audio-sound-questionsRecently I posted a question asking local filmmaker to send me any audio questions they may have and i will do my best to answer them. Here is a couple I received right away.

If you have a question of your own, add it to the comments down below or contact me and send your question privately.

When shooting in a park with lots of random noise and slight wind, is it a good idea to use both a shotgun and a lav on talent sitting on a bench? Would that increase chances of getting usable audio? I made the mistake of using only my camera’s microphone during a shoot and the results were embarrassing. -Lorenzo C.

First and foremost, you should never use a camera’s microphone for anything but a scratch track. Unfortunately, even high end cameras don’t put much into their microphones quality, so if you are looking at getting usable production audio you will need some kind of external microphone.

As for your question specifically, if you have the ability to use more than one mic on an actor the better. This will give you options when you get into post. You will either be able to mix these two tracks together to get the most natural sounding dialog, or in case the lav mic had too much clothing noise or maybe some IR interference, you will have the shotgun mic as a backup, and vice versa. For a scene like a park, I would definitely use a lav and shotgun. You want to make sure the shotgun mic has a good windscreen on it cause you don’t want to pick up any wind noise. I would also get maybe a minute or two of tone of the park. This could potentially be used to lay underneath the dialog in case you had a cut when a car was passing or a plane which always seems to happen when I receive edits of an outdoor scene.

What is best for capturing good audio in the first place with limited equipment (mostly just the built in camera mic), or when background noise is too loud. How do you handle blown out or too quiet audio? -Megan C.

I would never recommend only using camera audio for any film, but if camera audio is your only choice then your locations and shots will need to be altered a bit. What I mean is you should use locations that are very quiet and your shots should be plenty of close ups since a wide shot will not pick up any usable dialog. You could still use wide shots, but I would take the audio track from the close up and basically use it as ADR for the wide shot. If there is a lot of background noise and all you have is camera audio, you would be lucky to get anything usable for production audio. A camera microphone usually has an omni polar pattern, which means it picks anything up in a 360 degree pattern. If you had a shotgun mic, such as a Rode Video Mic, it would pick up more in a directional pattern and be much better in noisy locations.

If you get into editing and find some of your production audio being “blown out” and  distorting or too quiet, there is a couple things you can try. Mostly it involves using plugins to clean up the audio and having an experience audio engineer would be the best route, but there is some fairly easy to use tools out there. If your audio is distorting, using a DeNoiser style tool can usually clean this up. Personally, I use the iZotope RX 2 suite, but there are some cheaper one out there that can get the job done, and most can be used free for 30 days. If your audio is too quiet, increasing the gain of the audio clip will help to make things more usable, but when you increase the gain for the dialog, you also increase the background and room noise. You will probably need to apply a DeNoiser to this audio as well.

Post Written by James Alire

An accomplished musician and consummate professional, James Alire brings education, passion, and a wide range of experiences to the sound table. He has functioned as an IT specialist, recording engineer, and sound mixer/ editor in many arenas. He lives in Chandler, AZ, where he is expanding his company, 5J Media, to include web design and audio/sound services for musicians and filmmakers. For quotes or to hire James for audio and web services contact 5J Media.