Carlos Corral

Filmmaker / Producer

@mindwarpllc

Sound 101: Building Your Sound Kit

April 30, 2013

As a fellow indie filmmaker, I've done my share of jobs on set. I want to take the time to educate my fellow indie filmmakers about how important LOCATION SOUND is on an indie production.

THE PROBLEM

Indie filmmakers today are more concerned about what camera they are using instead of caring about the story they can tell with SOUND.  While I won’t get into whether or not your story is good, I want to at least address how important SOUND is.

Your story may be great, good, or so-so, but nothing can make your story reach the “god-awful” level faster than BAD SOUND! You may have the next big idea, but if your audience can’t hear the story, then all of your hard work will have been for nothing.

Now, some of you may say “I’m super indie and low-budget. I’ll just ADR the whole movie" or "We'll fix it in post.” 

STOP RIGHT THERE! BIG MISTAKE!
NEVER EVER ADR UNLESS YOU HAVE TO!

I know indie filmmakers who have shot feature films and to this day have never completed them due to the filmmaker negating sound and having to wait on actor’s schedules for ADR sessions. I’m talking about 2+ years since they finished shooting and editing their films. All these filmmakers do is sit and look at an incomplete timeline because of bad sound. Tis very sad indeed.

THE SOLUTION

But have no fear! There is a way to avoid this novice problem that several indie filmmakers are guilty of. You can either hire a professional sound recordist such as myself, or spend some money on various items to make a great sound kit for yourself.  

You don't need all of these items mind you.  A shotgun microphone alone can make a world of difference for your sound quality. 

The advantage that the audio industry has over the camera/video industry is that a lot of audio items tend to hold their value and capabilities over a longer period of time.

Microphones, mixers, and recorders aren't so easily lost in the endless black hole of the latest and greatest technology upgrades.

WHICH ROUTE TO TAKE?

If you decide to go the professional route, you may ask, is it cheaper to get a sound guy or buy all this equipment? Well, that all depends.

Rates for a professional sound recordist can vary depending on a variety of factors: what market you are in, their union or non-union affiliation, gear list, experience, and level of professionalism.  

Still, hiring a sound recordist for a 3-4 week indie shoot will cost you less in the long run and will be a great investment towards your indie project.

If you decide instead to become a professional sound guru yourself, then let me start by giving you an idea of exactly what goes into a professional sound kit.  

Be mindful though, there are various types of "audio bag" and "sound cart" combinations.  For this blog post in particular, I will show you what tools I carry in my ENG "audio bag" configuration. 

THE SOUND RECORDER

Sound Devices 744t Recorder  
Sound Devices 744T 4-Channel Portable Audio Recorder with Timecode

The sound recorder is the heart of any sound kit. As such, you should invest in a sound recorder that is going to be usable no matter what the environment. I didn’t think to much of it myself at first but what I’m referring to is extreme heat and cold temperature environments.

Since I am a location sound recordist/mixer in El Paso, TX  (West Texas), the weather here can fluctuate from extremely cold to hot in a matter of hours due to our desert climate conditions.

In the winter, it can get to as low as 17 degrees in the early morning with the temperature rising up to the mid 50s or 60s. This occurred during our production of the short film Child of the Desert that we shot here in El Paso, TX in December of 2010.

In the summer, the weather reached as high as 106 degrees, which occurred during our production of Red Sands that was also shot in El Paso, TX in June of 2010.

As if weather conditions weren’t enough, you also have to think about Timecode. Do you need it?  The answer is a most definite YES! Filmmakers everywhere are shooting movies with DSLRs, BMCCs, and several other small cameras that are not capable of timecode.  

A lot of these smaller cameras also don’t carry professional sound (XLR). Instead, you are left with 1/8 or 1/4 inch jacks for sound, and no place to sync your recorder and camera timecodes.  Using a sound recorder with timecode will help you match up all of your recorded audio later on in the timeline with your pretty pictures.

For my audio bag, I chose the Sound Devices 744T 4ch. Recorder. It may be a little on the expensive side, but this recorder is as solid as rock. It can record up to 4 audio channels at 24bit 192KHz and has a 160GB solid state internal hard drive. You can also record to compact flash cards.

