On Set Sound Part 6
By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
Getting good sound requires both shotgun and lavalier mics. While a shotgun mic is a preferred way of getting dialogue, you may find the need to use lavs as well.
Recording with Lavaliers
Lavs are generally best used for non-fiction filmmaking like news, corporate videos or interviews. Using them for a fictional film presents problems in that the mic will have to be hidden on the actor next to their sternum. The easiest way to hide it is to clip it to a shirt behind a tie but fabric rubbing against the microphone will ruin the audio. Sometimes you may be required to use medical tape and tape it to the actors b****tbone or even hide it on a nearby prop.
One of the upsides of using a lav is that you can shoot audio for an extremely wide shot where there would be no chance of hiding your shotgun mic– or audio crew for that matter. Conversely,the opposite is also true like shooting in a cramped environment such as a car or anywhere with a lot of ambient noise like on a street. Lav mics are fairly weak so they wont pick up as much ambient audio as a shotgun mic. Depending on the scene, this could be a good or bad thing as youll need some extra foley work on lav only scenes.
Also, beware of mixing lav audio with shotgun audio as they will sound very different from each other. Wireless lavs also have a habit of running out of power quicker than a shotgun, so make sure to have plenty of spare 9 volts on hand.
Recording with Shotgun Mics
The shotgun mic is the workhorse of on set audio. Using a highly directional mic pointed 45 degrees at an actors chest will usually give you the best audio not only for voice but also for the sounds they make when they move.
Some basic tools youll need to work with a shotgun are a boompole (no surprise there), a shock mount to reduce noise coming from the handling of the boompole and a wind sock for outdoor shooting. All quality shotguns use XLR cables but remember to bring backup cables just in case a cable goes bad.
Don’t forget to reduce any sound from anything touching the boom pole. Tightly wrap the XLR cable around the pole but make sure theres a bit of slack at the mic end of the pole. Use electrical or gaffers tape to tape the cable at that end. While recording make sure not to move your hands on the pole as the mic will pick up the sound of your hands rubbing against it.
Previous articles in this story:
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On Set Sound Part 5
By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
Getting good sound is difficult. The previous 4 parts in this series were all about letting you know why its hard to get good sound on set and how to minimize getting bad sound, even if it means not shooting in the perfect location. Now that you know what to avoid and what equipment youll need to get good sound, the next step is to how to actually get good sound.
Hire a Pro
I think Ive made this point in every single one of these articles. Its really the best idea because they know what theyre doing and have their own professional recording equipment.
Listen to what they have to say as well. Their job is to make sure the sound is as good as possible so theyll give you suggestions on how to do just that or if something mucked up the audio take.
What is the sound of one hand clapping? Room tone. For every single scene in your film you will want to record the sound of silence in that room. The background ambient noise is really important to get for the sound editor in post and applies to both interior locations and exterior locations. For 30 to 60 seconds, get the crew to stand silently while the sound guy records the ambient sound of your location. Dont send your crew out of the room as their bodies will actually subtly change the sound of the room and you want it to be as close to the background sound of when your cast was speaking.
The room tone can be used for everything from covering a sneaker squeaking on the floor to making an actors ADR sound as natural as possible in post production.
Take notes on every single take. Again, this is key for the post-production team so they have an exact idea of anything that may have been out of the ordinary on an audio track. Take 3 might have been good visually but it also has the sound of a plane flying overhead. While youre at it, make sure you have a good naming convention for each audio take. If you really want to make the video editor happy, make the audio and video naming schemes exactly the same.
Wild Takes, You Make My Heart Sing
I know, I know, that doesnt rhyme. Sometimes you cant properly capture an actors dialogue because theyre sitting on a leather couch and every move they make causes the couch to squeak or theyre getting in and out of a pool and have no lav on (obviously). Well then, turn the camera off after shooting the shot and just record a wild track, that is, shoot the audio with the camera off. Your actor will still have their performance fresh in mind and it will sound right with the background noise. Instead of having them go through the blocking, they can stand still and deliver their lines. This could save you time and money in post since you may not have to ADR anything.
Have a question or comment? Let us know below!
Previous Parts in this Series
Part 1: Introduction to Sound
Part 2: Mic Overview
Part 3: On Set Sound Hazards
Part 4: Equipment Overview
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Looking For Great Screenwriting Resources? Check out John Augusts Site
by Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
Looking for a good resource on screenwriting? John August is a screenwriter whos best known for working with Tim Burton on Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie. He was also the screenwriter for Go and directed The Nines with Ryan Reynolds. But the great thing is that hes been blogging online for the last 10 years on screenwriting and has a pretty good following at his website, JohnAugust.com.
Advice on screenwriting online is dime a dozen but usually its from screenwriters who have never sold a single screenplay so its great that we have writers like Mr. August to give a view from the trenches. Besides giving advice on his blog and answering readers questions he also runs a podcast called Scriptnotes with Craig Mazin which is about, you guessed it, screenwriting. Theyve cover quite a bit of the business of screenwriting on that show along with advice on craft.
I guess this is why the byline for his site is a ton of useful information about screenwriting.
Beyond Just Simple Advice
Advice for writers is great and he covers everything from formatting to surviving a directors rewrite but he also takes it a step further and has made his screenplays available for educational purposes. Its the age old advice of if you want to learn to write a screenplay, you need to read a lot of them.
