Improving Production Sound

Improving production sound is usually a matter of understanding what to pay attention to and when to pay attention to it. It’s a matter of awareness that young producers and inexperienced producers often don’t have. Or, in some cases, location scouts fail to take note of:

1 Improving the location.

Many producers are unaware that the actual location plays a huge role in the sound that they get from the mixer at the end of a shoot. Mixers can only do so much to eliminate noise passing cars, low flying airplanes, HVAC systems which can not be turned off and acoustically challenging rooms.

It’s a good idea to consult with your mixer when choosing a location and scouting. Also, if the mixer knows ahead of time, they advise you on how to treat a room or an entire location as well as obtain any extra equipment that may be needed to mitigate the problems.

2 Shooting wide and tight

Many producers think that shooting wides and tights at the same time is a great way to achieve results fast. This may be true from a camera perspective to a certain degree but it’s also not an effective way to capture dialog. Microphones have a perspective and achieving the proper sound for a close up can only be achieved when a mic is right out of frame of a close up. Shooting drama wide and tight always results in compromises in the quality of the audio. And many times results in compromises with lighting as well.

3 Set control

Many producers on independent and low budget jobs often fail to properly control their sets which can create a lot of distracting noise for both the actors and the sound recordist. This can mean not controlling streets, not controlling the location as a whole and also not controlling the crew. Distractions can also lead to mistakes buy crew and actors. This slows things down and can result in more takes and more work in post.

4 Too small of a sound team

Producers often think the sound team should be a one man band. Really, how hard is it to point a microphone at an actor and press record (answer: about as hard as it is to point a camera and hit record). That type of thinking makes sense for simple interview jobs but not for commercials, TV and Film. In scripted production, the sound department actually needs to be a department consisting of a boom operator who works on the set operating the boom and handling on-set issues, a sound utility who assists both the mixer with placing lav mics on the talent, providing Comteks to producers, and assist the boom op. And finally the mixer whose job it is to do the mixing, manage the radios and their frequencies, troubleshoot technical issues and keep track metadata and timecode and finally to speak for the department to production. One person can not effectively do all three jobs and keep pace with other departments. Believe me, me and other mixers have tried on budget challenged productions. You’ll end up either making compromises or waiting on sound and putting your mixer in a difficult position.

Keep these four things in mind on your next production if you want to achieve great sound. If you want to discuss any of this or reach out to me for advice for your next production just drop me a note here.

Posted on: June 16, 2020, by :