If you are looking for something more affordable, check out other manufacturers recording devices, but trust me when I say this:

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

A lot of other lower end sound recorders don’t offer anywhere near the customization that the higher end recorders do. If you don’t believe me, go out and rent a lower end recorder and a higher end recorder. Compare them. You will be glad you did.  

If you don’t have the budget for a higher end recorder and you are looking for the best of both worlds, check out the mixer/recorder hybrids from Sound Devices or Zaxcom.

THE TIMECODE SLATE

If your recorder gives out timecode (which is worth every penny), then you are also going to need a smart slate.  A smart slate is able to connect to your sound recorder and sync with timecode.  This way, when the slate is shown in front of the camera before a take, the recorder’s and slate’s timecode will be in sync. This will help a lot in post production so that you or your editor can line up the video & audio takes of the corresponding production shoot without error.

 

If you are on a budget and cannot afford a smart slate, then a regular old slate will do but your editor will not have the benefit of timecode.  If your files become disorganized or re-arranged by the DIT on set, your editor may not be very happy and he will have to match every take manually without timecode to help.  

You’ll have to use your eyes or a special plugin in order to sync the video & audio.  For small projects, using a normal slate can be okay but if you’re going to tackle a feature film using say a DSLR or Black Magic Cinema Camera and you're not using a smart slate, you're gonna have your post work cut out for you.

Smart Slates can go for over $1000. The iPad is about $500 and the Movie Slate app is $30. A normal slate will run you between $30-$100.  The normal slate is the cheapest option while the iPad with Movie Slate App is becoming a more popular option with indie production.  Timecode can be achieved by paying an additional $50 for the extra Timecode feature on the Movie Slate app and by using a 5-pin Lemo to 1/8" Timecode Cable.

There is a major drawback to the popular option, and that's production environment.  While a Smart Slate is bit more of an expensive option, you are less likely to break a Smart Slate on a movie set than an iPad.  Slates tend to be pretty durable and can take a lot of abuse, even from the least experience 2nd Assistant Camera.  An iPad, with its glass jaw, is an accident waiting to happen.  Be warned!   

What about Red Giant's Plural Eyes? Be ready to throw down $200 for this plugin.  I haven't used this option since I use timecode but I've heard from several editing pals that this does help speed things up in the post-production work flow.  Check out Red Giant's reviews or ask any editor friends you might have if they have used this plug-in in their editing program.

There are lots of options out there when using a slate.  In the end, do what you can for your indie production.  A normal slate is not a bad thing but make sure you stay organized in order to make the post-production process a lot easier for you and your editor.  Renting one of these bad boys is also very cheap.

THE SOUND MIXER/RECORDER

Sound Devices 664 6-Channel Portable Mixer & Audio Recorder

Much like the sound recorder, the sound mixer is the BRAIN of the operation. The sound mixer controls the volume of all the pre-amps before they hit the sound recorder.  There are plenty of mixers out there, ranging from $500 all the way up to almost $5000.  

Some of the higher end mixers now come with their own built-in recorders, like the Sound Devices 664 Mixer/Recorder. Think of it as the HEART & BRAIN of a sound kit rolled into one piece of hardware.

There are major advantages and disadvantages here. One such advantage can be cost. If you don’t have the money for a recorder and a mixer, then a mixer with a built-in recorder may be right up your alley.  

Some of these newer mixer/recorder hybrids like the Sound Devices 664 offer timecode.  It is a larger piece of equipment than most of you may think and may not fit in your standard "audio bag".  To me, the SD664 is more of "sound cart" piece than an "audio bag" one.  

If you aren't going the sound cart route and are content with an audio bag, then maybe the Sound Devices 552, Zaxcom Maxx or the newly released Sound Devices 633 may be better suited for you.

If your indie production is really on a tight budget and you will be recording the production audio with the XLR input on your production camera, then a non-recorder option such as the  Sound Devices 302 may be a more affordable option.

