufactured DSLR rigs providing stabilisation and fluid movement, thus making your video look clean and professional. A tripod with fluid head gives that all important stabilisation and steady panning to a fixed shot. If you want to move the camera but keep it stable, a shoulder rig is what you need. However if you want the camera to follow a moving subject smoothly, the shoulder rig won’t help you. Try it, a hundred to one you will notice the frame moving up and down when you move with a subject during the shot. For this you need a steady-rig. It uses a weight to counterbalance the camera on top of a handle, so no matter where the handle moves, the camera stays steady.

Storage Space
One of the limitations with DSLR video is you can only record bursts of up to 12 minutes long. If you plan to shoot one continuous shot uncut over this amount of time, video from a DSLR is not for you. Depending how much video you want to capture to one card without changing it, I recommend at least having three of the 32GB SDHC cards, class 6 to 10. With this card I can record continuously for half a day before I run out of space. In 10 seconds I can change to another card for the next half of the day, with a backup just in case.

rode-videomic-directional-on-camera-condenser-shotgun-microphone-1The Microphone
In a previous article I mentioned how unhelpful an inbuilt DLSR microphone is. This microphone is programmed to capture every single piece of sound in it’s 360° radius, and cannot be changed. Not helpful if you want to pin point a specific sound among other sounds. If you’re not recording sound externally and want good sound from your DSLR video, I recommend fixing a Rode DSLR microphone to your camera.

 

DIY_photography_hacks_camera_tips_rain_DCM131.shoot_gearcraft.step4_rgbWeather Proofing
Always be prepared. If you must film in the rain, weather protect your camera. There’s plenty of weather proofing products for DSLR cameras.

 

 

 

So remember, when using your DSLR to capture video make sure you:

  • Have enough battery.
  • Choose the appropriate lenses.
  • Use the appropriate DSLR camera settings for videography.
  • White balance for different lighting changes.
  • Use the appropriate picture style.
  • Choose how many frames per second you capture.
  • Make sure you are capturing the speed of the light appropriately.
  • Your camera is rigged appropriately.
  • You have enough digital storage space.
  • Never use the DSLR’s in-built microphone.
  • Weather proof your DSLR camera.


A Guide To Lighting For Video

How the subject you are filming is lit can make or break a video. Obviously you want your audience to see what you are filming, but how it is lit can determine how your audience reacts emotionally to the subject you are filming. Different lighting techniques vary on different projects, and here is a quick guide to those techniques.

LED-Video-Light-and-DSLR-CameraAttaching A Light To Your Camera
When filming on the go, a good thing to have attached to the top of your camera is a small LED light. This comes in handy for lighting subjects close to camera. Things to look out for is making sure the subject is lit evenly. If that subject is a person, light them well, but make sure you don’t blind them.

 

 

3pointlightingsetupThe Three Point Lighting Setup
When setting up lights as a set piece, a good place to start is a “three point lighting system”. (This involves three separate lights.) This starts with a key light and is the main lighting source. This is placed next to and level with the camera, lighting the subject in front of camera. In interior locations with windows, this will be an extension to emphasize sunlight coming through a window lighting the subject from the front.

 

 

This light on it’s own will generate a “hard” lighting effect. One side of the subject is lighter, the other side much darker. This creates an expression of mystery and darkness. Great for drama and horror, but if this is not the intended expression, a fill light is needed. This light goes on the other side, level with the camera facing the subject and fills in the shadows created by the key light. Now your subject is evenly lit, a “soft” lighting effect. We can go softer, and create a romantic look. This is done with a back light. This light is placed high and behind the subject, creating a halo effect around the subject. This is the complete three point lighting system.

3pointlightingphoto

shootingwithgelsLight Intensity & Coloured Gels
Some lights can emit intense light or an unwanted colour temperature, so it’s important to balance everything out. For intense light, diffusion paper can be used to reduce the intensity of the light. You can also use coloured gel sheets to change the colour temperature of the light. This can be useful when correcting the balance of your light, or creating aesthetic effects.

 

 

 

reflectorBlocking & Bouncing
At times you will also need to block or bounce light on a subject. Another great and cheap trick I picked up from filmmaker Owen Benson is to get a big piece of white polystyrene board, and paint one side completely black. The black side can be used to block any unwanted light on a subject. The white side can be used to reflect light. Instances where light may need to be reflected is when you are filming outside in intense sunlight from above and you need to fill in the shadows by placing the white reflective board below the subject.

Please check out Owen Benson’s website below.

www.owenbensonvisuals.com

tinfoilwindowFilming Day For Night
If you are shooting inside with windows during the day, and want it to look like night, simply closing the curtain will not do. It will look exactly like it is, daylight with the curtains drawn closed. A brilliant, cheap trick I picked up from filmmakers on a feature film set is to wet the windows, and completely cover it with tin foil (shiny side out) and then shut the curtains. No light comes through the curtains, thus making it look like night.

