Prompted by our delivery of the DJI Osmo, I thought I’d put together a brief post running through the importance of getting good sound, and running through my list of minimum viable kit.
As any sound technician will know, if they’ve done a good job, they’ll be completely ignored with narry a pat on the back or a “job well done”. It’s a shame, and frustration, because whilst we can recognise a great shot, music track or piece of scriptwriting – we only notice sound when it’s gone wrong.
Sound is the single biggest problem I see with smaller (and some larger) video production companies. Whilst I’m no specialist and far from an expert on sound recording, I know enough to get the basics right, which is all you really need to do.
Courtesy of Green House Post, here’s an example of what audio shouldn’t sound like:
Some of this could be tidied up better in the edit suite, but it’s a great example of a lot of footage that’s simply shot without a thought about audio.
If you are using a decent video camera, you may find you can record straight to your video device. But you should never rely on the onboard audio.
Even basic camcorders like the Sony HVR-Z1e or the PXW-X70 come with internal microphones, but offer XLR inputs to allow you to plug in a proper microphone.
If you are using a DSLR like a Canon 5D or Panasonic GH4 (or an Osmo come to think of it) you want to skip the camera altogether and record sound onto something like a Zoom H4N, which is what we use. As a 4 track recorded, you can record two separate stereo tracks or 4 mono tracks. This can be mounted on a hotshoe on your camera or is equally happy on a lanyard hanging around your neck.
To start with, you need two microphones. A lavalier microphone, ideal for talking heads and interviews, and a shotgun microphone, which allows you to get record sound a distance for long shots. For the lavalier, you can save a few pounds and go with something inexpensive – because you are mounting it around the neckline, you are sure to pick up good sound. For the shotgun mic, we use the Rode NGT-2, and wind shield, on an extendible boom pole.
Ditch the iphone headphones – you need something to give you a clear sound, without hearing everything else going on around you. Sony’s PRO MDR7506 are ideal, last forever and are comfortable enough to wear all day.
A clapperboard is a cheap and efficient way to sync up the sound from an external recorder to the video on your DSLR. If you are using Final Cut Pro, you may find this unnecessary provided you record the onboard sound as a sync track. The software will then seemlessly and quickly syncronise your external audio recording.
Finally, make sure you listed to the audio whilst recording. Reposition if you are picking up hums or other background noises. If a plane goes overhead, wait and start again. Good sound goes unnoticed, but if you get this wrong, you can devalue your work, no matter how great the pictures are.