Avoid Costly Post Costs With These Sound Recording Tips
There is a common belief that we can fix “almost” everything in Post; what we forget is “at what price.” Sound recording is one of those things we tend to neglect during the shoot and while a good sound designer can work miracles in Post, Post-production sound is a very time-consuming and delicate process, which may break your bank, and your film, if it’s not done right.
Many indie filmmakers decide to do their own sound design and use library music to save some money. What’s wrong with that? If you are familiarized with sound and music post-production and know what you’re doing, then there’s nothing wrong with it. But, if you are not experienced with sound, you could be playing down all the work you’ve put into your project up to that moment. Most likely you’ll need to hire a sound designer, but there are certain ways of ensuring that the amount of work and time required will be less, so the cost will be less.
1. Recording location sound
Here’s the most basic advice for having great sound while keeping the costs low: first of all, make sure your location sound is as good as it gets. A proper boom operator may cost more than just attaching a microphone on your camera, but the better the location sound, the less work you’ll have to do on sound in post (which costs much, much more and takes much, much longer). If you go for this option, make sure you rehearse and direct your scenes before the actual shoot, so you don’t talk to your actors while the sound recorder is on – this will make those parts of the recorded sound unusable, meaning you’ll probably need dubbing and foley, meaning you’ll be raising your budget for sound post-production considerably.
2. Check the location acoustics
If possible, when selecting shooting locations, keep an ear open for their acoustics. There’s not much you can do with the location sound in post if it all sounds reverberated or echoed. If you absolutely have to shoot in a space with problematic acoustics, for instance, in a bathroom, try to use materials like foam padding to absorb or diffuse the sound and arrange your shots in such ways that these are not visible. Also, if there is a dialogue scene while, let’s say, the water is running or someone flushes the toilet, it is better to record the dialogue scene separately and then record the rest of the sounds.
3. Recording sound in a car
The same applies to recording sound in a moving car. If a car platform is not a viable option, eliminate whatever may be creaking or rattling inside the cabin, roll up the windows and switch off the air-conditioner (not recommended for warm climates though!). Keep the boom as close as possible to the talking actors and always record atmospheres and off sounds, they are extremely valuable! You can also record the dialogues in another, better sounding room, or with the car engine switched off. The sound may be off sync, but it may still come in handy.
4. Wide shots sound recording
Finally, when shooting wide shots, there are different options. If ADR Is way out of budget, and the wide shot is in a setup where the boom can be hidden behind a prop or a tree, go for that. You can also use clip-ons under the actor’s clothing, unless the actor is supposed to move a lot, thus causing interferences to the sound. If you go for the clip-ons, make sure you also record off sound and atmospheres as soon as shooting the scene finishes, so that the actors can reproduce their movements / actions as closely and as timely as possible.
5. Noisy cameras
One last thing! If you are shooting with a noisy camera, make sure that, along with the off sync location atmospheres, you also record a location atmosphere with the camera heard rolling. This may be crucial in post, in order to link the atmosphere of close up shots, where the boom may be too close to the camera, to that of the wider shots.
Assuming that your film does not require special sound effects or much non-diegetic sound, these few tips will make your life much easier, your budget considerably smaller and your sound designer happier!