Getting Good Sound on Set
I have a mantra for doing sound recording on any set:
“The Producer hires me, I work for the Director, but my loyalty is to the Editor”.
I think my job is more than just getting good, clean dialog on set. I think I have a duty to make it easy for the editor to find the right clips, to reduce the need for ADR, and offer as many real EFX that can be recorded on set to reduce the need for Foley. It’s anything that will make the editor’s job easier. That makes for a better final product, and makes it less expensive as well.
To do this, there are several techniques and practices on set that will help the sound person accomplish these goals. Rather than simply showing up on set and hoping for the best, I always send these “best practice” tips to production management before production begins. My hope is that these procedures will be followed on set, and now I can do my best recording possible.
Block, Light, Rehearse, Shoot
The Director should block the scene with the DP and Sound. We learn who needs lavs, where the boom can be, and what the action is like. While lighting is going on, we can now get set up properly for the scene. Rehearsal allows us to check for boom shadows and to set audio levels. When you shoot your first scene, we are ready.
Scene Naming Convention
We use the scene name to name our audio files. Using a strong naming convention and religiously slating each scene will allow the editor to find sound clips easily.
Roll and Cut
A Director with a loud voice who yells “Roll Sound” and “Cut” every time will make the number of audio clips match the number of video clips. That makes it easier for the editor to correlate both.
Room noise, traffic, generators, super wide shots, etc. can spoil audio. Wild lines are a great fix. After the last good take, turn off the offending sound source and have the actors run the lines again. It only takes a minute and will help avoid the need for ADR.
Foley and Room Tone
Part of great sound is natural effects. Give the Sound Department 1 minute to record important effects in the scene and reduce the Foley work in post.
MOS can be confused with “no dialogue”. There are probably very few scenes that are truly MOS. If there’s a face, there’s probably sound to be recorded. Breathing, a sigh, a sniffle. Let’s record it!