Unless you’re making a silent film, every filmmaker knows that recording audio is incredibly important to bringing their cinematic vision to life. And yet there are so many times on the set when the visual takes precedence over audio. Someone with deep pockets must have originally said the old adage, “We’ll fix it in post,” because along with fixing something in post comes a hefty invoice. Even if it’s not intentional, costly audio mistakes can slip through the cracks easily.
Whether or not your budget allows for hiring an audio professional, there are things filmmakers can do to help ensure they get clean and quality audio while on the set. Don Corrieri of Phuturetrax is a veteran audio engineer/editor who started in the business over twenty years ago. He has worked on everything from radio to commercials, live events to film. Don stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share a few tips for recording audio.
What All Filmmakers Need To Know About Recording Audio
Filmmaking Stuff: When it comes to recording audio… If you could make sure a filmmaker does one thing during production to capture quality audio, what would that be?
Don Corrieri: If you can hire a professional sound recordist, do it because all the elements of sound play a crucial role in achieving a filmmaker’s vision and a professional will more than likely yield better results. But if you can’t fit one into the budget, make sure lav mic’s are positioned properly, so you don’t hear rustling sounds, because if not, it can take hours of clean up. Taking a minute to properly ensure it’s positioned correctly can save you a lot of time and money in post, whether you hire a professional or not.
Filmmaking Stuff: What can a filmmaker do to best prepare for a post sound editor?
Don Corrieri: Great question. For best results, if they have a sound editor, coming to them extremely organized, with things like script notes, sfx logs, music cue log, and so forth, will help best translate the work into their vision. It’s always a balance of time and budget so preparation is highly advisable. For low budgets, filmmakers can even source the sound effects themselves and then bring them to be properly mixed.
Filmmaking Stuff: What do you think of filmmakers who want to be in the room with you while you work?
Don Corrieri: At the outset, it can be very beneficial, like talking about their vision during loading, but for the bulk of the work it’s neither necessary nor advisable since that work is tedious, repetitive and experimental. During that time, I’m trying things out to see what works and so on. At the very end though, it’s beneficial, to make finishing touches and review the work together.
Filmmaking Stuff: What is something that filmmakers ask you to fix in post that can be very costly to the production?
Don Corrieri: Besides poor lav placement, isolating and removing specific noises/sounds can be a very time consuming process and often times, completely avoidable with playback testing on the set. Give five minutes to recording audio the right way. While most things can be fixed in post, it takes a lot of time and money. Things like wind over dialogue or sudden burst of sounds during audio are examples that are very time-intensive and cost filmmakers a lot of money.
Filmmaking Stuff: Any other advice to offer filmmakers?
Don Corrieri: My advice is for filmmakers to know the very basics of audio formats. There are always many questions about this and filmmakers can get confused. To break it down, there are basically two professional audio formats – .wav and .aif – And both are good and essentially the same quality. No mp4s, wmas, mp3s. And also use the sample rate of 48kh. These are the settings you should choose when exporting.
Taking time in pre-production and on the set to ensure audio needs are being met can save an independent filmmaker thousands of dollars, and dozens of hours. Why not make things easier for everyone involved by being prepared? Giving serious consideration to recording audio and learning the basics can help you avoid headaches in post.
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Armed with knowledge learned on many production jobs, Christina Parisi began making films in 2006. Her short films have played at film festivals throughout the world and can be found on Amazon and GaiaTV. Her latest short documentary, Just Married, is about to hit the 2017 festival circuit. As Christina seeks financing for her co-written feature script, Driving Your Mind, she spends her time working as a script analyst and writing her personal blog, Life As I Know It.