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.