Be sure to read up on all possible mixer/recorders so that you can find out which one is best suited for your line of work.  I currently use the Sound Devices 552 Mixer/Recorder in my audio bag.  I feed the Sound Devices 744T's timecode to the Sound Devices 552 and use it for a stereo mix backup.

THE SHOTGUN MIC

The Shotgun mic is the LENS of the sound kit.  There are several shotgun microphones out there, all tailored for several different kinds of environments, all with very different sounding results.  

The question here is not what the cheapest or most expensive mic is, but rather, finding the sweet spot for your own ears and budget.  

Almost all location sound recordists use or recommend different microphones based on their experiences in various climates, environments, and locations. Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Sanken, Neumann, RODE, OKTAVA etc.

All of these companies make great shotgun mics that professionals use on a daily basis.  Again, there is no wrong answer on which mic you choose, but you will hear a MAJOR difference between a $200 mic and $1800 mic.

Here are some shotgun mics I have worked with throughout my career as a sound mixer/recordist and boom operator.  FYI, the nicknames I have given these mics are of my own creation and are not their actual "on-set" names.

Audio-Technica 897 aka “The Beginner”

The AT897 is, according to an Audio Technica rep I spoke with at SXSW, their HOTTEST selling mic from their entire line of shotgun microphones.  Consider this mic the stock lens aka “The Beginner”.  It has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. When we shot our feature film Hands of God back in 2008, the AT897 was the shotgun Mic I chose because of the limited budget we had.  We recorded the audio straight into the camera since that was our only budget option.   

I was able to get away with using this mic for our feature film because I was both the Director and Boom Operator for most of the film production. I know how clean production audio has to be and where the mic needs to be positioned in order to get the best results.  Our post-production sound mixer even complimented me for having some of the cleanest production audio he’s dealt with in his indie career and was somewhat surprised with the results I got out this mic.  

From being the star player in our feature film production, this mic went on to mount my Panasonic HPX170 and I now use it as an on-board mic with other various cameras for production audio and reference sound.

OKTAVA MK-012 aka “The Rusky”

oktava_mk012

The Oktava MK-012 is a compact, high quality capacitor microphone. I call it the "The Rusky" because it originates from Russia. The wide, flat response ensures that all sounds are captured with a high degree of accuracy. The cardioid, omni, & hypercardioid capsule increase this microphone’s versatility as well as its size.  This little guy packs a punch and lets me move around in small areas where most normal sized microphones wouldn’t.  It also makes for a great interior car microphone.  

I recently used this microphone on a feature film titled “Unlimited" as the interior boom mic.  The sound mixer was Teddy Hallaron while I was the Boom Operator for the shoot.  We used (2) different versions of this microphone.  One was modified while the other was normal.  There is a modification that Bill Sitler and Michael Joly provide to these microphones at a very affordable price.  

The resulting modification gave the Oktava mic a much more smooth & creamy sound to the actor’s vocals.  You can read more about the modifications on their websites.  Some have even compared this mic with the Sennheiser MKH50.

  Audio-Technica AT4053 aka “The Sweet Man”

The AT4053 is another great interior small shotgun microphone option.  It has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and has pretty good off axis rejection. The cost of the AT4053 is smack in between the Oktava MK-012 and the Sennheiser MKH-50.  This is a solid mid-range mic when it comes to recording interior dialogue.  You can use both Hypercardioid and Cardioid heads on this mic, although to me, the Hypercardiod is the best option for this mic.

As far as audio recording quality, it tends to be flatter sounding than the Oktava and Sennheiser.  Don't get me wrong. This mic will still give you very crisp and beautiful dialogue recordings. I have achieved some amazing results with post-production EQ with this mic.  For the price, it's an excellent mic to use on an indie film production.

RODE NTG3 aka “The Renegade”

I have dubbed RODE NTG3 as the “Renegade”.  It has a frequency response  of 40Hz to 20kHz. To me, this mic is the SWEET SPOT. I mentioned earlier that every sound recordist has their own SWEET SPOT, and this microphone more than meets my expectations for a great mic. What makes this mic a SWEET SPOT for me is not just the audio it produces, but rather, the price.  For $699, you get a mic that gives some $1000-$1200 mics a definite run for the their money.  

