The Audio Design Conundrum

Audio for Film ……. What is really involved in Sound for film.

This is a critical element of the workload for the Media Professional who works in Sound. And as such we search for gear or equipment that will allow us to be able to instinctively operate under those conditions.  So with THAT thought in mind , Lets entertain the above question.   ” What is REALLY involved in Sound for Film.

All Location Sound people and Boom Operators have a secret Goal , that goal is ” ZERO POST”   .  What does Zero Post mean ?  It means basically that the Sound you capture at the  moment or scene , is good enough that Nothing has to be done to it in Post.

What happens in Post ?   4 major things   ADR , VO , NARRATION , Editing .

Is the Sound good enough that ADR is not needed ?   First hurdle cleared

Is the Sound Good enough that VO will not be needed ?  Discretion of production.

Is the Sound good enough that Editing or Post Processing is kept to a minimum ?
(IE EQ, Compression, Limiting, Gain , Levels, Balance in the Mix)

That is a lot of stuff to consider .

But then there is the Indie Filmmaker ,  who is going to spend less time on Post processing than they will on a cup of coffee , as they are only considering the Video side of it and don’t every really think about the sound ( Not all , but most of them ) (Generality I know )

There is an Article about the Sound guy working with a very certain famous Director for a long time . The Title of said Article is ” 20 years with no ADR”

Stop ,…… Think about that for just a moment ……….  Do You realize what kind of statement that actually is ?  What kind of Pre calculation , and Preparation is needed to capture each and every time , a No ADR sound direct to the Camera ?

You have Environmental noise , Planes, Passersby , Cars, Trucks ,   Equipment noises , Refrigerators , Air conditioners , Accidents …… animals of all kinds …….  The Paper rustler in the back of the room not paying attention when “Quiet on the Set is called”  ( I have a very specific method for dealing with that person . Quite embarrassing for them)

So , what does any of this have to do with Design ?  EVERYTHING ….. It has EVERYTHING to do with Audio Design .

We need Good Preamps first yes , Super clean with Lots of gain and a nice fat sound.
We also need Limiting to control the sudden loud peaks of say a Fight Scene or even Bigger sounds.  Limiters BEFORE the converters . Period , don’t skimp or cut corners , Good Quality good sounding Limiters that don’t Crush or Distort your sound .

That is the MAIN issue on the front end .   Then What Happens after deals with Multi Channel issues , The Routing and Monitoring .  We need GOOD Headphone Amps that are CLEAN and accurate , so we can hear Exactly what the mics are giving us and thereby the Camera .  Mixing and Routing the different signals requires Time Alignment at times , Panning Left to Right , and Master outs balances

EQ On each channel Would be SO nice to have , as in the case of different mics for Lavaliere  and Wireless , that have different levels and quality , the EQ and Level control would allow us to MATCH the different mics to sound more natural and again ,….That Goes to the Camera ………. ( Midrangy Nasaly sounding mics are the worst )

Adaptability to different types of gear on the Outputs …. The Ability to Connect our sound to the Pro as well as Consumer level(Indie Filmmakers shoot DSLR)  and provide reliable connections with good sound .

You see that is the Location Sound persons JOB , their Livelihood , Their reputation .
That ability to deliver really good sound to the Video Maker . Producer Director .
To leave enough room for them to add the Music and SFX or Foley to the film without having to worry about the Capture process and Fixing stuff in it after it has been captured.

That is the definition of Pro Gear ……

So When a Company says , “Professional Sound /Audio Recorder ”  Ask these questions .

Does it have these features ?  No ?  then it is not a Professional piece of kit . Also it has to take abuse as it is going to get USED . In Various conditions . Cold Hot , Dry , Moist ( we don’t let Rain get on out gear but the Ambient Air gets really wet )

Make No Mistake in this understanding of what Professional Gear really means

That is what your paying for , and that feature set doesn’t come cheap . You can get Good preamps now in many of the Prosumer upper consumer stuff . But the Limiting isn’t there .  EQ on input in ANY of the Consumer – Prosumer gear is Non Existent . And absolutely needed .

The Fostex FM4 mixer had most of that but didn’t record , You had to go out to a Recorder , EQ on TWO inputs at a time .  Workable , just match the bad sounding mic to one that doesn’t need EQ’ing
The Tascam HS-P82 Has Compression and Low Cut on each channel , and decent preamps Amazing , but Digital not Analogue Limiters

Sound Devices Mixers and Recorders all have Great preamps , Analogue Limiters , But no EQ .

Protech Mixers have Limiters and EQ  but no Record function …….

Now the ZOOM F4 and F8 ,   Great Preamps , TIME CODE even , Balanced Outputs ,but Digital Limiters

Do you see where I am going with this ?

Very few companies truly understand that need , and will provide 60-80 % of what is needed , but never 100 ….why ?  It confuses me , as the One company that would build THAT thing with the Right Reliability , Would dominate that market .

If Quality met Need , and was properly implemented ….. There it is .

All of us Audio people are looking for that one piece that replaces the 5-6 pieces in our Audio Bags …….. That shit gets heavy after a few hours out there . But we are on our feet ALL day ….. Moving with the Camera and the Actors/Actresses  , That ability to move with them fluidly , and Make them sound good at the same time …..

Make that device for us . Make THAT Recording system . And you will have loyalty


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