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Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?

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phillr
Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 18, 2006 at 2:33:47 pm

Hey guys, i'm a film college student. I've generally been taught (and have read) that when choosing dialogue audio, use the audio from that character's take.

E.g. use the audio from Character A's 'close-up shot', even if the timeline currently shows just Character B listening. INSTEAD of having Character A's off-camera audio on B's close-up noddies.

But on some of the TV shows I watch (no particular names are coming to mind ATM), I think they use the off-camera dialogue during 'Character B's noddies'. It seems to give a better sense of space and realistically reflects what an on-set 'viewer' would hear if they were watching it in person.

What are your thoughts on this? Maybe it's better to use the on-camera dialogue for quality, and audio guys could make it sound 'off-screen' in post?

It's a hard question/concept for me to word, feel free to ask for clarification.


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grinner
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 18, 2006 at 5:54:56 pm

I apply no rules. I just use what sounds the best.



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phillr
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 18, 2006 at 8:14:22 pm

What would be 'best'?

Do you pick what sounds the 'clearest'/highest-quality (as if you were listening to the audio with no visual reference)?

Or do you pick the audio that 'fits' the shot the best? (Shot B has Character B nodding while A is talking off-camera, thus the dialogue from A would be dull and primarily on left or right channel)


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grinner
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 18, 2006 at 9:06:19 pm

I use the force, I guess. I just grab what I like best. Sometimes some ambiance is cool, other times a cleaner mic is cool. Somtimes the decision is based soley on time... how much sweetening I will have to do to one over the other.



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Charlie King
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 18, 2006 at 9:37:42 pm

Are we talking drama, or interview? if inerview, there would be no difference than on camera. If we are talking drama, as grin says go with the force. How far is the subject talking from the subject listening, where is the camera (you the audience. What would you hear if that camera was you?

Really wht do yiou feel about the scene, is the sound of the speaker more or less of interest than the visual? Is a change in ambience or sound gonna enhance or distract from the scene.

You are the decision maker in this. Remember there are no set rules, YOU set the rules for YOUR project.

Charlie


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phillr
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 19, 2006 at 3:22:28 am

Thanks for the input guys. As that guy in Star Wars says, I'll 'use the Force' for my decisions.

One additional question came to mind. Does the stage of audio post-production affect your decisions?

E.g. if i'm on a project with a decent audio post budget, then perhaps I should only use the cleanest/clearest audio, and then the Pro Tools guy could make it sound 'ambient'?


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grinner
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 19, 2006 at 3:54:31 am

the process can be prolonged as much as a producer wants to prolong it.
heck yeah, send it to the protools dude and have him bill by the hour while the graphics guy does the same and while your cuttin away if the budget permits. I'm a one man band and am not programmed that way. I do it as good as it can be as fast as it can be. For that reason, I have never needed a protools dude.
Now, when I worked for a network, we had a graphics person and an audio person in each session. That was the linear days though and honestly, not required then either.
looked really cool tho



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mark harvey
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 20, 2006 at 12:23:48 pm

I agree 150% with Grinner...It all goes on feeling. Even though I work at a Broadcast facility with the audio post and graphics dep't, usually we are in such a rush that I become a one man show. I need to get things done quickly. You wouldn't belive the amount of work that I have to do in a day....and it has to get done.

Usually I will listen to the cuts and pick the cleanest sound. I will try to add some ambient if I think it is necessary. It depends if music is being used, and also if the ambient sound is more distracting than anything else.

Regards

Mark


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Mark Suszko
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 20, 2006 at 2:41:47 pm

Sometimes you are forced to lean more on one track because of something that happened in the field recording that makes the other track less desirable.

To me, when you're thinking about the audio, you want to create, as much as practical, a realistic space, one that duplicates a real or directed sense of the ambiance, the reverb, echo, etc. So I try to pick or modify the tracks to replicate that. It doesn't always work out.

In scenes where one character is on the phone with another person offscreen, for example. You can leave both sides of the conversation the same, or you can deliberately attenuate and filter and EQ and compress the "phone side" person's dialog to give it a more authentic sound, the way it would be in real life. Here you are deliberately degrading that track in the service of making it more "realistic" or naturalistic, to preserve the willing suspension of disbelief. I have done that on a job or two and then the clients made me take it out because they'd rather break the illusion of a real phone conversation and keep the dialog as clear as possible. I don't think they "get it" always, but they have the final say...

For two characters talking, facing each other, I would want to know what is behind each character. If one has his back to the street full of traffic, I would want to throw in more street ambiance behind all his sides. If the camera cuts to a long shot, I feel that the conventional approach is to keep the sound balance the same as for close conversation, unless you're trying to hint that they are being overheard by someone else who is suggested by the POV long shot, in which case if you're THAT character, your hearing is attenuated by distace and maybe some reverb.

To summarize it, I put myself in the place of what each character "should" be hearing, and decide if and how much of that the audience needs to hear, to enhance the illusion or to point up some essential detail of the story.


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Mark Frazier
Re: Audio Preference: On-camera or off-camera?
on Sep 21, 2006 at 9:30:49 pm

Lots of good info so far. Like a lot of these other guys, I'm also a one man band, so my choices lean heavily on what audio tells the story with the fewest "distractions". Having to "fix something in post" only causes more work for me, which is a bad idea with deadlines looming. Record the best, most consistent-sounding audio in the field, and you'll thank yourself later.

Typically, my best audio cuts get laid back-to-back, and the "noddies" get used to cover the edit points. When I need to space out some words or thoughts, that's where I roll a little ambient sound under the audio hole to keep the feel of the scene consistent. (That's why recording a minute or so of clean ambient sound is important when you're shooting these scenes/interviews/whatever.)

When watching your favorite shows or movies, put on a good set of headphones. Notice that the background noise - particularly the sound of a radio playing in the background - doesn't have jumps in it. That's because it was recorded separately and added after the primary audio was laid out. And once again, that's where the force comes in. Make it sound natural. You want the viewer to believe they were there when it all happened.

Good luck and enjoy!

Mark


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