The RODE NTG3 mic is very closely compared with the Sennheiser MKH-416. While they may sound very close to one another and both have very impressive mid and high frequency capability, I feel that the RODE NTG3 just sounds little better because of its newer design.  Again, not everyone will agree with me, hence why I mentioned, every sound recordist has their own sweet spot.  

You’ll have to find your own sweet spot before making a purchase.  Oh and before I forget, this mic comes with a 10 year warranty.  SWEET SPOT!

Sennheiser MKH-416 aka “The Battle-AXE”

The Sennheiser MKH-416 has been around the industry for a very long time and is considered by most as the “Battle-Axe” of choice.  It has a frequency response  of 40Hz to 20kHz. This was the first shotgun mic I used while at the University of Texas at Austin in 2003.  We used it on almost all of our student production shoots and believe me this microphone is very impressive. 

The 416 is an older design and has been around for decades, so this mic has been through all sorts of environments. The Sennheiser MKH-416 has become the ENG standard of several sound recordists all around the globe. 

I’ll be honest, I almost cannot spot the difference in sound quality between this mic and the RODE NTG3 above.  While the 416 is a tried and true mic, the design is older but it is still one of the best shotgun microphones out there for field recording. If you are heading to a really wet, dry, cold, humid, or hot climate location, then the 416 will be the most reliable microphone that will always give you great sound.

Sennheiser MKH-50 aka “The Fifty”

The Sennheiser MKH-50 is another industry standard mic that I've come across.  This little guy has been used on such Hollywood Film/TV productions as The Social Network, The Dark Knight, and AMC's Breaking Bad. The mic has a range of 40Hz to 20kHz and is part of the "Supercardioid" category of microphones. 

I first used this mic on an indie feature called "The Odd Way Home" with fellow sound mixer Eddie Santiago. Since this indie feature was very dialogue driven, the MKH50 was the perfect dialogue microphone for the various interior conditions we had for the indie production.

The size and dynamic audio range is what makes it a very impressive mic.   It's a little bigger than the Oktava MK-012 in size but not by much.  I've heard both the modified Oktava and the MKH50 side by side and I can say with confidence that the MKH50 is the better microphone.  

The Oktava, with its modification, sounds very creamy and smooth but the MKH50 leans more toward dark and rich sounding vocals.  By dark, I mean the low end of a person's voice stays intact without the HIs and MIDs actually being overwhelmed by the LOWs.

If you need a high-middle ground between the Oktava MK-012, AT4053, and the Schoeps CMC641G price ranges, then you won't be disappointed with this little guy.  If this mic is out of your price range, then a modified Oktava or AT4053 can be just as effective.  

Again, find your own SWEET SPOT. There may be disagreements with this statement, but sound is very subjective and open to interpretation by the recordist and mixer.

Sanken CS-3e aka “The Scalpel”

The Sanken CS3e is my FAVORITE shotgun mic to use on set. Make no mistake though, this shotgun mic will CUT you if haven't trained with it. By cut you, I mean that the pick-up pattern on this mic is very narrow.  

If your Boom Operator doesn’t have much experience, then this Boom Mic is NOT to be used. If your boom operator misses the target (ie the actors vocals), you’ll have do the take again or rely on the wireless lav audio to make up for the absence of audio.  It has a frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz. 

You or your Boom Operator need the hands of a steady surgeon in order to operate this microphone to its fullest potential.  If your thinking of having your girlfriend, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, random PA, or anyone else hold this shotgun mic while you are on an indie shoot, then you will feel the pain when you bring in your production audio into your timeline.

Still, if you do everything right with this microphone, then you will be handsomely rewarded with some of the most warm and beautiful sound you have ever heard.

AMC's Breaking Bad, which is filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, uses this bad boy on set for a majority of its exterior scenes.

Neumann KMR82i aka “The Long One”

I call the KMR82i mic “The Long One” because it's a long shotgun mic and the nickname just felt appropriate.  It has a frequency response  of 20Hz to 20kHz.  It’s ideal for desert conditions and believe it or not, this mic is used a lot in “Bollywood” as a fellow sound pier pointed out to me.  

