Film and TV are art forms which mix so many things into one, including camera and photography work, art and design, animation and 3d graphic design, fashion and costume, makeup and of course, sound.

What sets sound apart from the rest of everything else on this list is that everything else is visual. Sound is its own unique part of telling the story, because it basically has its own set of sensory organs that it needs to get (and keep) the attention of.

With the amount of really good sound equipment available on the market and the tutorials available online to help out, there really isn’t an excuse for bad sound anymore.

The way the sound department works:

On set, sound can be done by one person, or a small crew. Usually this is a boom or mic operator and a sound mixer. These guys will be the people that ensure 2 things are happening; making sure the recorded sound is quality, and making sure that things are properly prepared to go into post. They ensure that the sound recorded on set remains free from background noise, as well as getting as much much high quality audio from the actors as possible so as to negate the amount of ADR that might be needed.

This then goes to the post production team. These folks take what was recorded on the shoot day and then do all of the necessary sound effect additions, they do ADR (more about that here)

soundscape and atmosphere, foley and lastly, composition and music.

In terms of sound this is the most difficult and longest period for any film and it takes long hours to perfect all of this mix.

This is why at the end of the road here, we have the final mixer (otherwise known as the re-recording artist), who puts all of this together and prepares it for release in either surround sound format, or whatever other format the sound for the film needs to be set in (Dolby 5.1 surround etc).

Equipment is designed to help you!

There are a plethora of really good devices which are designed to be used specifically on film sets or vocals for film.

Firstly (and probably most importantly, the voice recording equipment), the microphone. Not one type of mic is perfect for every single application on set, and using the right tool for the job will ensure that you have good sound before you go into post.

Common Microphones types:

  • Cardioid mic: One of the best mics for live vocal performances, made truly famous by the Shure SM58, this is a unidirectional mic, and it picks up what is directly in front of it. These types of mics aren’t usually found on sets, but they are commonly used for speeches by heads of state of at events.
  • Shotgun: A type of mic which is long and cylindrical, it is actually a specific type of cardioid mic which is designed to pick up both sound from direct front and to the sides, however from around 150 degrees to either sided it rejects everything else, this is good for catching location audio or documentary style shooting with very light background sound.
  • Lavalier mics: Is a specific wireless mic otherwise known as a lapel mic. These are omni directional mics, and used on set very often to capture dialogue in conjunction with a shotgun mic. This is because unlike other mics they can be easily disguised in a costume.
  • Omni-directional mics: This refers to any type of microphone which records ac/dc and front or can be switched from uni-directional to omni. These are mostly used in radio and podcasting so they don’t often find their way onto set.

Next up is you receiver and compressor units. Many professional sound mixers and recordists will have equipment like these on a rack system, which they will set up next to the visual technician station on set in order to watch and record simultaneously. A smaller version of this is the zoom H series, a small recording device that can be used for omnidirectional voice recording or wired to another mic for larger sets.

These racks will be wired to the boom pole for the recorder (known as the boom swinger) and have receivers  for the lavalier mics that are on set.

Using some of this info may really help you in making your film more successful, and it may serve to help you be better at making the type of film you really want to make, whilst saving you time and giving you fewer headaches in post.

In the next post production blog, Cosher Recording Studios in Cape Town will start to go into what happens once all of your production sound is complete, including choosing your music, doing your ADR and mixing your final film sound.