From the point of Al Jolson releasing the Jazz Singer – sound has been of paramount importance to film and video. The sound recordist’s role has really not evolved dramatically from the early days of the talkies – what is vitally important for the production is that everything can be heard well – and that the quality of the reproduction is good. Here are some factors that every good sound recordist is aware of in the 21st century.
The eye is more forgiving than the ear.
The fashion currently is for very “reportage” type photography – lot’s of hand held, shaky cam and Lo-fi footage; but what is TOTALLY inexcusable in any flavour of video production is a to have lousy sound. It’s difficult to define why this is the case with sound, but not with visuals – it seems that the eye is more forgiving than the ear!
DSLR camera sound issues
In relation to this – the first issue to cover is that of the DSLR camera. As DSLRs were build as stills cameras first, the onboard sound facilities on most is fairly poor. It is usual for the corporate video world (a great majority of who use DSLR) to have a separate audio unit to record sound.
If the video is being shot in a studio or other controlled location this shouldn’t be an issue, but if you’re out on location, it is important for the production company to have a good scout of the location. This will ensure no nasty surprises when the time comes for the shoot, trying to interview someone important next to a railway line or shoot a tender love scene under a flight path isn’t a good idea!
With the recording itself, it is important to have the mikes set up correctly. Radio mikes need to be at the correct distance from the interviewees’ mouth so neither to cause distortion for being too loud, or the opposite if too faint. Nothing is more frustrating than bad sound levels – although this shouldn’t be an issue with a sound recordist worth their salt!
After the shoot, a sound recordist will normally get a good bit of ambient sound to give a nice undercurrent to the scene or interview.
The joys of a separate sound recordist
It is normally wise (dependant on budget) to employ a separate sound recordist. They will come with their independent kit and mikes and take that particular head ache away from the Director/Camera operator – who already have quite enough on their hands! The sound person will ensure the sound is perfect and pick up ambient sound and check sound levels.