Sound is very important and is very often forgotten – everyone is so focused on the look of the film, that new filmmakers often just start recording without checking the sound.
Here are some tips that are useful to help you record decent sound on location:
Plan: Capturing great sound for your film means planning ahead of time. Plan to shoot your scenes in quiet environments where you can control the sound. Shooting near a busy street, for instance, is always a bad idea. Always plan to take someone with you who knows how to operate the microphone that you might be using.
Equipment: Select appropriate microphones, booms, tripods and other equipment to help you record decent sound. Always remember to take an extra set of batteries with you and ensure that your sound operator has a pair of headphones.
Noise: When you are on location, do your best to reduce noise. Turn off refrigerators, air conditions and other appliances that might interfere with your sound recording. If there are noises that you can’t control, such as the sound of traffic, try moving to a quieter location.
Proximity: Try and get your microphone as close to your actors as you can. Recording your dialogue in close-up is a great way to get your microphones close.
Ambience: When you are on location, always record a couple of minutes of ambient sound. This is useful when you have silence in your soundtrack that needs to be filled.
Levels: In addition to getting your microphone close to your actors, you need to make sure that the volume levels are set appropriately. If the input levels on your microphone are too soft, it will be difficult to hear your actors. Too loud and the sound will be distorted. If you have a microphone that allows you to view sound levels, try to ensure that your actors’ voices don’t go above -12dB.
Sound test: Whether you’re using an external microphone or not, it’s always a good idea to record a test before you start filming just to make sure that the equipment is working correctly.
Action calls: It’s a good idea to call action when you start to shoot a scene. On a professional film, this process involves a number of people ensuring that the cast and crew are ready to shoot. On a low-budget film, it might sound a little like this:
Director: ‘Quiet on the set!’
Sound operator: ‘Sound rolling …’
Camera operator: ‘Camera rolling …’
Marker: Using a slate can help you identify shots easily in post-production but markers also perform another important function. The ‘snap’ of a clapperboard gives you a distinct sound that can be used to line up different sources of audio in post-production. If you don’t have a clapperboard, a simple clap will do!