 

 

 

 

Things to remember when lighting:

  • Attach a light to the camera for on the go shooting.
  • Use three point lighting for camera setups.
  • Adjust the lights intensity using diffusing materials.
  • Use coloured gels to create different lighting effects.
  • Block unwanted lighting.
  • Bounce light to enhance your lighting setup.
  • Completely block sunlight from windows when shooting day for night.

You are now ready to light your subject. Make it look good!

 



Filming To Tight Schedules

A lot has to be calculated when producing a video. To be honest, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have to think deeply about these calculations because they’ve become second nature when I’m filming. It’s an advantage when filming to tight schedules. Even with the subconscious nature of my skills, clients ask for near impossible deadlines, mainly because they don’t know the level of detail that goes into crafting a video. They only see what’s in front of them, and have no contemplation of what’s gone into producing the images and sound. Every single aspect is meticulously scrutinised by the filmmaker.

Lighting For Video
When I’m filming, I’m not only looking at the subject, but also how the subject is lit. Lighting can have a big effect on how an audience reacts emotionally to the image. When the lighting is soft and even, it gives a sense of positiveness. When the light is intense and hard, it gives a sense of negativity. Lighting happens after blocking the movements of the subject and the camera. There are two types of lighting sources, natural and unnatural. Our Sun is a natural lighting source. Manufactured light bulbs are an unnatural lighting source. We cannot manipulate the Sunlight’s direction and intensity, something that changes with time. But we can change it’s effect on the subject by blocking parts of the sunlight and reflecting it. Every aspect of manufactured lights can be manipulated in order to get the intended aesthetic lighting effect.

LED-Video-Light-and-DSLR-CameraThe Camera
I’m also manipulating the camera’s reaction to the light. The main points of control are the aperture, shutter speed and the ISO. The aperture when changed effects the amount of light going into the camera and also the amount of space the focal depth covers. The shutter speed when changed effects the amount of light going into the camera and also effects the clarity of a moving object. The ISO changes the sensitivity of the light going into the camera without changing effect on focal depth and clarity of movement.

These camera settings are the main change on every video production I setup depending on how the subject is lit. I try to keep my shutter speed to 1/50 of a second because sometimes when it’s increased, something happens called a rolling shutter. Looks like a series of dark bars rolling up the screen, doesn’t look good and a pain to fix afterwards, best to resolve this when filming. This is a tip I picked up from well respected filmmaker Philip Bloom. His DSLR camera reviews online give great tips on how to best set your DSLR for video capture.
http://philipbloom.net/blog

microphoneCapturing Sound
The visuals and the sound is never synced automatically on a professional video production, syncing the sound to the video is done manually in post-production. A good camera can capture great video, but not great sound. The built in microphone in a camera has two problems for professional video production. First it’s not great quality, it’s automated to pick up every single piece of sound that’s happening 360°. Secondly the microphone is fixed in the camera, thus limiting where you want to place the microphone without moving the camera.

For profession sound I use a separate sound recording device with a microphone plugged in with a XLR cable and the microphone attached to a three meter boom pole, ideal for getting the microphone close to the sound in wide angle shots. This microphone is high quality and directional to capture sound 90°. Because sound and video is recorded separately, a marker has to be established for them to be synced afterwards. On profession video productions a slate is used. You’ve seen them, it’s that board with numbers and sticks on top that bang together to make a loud sound, this is the mark used to sync sound in post-production. Because I’m shooting to tight deadlines I keep the in built camera microphone on to use as my marker, giving me more valuable time in production and post-production.

editingThe Cutting Room
When creating my edit in post-production, I need as much flexibility as possible when manipulating my captured image. There’s a free to use software for DSLR cameras that helps this process called a Technicolor Cine-Style Profile. It gives enough colour information and provides definition to dark areas without overexposing lighter areas, and can be manipulated in post-production to create the desired image. This manipulation is colour grading. I use two steps to colour grading. The primary is correcting the contrast, brightness and colour of the image. The secondary is the aesthetic, the style of the image. This process I always do last, when everyone’s happy with the edited sequence of the video.

The sound goes through it’s own similar process. The primary, cleaning of any unwanted hiss, clicks, pops and leveled out. The secondary, the style of the sound, any manipulated effects. All sounds have to be mixed together with the final music. Currently I have a workflow setup from start to finish to deal with a video production project. This setup is built to deal with tight schedules. For every three minutes of video, it takes me four hours to edit a sequence, four hours to create any motion graphics, four hours to clean and design the image and four hours to clean, design and mix the sound.

In the coming weeks I will be releasing more articles diving deeper into everything mentioned in this article. Bye for now.