Within this session, we’ve started working on an introduction to the different types of audio, and what audio is/how it works.
The first thing to know about audio/sound is that sound is a wave. In particular, a transverse wave which is where audio ends up similar to this, online in particular:
The way transverse waves work is by air molecules between something producing sound and the receiver of sound vibrate back and forth until the sound wave moves through.
Within Film & TV – Sound is actually more important than the visuals, roughly a 60/40 split – so not too much, but just enough to make it effective. Without any type of sound, it would be boring and useless! Who would want that!?
Sound waves are measured in “Decibels” (shown as db within most technology). The higher the decibel, the louder it is, for example – 5db means that is above the average of 0db by 5db. If there is a minus in front, it means that the audio is quieter, for example -5db is lower.
The different types of microphones
There are various different types of microphones. In particular, we were shown four different types of microphones:
A dynamic microphone is versatile. It is ideal for general purpose use with a simple design and a few moving parts. They’re able to handle high volume levels such as musical instruments and they usually look like these:
A condenser microphone requires some form of an external source (e.g batteries). They are more sensitive and pick up the smaller details of sound – they’re well suited for background sound, however they’re not ideal for high volume. The structure is as shown below:
A ribbon microphone is a sensitive microphone that is also delicate – if you were to drop it, it could easily break! As shown below is the structure of the microphone and what they look like.
A pell microphone (or a lav) is a microphone that clips on. They are smaller and they are better at isolating noise. Generally you will see them being used on News channels as well as being used in interviews.
Polar pick up patterns
There are various different types of Polar Pick Up Patterns. These are used to reduce sound in certain directions, or even allow the sound to come from all directions. There are 5 different types that I learnt about today, and they are as followed:
Omnidirectional Polar Pick Ups are picking up sound everywhere around the microphone. It picks up sound from every single angle, and is generally used for some form of ambient sound.
Cardioid Polar Pick Ups are similar to a heart shape (an upside down heart). They are uni-directional, which means they only pick up sound within roughly a 120 degree radius from the front of the microphone. Sound drops off where it’s not faced, and picks up a little from the side (e.g anything from behind won’t be found).
Hyper-Cardioid adds the back of the sound as well – as what the Cardioid would do. This doesn’t add too much, however adds a smaller “bubble” behind the microphone itself. It rejects sound from the side of the microphone and picks up some sound from behind.
Bi-directional is a “figure of 8” pattern. It picks up sound from the front and the back of the microphone, however not the sides of the microphone. Generally a ribbon or large condenser microphone is used for these. This is generally used for Question and Answers or Interviews as it can have two people facing each way.
A Shotgun has a narrow front pick up. The sound from the sides is largely ignored, however not completely and is most commonly used in Film and TV sets where the sound needs to be picked up from a distance. You can also get them in sports events and wildlife documentaries.
Microphones and Pick Up Pattern
Within this session, we created 8 different recordings – each in 4 different locations (two interior and two exterior) with two different pick ups. Personally, I used Cardio Mono and Cardio + 150.
Location 1 – Outside the Drama Hallway in our College (Interior)
Within this, the Mono does a good job at keeping the sound only in one specific area. As soon as it is changed to 150 rather than being on Mono in the Cardioid Polar Pick Ups, we can see a much different sound coming through. It has more of an echo feel to it rather than a specific sound, and sounds a lot louder, possibly because the microphones are picking up more sound from the specific side of where it was.
Location 2 – Outside the Arts & Media Department (Exterior)
Within the Mono Recording of Location 2, you can hear a bit of talking, as well as sniffing, and a high pitched fan sound to the right of the microphone (in the right ear). Changing it to 150, you can hear the sound of the fan a lot more, and hear the different pitches of it, as well as the odd paper sound effect or sniffing from people. The 150 recording does a better job at capturing the fan to the side of the microphone, whereas the Mono recording does a better job at trying to cancel out the sound of the fan.
Location 3 – Outside the front of the College (Exterior)
The Mono recording is rather quiet , however, you can begin to hear the motorbike in the background more and more as the sound progresses – this could be due to the fact the motorbike was moving to the front of the microphone where it was being picked up, and at first was to the left not being picked up as much. Changing it to 150, you began to faintly hear birds added on, as well as talking and some cars which you couldn’t hear as much in the first recording. This could be due to the fact the sound is picking up more from different angles rather than just one direction.
Location 4 – The Library (Interior)
Within the Mono recording, you can hear a lot of talking within the right ear, not too loud, but not too faint. You can also hear a random “beep” sound effect sometimes from the printer, as well as the printer going off – the majority in the right ear. Changing to 150, you could hear a lot more sounds rather than just one sound. This would be due to the fact that it was picking up sounds from behind the microphone as well rather than just in front of the microphone, and could pick up generally more sound effects, talking clearer and some general movements (for example, walking).
Looking through at what I heard compared to what the microphone picked up varied – this was due to the fact that some of the sounds were blocked off when the microphone was facing forwards, for example, the birds from outside the front of the college were not picked up as much on the Mono recording due to the sound mainly being blocked off from that side.
We were given a task to do with Foley sound today. Foley sound can be found on another post within this blog (by clicking here).
Within this task, we were given a sound recorder and we were asked to record 7 different sounds: Walking, Horse Hooves, Rain, Human Voice, Spaceship, Running Water & one of our own choice.
As you can hear within this clip, it doesn’t sound too brilliant, and sounds more like someone was walking fast and then ended up falling at the same time. This was meant to sound like walking down some stairs, but with a bit of a twist of walking fast. I feel that the echo within this made it so it didn’t sound too brilliant, and I feel personally the gain was too high as well so it picked up the sound in a different way. Next time I would probably try just normal walking rather than walking down some stairs, and maybe in a different location to remove the echo.
Within this you can hear that it sounds similar to horse hooves. Obviously there are no horses near the college, so we found a box and decided to pay two of our fingers on each hand to make the “clip clop” sound that a horse makes as it’s walking.
This one is a bit of a quiet one, however, to get the sound of rain, we decided to tap the floor with fingernails, as it created a sense of rain hitting the floor, which could symbolise an idea of light rain as it’s not too loud and doesn’t sound very heavy.
Within this clip, I decided to take the advantage of the echo. I felt that it could sound like someone is stuck in something such as a well (at the bottom) and the echo could symbolise that they are trapped (hence why I said “Help me…”). This could be used to create some sort of echo sound within voices, or even could be used to dub over if need-be.
For this one we were lucky and found a laminate poster. This allowed us to create a nice sense of a spaceship as if it was coming in to land or was flying overhead for example. Of course, we have no idea what a spaceship would sound like, but this was our interpretation on it. Listening back to it, it does sound similar to thunder more than anything, but we could say that it is the sound before the spaceship usually arrives.
For the effect of running water, we found a fountain within the college and decided that on it’s own, it didn’t sound much like running water, so we added a bit more effect to it by putting our hand under the water that was running to make more water appear to fall and hit rather than only one small part, giving it more of an area which increased the sound.
For this one, I feel quite happy with how it came out – I used a chair with wheels and pushed it along the floor, which created a rickety sound as if a roller coaster was going past. I feel this was effective as it sounded quite similar to other types of roller coasters.
In the end, I feel this task was a very good task, as it allowed us to work more with sound in general, allowing us to understand different polar pick ups, learn more about the different types of microphones (as I had some prior knowledge but not lots) and finally allowed me to understand in some detail how Foley sound works, and how it can be created.