The mic can pick up long distance sound, which suits it perfectly for those wide shots.  It is also a relatively flat sounding mic.  Some sound mixers like flat sound because they know how they will EQ it in post production.  Other sound guys prefer not having to do as much post-production sound so they may pick another mic to use.  Still, this is a great outdoor microphone.

THE BOOM POLE

Now that you have read about various shotgun microphones, its time to choose a boom pole. A good boom pole will cost either as much as or more than your chosen shotgun mic. This is okay. The last thing you want is to deal with a crappy cheap pole or a DIY boom pole that will cause handling problems during the production shoot.  

Remember, SOUND IS IMPORTANT!  So with that, here are some differences with the quality of boom poles you will find out there in the marketplace.

There are (2) types of Boom Poles. Carbon fibre & aluminum.  Carbon fibre tends to be just a bit lighter in weight but not by much when compared to the current aluminum boom poles.  The biggest difference between the two types is price.  

Carbon fibre boom poles are a bit more expensive than Aluminum boom poles.  I would suggest going out to rent both a Carbon Fibre & Aluminum Boom Poles so you can feel it in your hands.  Everyone is different and so is their preference.  I used Aluminum first but later decided to go with Carbon Fibre.

Finally, the most important thing about the is the quality of the internal coiled mic cable. At the top of the boom pole will be a short XLR cable for attaching to the microphone. At the base of the boompole is an XLR male connection for connecting to your mixer either via side mount or bottom mount.  

I prefer a side-mount boom pole, as it hinders less damage to the internal/external audio cables.

Don’t even consider a boom pole that does not have an internal XLR cable. A boom pole with an internal XLR cable will make your production flow a lot smoother.  The only drawback is you need to be careful how you deploy the boom pole during a production.  The cord can get tangled inside the boom pole if you do not handle it with care.

THE WIRELESS LAV MIC

A wireless lavalier microphone is a small microphone used for television and film productions that allow hands-free operation of audio.  The lavalier will typically be clipped to the subject’s clothing, such as a tie, jacket or collar. In narrative motion picture usage, lavs are almost always hidden under clothing to conceal the fact that the person is mic’ed.

The Shotgun microphone typically sounds ‘better’ and more natural than a lavalier mic, however, sometimes it may be more practical to use a lavalier.

One such situation would be during a wide shot that forces the boom operator to keep a distance with his microphone from the speaking talent that isn’t close enough to achieve a good signal to noise ratio.

So which brand?  I have used a lot of wireless lav mics in the past, so I can only give you ONE opinion as to which Wireless Lav System has worked best for me and which one I believe you should invest in.

Lectrosonics 401/411A Series UM400a, SMa, or SMQV, Wireless Transmitter & Receivers 

These Wireless Lavs look and feel bulletproof, or as  Lectrosonics puts it  “The machined aluminum housing and panels are surfaced with electrostatic powder coated and anodized finishes with laser etched markings to withstand the rigors of field production.”   

One of the biggest reasons I love these lavs is because of the customizable radio frequency for the transmitter and receiver.  When using cheaper wireless lavs, you WILL pick up radio interference from different sources depending on your location (urban vs. remote).  

The receiver tunes across its 25.6 MHz tuning range and records RF activity with markers on the LCD screen. In other words, these babies let you find the cleanest frequency so that your audio does not get lost between the transmitter and receiver.  

While their price tag is high, you won’t be let down by these Lavs and they are totally worth the investment!  When using Wireless Audio technology, you want zero and I mean ZERO chance of signal drop, hence why I use Lectros over the other brands.

  Lavalier Microphones

There are various lav mics to choose from for your wireless audio system.  The two microphones pictured above are the Sanken COS-11D and the Lectrosonics m152.  I'll use COS-11Ds for most TV/Film productions while my m152s serve as the  "we're heading into parts unknown with dangerous environments" mic.  

