One of the best ways to improve the sound on your movie is to use of proper mics and foley
A mistake a lot of indie films make is to just record sound when they shoot and use what they’ve captured with the picture. Even worse some just use the camera’s in built mic.
If there’s one thing that screams amateur movie it’s the sound. If you have bad sound it doesn’t matter how good your acting, directing or VFX are, the sound will really put off your audience.
Below is the the film with all the sounds added
And here it is with only the sound that we recorded while filming
The first thing to do is get yourself a good external mic. There’s lots of tutorials out there on what mics are best for certain situations but if you can just get hold of a good quality shotgun mic than you can deal with most situations.
It’s not essential but a boom pole is also a great bit of kit to have as it means you can get the mic near the actors without being in the scene.
This has an art all to itself and something that I may cover in another blog. But one thing to note is if your using a shot gun mic then you want to get it as close to the actors as possible and pointing in the direction to where their speaking.
This may seem obvious but it’s easy to misjudge exactly where the mic is pointing, especially when you have a blimp (wind muffler) attached.
You want to try and get the mic to be around 12 inches or so away from the actors.
Of course sometimes this isn’t possible, like for example on a wide shot. In The Lollipop lady Killer we had a shot on a jib and you could see a large amount of area around the actor.
There’s two ways of dealing with sound for this.
For dialogue you can use a wireless mic, another name for this type of mic is a lavalier. These are good at getting dialogue but there are issues too.
One is you still need to power the receiver with mains, which if on location means you need a power supply.
They can also rub against clothing and sound slightly tinny.
The other option for dialogue is to use ADR or Automated Dialogue Replacement. Why it’s called automated I don’t know but what it means is you get your actors to say their lines after the take either on set next to the mic or in a sound studio at a later date. If they do this well you can sync the sound back to their mouth movement.
So that covers the dialogue but what about all the other sounds. This is where foley is great.
Below are two versions of the same scene from the film. One has the original soundtrack that we used and the other has all of the foley that we recorded afterwards.
There’s a real art to foley and we’re by no means experts.
Here is a good site with info
Hollywood films will have dedicated foley artists that have an array of different instruments and props they can use while acting out and recording the required movements while the film plays.
So for example someone walking along gravel. The foley artist with have a large tray full of gravel and will be able to time their steps with the actors as they watch the completed movie.
This sound will then replace the original (if there was any) footsteps giving a much more crisper cleaner sound.
Then if needs be this can be altered in the mix to make it sound like it was really there.
It’s surprising what you can get away with as you don’t have to use the exact same objects that originally made the sounds. For example in the scenes below, when she puts the Lollipop stick against the bench you hear it “clunk”.
We added this by finding a solid old branch and gently tapping it against a table.
Another good tip, especially if you live somewhere busy with things like cars and planes going over is to record sounds at night.
That is if you need outdoor sounds like crunching leaves or walking on grass.
Most things are going to sound exactly the same at night as they would during the day although there are somethings that do change. Bird song would be a good example of something that you can’t get away with at night.
So give it a go on your next movie. You’ll be surprised at not only how much fun it is but also what you can get away with in terms of matching it with the footage.
And your movies will sound so much better for it.
If you found this helpful comment below or send us your movie. We always love to watch fellow film makers films.