I know I will be beaten for this, but I'll ask anyway-
My sound guy (student, not pro) was using a 702 and shotgun mic (sennheiser 416) to grab some wild lines on set. He said he knew what he was doing with the db levels, but they seemed a little low to me. We got the mic very close (within a foot) and pointed straight at the talent's mouth. The voices are clear and rich, but are peaking at -30db in FCP when I bring them in.
I KNOW sound is much more complex than that and db is relative, but out of curiosity, would it have made a difference if he boosted the db level up to where it peaked at -12? This is normal room conversation, no yelling etc.. so it should be somewhat quiet, but I always feel like I have bad sound unless I have to lower the levels rather than boost.
Basically- I want to know if it'll be a problem to boost up the wild lines voices a bit...we did get it incredibly close and the voices sound great with no background noise, I'm just worried they were captured too quietly, though I have a feeling that makes no sense.
Results 1 to 10 of 28
04-13-2010 03:34 PM
- Join Date
- Dec 2009
04-13-2010 03:59 PM
Assuming your FCP system it set up correctly
yes, he recorded your audio way too low.
As far as you bringing it up now, you really have no choice right?
It needs to come up..so bring it up..see what you get and hopefully the noise you are
also bringing up isnt too too bad.
If it is, then you will have to look into noise reduction plug in's.
Also make sure you let your sound person know their mistake so next time
it might not happen.
04-13-2010 04:18 PM
- Join Date
- Dec 2009
Yeah, well, I thought he was recording too low but he said it would be OK.<br />
EDIT: I'd just to like to add how great it feels to mess up audio when you have $3000 worth of audio equipment pointed straight at the talent's mouth about 10 inches away.
Last edited by MeAgain; 04-13-2010 at 05:05 PM.
04-13-2010 06:19 PM
Are you ever asked to show your levels you're recording when working with people for the first time?I invented the "remove echo" audio filter. And only people that boom their actors closely get to use it.
Alex Donkle - Sound Designer -
04-13-2010 06:55 PM
- Join Date
- Oct 2009
Well... recording at a to low level is not that uncommon...
I had it also my first time. It's because of the rule "clipping digital = throw away".
So I think the soundguy was a little "afraid" of clipping, so he give it some "headroom" (little to much though).
But anyway... it's better to record it to low then clipping (because that's ...throw away..)
Noise you can handle with some noise reduction, EQ...
But better was to record it around -15db<->-10dB
04-13-2010 08:29 PM
I see camera op's take peaks at the side of the camera all the time
to make sure everything is going ok. (timecodes moving, audio levels are bouncing, battery life is ok..etc)
but I have never been asked or questioned about it.
Honestly, recording audio at the proper level to a device is about as
basic 101 as audio gets in my opinion.
Its like teaching a guy how to focus the camera. You can turn a knob and there ya go but its what you decide to do with that focus,
when to rack to something else, when to draw your eye to another part of the screen, etc that makes the image worth watching
Audio is so much more than "record to -12 to -8db and bam thats it"
It's more of when do you feel its right to hit the limiter? When is it right to NOT ride the levels
and let dynamics play a part? When is it the dance of balancing out 2 voices with
only a single microphone smoothly with 1 fader?
And a huge one which just comes with a lot of time, is actually anticipating the volume and punchyness of
how a person is going to start a particular sentence even though you just met them 20 mins earlier so you do hit that volume pocket you're going for.
Can you imagine how boring dialog would be if you rode the levels so extreme that
a persons whisper was the same volume as when they were having a fight?
Which is what would happen if we stuck to the 1 sentence answer of "always record your dialog at xxdb"
I know this isnt want you asked, but just felt like explaining while its ok
to just "record at xx volume" and be done with it, it can be so much more if you let it.
Production sound isn't the most artistic dept on a tv/film set by any means
so enjoy what you CAN do with it.
04-14-2010 02:21 AM
- Join Date
- Oct 2009
Of course there has to be a difference between whispering and shouting.
And you don't have to turn the knobs as a crazy guy indeed.
But it was more like a "direction".... You don't have to focus blindly on those levels.
But you first have to walk....before running...
04-14-2010 09:52 AM
- Join Date
- Dec 2009
Here's the thing- I KNOW audio is complicated- AND important, and I know none of us are good enough to record pro sound or understand it fully. We gave it a shot with booming the scene the best we could, but we couldn't get the mic close enough the first time because the shots were wide and that couldn't be changed.
Thankfully, my script has a lot of short lines that I wanted to be spoken calmly and without a lot of inflection (as part of the atmosphere of the film, plus we're using non-actors). So I figured "We can redo the sound by looping each line and having them lip sync, that way we can get the mic nice and close and pointed DIRECTLY at the mouth, eliminating a lot of the noise". Which we did, and I advised the sound guy to make sure he gets good levels this time as this was the ideal situation.
So, I figured we have 4 grand of equipment that we only basically know how to use- but I also figured this is the IDEAL situation to get good, clean audio because even if it wasn't perfectly done, we had good headphones to monitor, amazing equipment, and we don't need to worry about picture- we're ten inches away!
But, I still screwed it up. I feel like I should have ignored whatever he was saying and boosted the levels myself- granted, the actors talk rather low in this, but I could have easily turned it down, no?
So ultimately, here is where I'd like to learn one of the fundamentals that I can take away from this mistake...what, exactly, are the differences between boosting the db level on the 702 and the db level in soundtrack pro, considering my mic placement in this situation (which was the most ideal)? Did I basically lose voice information by not boosting the levels on the recorder? This is a dumb question, but I'd really like to understand the difference to help me with levels in the future. When I boost in soundtrack pro the only noise I get is some slight hiss, the voice sound clear, but the hiss is hard to get rid of without sacrificing voice quality.
04-14-2010 10:45 AM
I don't think you'll be so bad off, so long as there wasn't too much noise at the location. The 702 and 416 together have a pretty low noise floor, so by bringing it up in fcp or soundtrack pro you will be bringing up the noise as well, but I'll bet that since it's not much in the first place, it will be manageable. Use the "gain" audio filter in fcp.
If you were recording into the dvx it would be quite noisy, but still probably salvageable with some eq/ noise reduction.
Every device, (recorder, mic etc..) has some self-noise, or noise floor.
If you record with proper levels it keeps your dialog farther from the noise floor of the device, and since you won't need to increase those levels so much, if at all, in post, you won't be increasing the noise either. Also, digital recorders have greater sampling accuracy the closer you get to 0db, but that's not a huge factor anymore unless you're way down there like at -80db, which you should not do.
This story of low levels is a classic one, and I've found that the culprit is usually a combination of fear-of-clipping and headphone levels too HIGH. If the phones are too high, it makes you think the levels are great because, "hey, I can hear it loud and clear!" Turn those phones DOWN.
The limiters in the sound devices mixers and recorders are great, and don't be afraid to use them occasionally. If every other word is slamming the limiters, yeah, too hot, but once in a while they will be your best friend to get better levels overall, without clipping. I'm speaking mostly for the one-man-band sound guy that can't really boom and ride levels simultaneously.