The COS-11Ds run around $380 while the Lectros are about half the price. Both are great sounding mics but I find the Sanken's a bit better in quality and their size is more advantageous.  Still, the m152s are perfect for documentary work.  The choice is yours on which to pick for your sound kit.

IFB

IFBs are small receivers that let the Producer, Director, or any other on set VIPs the ability to listen your mix for reference.  By using a transmitter, like one of the more inexpensive Lectronics LMa transmitters, you can send the audio signal to several other IFB receivers.  

These little bad boys can even run wireless audio reference to say, your DSLR, BMCC, SCARLET OR EPIC camera.  They can also run audio to other XLR cameras with a 1/8 to XLR adapter as reference audio.  I prefer these over the standard COMTEKS.  

SHOCK MOUNTS, WINDSHIELDS, & BLIMPS

blimp

All microphones needs shock mounts, no matter the size.  There are various shock mounts available from various manufacturers and each one is tailored to a specific size.   Rycote Invision microphone mounts are some of the best.  

Be sure to read up on which one you need to buy for whatever shotgun mic you have chosen for your production.  Same goes for the windshields and blimps.

The Blimp windscreen is a professional, adjustable windscreen with a shockmount for shotgun microphones.  You’ll need a Boom Pole with this of course.  A majority of these kits also come with a fur windscreen for additional support but if they don’t, it would be wise to purchase one.  The biggest thing you need to look, feel, and listen for is handling noise from these items.  

Obviously, the lower quality windscreens with bad microphone clamps are the ones will give you a lot of handling noise which is no good for your needs.  Be sure to get something sturdy.  If you can rent, then I would do that. RODE & Rycote make great windscreens and shields at prices you can afford.  

These items are IMPORTANT if you plan to shoot outdoors.  Mother nature and the elements tend to not be very friendly sometimes. 

HEADPHONES

You'll need some professional monitor headphones to listen in on your mixes.  The Sony 7506s are my personal choice.  I would advice you not use your iPod headphones to monitor your mixes.

BREAKOUT CABLES

Yep, you're gonna need plenty of cables. Breakout Cables mind you.  If you aren't using a DSLR and instead are on set with say, an ENG type camera, then running the sound mix via XLR is the way to go.  Some of the higher end ENG cameras like the  Panasonic HPX500 will have timecode sync via BNC.  

More than likely, if you are on an ENG gig, you will only be bringing your boom mic, lavs, and mixer along.  Using breakout cables will help you pass the audio mix into the camera.  You would be surprised how many TV/Reailty shows have this kind of setup.

THE HARNESS

The Versa-Flex HS1N Professional Audio Harness and the ORCA OR-40 Harness are heavy duty harnesses that are padded with wide straps that prevent shoulder/back fatigue while carrying audio equipment. They are designed to be used with a professional audio mixer and recording bag/case.

The good harnesses feature attachment rings for securing cases.  I’ve used both the Versa-Flex HS1N and ORCA OR-40 in the field and they are both good options. You can go with whatever brand you like, but just make sure it gives you proper support in the areas you need it.  A harness that supports your shoulders and back properly is always best for non-cart field work.

THE AUDIO BAG

You’re gonna need a very protective bag for your audio gear and to keep your equipment safe, organized, and accessible. I would go with PetrolPorta Brace, or the brand new ORCA audio bags for the best convenience.

I currently use the ORCA OR-34 Audio Bag, which is a professional-quality mixer bag ideal for sound recordists.

The ORCA bags are constructed with an aluminum frame that allows access to the gear from six directions, and its bright blue polyester lining provides easy viewing of your equipment.

It also has removable internal dividers for custom configuration and a fully-padded main compartment to safeguard your equipment. It has a transparent rain cover for easy viewing, and free access to all mixer panels on the sides, back, bottom, and top.

Much like buying a shotgun microphone, the audio bags are also a subjective and personal decision. Every sound mixer uses their own type of audio bag for different reasons.

Be sure to check out Jose Frias' audio blog for review, tips, and tricks if you plan on purchasing an ORCA audio bag for yourself. There is a great headphone hook mod that he added to his ORCA bag for less the $15.

