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Post-Production : Dialouge by Adnan Ssenkumba

Adnan Ssenkumba

Dialouge

I use cheap mics to record dialogue in films, is it okay if I gives this dialogue effects. Because when I do this the sound gets better

Gary Casey

Cheap mic?? Really?? Adnan I know ya use what ya got but try to update asap. Bad recordings make for bad mixing which produces bad mastering. Look up the inverse square rule for mic placement. (hint: just out of camera frame) You can do a lot in post but it's expensive and time consuming and if you don't have 'room tone' it just gets worse.

Michael Borlace

....this is a trick question, right? Have you ever heard of the expression "Garbage in, garbage out". Are you using cheap cameras, cheap actors, cheap directors, cheap editors, etc......... As a sound guy, I could continue the rate but will stop and actually give a serious answer. If you use cheap mics for a film, you probably will be using students or newbys on the sound crew and that is a bad combination that will most likely lead to bad recorded sound. If adding effects to dialogue makes it better, this sounds like a band aid solution. But the question is, is the dialogue with effects good enough to use, or will it ruin the film? As a location Sound Recordist, I record sound pure with no effects, processing or equalization. I'm not a post person but don't think dialogue editors want to do processing or effects on dialogue. On any film, you want the post people spending the limited time they have doing creative editing, not janitorial work cleaning up garbage. Finally, the audience will accept seeing actors in shadows, in soft focus or off screen, but will never accept sound from an actor that they can't hear or understand.

Adnan Ssenkumba

Thanx alot

DB Goodman

The quickest way to lose an audience is bad sound... An audience will put up with a weak story and even images that are subpar (not that I encourage either...), however, bad sound can empty a theater.

Russ Gorsline

In my opinion, it is not cheap or expensive that makes the difference in dialogue it is placement and levels. A great boom if placed too far away from the performers won't get you good sound. However, a cheap mic if halfway reasonable in quality placed properly will get good enough sound for a good engineer to work with. A couple of days ago I was reviewing a film for possible post work. One boom mic. Sometimes the audio was good, sometimes it was terrible. The worst times were when the levels were way above clipping. Someone was not watching the meters! The dialogue was improv, and the actors are not available for ADR. All the wrong choices. I agree with DB that bad sound is the quickest way to loose an audience. Or a distributor, or a festival. Capture clean sound at reasonable levels with the dialogue very present on mic, not captured from the mic attached to the camera. The chances are much better that you will end up with good audio in the end if you do that.

Sean Gully

I'm amazed at how many guys plug the mic straight into camera, thats like filming video without a focus . Mic gain control on a mixer is essential, its like the focus for a lens

Salah Labidi

hey Adnan, i ve just read your post. Could you more specific about the effects you re using ?

Adnan Ssenkumba

effects like eq

Bob Merrill

IMHO, the cost of the mic is FAR less important than where you put it and which way it is pointing. I can make a broadcast quality recording with my laptop or iPhone if I put it in the right place. I can make an unusable one with a U-87 or Sennheiser shotgun in a bad spot. If you listen to what is coming out of the microphone before you shoot, and better yet have someone listening and moving it while you shoot, you can get an awful lot out of not much.

Michael "Cap" Caputo

I can give you better results with a digital recorder and a half decent boom mic duct taped to a stick than most engineers can with a room full of equipment. On a small independent film I worked on I was called back to handle some ADR. My first thought was "where did I screw up?" On arrival for the session I found I was doing ADR for scenes in which I had not handled the equipment. The one scene I had to re-do for which I had been the site recorder, was to get an actress' clean voice because in the take (visual) they wanted to use, traffic noise drowned out an ad-libbed line they had decided to keep. It was the only take with the line in it. In an almost silent room in some guy's apartment, on the umpteenth floor I opened a window to get 'some vague' traffic noise, and with a hand held 1970's vintage "came with the $30 tape recorder" microphone, we recorded a "purely voice" recording that was easily layered into the existing traffic noise and all was good. Moral: If the mic and technique you use produce the effect you want why are you asking the opinion of others? Further example: Deep Purple (remember the song Smoke On The Water) went into the recording studio because the record company 'scout' had never heard anything like them. The audio engineers could not replicate their sound in the studio and the company was getting frustrated until the band moved all the bazillions of dollars worth of (then very high tech) recording stuff into the halls and brought in their own trashed road weary half burned-out equipment, complete with torn speakers, 'wrong' tubes in the amps, noisy ancient cables and dented buzzy fourth hand microphones. The engineers tossed their hands up and let them 'make fools of themselves' as they mic'd the amps from the 'wrong' distance with the 'wrong' microphones and broke the primary rules (by recording the band all at once in the same room) et viola! A sound that manufacturers still work frantically to reproduce in new equipment.

