Sound recording. Any advice?

10 replies [Last post]
Julian N Turner
Joined: Jul 1 1999

Im trying to get an idea of the way people are recording their sound in their movies.

Do you use a seperate sound recorder, if so what? (dat, mini disc, etc) Also, how do you sync it all up? (Does time code come in to it?)

Or do you just use an external mic pluged in to the camara?

I know these are basic questions but please humor me.

Thanks for any advice.


Joined: May 8 1999

When you say in their movies do you mean as in films that you see on the big screen? Or just films that us lot are making? They are quite different beasts!

Generally if something is shot on video you would plug an external mic into your camcorder and go from there. Otherwise trying sync sound manually could take days/hours/months! Sound would only be in sync for a few seconds and then you would have to re-sync, then re-sync etc. etc.!

When shooting film you use a sound recorder that can run at exactly 24frames per second (a Nagra tape recorder is usually used) this is then synced to the film by the use of a clapper board. Scene 24, take 3, mark. SNAP! That's where you sync it!

Of course on films, sounds effects like explosions, guns and often dialogue is replaced in post-production. But this is big money and time consuming.

[This message has been edited by Ollie (edited 17 July 1999).]

Julian N Turner
Joined: Jul 1 1999

Yes. I ment the films you lot are filming but not little home video's.

I read somewhere that you should record sound on a diferent unit e.g. mini disc or dat for better quality and so you can monitor levels etc. You cant do that going direct into the camara, can you?


Joined: May 8 1999

It depends on the camera really. Some have manual audio control, some don't. I'm really not sure about recording on DAT or MD seperately though. Due to the sync problems I mentioned above. Also the sounds quality on a DV or digital variant camera should be just as good. DV has the same audio spec as DAT if you record in 16bit mode.

I would just suggest careful mic placement and (if the camera allows it) setting of audio level. You can monitor the sound through a pair of headphones.

Although I'm not sure about ways of having a VU or PPM meter as you would with a seperate DAT or MD deck to monitor levels.

Maybe someone else can help?

[This message has been edited by Ollie (edited 18 July 1999).]

Joined: May 7 1999

A comment on the sync issue with a separate recorder - it may not be a problem.

Timing on modern electronic devices is incredibly accurate. I once used a standard VHS VCR with Nicam sound to record the PA sound of a concert. I later recorded this onto the PC via the sound card's line-in (analogue) and when I mixed this onto the camera clips, there was no perceptible slippage in sync over periods of several minutes. I've notice the same when mixing clips from different cameras.

I assume DAT would be equally accurate. It's only pure analogue audio tape (reel or cassette) where I think you would get sync problems, since unlike DAT or video there is no intrinsic timing information on the tape itself.

Richard Jones

Richard Jones,
Home of the MediaStudio Pro Tutorial - Edition 3 for MSP 7

Joined: Apr 12 1999

I've done both; recording on the camera and on DAT or Minidisk. A few quick comments:

Camera: much easier to edit, but more leads to worry about and must use a camera with manual level control and must monitor the sound from the camera's headphone output.

DAT: much easier when shooting, as the sound recordist doesn't need to be connected to the camera. Much harder to edit, as you have to sync up manually. No problems with audio drifting out of sync on two-minute takes. Slightly better sound quality when compared to most cameras.

In future I think I'm going to record on the camera wherever possible, and only record seperately and sync up when we have to.

P4-3.06/2GB RAM/2500GB IDE/SATA. Avid Media Composer, Liquid Edition, Premiere 6, Lightwave, Vue 6, eyeon Fusion 5. DV and HDV editing/compositing.

Joined: Apr 29 1999

This is an intersting and often overlooked aspect of our is of course down to the situation you are in (holiday or general shoot, planned film, event etc ).

