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Workable Audio Setup for Feature FIlm?

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Jade Whitmire
Workable Audio Setup for Feature FIlm?
on May 3, 2015 at 9:00:54 pm

Hello Audio Professionals and Sound Wizards of Creative Cow...

I'm trying to prepare for the creation of a feature film and have arrived at the topic of proper audio recording. In the past, I have used a Tascam DR-05 for audio, by placing it onto the top of a tripod and getting it close to the area of created sound/dialogue while remaining out of view from the camera. I had done several tests and determined that recording at 24 bit at 48k with a recording level of 60 was an ideal way to record the audio, with necessary editing done in post as needed.

To go based of my instinct here (and that is NOT the instinct of an audio professional, which makes this thought process possibly risky and absolutely incorrect), I would think that the natural upgrade to better sound would involve something like the Tascam DR-40 and a shotgun mic. With the shotgun mic placed directly over the subject, while remaining out of view (or used for audio re-recording later in post).

Would the Tascam DR-40 with shotgun mic provide professional quality sound? I realize it's like anything else, where the tool is only part of the equation, how it is USED is ultimately what makes or breaks it's effectiveness.. But it still would be incredibly helpful to get some insight from audio professionals on this little dilemma. Thank you!

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Richard Crowley
Re: Workable Audio Setup for Feature FIlm?
on May 3, 2015 at 10:53:34 pm

At least 50% (and many here would argue much more) of the job is using the PROPER MICROPHONE and getting it in the RIGHT PLACE. The little microphones attached to cameras or little digital voice recorders are NOT up to the task of capturing "feature film" dialog. Virtually ALL of the dialog you hear in feature films was captured on a "shotgun" microphone that cost at least $1500. And it was positioned by an experienced dedicated crew member holding the boom just above the camera frame, and actively aiming the mic at the actor(s).

You seem to be a significant ways away from understanding how dialog is captured in feature films. Note that I am using the term "dialog" because that is essentially ALL you are concerned with DURING SHOOTING. You want ALL other sound to be as minimal as possible. Any kind of sound effects, etc, are added in post-production editing, they are NOT recorded while shooting.

The recorder you use is not nearly as important as the mic preamp you use. Some recorders have good mic preamps, and most do not. The mic preamp is critical because it needs to have a good amount of gain (to capture clean dialog in poor shooting conditions) with a minimal amount of NOISE. Alas, most of the little plastic digital recorders have neither good gain nor low noise floors. So that makes it a compromise: what is your budget for gear?

Note that having a good boom operator and selecting quiet locations are almost as important as having the right microphone. The best microphone on the planet won't help you if it isn't aimed properly, or if you are in a sound-hostile location. Highly recommended reading (and print out a copy for ongoing reference):

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Ty Ford
Re: Workable Audio Setup for Feature FIlm?
on May 4, 2015 at 3:37:51 am

Hello Jade and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

I will add to the good information provided by Richard.

In addition to the shotgun mic, you should also consider a good hyper or supercardioid.
Cheap shotguns, hypers and supers will cheapen your sound.

Film making these days requires much more than the pieces to which you refer. Here's a tutorial I shot some years back that may help you.

A good mixer (person) may need to change the level of a mic subtly or drastically during a take. The gear to which you refer has iffy abilities in that regard.

It takes a lot of expertise to make it look so easy and sound so good.

The best sound never draws attention to itself.

Please DO jump in with both feet and have at it. Stop by anytime to let us know how it's going.


Ty Ford,
Cow Audio Forum Leader

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog

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