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.