This is how I cover off various situations :

1) generally I do not rely at all on the onboard microphone, I have one of those wonderful Seinheser MKE 300 directional mics and always use this monted on the camera for general out and about shooting..the quality is very good.
2) having said this I find that most live sounds are pretty much of it is taken out during editing.
3) our video club make competition films from time to time and here we can be much more careful with sound....again the MKE300 is used but this time mounted on a boom pole, suspended by elastic bands and covered with a furry muffler....a seperate sound man points this at the action and also monitors via headphones....if it is close dialogue work we will often use a tie clip mic and this cuts out all sound beyond a few feet radius...all leads are back to camera for this set-up, so sound is recoreded with the pictures.
4) recently I have purchased a Sony walkman Mini Disk player/recorder...this has proven very useful for capturing live sound as a seperate track ( was used recently to capture wedding vows, when the church would not let cameras in...we put it in the grooms pocket ! )the quality is superb, its very accesible and there have been no problems syncing sound ( done on a PC ).
5) finally I do make a lot of use of Sound Effects CDs etc...these are often so much better than the actual live sounds and you can do a lot to enhance a sound track fairly easily.

- don,t use on camera mic
- get a decent external mic
- when you can, get the mic off the camera and monitor seperately
- think about a mini-disk or dat if you are really serious about sound.

I am sure some folks out there have many other good ways to suggest...this is just how I do it.


Julian N Turner
Joined: Jul 1 1999

Thanks for all the info guys.

My plan is to make a planned feature movie (if you know what I mean) as pro as possible.

Hence wanting to use an external sound recording source (mini disc or DAT)and sound man.

So I will play around and see what is best. Im a bit worried about the sync issue!!


Joined: Jun 8 1999

The clapperboard sound will be on your camera soundtrack, which will appear on the timeline. The clapperboard sound will also appear on your external (Minidisc, whatever).
All you have to do is line up the two clapperboard sounds on your audio tracks on the timeline.

archibald studios

archibald studios

Christian Lett
Joined: Apr 26 1999

When we made our last music video, sound was prerecorded from a CD onto a minidisc for use on location. The band lip-synched (and instrument-synched ) to the track, and the whole thing was recorded to my TRV9 via an AKG C1000S microphone. Synchronising the actual track (from the original CD) was really easy because both sources were digital.

Now we've got access to multiple cameras, any feature film work we do will make use of them, especially in converstation scenes where it can save time and guarantee the same performance in at least three camera positions. We'll also be looking at using a multiple microphone system (for example hidden tie clip mics where a boom mic might accidentaly drop into frame), so recording straight into the camera won't be viable.

What we'll probably do is have a sound mixer and record the decent sound onto minidisc (with a sharp clapperboard sound). The cameras will also record the sound using their built-in mics for use when synching in post.

Synchronisation shouldn't be a problem using this method.

Sound editing sounds like it could be a nightmare but is, in fact one of the most enjoyable parts of making a film. We had a ball adding the music, sound effects and repositioning dialogue for our last movie effort (edited tape-to-tape). It was all done in a friend's recording studio, the picture synchronised to the audio on a D160 16-track digital recorder using a MIDI time code box. Great fun. And we figured out how to encode Dolby (style) surround audio to the stereo track

Christian J. Lett

Christian Lett After Effects and Maya Artist

Alan Wallace
Joined: May 2 1999

I use a sony pd1 which is fine when recording reasonably high level audio but at lower levels you get a definite motor hum. The other problem is the automatic gain adjustment levels out highs and lows. If you have a subject talking to camera the variation in background levels becomes obvious during pauses.
To overcome this I use a mini disc with tie clip in the subjects pocket. As far as sinc goes it's no problem. Simply import both the av and seperate audio clips and place the av on the time lines. Open the camera generated audio clip and select an obvious point ie the start of a sentance or piece of music and set a mark at the exact start point using the wave form shown in the preview window.
Place the minidisk clip on the line and copy the process. Align the two marks and then preview both audio tract together. If they are out you will hear the echo. Adjust one frame at a time until perfect then discard camera generated audio chanel. It sounds long winded but really does only take minutes,