5. Getting good sound

Martin Johnson - Sunday, January 01, 2017

5. Getting good sound

Sound is sometimes the poor cousin when it comes to shooting interviews, but research shows that audiences will accept poor images more readily, than poor sound. Getting both right is a bonus!

The best place to record good sound in an interview is with the microphone placed around 30-40 cms from the person's mouth. In practice, there are really only two ways to do this - one is with a lavalier microphone clipped to the person's shirt/tie/coat collar OR with a mic mounted on some sort of mic stand or boom pole overhead and just out of shot.

Given that 30-40cm, you can see that it's not possible to rely on the in-built mic on the camera. It will pick up the sound of course, but because it is at least 2-4 metres away, it will also pickup every other noise in your location. To get the camera mic to within 30-40cm, the camera will obviously be way too close to focus.  

Almost every television program, drama series or feature film will have the mic this close. A good boom operator will ensure consistent sound without ever coming into shot. Lavalier mics can easily be hidden under clothing, taped to the body, or even hidden in a ladies hair. 

Large productions may resort to dialogue replacement, where the actor/performer goes into a studio, watches and listens to their performance and then re-reads their words over and over again until they can repeat them in sync and with the right intonation. But that's not something that's generally in the scope of what we're discussing.

Generally boom mics are cabled back to either the camera or a portable digital audio recorder. Lavalier mics are easily cabled back to the camera or they can connect to a radio transmitter with the receiver on the camera. 

When you're setting your sound levels, make sure the camera's audio system is on manual. Whilst most will have an AGC setting (Automatic Gain Control) in many cases this will be too severe and you will be able to hear it operating. Set the level correctly and you can add compression etc afterwards.


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