Professional Sound Recording: The Art of Recording Dialogue

Listen carefully…we are constantly surrounded by sound. Whether we film indoors or outside, sound is always present.

When it comes to producing professional quality video production, the ability to control sound is extremely important.

Using professional sound recording increases the value of your video and engages your audience more strongly. Recording audio for video production, especially dialogue, can be challenging. When recording dialogue scenes in exterior locations, it can be a challenge to capture clear audio due to existing noises that we have no control over. From airplanes to fire truck sirens, noises in the real world are inevitable and can disrupt your talent’s performance. In addition, if not recorded professionally, the audio can severely disrupt the overall production value of your video.

There are solutions you can utilize to help combat unwanted exterior sounds and record the professional, clear audio of your talent like you always wanted. These techniques include: microphone selection, recording wild tracks during production, or using editing tricks to reduce noise in post production.

Gabriel 2Choosing your microphone all depends on the location you are in. For indoor situations it is preferred to use a hypercardiod mic. These mics have a specific polar pattern, which captures sounds in front of the mic, as well as the rear. The wide acceptance in the front allows for natural sounds in reflective spaces, while the back captures sounds as they bounce off the wall.

Shotgun mics are mostly used for outdoor scenes, also because of their polar pattern. These mics have a much more narrow pattern than the hypercardiod mics, which allows them to reject unwanted sounds from the sides and rear, although they do have small lobes of acceptance to ensure rich and natural quality. Because these mics are so directional, it is important to point directly at the source of the sound.

Pixel ProductionsUsing lavalier mics is also a great solution for capturing clean audio. Lavs are small mics that are placed in the upper chest area of your talent. They are easy to conceal and are practical in most situations. Lavaliers are also available as wired or wireless, which makes them even more appealing. It is always a good idea to record with a shotgun or hypercardiod mic as well as a lavalier. This creates a combination of the best of both worlds.

One thing that should always be considered, however, when using lavalier mics is handling noise created by movement. Because the mic is so small and sensitive to touch, it’s very important to properly secure the lav so it avoids being moved or touched. Want to learn more? Check out next week’s blog to learn “How to properly use Lav mics.”

Another solution for capturing clean audio is to record wild tracks. Wild tracks are audio only takes of dialogue, recorded in a quiet place on set. When the cameras aren’t rolling, pull your talent aside and record the lines they just performed in the most quiet and controlled environment on set. It’s important to record these lines just after the scene has been shot, so their performance is still fresh in their mind. From bedrooms, to parked cars, and even closets; any quiet area works.

Once you have the wild tracks recorded, the sound editor will decide whether to use them or not. It’s very hard to use long portions of the wild tracks in your final cut due to syncing issues, but it is still nice to have a backup. You might just plug in one word here, and one line there, if need be. When the character is speaking off camera, it also helps to have these clean takes because syncing is not an issue.

It is very important to consider the quality of the original takes versus the wild tracks if you decided to mix and match them because one might sound more crisp and clear than other.

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One more solution is to edit dialogue in post production using equalization and noise reduction. This is a great way to get rid of ugly background noise, such as outdoor hiss or indoor hum, and might be one of the most effective. There is a tradeoff, however, between deleting the background noise and keeping the energy of the dialogue. For example, you can easily take out the richness and natural sounding quality of the dialogue when you eliminate the bad frequencies. It’s important to understand when to stop cutting the unwanted noise and when it’s appropriate to leave it be, especially if that means maintaining the clarity of the dialogue.

This is a very technical way of cleaning audio, and does require practice with audio editing programs as well as a good understanding of frequencies. Most of the clean and crisp audio lies within the mid range frequencies and high-mid range frequencies, although, every sound clip is different and it’s up to you to decide what to cut. One common method is to select a small section of the unwanted ambient noise, and use your program to identify and eliminate that noise from the rest of the track. Another common solution is to manually eliminate bad frequencies, but it is important to cut out the bad rather than increase the good ones.

Written By Gabriel Guzman

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