How To Plan For The Best Sound Recording

Hey Matt Price here to help you record better sound and todays big idea is planning for your recordings.

Why You Need A Sound Recording Plan

This is very under utilised and implemented in the lower budget areas and even mid tier projects. The more you prepare the less likely you are to fail. Even an outdated map is better than no map at all. The more you understand what environments and situations you are going to be recording in the better. There are so many examples of why this is important that this video would be several hours longer.

Success It Has Brought Me

I’ve had so much success building up my own key list of things to look out for when recording sound for film and TV. Knowing exactly what you are going into allows me to be much calmer than other mixers that turn up on the day and have a terrible day recording. I get brought back again and again because of my attitude and preparation is a massive part of me staying ahead of all other departments in what decisions are being made.

The Plan

So lets really break this down into the 5 key areas that are going to want to pay special attention too in preparing for your recordings.

  • Script -

This is the holy text to tell you about the world of the film or project. You will be able to know how many people are going to be in each scenes or situations. This will help you decide on the types of microphones you will need for the shoot such as lav mics.

You want to break down scenes with who is speaking the most as then they become the most important people. The people who speak the least you will still need to make sure you get their one or two lines as they may only say them a few times depending on coverage.

You will also be able to see any actions that they might be doing while talking or if one character is doing something while another is talking. You want to be able to get the dialogue as clean as possible so these are areas to flag up to the director as soon as possible.

  • Locations -

Locations are going to be your battle ground. You want a location recce and you want to be going around thinking what can i turn off!. But take note at what time of day you're doing the recce compared to the time of day of the shoot. by that I mean if you are doing a recce like i have done on 5pm on a sunday evening and then shooting on the following friday or saturday the following week, chances are you will have more traffic and depending on your area, drunk people, more buses, trains and other mad things like bonfire night or new year etc… Very easy not to think about shooting on the 5th of November till someone starts setting off fireworks in next to your location.

Make sure you meet and get on with the owner or guardian of the place, they are your key master and will make your life so much easier.

Take into account the weather and how the location will deal with it, for instance I’ve done cheap studio shoots where you have a set in a warehouse, which already isn’t great in sunshine because of the acoustics, but wait till it rains, then a new world of pain comes in. So if needed think of a contingency for rain or general bad whether especially if you are filming in a location over several days where 3/4 days might be sunny and then one rain, can you put down sound blankets to dampen the rain hitting a roof.

Getting a flight tracker app to roughly gauge overhead flight paths is also a great tool, along with a real-time bus timetable and similar apps for trains if you're near a tram line. I'll give you a link to these later in the video.

There are many more examples but generally if you make sure you can go to a recce and you have understood the script and can see roughly how it will play out in the space you will be fine on the day, or as fine as anyone can be in this fluid medium of story creation.

  • Storyboards / coverage -

Storyboards help you get an idea of coverage of a scene. Coverage combined with what the script tells you will happen (which may change on the day) provides you will effectively how many different chances you are going to get to record the same content. Scenes range from one shot to 10 and above depending on the complexity of the actions and number of characters.

The storyboard give you rough shot sizes too so you can start thinking about microphone types to use. The storyboards or breakdowns give you an idea of if the camera will be moving or static too. all this is useful in seeing how the scenes will come together and how you can best capture them.

  • Bonuses - lighting plans / costumes / props -

Bonus materials you should be thinking about are what costumes the characters are going to be wearing. Any jewellery or props that might be in the scene that can make recording dialogue tricky, such as a bear on a cheap suit. Lighting plans can help give you an overview for the lighting and how it may affect you covering a scene. this will be easier to tell on the day but means you will be one step ahead of the lighting department that won’t get this until nearer the actual shoot time.

Not All Plain Sailing

It isn’t always going to get handed to you in one nice neat package and does take time to break down scripts especially if it's a feature film. But you will not believe how much of a difference it will make to your recordings on the day and if people get flaky with getting back to you because they are doing a million other things, keep pushing and make sure they understand its going to make a difference to how you record sound.

The Next Lesson

In the next lesson we will look at how to interpret microphone specifications which will help you decide what types of microphones are going to be best for all the situations you are going to be recording in. The Microphone is the first link in the chain of signal flow and has a massive part in the quality of the recordings. So look out for that by subscribing for free to this channel.

Thank You

Finally thanks for taking the time to invest in this video to learn how to record better sound with planning for your shoots. Don’t give up trying to get as much information to prepare as possible. If you feel you need it then ask for it and make sure you can arrive knowing what you are going to record and how using the checklist i gave you and ill see you for the next lesson.