Sound & The Environment

THE BRIEF

Using the map provided, record a short monologue at each location using each of the 3 microphones provided. Compare the results and ‘clean up’ the audio using the techniques discussed in the seminar.

THE MICROPHONES

Using the right tool for the job is one of the key concerns in any vocation, so the first goal of this exercise is familiarity with the dynamic, lapel and shotgun mics provided by the technical department. Each of these works in a different way, which affects the type of setting they are appropriate for.

The shotgun mic is a directional condenser designed to pickup sound over a distance. This means is has great sensitivity which is great for recording nuanced dialogue but can be difficult to work with in a noisy environment. On the other hand, when the background noise is desirable or if you need to record dialogue against it, this mic will get the clearest results.

The lapel mic is a small diaphragm omnidirectional mic with a fairly near field. It is less sensitive to environmental noise than other options but difficult to place effectively and highly sensitive to movement. They are a great discreet option for indoor speakers and interview subjects, but the practical limitations can frustrate the recording process.

The dynamic mic is directional but with a generous pickup pattern that enables a variety of angles and volumes. This makes the mic really versatile and a great choice when you don’t know what to expect. Common applications include live music, public speaking and a host of other things. There are also a lot of variations on this mic.

In an article for Sound on Sound, Tom Flint describes the shotgun mic as ‘an essential bit of kit for certain situations’ and in his case study ‘perfect for recording the dialogue’ (Tom Flint, Sound On Sound online, 2014). It is also worth noting that there are many variants on all of these mics, including varying degrees of directionality and placement methodology. Small capsule condensers like the lapel mic have been developed into headsets and other types of discrete mics that are especially popular in the theatre. Lots of articles like this one by Eclipse Global, talk about the process of mic selection and importantly how to use them appropriately!

‘Cleaning’ Audio

REFLECTIONS

Naturally, the first rule of recording audio is ‘get it right at source’. This means that the quality of your original recording will often dictate the quality of your finished product. In challenging environments, this can mean getting as much separation between sounds as possible. Each recording has at least a few seconds of background noise alone which can be used by the software to isolate the unwanted background noise and filter it out of the whole recording. I was struck by the effectiveness of this process which is far more sophisticated than I have encountered in the past. Adobe Audition features a number of tools for removing noise but a repeatedly found the noise reduction analysis and process the most effective method; it’s fast, highly effective and usually requires little ‘after care’ meaning you can move on with your project with as little as some EQ.

There are however, often some artefacts left by the process (as you can hear in the Location A Shotgun recording, which I chose to mask in the others with reverb, establishing a new virtual space for the sound to exist in. I allowed myself to be guided somewhat by the recording itself, deciding that sometimes a stylised sound would yield more effective results. I also wanted to show some range of potential applications for the task.

While I will endeavour to ensure the quality of my recordings is right at source, I intend to spend some more time refining my techniques in this area to fully prepare myself for the unexpected challenges of a media career.

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