Post Production and Location Sound

So much of what we watch on TV or film we take for granted. Even the simplest of scenes can require some tricky post production workarounds. In terms of audio it’s not always possible to stick a microphone close enough to capture a great sound for whatever it may be. This means somewhere down the track an audio engineer will be reinventing that sound in a studio or on location far away from the cameras; this ensures high quality samples are recorded free from pop clicks and distortion.

Over the past week I have had done an interview for a podcast, recorded some live music and captured some audio from tanks, planes and helicopters. With any new techniques and equipment come the initial learning curves.

My rig at the moment consists of a Sound Devices Mix-Pre or a 302, Senheiser MKE 600, Rode NTG-1 and NTG-2, Zoom H4, Zoom H5, Rode Blimp and Rycote pistol grip.

Some things to watch out for when starting are the inconsistencies when using different Zoom recorders. For a Zoom H4 recorder you need a ¼ inch TRS cable for the input but for a Zoom H5 you need to turn the pad on in the menu. If a XLR is used as an input it on the Zoom H4 the signal will be to hot and distort.  For a Zoom H5 this becomes irrelevant as I tested the other day. To get the equivalent scenario with the H5 a XLR or ¼ inch TRS cable can be used but the -20dB pad needs to be activated in the menu. That’s not to say these are the only ways to get a clean signal but what I found to be the most inexpensive as easiest ways to setup.

Possibly the most underestimated piece of gear is the bag that carries everything. Not only does it look unprofessional if you’re constantly fighting the mess of cables and having to reach down the bottom of the bag to adjust a knob but you are wasting time and increase the chance to miss a recording.

One thing that struck me as pretty cool is the range you can record from, how effective the Rode blimp is against wind and the low noise hiss generated from the Sound Devices pre amps. Last Thursday I was against the odds, I was told to stand way further back than I anticipated and wanted to be (300 metres to 3km) I was on the side of a hill with the wind blaring and I had a noisy generator so my left powering some scientists equipment. To combat all of this I tried to sit parallel to a car and block some of the wind, fingers constantly on the gain dial adjusting for distance and trying to get the generator 90 to 180 degrees to my microphone. Trying to anticipate different loudness for a tank versus a helicopter was probably the most challenging.

The biggest thing I took away from this day of recording was that the signal can sneak past the limiter on my Sound Devices and then distorting on the Zoom H5 (when it was to hot). Because the Mix-Pre has more headroom and can handle a hotter signal the Zoom H5 the lmiter threshold will have to be lowered by the tiny screw so that it  protects the signal.

This is a short snippet of audio roughly put together as an example. I have hours to sift through and find the gems still, but this will give a rough ideas of the challenges faced. You might hear the odd click but it's mostly clean through these attacks.