Monday, 8 March 2010

Recording Sound

I have a problem. My consumer level camcorder has no input for an external microphone. I was aware of this weakness when buying the camcorder, but I didn't think this would affect me much. I knew that I would be stuck with the onboard mic, and I knew that if I ever really needed high quality sound, I could always record my sound separately. I was until recently in a band that did a lot of it's own recording, so I had a digital 4 track lying around and I knew I could fall back on that if I ever needed to.

Unfortunately the 4 track wasn't mine and belonged to an ex band member. We have since returned the 4 track to it's rightful owner.

I recently realised that if I ever wanted to shoot a scene involving, for example, two people talking that required more than one angle in an urban setting, I would need to cut separate takes together to make the scene work. The problem here is, that my onboard mic is omni-directional, meaning it picks up sound from all around it. Including things like traffic, sirens, wind, and so on, and the discrepancy of the background noise during the cuts would jar the viewer. I need to get a uni-directional microphone that only picks up the sound directly infront of it in order to cut out the ambience but keep the dialogue. Then I can record ambience with an omni-directional microphone and use it in a single unbroken audio take. The continuity of the background audio will make the scene seem more continuous even as I am using different cuts. Obviously.

I've been racking my brains for a way to record the audio without shelling out big money for some kind of expensive digital recorder. Over several days I read a lot online but I failed to get the crux of the matter. Then I read a great article about sound recording solutions for low budget films:
http://www.illiteraryfiction.com/low-budget-film-sound-recording-device-basics
Which recommends using something simple like an MP3 player as your capture device. Inspiring stuff, and it was good to read that I didn't need to spend the big bucks.

I began to wonder if the medium I recorded on to would make a difference... would a decent microphone going into an iPod give me worse sound than the same microphone going into an expensive digital recording device? Perhaps it was just a question of whether it would be saved in a lossy format, and if so, how lossy? I poked my head around the corner and questioned my work colleague, good friend, and musician Adam what he thought on the matter. Ad has done a lot of home recording both in our previous band and in his current one. He shrugged and said "Use a laptop?"

I can't believe that never occurred to me before now. With a computer I can label the files, visually inspect the volume levels and see if the tracks are clipping, as well as having complete control over the format. Brilliant!! Now I just need a shotgun microphone...

What can I get for cheap?? The true no-budget filmmaker would of course borrow one. But if I can get a great deal on one, it would be a useful thing to have around, especially as I can't borrow one for everything I work on.

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