Sound on a Budget

If you really are economising, you can do a few things to make the sound decent. For a start, pick as silent a location as possible. Avoid the obvious things like busy roads, school playgrounds, railway stations, sawmills, etc. If you’re indoors, try to find a room that has lots of carpet and curtains. If you must shoot in a big, echo-ey room, get your cast and crew to bring big cushions, duvets, roll-up mattresses, large furry dogs, anything that will absorb sound. Drape them around the room, as close to the action as possible, but away from any lights. If you’re recording with the microphone on the camera, get the camera as close as possible to the source of the noise (usually the mouth.) If you can afford a separate microphone, look for a directional one at a price you can afford. Rode is a reasonable name here. Get the foamy windshield as well – unless your shoot is entirely interiors. Use a separate digital recorder if you can. They’re not very expensive. Tascam and Sony have models from a few hundred dollars. And while you’re recording your separate tracks, try to use a clapperboard. And record the on-camera sound as an insurance. Many non-linear editing packages include a module that will automatically adjust the separate microphone track to bring it into synchronisation with the one on the camera. But make sure your editor switches off that ‘safety’ track. Use good, sound-excluding headphones to monitor things, not little ear buds. A proper boom is rather expensive, but worth it if you’ve got to shoot for hours and hours. Otherwise, concoct a makeshift device from a bamboo pole or similar. How you connect the microphone to the pole is up to your improvisational skills, but look at how the professionals do it – the actual microphone is inside a cradle, supported by thick rubber bands. Wear thin cotton gloves if you’re using an improvised boom, and listen carefully for handling noise. Please don’t think that things can be ‘fixed in post’! A stitch in time saves nine, they say. And it’s true for film locations. Get it right, even if it takes ten minutes extra. It’ll be worth it in the long run. Really.