While filming on location, there are many things working against you. With many things you can't control, such as traffic noise, babies crying and even the faintest hum of the refrigerator, you'll want to make sure you're well prepared to make post production easier. We reached out to our friends at Archaius Creative and asked them for tips for recording audio on location. In the video below, Brian discusses 3 tips that will surely make you pleased in post!
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1. Be mindful of your levels
Few things are more disappointing in post production audio than working with an audio file that's distorted because the gain was too high. A few clipped moments here and there can be dealt with, but if the whole file sounds like that, it's game over. Set your gain to where your average peaks are registering at: -10dB or lower, to allow enough headroom for unexpected loud sounds. Some stereo recorders, like the Zoom H4N, have a Mono Mix feature that will allow you to record both stereo channels from a single microphone plugged into one of the inputs.
If possible, use this feature, and set the second channel's gain to -6, or even -12dB lower than the other for even more protection. And don't just set it and forget it. Location environments are constantly changing. Monitor your levels as much as possible throughout the entire filming process.
2. Protect your recordERs from wind noise
Gusts of wind introduce a huge amount of low end into the audio signal that can ruin its dynamic range and cause it to clip. Yes, you can always filter this out in post, but the higher frequency distortion elements will still be present, so it's best to handle this on the way in. Make sure your recorder's high pass or low-cut filter engages and set the cut-off frequency to between 100 and 150Hz if you have the ability to do so.
For especially gusty environments, you might even want to raise this higher. If your mic has a windscreen, use it, even when recording indoors. Low frequency rumble caused by air conditioning, clothing, or sudden microphone movements can be equally as troublesome as wind noise.
3. Always record a backup
Whether it's a mic tied to a separate camera or recorder, your camera's audio, or even a phone's voice memo app, you want to make sure you're using at least two sources at all times. Recording errors and unexpected technical or environmental challenges happen all the time. You don't want to risk missing out on capturing a perfect moment, just because your primary recorder decided to cut out. Having to resort to a lower quality source is always better than having nothing to work with.
Hopefully, now, you'll have a new found confidence when capturing audio out there in the field. If you found these tips helpful, please let us know about it in the comments below. And don't forget to like and subscribe to our YouTube page for more videos like these!