October 30, 2016 at 6:09PM

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Issue with sound filmed in cafe, looking for advice

Hello world...

I recently filmed my first short, but am having issues with the sound files. It was filmed in a cafe (open, relatively crowded), and the audio gear was a R0DE NTG-2 on a boom pole and a Zoom recorder. The problem is that while the characters' audio is clearly audible, so is an online hubbub of voices sound.

I've tried dialing down that hubbub noise on Audition, but it seems that separating out wanted voices from unwanted voices isn't possible.

My question is then:
1) In general, is there a way to lessen sounds like that in post-production without killing the dialogue?
2) Also, I am not sure whether the problem with the sound files was due to inexperience and not getting the mike close enough, or whether a cafe which is open is going to be too loud. Related, would lav mics help in a situation like this?

Thanks!

7 Comments

Hello,
I'm a student filmmaker however from experience of the same problem when recording audio use an external recorder, set the gain to low and get as close to your actors face as possible without getting the boom in shot of course, then do folly of the ambient noise in the cafe and mix the two in post, that way you can get clear audio which you can work with to get the best results
Hope this helps :)

October 31, 2016 at 12:07AM

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The norm for getting good sound in cafes and bars is to tent them out and hite extras who can speak nonsense in very quiet voices while appearing normal or animated.

Or, bring the actors back and do ADR (if you have cafe audio without actors voices).

October 31, 2016 at 3:29AM

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Most shotgun mics (AKA linear gradient) like to be 1M-2M away from the subjects. Closer than that and they get boomy, farther and there's too much noise. The laws of physics dictate that the loudest sound at the mic wins, regardless of distance. There is no magic electronic fix for it.

There's nothing wrong with having noise in a cafe, that's the real world. If it's so bad that it's obscuring the dialogue, you can use ADR as Michael said. I hope you got at least 3-4 minutes of "room tone" to run behind the ADR. If not, no biggie, just get a group of people together to speak gibberish and Foley in some noise, both a good distance from a mic. It's a VERY common practice to do this.

October 31, 2016 at 5:14AM

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You mentioned lav mics. Yes this would help. As mentioned above capture the room 'walla' (technical term) and lay that under your talent lav audio. Duck it if necessary. If you are unable to use what you have then do an ADR session.

Andy Reynolds

November 5, 2016 at 12:35PM, Edited November 5, 12:35PM

Use a multiband compressor (as an expander); focus your frequencies on the voices of the characters with a low Q and a threshold about 1 to 3 dB over the "hubbub" with a ratio 1:3 approximately.
You can do the same with an EQ in series with a Compressor, it depends what equipment or plug-ins you have.
The best one for me is the iZotope Ozone, but I heard that the iZotope RX is the best for sound recovering and sound for filmmaking.

About microphones, you have good equipment; at the location be sure that the place hasn't too much reverb (record better near curtains or some kind of fabric), place the microphone as near as possible to the actors with a gain input of -12 to -6 dB for dynamic range (the sound engineer will thank you), and last but not least, ask your actors to speak a lot louder than they usually do.

November 2, 2016 at 5:46PM

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Alejandro Badillo
Music Producer, Actor, Screenwriter
139

Vera, this won't specifically answer either of your questions, however, "the right tool for the job" always applies. If you use a NTG-2 in a noisy environment you will seldom get the results you desire. If you follow Stephen's advise and position the mic 3-6 feet away you will NEVER get usable audio. Try an NTG-3, or better a Sennheiser 416 or equivalent and get the mic pointed at the mouth of your talent approximately 1.5-2 feet max and you will get excellent results.

November 2, 2016 at 8:46PM

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Michael nailed this problem. Normally shots like this have fake customers that look like they are talking, but in reality they are speaking in very low voices. ( and sometimes speaking nonsense words )

You can save your shoot by bringing your actors into a sound studio to make an ADR recording, where your actors are dubbing their own voices to match what is happening on the screen. It's a slow process if the actors are not experienced with this process, but it might be a good learning experience for you.

If you really want to do this type of "live" shooting and still get decent sound, then you should rent a Sanken CS-3e shotgun microphone with a good mixer that you can connect your Zoom recorder to.

The CS-3e shotgun mic has a VERY narrow audio pick-up range, so you can easily isolate a person from the environment they are in. Imagine it's an audio "spot-light", where only the person in the "spot-light" will be recorded. I recommend renting a good mixer too which will allow the boom-operator to adjust the amount of gain on the fly, it will also produce a much cleaner sound than typical Zoom H4n mic pre-amps.

The only "catch" to using the Sanken CS-3e shotgun is that it has to be aimed properly or you will miss your actors words. It's not an easy mic to use because of this, but the results are great in pretty noisy environments.

November 3, 2016 at 7:23PM, Edited November 3, 7:25PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
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