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Get Good Sound

We’ve all heard it a million times. Nothing cues amateur filmmaking faster than bad sound. On Down and Dangerous, we didn’t have the money to hire a sound department like we’ve had in the past. So we set out to educate ourselves. I had heard good things about the Sound for Film training DVD from Barry Green and David Jimerson and placed an order. The set offered straight forward insight into how to get a good recording of dialogue. And basically it all came down to the proximity of the mic to the actor. I know on our other movies, we had settled for “good enough” when framing didn’t allow the mic to get close enough. But here, I wanted to make a real effort to capture the best location sound we could.

BEFORE – Raw frame with mics visible and close enough to actors to record dialogue
AFTER – Mics matted out in post using an empty shot with no mics or actors in the frame

Faced with a location like you see above, you have traffic outside. So getting the mic in good and close is paramount, especially in a single camera production. You editors and sound mixers know what I mean. One of the techniques that we made use of frequently was to shoot a “plate” (an empty version of the shot sans actors and mics) so we could use the top part of that frame to matte out the mics.

The movie’s editor and co-producer, Jamie Cobb was in charge of our sound – booming, mixing, she does it all and has delivered the best sounding movie we’ve had to date.

If you are like me and strive to close the gap between your good taste in movies and your ability to execute at the same level as the movies you admire, make sure considerations for sound are part of your location scouts and shot design. As Jamie likes to say: “Fix it in Pre!”

  1. Kristian01-13-2012

    I’m brand new to filmmaking and I’ve mostly been making videos that allow me to gain experience and learn. One thing I’ve learned is that I’m not very good at sound and I desperately want to be. I don’t have budgets that can afford to hire sound people.

    The tip about filming a clean plate so you can mask out the boom mic was fantastic and that alone made this article well worth the read.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

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