THE BATTERY KIT

The final component to your sound kit is of course the Battery Kit.  There is a way to power all of the elements of your sound kit without having to buy additional/different batteries for each piece of equipment.  There are several pieces to this equation, so with that I will refer you to the best article I’ve read on the internet about “Being Green in the Field” when it comes to powering your audio gear on a production shoot.

THE LEMO CABLES

We're not quite done yet.  Since there are a variety of cameras out there, you are going to need a variety of special cables in order for your sound mixer/recorder to talk to that specific camera in terms of timecode.

When not using XLR cables to feed sound to the cameras, timecode will be the way the editor will bring all of the video and audio elements together in the timeline.   LEMO cables are needed when working with RED ONEs, EPICs, SCARLETs, ALEXAs, SONYs, PANASONICs, etc.  

The goal is get timecode to sync with the camera and your recorder.  This can be achieved by directly connecting to the camera itself or by using a Syncbox Timecode Generator.  

Most of the cameras I have worked with can all maintain timecode sync with their latest firmware upgrades.  Since I own a Deneke Timecode Slate, I will usually jam the timecode slate and then use a custom lemo cable to sync my recorders timecode with the camera's timecode.  

Be mindful, always find out ahead of time which camera you will be working with as all cinema cameras have different methods of connecting to timecode.   Cameras can be fed timecode through BNC, 5-pin LEMO, or 4-pin LEMO connections.  

You can either make these cables yourself, buy some pre-made ones from B&H Photo, or you can call Trew Audio and place a custom cable order for what you need.  

Be warned though, these cables are not your average items and can cost up to $100 or more depending on what you need.  I had to order a special LEMO to mini-XLR & LEMO in order for me to feed timecode from my SD744T to my SD552 and to my timecode slate.

EXPENDABILES

Can't forget about the Expendables! No, not the movie. These are all small items you use with your wireless lav mics for micing talent.   Rycote Overcovers are best for under the clothes positions as are Sanken Rubber Mounts.  The overcovers come with their own adhesive stickies while the Rubber Mount will need to be placed on talent with medical tape.

This is where  Transpore medical tape and Ace Bandage come into play.  The medical tape is best used with the with the Sanken Rubber Mounts. The residue of the Transpore tape also isn't as bad as some of the other medical tapes out there and it works very will.  

The Ace Bandage is used for placing the wireless transmitter on your talent by their ankles or other areas of the body.  It all depends on the talent's wardrobe.  Sometimes, the wardrobe may conflict with the placement of the wireless transmitter of the talent.  Use your best judgment. 

THE SOUND REPORTS

If you are mixing professionally, then you need to have these bad boys ready to roll out.  Sound reports help both DITs and Editors make sense of all of the audio files that were recorded following the end of a production day.  

Even if you are shooting sync sound to the cameras, it's always good to have some reference notes as to what the conditions were on set while the dialogue was being recorder.  

You can create your own sound report or download some already made templates from Trew Audio. Click on the Sound Report tab to access all the various ones.  Using a small aluminum storage clipboard goes a long way when out in the field.

IN CONCLUSION

Yes, I know this blog article got insanely long, but I hope it kept your attention and helped educate you on the importance of sound.  I hope that you, the indie filmmaker, can walk away after reading this article with the two S(s) still in mind. 

SOUND & STORY ARE WHAT MATTER
BAD SOUND IS THE ENEMY! 
ADR IS THE ENEMY! 

Don’t be afraid to sacrifice your production camera in favor of adding some funds to your audio budget.  Even if you can’t afford some of the equipment here, there is always an audio guy just around the corner.

Don’t be afraid to standup to those indie Producers, Directors, or Directors of Photography who don’t value or respect the Sound position.  You’ll run head first into disaster by working with people who treat sound like a 2nd class citizen.  

If you work with a Producer, Director, or DP who respects you, and you can all talk about where the best place for the sound guy is on a shoot, then you will have the privilege of working with someone who takes your indie production into account and will make it sound great.

GET OUT THERE AND MAKE YOUR PROJECT SOUND AWESOME!

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