Alex Ginzo

The best dialogue recording is the one you don't have to augment in post. As a production sound mixer for almost 20 years now I've learned that you end up spending more monkey, frustration and losing passion on a creative project when you get the sound done right the first time. For low budget or no budget films you are in less of a luxury to get great sound but at least try to get that mic as close to the subject as possible without being in frame. When there is a bit more money don't try to do sound yourself if your responsibilities lie elsewhere like if you are a producer on the project or a director. That's just crazy. Get a sound guy or at least someone willing to handle all the sound responsibilities like an aspiring sound person or a graduated film student wanting to learn the ropes of sound. While it's always scary to rely on that but at least it's better than having to try and get good sound and having it sound horrible in editing. It's too late then and ADR is troubling to do later. People get busy and actors generally dislike the process. My years of experience have taught me that hiring a good sound person to run sound is priceless. Would you rely on anyone to handle your image? Think about it this way, we are not (anytime soon that is) getting rid of making movies with dialogue sound (Even though that was the rumor when The Artist won the Oscar. I haven't seen too many silent films since.) at all. The 2 senses primarily used in the film viewing experience is sight and sound (I'm really hoping Smell-o-Vision makes a resurgence). And for the most part, dialogue in a narrative piece is THEE most important part of the sound while shooting on set. Yes, we get sound effects on set if we can but if the dialogue sucks and you paid for a sound mixer to get clean dialogue, then you don't hire him again. That's their main responsibility. Just my 2 cents... :)

Timothy Dutton

Hey Adnan - I know you posted your question quite a while ago, but I just got a look at it, along with all the current responses. I generally don't disagree with any of the replies, but let's get back to your original question. The simple answer is, "Yes, it is okay for you to use effects to make your dialog sound better." I have a box full of very expensive mics and 21 years of production recording experience, and I work the post side of the fence, as well. Yes, getting the best production audio you can, using the best equipment you can get your hands on, handled by the best boom person you can find, is the most important step. But don't think, for a minute, there can't always be room for improvement. We are presented with a pile of tools. Some of us have a bunch of tools. Some of us have just a few. But we're all trying to accomplish the same task. Better tools tend to make things easier, but harder work has its benefits, as well. There are no rules, only guidelines. What works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. (The Deep Purple analogy is a good one.) You might use a method I would never even consider, and come up with a ground-breaking sound with incredible impact. Check out the movie, "GasLand." All political messages aside, here's a movie with some pretty awful dialog recording. The post-audio team used it, with all the ugly artifacts we get when we use wireless lavalier microphones, to create a very intense, very cool soundtrack. Their techniques probably wouldn't work in most situations. But for GasLand, they did. Just a note, and this applies to this conversation... The location sound mixer(s), on GasLand, can not be blamed for the "sub-par" quality of the recording. I'm certain, given the circumstances, everything was recorded as well as humanly possible. You never know what the location sound people are up against, out there in the real world, especially in a documentary situation with different people talking at unpredictable times. The point is, how brilliant is that?

Farrell Winter

Hi Adnan ~ I was a soundman/audio technician/recording engineer/concert producer for 20 years. I can recommend the fairly inexpensive Shure SM-57 for almost any application. However in terms of sound quality you might like Sennheiser RE-20. It is expensive but does everything: bass drum (in fact all around the kit), vocals, strings, name it. For improving sound you may want to try noise reduction equipment. As with most things the higher quality is generally more expensive. Perhaps you can rent the equipment you need, this might be an option. Please feel free to contact me for audio chitchat, why let all that experience go to waste?

Duncan Whitcombe

Did you mean the Electrovoice RE-20? They have also released a new version of tis which seems to be pretty versatile too (I think its the RE-320). Back to the original query, you can add effects and it can sound better but be careful you are not just perceiving it to be better because it sounds more interesting. Listen to dialogue in films of the same genre as yours and compare the sound you are gutting to that. Does it sound as clear? does it capture the character of the voice? Are you capturing the emotion of the take? Are there annoying aural artefacts (like ess'es or pops, or a flatness or 'cheapness' to the tone). Once you know what you don't like with yours, then save up and find something that fixes that. If you are adding FX to sound better, what problem are you trying to fix?

Lesa Babb

Awesome note. Thanks Duncan!

Bob Merrill

IMHO, the SM-57 is a terrible voice mic, (prone to pops, and not as crisp a sound as many current condensers) and for the same (new) money you can get some very good large-diaphragm condenser mics with USB. I agree with Duncan, which is why I said "with care". Mouth clicks are the biggest problem, taken care of by moving th emic farther away and using water (or the favorite of pros, Granny Smith apples). Pops are second (easier to deal with and more noticeable) dealt with by being off axis and using a windscreen of some sort. Third is some kind of reflection from a hard surface too close to the mic, solved by moving the mic (surface should be more than three times the distance from the mic than the mouth is). Then the room sound comes into play, but is easily taken care of with absorption. I've had reporters record their tracks in closets, with very good results. RE20/27 is an excellent voice mic, but has a very low output. No experience with the RE-327. All three are way more expensive than a Yeti Pro, which is what I recommend.

