Indie Filmmaking Sound Mistakes


Often I see the two major indie filmmaking mistakes are the camera shake and sound. So leaving the camera work for another time, you have got to prioritize sound.

Mistake Number One:

Ignoring background sound: It simply interferes with a clean recording. Indoors, think large appliances running in background (refrigerators and AC), people’s phones and cast or crew background chatter. These are quite easy prevent with a little planning. Do a sound test before you shoot and eliminate interfering sounds.

Mistake Number Two:

Cable shielding and sounds equipment condition. Confirm that your sound equipment is not picking up mains power hum or generating artifacts through dodgy connection.

Mistake Number Three:

Cleaning the sound too much, allow for Room Tone and environmental sounds.

Every location will have distinct sound profile that you will want to layer underneath the scene. This will help smooth out the sound between different clips, and will give your sound-scape, a more natural and full sound. Record a track of location tone to keep on hand for your audio edit.

Getting room tone is easy- let the microphone run for a couple minutes in your location when no one is talking or making artificial noises. Aim to get a few minutes that don’t feature any instantly recognizable or distracting sounds. Nothing takes you out of a scene faster than a background loop that makes itself noticeable by playing the same distinct clink of glasses or cough every 27 seconds.

Environmental sounds are similar, though they tend to be more active. For example, room tone is nothing more than what an environment sounds like when it is quiet.

Environmental sounds are distinct noise that add to the environment. For example, think about a busy park, a mall, or a marketplace. These places have their own litany of unique sounds that are very recognizable. By getting a few minutes of very clear environmental sound, you’ll be able to layer this track under your dialogue and create a realistic and credible soundscape without having to either build it up from scratch, or use a more anonymous recording you pull from a sound effects library.

Mistake Number Four:

Rely too much on ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording).

Simply put, ADR is what you do when you need your actors to dub their dialogue over because you didn’t record them properly the day of the shoot. This involves an actor sitting down and attempting to say their dialogue with the same emotion, interpretation, cadence and pacing as they did the day of the shot.

This mean an actor has to sit down and watch their recording on a continuous loop and attempt to match it all up in a recording studio. Some are better than others at it. I have never met an actor who likes to do it and it can be really hard to get a good recording that matches up naturally this way. Do all you can to get it right on the set then to put this additional task to your talent.

Finally, too often people gloss over on-set sound problems and say they will just fix them in post production. If you are going to work the sound yourself, or if you are hiring someone else to mix the sound for you, then all you are doing is saving a penny today to spend a dollar tomorrow. It is extremely difficult to fix poorly recorded sound after the fact. Get it right the first time, and don’t put the problems off to a later date.

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