Within this week we have been focusing entirely on Audio Skills. In particular, we’re looking at the best ways to film within a certain location for a scene, for example: a place where there is quite a lot of background noise where you would like to film an interview.
To start with, we were asked to think of the best ways to record a certain situation with. The situation that we were given was to record an interview within a busy office. We had to think of any problems that surrounded the situation, for example the ambient noise, recording the audio itself, etc. We wanted to keep the idea of having the ambient background noise to create the sense of the location being present, however not have it too loud so you can hear the interviewee and it’ll create a sense of realism. The main way to get around this issue is by recording the ambient sound separately within the day, and recording the interviewee separately – you could also record the interview in a separate room that’s quieter to get the best sound for it and also use a directional microphone such as a shotgun microphone or lav microphone to get the best sound and so that it will focus on the main person.
We also watched a useful video to do with audio tips and film making – this video was quite useful as it told us to best approaches to using microphones and which microphone would be the best to use. It showed us how to use a boom microphone effectively, as well as also showing how you could get some of the equipment yourself on a certain budget, and even make some from common household objects.
Audio Tips for Film Making (DSLRguide, 7th May 2014)
Sound waves are waves that are created from a vibration. They cause the air to vibrate and it sends the sound that is produced from the vibration to the human ears. The brain will think that the vibrations are sound, and it then creates the sound that we can hear.
The two different types of waves are:
- Longitudinal – these are waves that vibrate in the same directional (e.g left to right)
- Transverse – these are waves that show the vibrations, and also look like waves going up and down like you would see on top of the sea.
There are three important aspects of a sound wave:
- Amplitude – This is the height of the wave from the centre of the wave itself up to the peak or the trough of the wave.
- Wavelength – This is the distance between each crest of the wave to the next one. The crest is the highest point of the wave. This can also be judged from the centre of the wave or the trough of the wave.
- Frequency – The frequency is the number of waves that are shown per second. When there is a shorter wavelength, there is a higher frequency (the sound is louder). When there is a longer wavelength, there is a lower frequency (the sound is quieter).
What can we hear?
The human ear can hear at a certain frequency, and usually a tiny bit higher which usually sounds like a higher pitch until it’s completely gone. There was an example shown which had the frequency increasing from the lowest to the highest. The human ear can generally hear at 20,000Hz (Hertz) and the lower frequencies can be heard better and clearer than the higher frequencies, but like I said only some people can hear the higher frequencies.
20Hz to 20kHz (Human Audio Spectrum), (adminofthissite, 2012)
This was to test what frequencies we could hear at, because generally people can hear at most of them up to 20,000Hz, but that’s not always the case, sometimes you can hear higher, sometimes you can’t – it all depends on what the person listening to it can hear! Personally I can hear quite a lot of the higher tones as well as the lower ones too.
The Audio Practise
The first task that we were given this week was to use different microphones in different locations to see some of our skills advance, as well as also being able to test which microphone would be best in which location. We were asked to film in 3 different locations: two indoors and one outdoors.
For the two indoor ones, we had to have one in an open location such as a hallway or the canteen within the college and the other one within a closed location, such as a small classroom or just a room in general. For the open location, we chose a stairwell because it was quite a large area and we wouldn’t be in the way of anybody as there was a lot of room around us. For the closed area, we chose a small quiet corridor for the same reason and stood at one end of the corridor. These locations were good as we could fully fulfill the task.
For the outdoors location, we had to use somewhere that was generally outdoors. We used the back of the college because the original location that we were going to film in there was a loud ambient noise, as well as the microphones not picking up the sound properly because of the background noise.
The Microphones we’re using
There are four different microphones that we are using within this task in each location:
The microphone on the zoom is used mainly for ambient sound, however we can compare it between having a microphone separately plugged into it such as the Rode Videomic which is a shotgun microphone, and the built in microphone to the zoom (which is an omnidirectional microphone).
The Zoom is an Omnidirectional microphone and you can change the polar pickup patterns such as Cardioid instead. The best use of using Omnidirectional microphones is to be able to record ambient sound as you can pick up sounds from every single direction, rather than just in one direction or a 170 degree radius for example.
The Lapel (or Lav) microphone is used generally for live TV where having a boom isn’t physically possible, or for interviews. These clip on an attach to a person and have a low radius to where the sound can be picked up from. The downside about it is simply that if you rub it against your shirt it makes a lot of noise which we don’t want. For this, we attach it to the top of the subjects clothes (whoever we are interviewing) so it’s close to their mouth and so that we can pick up as much of the sound as possible.
