By Joshua Steen, Dir. of Digital Services of ROOT Capture
By now, we are all well aware of the convergence of still and motion capture. Advances in sensor technology have finally made it possible for photographers to create in a medium that was only a few years ago both foreign and out of reach. Now clients are requesting more complex audio from interviews and full commercial content in order to take advantage of the tablet and online multimedia. Shooting simple B-Roll and Behind the Scenes isn’t enough anymore.
Setting images in motion is the first hurdle we’ve helped photographers overcome, by breaking down the principles they’ve used on their still shoots and applying them to motion capture. With audio, it’s important to integrate a streamlined workflow that allows them to focus on their newest role as Director. Still, an understanding of the basics is vital to pull off the transition toward adding quality audio to your shoot.
These are a few basic points we cover when planning audio capture:
Audio Source – This is where it really starts. It’s not always possible to record your subject on a sound stage, but you can optimize the quality and consistency with mic placement and taking a “Room Tone” (or ambient sound recording) to use later in post to neutralize unwanted, sometimes barely audible noises caused by air conditioners or fluorescent bulbs.
Sync – A slate is used to label footage and create a marker to synchronize the audio and visual elements in post. A “smart slate” doesn’t just depend on the sharp snap sound but also generates LED time-codes to create digital cues, essential elements for editors to visually match sound and movement for multiple cameras shoot.
Microphone – Although cameras are equipped with an onboard microphone, these won’t be powerful enough to give you crisp, clear audio in most settings. Using a shotgun mic for directional sound capture and a wireless lavaliere (lapel) for moving subjects improves quality and flexibility. Adding external mic sources will allow you to move the camera independently of the audio recording device, keeping the distance from the mic consistent while maintaining levels.
Communication – Audio is only as strong as its weakest link. By using the correct cabling and interfaces, you’ll be able to ensure that there is no sound degradation from capture to recording. It’s important to use XLR to create a balanced or grounded line to reduce any electric “hum.”
Postproduction – Once in the editing suite, use Final Cut Pro to sync the audio to the image but optimize the sound in Sound Track Pro or Pro Tools by reducing unwanted noises and enhancing the subject audio.
In the end, it’s important to remember that quality audio may not always be appreciated but poor quality audio will always be noticed. Integrating audio capture into your workflow shouldn’t be taken for granted. Audio offers a valuable tool that will give your story momentum and create an emotional attachment in the viewer.
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