I  believe that professionals put as much effort into recording sound as they do pictures.

With enough quality audio your film shouldn’t even need a voice over or piece to camera. Engaging clips and relevant up sounds make a story zip along much faster and in a much more interesting way than a reporters words alone – they enrich the entire story and add an extra, often subconscious, layer to the viewers experience.

 – My first tip is to use a wide angle lens. Hows that related to sound? Well, think about it. If you use a wide angle lens then you are forced to get the camera closer to the action and therefore capture the sound loud and clear.

 – My second most important tip is to always put a wireless mic on somebody in a scene. Even if you are just shooting a quick sequence of a classroom – mic the teacher. Shooting in a shop? – Mic one of the customers. This way you’ll always be sure of some decent sound, it also has the added benefit of meaning you can throw them a question at any time and potentially get a better answer than you might have gotten in a more formal interview setting.

 – You can even take this to the next level and mic up objects. Put a mic onto the pen of a calligrapher, inside a fridge, attached to a child’s toy – this way you’ll get a whole new layer of sound that can really bring otherwise dull sequences to life.

Top audio tips

 – When you are shooting take a second to stop and listen. . .What can you hear? Where is it coming from? This will really give you a fresh perspective on a scene and help your shooting – especially if you have run out of ideas and have no clue what other shots to gather (shooters block!)

 – As well as personal radio mics I also use stick mics when required. For years I worked with a Sennheiser 416 or MKH 60 on top of my shoulder mounted camera and they have been excellent. I found it’s best to work with them attached to a long (around 2 meters) XLR cable (stuffed inside my camera cover) so that they can be quickly  handed to colleagues for interviews and pieces to camera for those moments when we don’t have time to attach a personal mic. This is a fast, simple way of working. But if you use these mics then please, please keep them out of the shot – especially if they are still wearing their fluffy wind cover. . . Few things are as annoying as seeing a dead dog in the picture.  If it’s not windy, and the mic absolutely has to be in the shot then at least remove the wind gag to make it look less intrusive.

Anyway I hope you found that helpful. I’d love it if you could send me any of your own audio tips to use in the book – feel free to drop me a line – oh and don’t forget to click on the photo below to sign up for your free video journalism ebook. . . 

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4 Comments »

  1. Excellent post Christian, my main takeaway from this will definitely be putting a lav mic on someone or something in every shot possible. Hopefully my sound design skills will shoot up due to this!

      • Hey, Christian! I was wondering what happened to your previous articles? Are they still available? There was some descent stuff like interviews with Best Cameraman Winners, some tips and tricks (something about 5 common mistakes), links to fellow cameramen news work and etc. Sorry, just couldn’t find them anywhere

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