Recording Sound for Film : Five Top Filmmaking Tips

Music & sound recording go hand in hand to create a great soundtrack for your films.

But, how do you record good sound for film?

This is a vast topic and a lifetime study for some, but there are some basic guidelines you can follow to get it right and give your film recording the best chance of sounding good.

Here are the top best five tips or basic fundamentals for recording good sound in your films & content. 


1. Noise is the Enemy – Quiet On Set Please!

When it comes to recording sound for film, noise is the enemy.

Hours can be wasted in post-production trying to clean up noise that has accidentally sneaked into your soundtrack.

Therefore, before shooting, let your full cast and crew know that you are rolling and demand silence. 

Shouting “quiet on set” before shooting is an acceptable means to achieve this. Get one of those loudspeakers if you have to. Seriously. Do whatever you must to avoid noise.

Always make sure your cast and crew know that you mean business and are shooting.

Simple whispers, fidgeting, phone tones etc are all noise.

Remember that when you are recording, noise is the enemy, because if noise is interwoven with your dialogue, it is stuck there.

Some audio processing will reduce it but it can never be removed.


2. Location, Location, Location – Choose it Wisely

We all have amazing locations in mind when it comes to filming and most of us are willing to spend hours clearing filming permits to shoot in a certain location.

It may look great, but how does it sound?

Before settling on your filming location, visit the site and listen.

Just stand and listen.

Is there a road nearby that will create low noise rumbles? Is there a building site in the area?

If you cannot control the ambient noise of your location then recording good dialogue will be an eternal challenge.

Remember, don’t just visually assess a shooting location, audibly assess it too.

If you need a certain location and it has bad ambient noise, it is always best to learn this in advance and have a plan to deal with it.

You really don’t want to learn this in the post editing stage or all sorts of post audio processing headaches will arise and hours of unforeseen additional work.

3. Ambient Noise

Every room & space has ambient noise.

Listen to the sounds where you are right now. This is your ambient noise. It is just the natural sounds of your environment.

It is always a safe and good idea to record at least 30 seconds of ambient noise of your shooting location.

Just pause, be quiet and record the sounds of the room or space.

This is really useful if you need to “patch” sound or fix noise in the audio in post-production.

For example, if there is a loud car noise that you accidentally picked up and don’t want, you can try to replace it with your recorded ambient sound.

This will give the perception that the camera is still shooting on location, but your car sound is removed.

If the noise is interwoven with the dialogue this is harder to fix and patching becomes an art form.

Often, most will just re-record the dialogue if the budget allows or over dub the dialogue but it is cheaper to try and patch with ambient sounds, so ensure you get some clean recordings of just your filming environment. 

4. Audio Handles

You may have come across the term “clip handles” before regarding video editing. 

It involves giving some time (just a few seconds) at the beginning and end of a scene to allow greater freedom when editing and to create better transitions. 

With audio, handles are also very useful as it gives the same breathing space in the soundtrack. 

Before your actors start speaking, allow a few seconds of quiet recording before and after. 

This is a simple technique, but can be very useful and will make life that little bit easier for your sound editor.

Plus, it ensures the full dialogue is capture without any audio clipping or missing words at the start of your dialogue. 

5. Microphones & Positioning

Those of us who spend our lives working with audio, recordings and microphones know that this is a whole world and skill in itself. 

Choosing the right mic for the job and positioning it correctly will take your films & content to the next level. 

For a quick summary, take away this simplified advice:

  • Place your mic as close as possible to your actors.
  • Try to use more than one mic if the budget allows. 
  • Use the right type of microphone for the job. 
Download Link to Music Licensing Checklist for Filmmakers

Final Thoughts…

Recording sound for your film or content is an important skill that can take years to develop and learn.

That said, there are some basic techniques & fundamentals you can do today to ensure your film soundtrack and content audio is given the best chance of success:

  1. Avoid noise at all costs.
  2. Chose your location wisely.
  3. Pay attention to microphone selection and placement. 
  4. Use audio handles.
  5. Record ambient noise for post-production. 

Follow these basic fundamentals to give your film score the best chance of sounding great.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.

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