Michael Borlace

I have never used or seen the Shure SM 57 used on a film, TV, or video production for recording dialogue. On the other hand, in live concerts, the 57 is used a lot for micing instruments. And there is a sister mic, Shure SM 58 that is used for vocals on live concerts.

Farrell Winter

Absolutely correct.

Julio Luna

if it works, yes

Adnan Ssenkumba

I love all your comments and I have got a better lesson which I missed in Classes. Look forward for more and more comments. Thanks a lot

Duncan Whitcombe

Thanks Bob. Going on a tangent, my history with the SM57 is mainly in live where, personally I have never liked it but when I was starting out you would get a mic kit with a hired PA (like a double 4-way) that was a bass drum mic, and all the rest were SM57s or SM58s. the ideal solution was to tune the PA with a 58 and then it sounded flat. But realistically just throwing one of these in front of an instrument gave a workable sound straight away and with the early [affordable] mixing desks being quite rudimentary, a sound that worked straight off was great... and they are really hard to break and so last for ages. Coming back to the question myself, especially with your clarification on what you consider an effect: yes, do it. Whatever you need to do to make the audio match / enhance the visuals. If the person speaking needs to sound further away, roll off the bottom and top frequencies and add a bit of extra space with a reverb that matches the space you visualise them in, if you want it more intimate, use an expander and some EQ to reduce the perception of the room sound, add some air ... As with the vision, you are not really creating an exact replica of what is happening but trying to create the experience of actually being there. Ideally the audience will be so gripped by what is happening and everything working together then they won't even think about the fact the are watching a film, they are inside the experience.

Bob Merrill

My remark about the SM57 was mainly referring to it for voice. I completely agree that it puts out a workable sound for most applications, and it is my goto mic for snare. I used one for singing on gigs for many years, and what I found was that although it sounded quite good, it was VERY difficult to control pops and other wind noise. Also, for voice work the SM5x is generally not as bright as most pros would like - I found that a Rode NT1 was far preferable in that application, for a similar price (new). My favorite mic for a wide variety of applications is the Sennheiser ME66, which is one of their lowest priced shotguns. It has very hot output, amazing wind rejection for voiceover, and incredible bass response, and really great side/rear rejection. I've found I can put the corner of my mouth against the mic and speak nearly directly into it, with very few pops. (Much easier to control than the SM57) At three times the price, it's probably 10 times as versatile. Incredible guitar mic, and field sound recording mic.

Duncan Whitcombe

Thanks Bob, I would definitely recommend having some shotgun mice: Sennheisser or AKG or similar. I don't know about the Sennheissers but the AKGs are modular so you can change from a shotgun to a short condenser just by replacing the capsule which makes them more versatile. I used some AKGs for a school Christmas production outside with the summer sea 'breeze' last year and they were great. Mics are really an area where you get what you pay for so listen to a selection if possible and if you can't hear a difference then that should work for you until yo hear its shortcomings.

Ken Koh

Or if you're on a tight budget I've found the Rode NTG 1,2,3 for $250 (B & H photo) really excellent. I actually prefer it to my 416.

Lesa Babb

Forgive my eavesdropping... Ken, that's good to know.

Ken Koh

Not at all. The Sennheiser 416 is an excellent mic, but very sensitive, it picks up so much.

Farrell Winter

Sennheiser 416 is a shotgun mic? Try using a windscreen to reduce unwanted sensitivity.

Bob Merrill

The 416 shotgun is a great sounding mic, very popular among voice talent. I found the Sennheiser ME66 shotgun to be less wind sensitive, fantastic sound, and a whole lot less $$. You definitely have to practice to use a 416 properly, and can get good results without a windscreen if you are careful. You can also get bad results even with a windscreen... :o)

Lesa Babb

I'm a big fan of Sennheiser mics, the sound quality is hard to beat. I still use my very inexpensive Audio-Technica shot... Great audio capture , but cord noise can be a problem. Agreed, clean sound requires practice. I've often wondered if I should invest in at least one cordless. Spent enough on gaffer's tape - and time in post - to have bought a baker's dozen by now. LOL

Ken Koh

ME66 another good mic for sure. I have 416, 816, and a cheap Rode NTG-1, I'm using the rode on all my productions. I get good, clean audio without picking up everything outside.

Farrell Winter

Thank you Bob Merrill for your informative comment. I have been out of this particular loop for 10+ years.

Farrell Winter

Lesa Babb: Sennheiser makes good mics. Audio-Technica also good, especially for strings and vocals. Cordless mics work on RF so can be as dangerous as cell phones or "smart" meters (if the mic is used extensively). Plus they are subject to RF interference and frequency drift.

Farrell Winter

Jacques DuLong: I don't like phone cables for working live at all.

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