A tip for getting ADR Quality Audio on Set

by planetLuke12 Comments

As filmmakers we tend to let little things bug us. Stuff that most viewers don't pick up on. Noise, moire, aliasing, rolling shutter and so on. A Cinematographer might not worry himself with audio on a bigger set since it is handled by a totally different department. However, most of us work alone or with a small team and we are forced to multitask.


Quality Audio

If you are a multitasking filmmaker you have started to nitpick little things in the audio department as well and one of them is probably mic placement. It's always a struggle, from scene to scene. How close can you get the mic to your subject without it coming into frame, or casting a shadow, while still getting a good recording.

Most of the time we end up having to boost the volume in post which adds unwanted hiss to your audio track. I was doing an interview once and developed a technique out of necessity that helps solve this problem in certain interview settings. Obviously, it won't work for everything (unless you shoot against a green screen) but I find myself using it often when the situation is right. Check it out!

Audio Tip from Luke:

Another example:

Another example from shooting with a green screen

(cover photo credit: snap from another video Luke did)


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Comments

  1. Jason Prisk

    Great tip, although in the outdoor setting especially, it is usually best to point the shotgun downward (placed above the subjects head) to avoid picking up background elements. I use the masking technique often for removing light stands as well–in situations where the backlight has to be placed on a stand and my shot is fairly wide.

    1. planetLuke

      Yeah, I wanted to show how it could be used with a background that is moving a little. Yes, very useful for lights as well!

  2. Paul

    Ok, on the surface, this seems to be a decent tip, however, if your subject likes to talk with his hands and sweeps across the space the mic is in, you’ve got a rotoscoping nightmare on your hands. Also, non-professional talent will be quite intimidated by mic placement that close. You can get the same results with the mic just out of frame above the talent.

    1. planetLuke

      In my experience non pro talent is much more intimidated by the camera than a mic that is out of their view. Just out of frame means another foot between your mic and the subject which means you might need to boost gain that much more. I’m a perfectionist with my audio on set and HATE having to do ADR, this has helped me out a number of times. Take it or leave it, I care not.

  3. tom

    Am i the only one who watched this and though:
    “Gee i wonder if this is the exact reason that you use a boom pole and operator” This isnt a tip, this is basic film-making. NO matter what you do you want to get that mic as close to the talent as possible.

    Jason is completely right about the mic position. Thats why your boom operator is always above.

    1. planetLuke

      Not everyone has a boom operator. Also, like I said above, this will become a much more usable technique with higher resolutions. When shooting an interview in 4K you shoot wide and give yourself the option of re framing as a cut away. Now you’re talking about moving the mic a good 3-4 feet away from the subject.

  4. Jason Prisk

    I have to say that in my experience on hundreds of interviews that the mic almost never has to be “a foot” away from a single subject when placed overhead. In fact, it is amazing how close you can get it and still be out of frame–usually only a few inches assuming you are using the typical interview-style framing. But again, there are always exceptions to the rule–especially when you are shooting a two-shot or larger and using a single boom (operator recommended). I have shot large families in a living room before where the boom is flying all over the place above their heads. There was not time to lav every family member and the mic needed to get close to avoid that nasty room echo. The technique described here was a perfect way to clean up the shot.

  5. Steve Oakley

    there are so many things wrong here…

    1. get a boom boy holder and you can set your boom on a C stand. cost $25. I do 90% of my interviews like this now because its faster and simpler

    2. boom from above

    3. with a shotgun mic its very directional. with this mic position you will have all sorts of level problems, and potential EQ problems due to off axis response if you don’t have a high end mic

    4. you shouldn’t be using a shotgun indoors. due to the nature of how most shotguns work, reflections from hard surfaces will cause phasing and let you pick up MORE room slap.

    all of this is sound 101….more wrong here than right, outside of yes you should get good sound when shooting there is no excuse.

    1. planetLuke

      1. Not everyone has a boom boy holder. I do most of my interviews THIS way and they are faster and simpler.

      2. Yes, boom from above, this tutorial wasn’t about where to put the mic, it’s about the technique of masking it out if you need to.

      3. No EQ problems for me on this video :)

      4. Pretty sure I am outdoors in this video…

  6. Kaotate

    Geez guys, just take this as a really good idea when you don’t have a boom stand, an operator and need a good solution to a common problem.

  7. Dave

    I for one appreciate this tip, and took it in context. There are so many different ways to do things, and none of them are “wrong”.
    Thank you Luke for your patience and willingness to show us your particular way for those special circumstances where this could be very helpful. Especially when your crew is spread thin and you’re on a deadline.

    Cheers!

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