June 6, 2012

How to Get Great Audio on Location -- a Crash Course from Zacuto

How often do you take a location's audio characteristics into account when choosing where to shoot?  What kind of mic is better suited for a shooting range vs an indoor dialogue scene?  In an on-going series of informative sound tutorials courtesy of Zacuto, Clinton Harn delves into the importance of these questions while aiming to provide filmmakers with a basic introduction to sound recording for film.  Not only does he cover the tools of the trade, but he delves into many of the choices we as filmmakers have to make when deciding how to capture a given sound.  For example, how would one record an interior car scene?

In this video, Harn demonstrates how different kinds of mics in different locations will give you a variety of sound options within a car:

But to get the full benefit of this demo, you'll want to start at the beginning -- with Harn's overview to his approach to sound and the importance of understanding what goes into the capture of sound for film.  The series covers everything from sound recording terminology to common tools of the trade and their uses.  But more importantly, Harn makes an effort to emphasize how these all come together when actually recording on-location: understanding how the acoustic qualities of a given space, in conjunction with the sound you are trying to capture, will affect your choice of tools in recording.

This is a pretty solid starting point for someone looking to get a quick overview of the process, and gives you more than enough terms and concepts to Google further on your own.  Ready to start?  You can visit the main page here, or follow these links:

Article 1, Sound Perspectives 101

Article 2, Tools of the Trade, Part 1

Article 3, Tools of the Trade, Part 2

Article 4, Tools of the Trade, Part 3 

Article 5, Tools of the Trade, Part 4 

Video Tutorials: Capturing Sound in Cars

Article 6, The Metaphorical “Budget” Allocation 

[via Zacuto]

Your Comment


Wow!!! Clinton -- thank you thank you, thank you. This is where it's at,. an amazing source for audio stuff.

June 7, 2012 at 3:03PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm a bit late here, but just wanted to say that while there's some really useful stuff here, there's also some potentially confusing stuff, and the level of writing in the articles is... variable. Besides a fair few typos and such, there are more major things; he talks about data compression and dynamic range compression in the same breath without drawing a clear distinction between the two, and it reads like data compression magically normalises levels for you!

"Using inferior compressed audio formats such as mp3 usually results in less than desirable results. Compression in audio is also used to normalize audio to make fluctuating levels in speech or signals sound more coherent and consistent." No mention that the second use of the word "compression" means something totally different...

June 8, 2012 at 12:04PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Great tips for a 3 minute video. Cheers!

April 3, 2015 at 9:47AM

Sean Breathnach