Many filmmakers first think about how their film will look – but don’t forget about sound quality. To make your script appear professional, your sound needs to be just as professional as your shots, editing, actors and script. Of course, sound can be harder to perfect when you’re shooting on location – so here are our tips for getting the best sound quality no matter where your film is shot.
1. Choose your locations carefully
When you’re writing a screenplay, anything seems possible – but once you actually try to recreate the scenes in your head in the real world, you might realize that certain locations are just too noisy or unpredictable. Now you understand why so many films and shows are shot on closed studio lots and sets! Be flexible when you’re location scouting. This doesn’t mean you have to film your entire production inside a quiet room – but a quieter location might serve the story just as well as your original idea.
2. Get the right microphone
The microphone you choose may depend on the kind of pick-up pattern you’re going for. There are four typical microphone pick-up patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, supercardiod, and hypercardiod.
Each type of microphone has its pros and cons. Lavalier mics, which are affixed to the actor, can get clean, close-up sound – but they can also record rustling and take a while to adjust (especially if you have a small crew). If this sounds annoying to you, you might prefer using a shotgun mic.
3. Choose the best microphone position
If you put microphones on all of your actors, it will sound as if we’re very close to them, even if the camera is far away. If you want your film’s sound to match what we’re seeing on screen, you might want to use a boom mic instead. Keep the boom close to the actors if the point of view of the camera is close, and farther away if the camera is farther. Meanwhile, if you’re using a shotgun mic, you don’t want the mic to be too far away from your subjects. You’ll have to consider these things if you’re planning to affix a microphone to your camera and then move the camera (or have your actors move).
4. Use free sound effects
Some filmmakers are afraid to use sound effects because they think they’ll sound cheesy or unnatural – but there’s nothing wrong with using sound effects. You can find many available online at sites like Freesound.org, Zapsplat.com and SoundEffectsPlus.com. When it comes to physically adding the effects into your film, there are a number of tutorials available to teach you how, based on which film editing program you use.
5. Record wild sound
If you’re worried that sound effects just won’t recreate the authentic feel of your film, try recording wild sound that you can later insert into the film. This could be general ambient sound or the sound of an actor picking up a prop.
6. Create your own sound effects/foley
It would be great if you could hire an experienced foley artist to create sound effects for your film – but not all budgets allow for this. Why not make some of your own sound effects? If you can’t find the right sound to make your scene authentic from your wild sound or from free online sound effects, you might consider trying to be your own foley artist.
7. Record multiple takes
Although a budget-conscious filmmaker won’t want to spend all day filming one scene, recording multiple takes means that you’ll have more options when it comes to sound. If an actor is getting interrupted by a siren or other nearby noise, you’ll want to film the scene again to have a clean version. You can also have your actors record entire scenes just for dialogue, so you have a completely clean version of every moment. You want to have enough versions of things so that you’re not choosing between good acting, good sound, good visuals, etc.
8. Monitor your sound as you go
Don’t forget to make sure you’re getting good sound as you film. For this reason, filmmaker Noam Kroll recommends getting a good pair of headphones and resisting the urge to plug your microphone directly into your camera (you can use an external recorder instead).
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