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Natural Sound for film


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#1 Martin Hong

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 12:54 PM

Hello guys

I am not very professional at the sound field, but i really love the sound design in a film, and i think i am the only one who cares about sound in my class, so I have purchased few sound equipment along the zoom H4n recorder.

So here's a list of my gears:
1 audio-technica short shotgun microphone AT 875R
1 Audio-Technica U873R Handheld Hypercardioid Condenser Microphone for indoor use
1 ART ProMIX 3-Channel Microphone Mixer (cheap one, didnt have much option for a cheap field mixer..)
1 Gator Cases Field Recorder Utility Bag
1 Rycote S-series 300 windscreen kit

Still awaiting these items arrival. But there's always one thing that i can never achieve.. is the feel of the natural vocal sound in a feature film as we know. Of course I am not getting any best microphone like the blue little buddy Schoeps or Neumann, or the great field recorder like sound device.. But sure thing is that Zoom can record up to 96kHz 24bit, which is quiet enough for studio purpose. I know there are few factors to consider when capture the sound.. But am I missing something here to make a dialog here to sound as the way they do in a major production? sound processing maybe?

can anybody share the sound workflow?
Thanks bunch
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 07:32 PM

I think you answered your own question: Excellent mikes record excellent sound. Modern electronics in equipment like your Zoom are pretty good and not the limiting factor. The only "issue" with your recorder is the mike preamps might be a noisier than my Sound Devices USB Pre2 but they're not junk by a long shot.

Keep in mind the sound you hear in a feature has been assembled from many, many elements mixed down into different submixes (stems) giving the final rerecording mix a polished sound that only can come from that approach. Also dialogue is commonly recorded after shooting in a professional grade recording ADR studio. Take a look at the sound credits on IMDB for a major feature to get an idea of the incredible number of people involved, AVATAR's credits list fifty-two(!) people in the Sound Department. That's only people directly involved with the creative aspects, not all the engineers and technicians required to keep the all the equipment humming along.

Got the time to read a good book? It's on Google Books and therefore free to all.

Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound by David Yewdall
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#3 Martin Hong

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 11:50 PM

Hey Hal!

Many thanks for your help.

Yes, from my understanding is that best microphones in the market deliver crispy clean and natural sound, that's the reason why the professionals love them, but the price is relatively high.. way to high for an amateur like me. That's why I had to choose for some lower budget alternative. I've been recommended to a Audio Technica short shotgun microphone from a professional, after I explained my situation to him. Those are the equipments that I can get for now. So the idea is to approach the major film as close as possible, to deliver the best sound with what i got in my hands.
I know there's bunch of artists involved in a sound production.. in Avatar I guess that's because they had to create the whole Pandora world with brand new sounds. I remembered that in the film Inception had to record all the different gun fire involved in the film:



I already got the book that you suggested! I will spend time to study it. I have always wondered something like that.. Or a forum like this one for the cinematographer.. but for the sound design professionals..


Thanks again!
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 08:05 PM

There's a great Foley page at: http://www.marblehea...oley/index.html .
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#5 Martin Hong

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 12:47 AM

There's a great Foley page at: http://www.marblehea...oley/index.html .



Nice stuffs

I have also found a great site http://soundworkscollection.com
they got great videos and upcoming audio community

As far i am try to figure which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) would be the best to start, I have seen them using Pro Tool, Cubase.. etc. I am not good at comparing these softwares
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 23 October 2011 - 06:32 AM

As far i am try to figure which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) would be the best to start, I have seen them using Pro Tool, Cubase.. etc. I am not good at comparing these softwares


Personally I've used Pro Tools & Adobe CS5. I prefer Pro Tools, mainly because I've used it for years and I'm most familiar with it.
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#7 Martin Hong

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 01:15 AM

Personally I've used Pro Tools & Adobe CS5. I prefer Pro Tools, mainly because I've used it for years and I'm most familiar with it.


I was just talking to my Avid professor today, thought Pro Tools was Apple's, but apparently Avid has bought it, he said its complicated for an amateur. I thought so, but i am willing to learn that. Also saw that there are different versions when i visit their website. Which one would be the best for my use? mixing dialogs and sounds for a film.
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#8 Hal Smith

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 06:49 PM

If you are an active student, you can buy the Educational version of Avid for $295. You'll need a pretty stout computer but I suspect you're already there.
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#9 Martin Hong

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 10:41 PM

If you are an active student, you can buy the Educational version of Avid for $295. You'll need a pretty stout computer but I suspect you're already there.


Is it too much for a Intel i5 Compaq Laptop? Not going to edit a full length feature of course, short films for start. I always edit on that laptop, holds up pretty well with the DSLR full HD footage, non offline editing
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#10 Alex Donkle

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 08:39 AM

Any computer with an i5 is almost certainly new enough and powerful enough to run Pro Tools, however still I wouldn't advice it. PT is honestly overkill for anyone not doing sound 100% of the time, and the audio tools in most video editing programs has been improved enough in recent years that a decent quality mix can be created in them.

Your gear will work fine, provided you have good technique. A $2000 mic with a Sound Devices mixer/recorder next to your gear will both sound the same if they're 10' away from the actor's mouth. Get the mic as close as physically possible with a boom op, in every single shot, and you can get pretty decent audio with your gear.