Rounding it all up, he also owns a company called Quote-Unquote Apps which sells apps for screenwriters. One of my favorites is called Fountain which is a syntax formatting set of rules for .txt files. You basically write your screenplay in a text file and it formats the file based on rules. For example, if you start a line with INT. Fountain will automatically know that is a scene header and will format accordingly. I love writing in text files that I sync on the cloud so its a great little program for me.
Theyve also developed a new courier typeface called Courier Prime. The idea was to make minor changes to the font in an effort to make it as readable as possible. As they developed the font they showed the same screenplay page in Courier, Final Draft Courier and their own Courier Prime to screenwriters to get feedback in a blind study– that is, the screenwriters didnt know which font was which.
Comparing 3 types of the courier typeface.
Ultimately they went through 25 builds of the typeface to get to the font theyve just released. Its been released for free for both Windows and Mac and while the changes are subtle, I find it just a bit easier to read. There are many artists who go out of their way to foster the next generation of talent. But few screenwriters have gone as far as John August to really give you a sense of what theyre up against. Check out his website JohnAugust.com and his app company Quote-Unquote Apps.
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Geek Experiments: Writing Challenge Update #4
Holy crap I was really really lazy this week. For the first half of the month I was doing amazing to keep up with my writing… the past week has been abysmal. Between the 16th to the 20th I didnt write at all.
What the f**k Danny?
Honestly, there were a lot of errands I had to run and I had one of those emotional rollercoaster weeks which basically means, um, I just didnt feel like writing.
This is not a good report for where my writing is since its basically, oops, I messed up but I did learn somethings.
How To Write Everyday
While setting a goal is great and all there is the one big problem that youll come up to. Writing isnt difficult, developing ideas to write about is very hard on a daily basis. I suffered a 4 day drought and kept thinking, Ill make it up tomorrow. Now I have to make up a few days of not writing really quickly.
A place to write is incredibly important. My favorite place to write (and where Im writing this now) is the CSI Coffee Pub in Toronto. Ever since Ive found this place Ive written every single time I was here and its become fairly Pavlovian. If I dont write when Im here I feel… off.
The downside is that if Im completely broke, I cant afford to pay for transit to get out here and the coffee which I feel I must buy in order to sit here. I doubt theyd kick me out, but Id feel bad if I didnt have one.
All in all, Im behind in my words and I still havent got a good enough idea on how to consistently generate ideas. At least today Ive written quite a bit but now I just need to keep up with that. Currently at 8903 words total and I should be at 10500. f**k.
HBOs Band of Brothers and The Pacific to get Sequel
Memphis Belle image: Basegreen (Flickr; click for larger)
By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
Some of my favorite television comes out of HBO. The amount of quality work they produce is just staggering and the bar for miniseries, in my humble opinion, has always been Band of Brothers… and theyre making a third World War II miniseries.
After tackling Europe on the ground in Band of Brothers and the pacific in, well, The Pacific, HBO has announced that Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Steven Spielberg will be taking to the skies. As with the previous two miniseries the yet-as-untitled third miniseries will be based on a non-fiction book as its source material, Donald L. Millers Masters of the Air: Americas Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.
The book follows the 8th Air Force, known as the Mighty Eight as they battled the Germans and the elements. At the time, strategic bombing was a brand new kind of warfare and while the US was keen on hitting industrial targets, the British were more likely to conduct bombings over civilian targets. The book is described as the following:
Masters of the Air is the deeply personal story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. With the narrative power of fiction, Donald Miller takes readers on a harrowing ride through the fire-filled skies over Berlin, Hanover, and Dresden and describes the terrible cost of bombing for the German people.
What Might We See
Members of the Mighty Eight included legendary pilots such as Robert Morgan who flew the infamous Memphis Belle and Paul Tibbets who would go on to fly the Enola Gay and drop the first atomic bomb. Even Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart were part of the 8th Air Force while Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite were war correspondents during that time.
So well definitely get some name dropping at least.
The book also covers stories of captured airmen including the prison break at Stalag Luft III which has already been fictionalized in a small movie you may have heard called The Great Escape. Chuck Yeager was also shot down over German occupied France and escaped with the help of the French resistance.
Band of Brothers and The Pacific are some of the highest rated programs on HBO and did amazingly well during awards season winning 14 Emmys between them. We can expect that same quality from this new series and, quite frankly, I cant wait to see it!
Hat tip: The Hollywood Reporter
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On Set Sound Part 4
By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
A lot of low-to-no budget films record to camera which is fine if you really can’t afford high end sound systems. I’d really just like to take the time to point out why this really should be your last resort for recording sound on set. What you really want is sync sound where audio is recorded to a separate device.
Just don’t do it. A single minijack for audio is, for all intents and purposes, useless. Sure you can go to a local electronics store and pick up an XLR to minijack and make it work. If you do, remember to use a long XLR cable and not a long minijack cable. You’ll also have to make sure you’re shotgun mic takes batteries because you’re not getting phantom power out of the DSLR.
But remember, you get exactly one audio track and mixing the audio in post will be so much of a pain in the ass– look, do your sound editor a favour and just don’t do it!