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On a professional set, in a studio or on location, the main job of the production audio - solo or team - is to capture the highest quality dialog that they possibly can in every situation they possibly can.

So besides dialog, what are the other things you make sure to record for each scene, location, angle and any other scenario that the job brings?

I know of a few: wild lines, backgrounds and/or room tone, and possible sound effects native to the location.

What is your protocol on extra material to give the post production team? Do you record it the same way, with the shotgun you use for dialog? Or do you have a separate kit for non-dialog location recording that you bring with you?

How often do you take audio notes? Beyond writing down apparent problems like planes, traffic, etc... do you have anything that you always make sure to write down that helps the post team? (Excluding the occasional file naming convention)

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4 Answers

The number 1 thing i want from a location recordist (apart from good, clean dialogue coverage, of course) is room tone. It's very important that you record this with exactly the same mic set up that you've been using to record the dialogue, and the same mic positions too. A slight change of angle can alter the character of the sound, so try to keep things as close to the original angles as possible. Also, nothing wrecks a fill track like crew who think that "quiet on set" means "slowly set up for the next shot".

Also, wild takes of anything that seems unique to the shoot come in handy. If it's a low budget production, try to get wilds of any vehicles that may be involved. Talk to your sound designer beforehand, and see if he/she has a wish list, or any requests for you.

And finally, one of my bigger pet peeves: if you're recording wild lines, make sure it's done right. In the past, i've received utterly useless wild lines, where the actor is just reading off the script, and the mic is right in their face. If you're recording wild lines, make sure the actor is still performing, and keep the mic at a reasonable distance. Otherwise, you may as well not record them at all.

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I agree with all of this! Yes yes yes! –  VCProd Aug 11 '11 at 19:48
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Having been on both sides (sometimes on the same project) of production and post, here's what I like to see:

  • Of course good clean dialog. If good clean dialog cannot be had, then good clean wild lines taken immediately after the setup is finished. Take this with the same mic you have been using - shotgun, hypercardoid, lavs, etc - so the tone can be matched a little easier, and with the same placement.

  • Room tone. Taken with the same mics used during shooting, for the same reasons as above.

  • Good notes. Usually the sheets with scene, take, use?, file name, channel 1 - X (list what is on it like Paul's lav, boom, etc), and a small notes section. If you have more to say, say it at the end of the take with the slate mic.

  • I DO like to have SFX, foley, and anything else extra recorded on set or during the production at some time. Again, these would be with the appropriate mics for the location. Ideally, I could cut those in with the production audio and have minimal matching to do. I WOULD NOT do this unless your post person requests it and gives you a detailed list, otherwise you may be wasting your time. If I have a chance, I give my production mixer a wish list of SFX, ambiances, etc that I'd like gathered and indicate whether it's important or not (if you can, great, if not, don't go out of your way).

That's really about it. You're going to have a tough enough time getting good, clean dialog without burdening yourself with things like convolution reverbs and fancy setups for ambiance - use the mic you've already got on hand and do as much during your working day as you can without having to do anything afterwards.

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+1 For good notes. Can't count how many pleasantly surprised looks I've gotten (admittedly, I'm still working sizzle trailers, corporate gigs, and very small indie projects) from directors when I've turned in my religiouly thorough sound logs, which match my filing naming convention, the slate, contain the track assignment, sample rate/bit depth, mic selection, and my contact number. Media management is the foundation of everything IMHO. –  atheisticmystic Aug 11 '11 at 20:55
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Best sound rolls I ever got came from Teddy Haleron at FJH Studios in Houston for the film All She Can (formerly Benavides Born)

I've never met him, but the stuff they turned in was so good I had to look him up and let him know how much I appreciated it.

  • everything was slated and file named appropriately. Some things were tail slated but nothing went undocumented verbally.

  • Room tones and ambiances in almost all locations (in mono)

  • excellent mic placement and gain staging throughout

Those three points are king of the world. get some great walla sound but mess up the gain staging or placement and you're hurting, not helping. Those three points get messed up constantly. Some guys really know how to find new and interesting ways to ruin mic placment, gain staging and documentation. The ability to deliver on those three points is not a given, though it should be and those three points are difficult enough to do well consistently, so focus there above all else and at the expense of all else.

Once those three are completely nailed down to the floor then go for the extra credit. Here's what the Houston guys delivered in addition to getting the fundamentals just right:

  • some wild lines were picked up where appropriate

  • a few specialty recorded sounds (weightlifting flick, and he covered the weights pretty well on set)

  • they had the prescience to catch a wild track of a classroom of kids standing up and walking out of the room a few times after the shot depicting this movement wrapped. gold!

I'll reiterate though that the fundamentals are king in my opinion. Get those right and we can deal with the rest in post. :)

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The other few that you mention there would be my first port of call for extras - wild tracks, backgrounds etc all really useful.

I'd try and get all my room tones backgrounds with a different mic to my shotgun-its my preference to have atmosphere tracks stereo- so i'd record ambience/room tone with a matched pair of mics or a stereo mic, sometimes on a stand and i'll leave it there recording for a while when the rest of the cast/crew have gone.

But i try to get just good sound from the offset- i think its enough to have good dialogue, atmos and spots and wouldn't want to give the post team ridiculous amounts of files to wade through.

Audio notes i'd take (obviously all files are slated) first- I always write down problems, as well as mics/recording equipment used for my own records.

Hope thats some help :)

Kyle

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I tried to +1 your comment as well but for some reason it either kicks it to -1 if I up vote or -2 if I down vote! I dunno whats going on –  C3Sound Aug 11 '11 at 22:22
    
shouldn't room tone be collected with the same mic as the dialogue? so it can be matched the easiest in the edit? i understand for ambiances and atmos you would use a stereo setup. –  Third Earth Aug 17 '11 at 9:04
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