Now, on the "Hollywood" sound you refer to... honestly most mixes leave the dialog pretty clean in terms of processing. What most people actually hear and think is the "Hollywood quality mics" is actually 2 other factors...
1. Dialog editing - John Purcell wrote a book recently on this and it's fantastic. Smoothing out room tone shot to shot, removing tinny pops and creaks, ect... dialog editing is extremely tedious work removing 1,000 of tiny sounds you'd never think people notice, but once the work is done the dialog sounds 20 times better.
2. Everything else in the mix - when you add in the backgrounds, Foley, SFX, ect... and 50-200 tracks of other sounds adding depth to even the most boring seeming scenes, the audio just sounds more "real". It's hard to explain, but a well designed coffee shop scene can easily have 30-80 tracks of sounds BESIDES the dialog tracks. All those sounds are carefully balanced during the mix to shape the scene, but it's pretty rare to be in a mix and be frustrated by having too many sounds.
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#11 Martin Hong

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 07:50 PM

Any computer with an i5 is almost certainly new enough and powerful enough to run Pro Tools, however still I wouldn't advice it. PT is honestly overkill for anyone not doing sound 100% of the time, and the audio tools in most video editing programs has been improved enough in recent years that a decent quality mix can be created in them.

Your gear will work fine, provided you have good technique. A $2000 mic with a Sound Devices mixer/recorder next to your gear will both sound the same if they're 10' away from the actor's mouth. Get the mic as close as physically possible with a boom op, in every single shot, and you can get pretty decent audio with your gear.

Now, on the "Hollywood" sound you refer to... honestly most mixes leave the dialog pretty clean in terms of processing. What most people actually hear and think is the "Hollywood quality mics" is actually 2 other factors...
1. Dialog editing - John Purcell wrote a book recently on this and it's fantastic. Smoothing out room tone shot to shot, removing tinny pops and creaks, ect... dialog editing is extremely tedious work removing 1,000 of tiny sounds you'd never think people notice, but once the work is done the dialog sounds 20 times better.
2. Everything else in the mix - when you add in the backgrounds, Foley, SFX, ect... and 50-200 tracks of other sounds adding depth to even the most boring seeming scenes, the audio just sounds more "real". It's hard to explain, but a well designed coffee shop scene can easily have 30-80 tracks of sounds BESIDES the dialog tracks. All those sounds are carefully balanced during the mix to shape the scene, but it's pretty rare to be in a mix and be frustrated by having too many sounds.


Alex, thanks for the input.

Thats what i thought of the sound mixing work, i imagine when you have the coffee shop scene usually there will be the background sound separated into several tracks, even sound source would have its own track, like coffee machine, plates, cups, people talking (several tracks), chairs moving, etc. If i am not wrong. I am now mixing a short, which takes place in a party, we shot it in silent, but the party was at a rooftop, can clearly hear the city, the traffic and some of them have the dog barking in the background. Plus at that night i had radio interference that i didn't know how to solve or whether where it came from (i think is the cheap XLR i bought).

I will post the short once we have it done. And will also check John Purcell's book if i can find it in somewhere.

Thanks!
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#12 Alex Donkle

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 07:37 PM

I am now mixing a short, which takes place in a party, we shot it in silent, but the party was at a rooftop, can clearly hear the city, the traffic and some of them have the dog barking in the background. Plus at that night i had radio interference that i didn't know how to solve or whether where it came from (i think is the cheap XLR i bought).


Two quick things...
1. Ideally you want all your shots to be as quiet as possible. If dog barks, traffic, ect... come up on some shots and can't be resolved on set, the next step is getting clean recordings of the dog bark and traffic on set. Then add those elements into the quiet shots so that everything is consistent. Non-consistent audio is FAR more distracting than any noise you'll be adding in. (this is a common issue on sets without control over building HVAC, where it's on in some shots and off in others, so in editing the HVAC room needs to be applied to the shots were it was off for consistency).

2. Radio mics are going to fail at some point. Top end wireless fails less, but it's never fool proof. Try to always have wired solutions available on-set.
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#13 Martin Hong

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 11:59 PM

Two quick things...
1. Ideally you want all your shots to be as quiet as possible. If dog barks, traffic, ect... come up on some shots and can't be resolved on set, the next step is getting clean recordings of the dog bark and traffic on set. Then add those elements into the quiet shots so that everything is consistent. Non-consistent audio is FAR more distracting than any noise you'll be adding in. (this is a common issue on sets without control over building HVAC, where it's on in some shots and off in others, so in editing the HVAC room needs to be applied to the shots were it was off for consistency).

2. Radio mics are going to fail at some point. Top end wireless fails less, but it's never fool proof. Try to always have wired solutions available on-set.



That's a great tip! I guess that's the only thing i can do, but that helps a lot to solve that problem

As for the radio interference, i wasn't using any wireless connection, the shotgun was mounted on the windshield, XLR to Mixer, mixer output to recorder, all via XLR, 3 in total, one short from Mic to shockmount pistols end to another XLR cable, to the mixer, then from the mixer output to the recorder. In somewhere i was picking up the radio interference...
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