Dynamic Microphones are good for general use. Usually they are used at concerts as they have a cardioid pickup pattern, which means any noise from in the background (the audience) wouldn’t be picked up as much, and wouldn’t create much noise towards the amplifiers. These are generally used for certain instruments to be input into amplifiers, and like I mentioned are often used at concerts.
Condenser microphones are used to have a stronger audio signal. They are generally used as a mount on top of a DSLR camera (such as Rode Microphones), as well as also used for general audio recording. They’re not too ideal for capturing high sensitivity or volume levels as it could easily create distortion and even peak the microphone. The one downside about them is that they usually require batteries (usually the rectangular shaped ones) or a separate external source of power such as an XLR Cable.
The Second Audio Task
The second audio task that we were given this week was to film interviews in three different locations. One had to be a medium shot, one had to be a long shot.
Within this task there were three questions that had to be asked to the interviewer. The point of the exercise was to be able to use all three of the microphones, and also be able to see which would be the most effective for a certain interview both outside and inside. Sadly you were not able to hear the interviewer within this footage as there wasn’t another microphone recording them speaking to the person, so you’ll have to excuse that – this was due to a lack of microphones when it came to recording the footage.
There were three questions that we asked in total:
- Why did you decide to study Film & TV at College?
- What have you learnt so far within the course?
- What are you working on at the moment?
The Potential Problems
The potential problems from this task include:
- Ambient Sound – There could be too much ambient sound being picked up on the microphones, if there is background noise we can use a noise reduction tool, however hopefully it should just be right!
- Wrong Levels – The levels on the microphone could be completely wrong, and it could be as simple as “it’s not reaching anywhere near 12” or “it’s too high!”.
- The Shotgun Microphone could be in the shot – As we’re using a boom with the microphone attached, we need to try and keep it out of the shot at all times.
- The Lapel could rub against clothes – If the lapel rubs against any clothes or gets hit by a hand whilst moving, there will be A LOT of noise out of nowhere.
The Solutions to the Problems
The solutions for the problems include:
- Trying to cancel out as much ambient sound as possible and only pick up the person we are wanting (the best bet is to use the shotgun microphone).
- Make sure the levels are checked. It’s always best to wear headphones or earphones whilst recording the sound to see if it’s going to peak or reach any higher than 12 decibels.
- We could place the lapel microphone in a different location on the person that is less likely to be hit by the persons hand or from the clothing moving too much.
I feel that this task went rather well as it was our first proper time using the lapel microphones and trying out the shotgun microphone on a boom. There are parts within the video itself that could have been a lot better, however it was completely done and can clearly show any mistakes and how to fix them.
NeoAudioDesignAcademy (No date), Boom Microphone. Available at: http://neoaudiodesignacademy.com/ (Accessed: 6 February 2017)
Benson, J (No date), Your first, unexpected TV news interview. Available at: http://www.joshbenson.com/primer-your-first-unexpected-tv-news-interview/ (Accessed: 6 February 2017)
DSLRguide (14 May 2014), Audio Tips For Film Making. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ3sS5si1vw (Accessed: 6 February 2017)
Nield, D (8 January 2016), Sound Waves. Available at: http://www.sciencealert.com/a-newly-discovered-type-of-sound-wave-could-lead-to-needle-free-vaccines (Accessed: 6 February 2017)
adminofthissite (2012), Human Audio Spectrum. Available at: https://youtu.be/qNf9nzvnd1k (Accessed: 6 February 2017)
Zoom (No date), Zoom Microphone. Available at: https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/field-recording/zoom-h1-handy-recorder (Accessed: 7 February 2017)
Califone (No date), Lapel Microphone. Available at: http://www.califone.com/products/lm319.php (Accessed: 7 February 2017)
Junorecords (No date), Shure SM58SE Dynamic Microphone. Available at: http://www.juno.co.uk/products/shure-sm58se-dynamic-microphone-switched/464784-01/ (Accessed: 7 February 2017)
B&H Photo Video (No date), Sensal SC-550X Professional Cardioid Condenser Microphone. Available at: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1058355-REG/senal_sc_550x_lg_dia_condenser_mic.html (Accessed: 7 February 2017)
Rode (No date), Rode VideoMic Pro. Available at: http://www.rode.com/microphones/videomicpro (Accessed: 7 February 2017)
Texas Gateway (No date), Practical Applications of Waves. Available at: https://www.texasgateway.org/resource/waves-practical-applications (Accessed: 6 February 2017)
TutorVista (No date), Transverse Waves. Available at: http://physics.tutorvista.com/waves/transverse-waves.html (Accessed: 7 February 2017)