5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Recording Sound

Before recording sound on your project, it's important that you cover all of your bases.

Sound is one of the most important elements of a film, one that if done poorly will make your work nearly unwatchable. And though getting your hands on a really good setup can help make your audio sound great, knowing what to listen for when recording will help you avoid making mistakes once you start rolling. In this video from Aputure, sound professional Stephen Harrod lists 5 questions you should ask yourself while recording audio on location.

Here are the questions Harrod says you should always ask yourself before recording sound:

What does this location sound like?

There is sound everywhere. Even if you're shooting in a quiet room in your house, let alone on a busy street, there are going to be sounds that you may not want to end up in your mix. So, before you even head out for your day of shooting, take note of what kinds of sounds you may have to deal with at your location—maybe its people walking and talking on a busy sidewalk, maybe it's kids playing on a playground nearby, maybe it's the clamor from a freeway, in which case I'd recommend ADR.

Are there any sound hazards?

Alarms, phones, car alarms, train whistles, and humming from appliances: these are all things that you may not be able to fully control, but knowing that there's a potential risk of them polluting your sound will help you and your director be more prepared for when/if these things decide to jump into your audio uninvited. And if you do have a little control, unplug those appliances, turn off those electronics, and unplug those phones (I'm talking about like, an office landline here...).

Will wardrobes interfere with the sound?

Some materials make a lot of noise and if your subject is wearing clothing made of these materials, you're gonna have a bad time. If you're shooting a narrative film, you have more control over what is being worn and can avoid the noisy stuff, but if you're working on a documentary or news piece, you may have to get a little creative with where to place your mic. And just avoid windbreakers at all costs.

Directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen took a big chance putting Michael Cera in that windbreaker for this awesome scene in 'This is the End.'

Am I using any noisy props?

Giving your characters something to do while they deliver lines is a great trick to keep dialogue scenes from being boring, but if you're having to deal with noises from rustling papers or glassware it may negatively affect the sound. So, you'll have to decide whether or not the noisy prop is integral to your story, because if it's not you can easy swap it out with something that makes less of a racket.

Will footsteps affect the sound?

There are all types of floors and all types of shoes which make for all types of footsteps, and sometimes this can become a problem when trying to record clean sound. If your scene takes place in a location with a marble floor and your subject is wearing some stilettos, those footsteps are going to be pretty loud and might become a problem. So, pay attention to footsteps, creaky floors (namely wood floors), and any other sounds your location's floors produce. If you want footsteps to make less sound, Harrod recommends using Hush Heels, which are foam pads you stick to the bottom of your shoes.

What are some other things you should be aware of before recording sound? Let us know down in the comments.     

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4 Comments

Excellent timing and as always solid pro tips.

I am preparing to do an indoor narrative video shoot in the weeks to come and I have been eye-balling entry level recorders and mics to pull this narrative project off. Never considered train tracks until you brought it up in the video and there happens to be a very busy railroad track about seventy-five yards away from the actual shoot, thankfully I caught this segment to do a work-a-round when recording time arrives.

Again, thanks for the great tips.

Namaste,

A.S.

February 21, 2017 at 10:16AM, Edited February 21, 10:59AM

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These are some great tips! Sound is so important to making a great film. if you're in need of high quality music tracks to go along with your films, check out Soundstripe - SUPER cheap but REALLY great audio tracks. You get full access to their entire library for only $10 per month and no fees beyond that.

Check it out: http://soundstripe.grsm.io/e/6vU

March 13, 2017 at 12:58PM

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Ethan Loomis
Videographer, Loomis Video
203

Thank you for your tips! I write a research work and I'm going to include your article as a resource like a wikipedia reference and so on. My research will be connected to songs and music recording.

August 3, 2018 at 12:39AM

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Another tip: record some "room tone". Grab 45 seconds of nothing, just the ambient sound of the location. This will be useful during editing.

You might have a shot where the talent is not speaking, but there is a crash, bang, wallop going off in the background. Patch in the room tone, hey presto. Maybe the talent is wearing a lavalier and brushes it during an otherwise good take. You need to snip out the rumble but silence is so obvious. Pop in some room tone. Job done!

December 13, 2019 at 3:20AM, Edited December 13, 3:34AM

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Tim Pickford-Jones
Retired
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