Micing the host on a beach, to a location where the AC can't be turned off, to a completely reverberated hall... to... the voice over -- how do you maintain consistency in the mix and in the micing (sometimes having to go from lav to boom)?

Background: As a music-guy with little experience in location sound, this was my first paid sound-job.. and it wasn't that impressive.

I'd love to do it all as ADR, but this production had no budget for that. In the end the wonderfully understanding director told me about previous sound guys who have been able to maintain the same sound between a variety of locations. Something I failed to do. And now I need to take a stab at trying to learn how to do this. What are your recommendations?

8 Answers 8


If it were me, I would have asked the director:

"Why isn't the lighting the exact same on the beach as it is in the hallway? Why didn't you place the key light in the exact same spot and have the same exact exposure and backlight as you had from the sun on the beach than the florescent light in the hallway? Lighting guys I know would have lit the scene to match perfectly in the different locations - it's called Green Screen. So, give me money for ADR if you need it to match. Sorry if it didn't occur to you that different locations can look different but not sound different."

If someone is standing in a hallway and a beach, the resultant recordings will sound different - period. And, sorry, I'd like to hear a recording done on a beach sound the exact same as the hallway shot with the exact same amount of ambient noise like this director is asking you for. Anyone got one? It doesn't exist. I agree you could get the same tonality, but ambient noise? A beach creating 80 dB of white noise compared to a quiet hallway? Wow.

The correct thing you should have done was figure out what microphone you could have used and worked in each location, which would have the most rejection of reflections and stick with that as your main mic and use the other as a backup. Based on what I read, I think a Lapel would have worked best, first because if you plant it on his neck tie or shirt, you've got somewhat of a natural baffle and closeness to the source, and it will be pretty similarly placed in each of the locations and you would have minimal reflections if you placed it correctly. The key for these shots is using the same mic in the same spot to achieve a consistency. Then mix it to match - start with one scene, get it sounding good, then move on to the next and match it best you can.

What I suspect happened is you're using a chesty lav and trying to match it with far-miced boom mics and that's the difference he's hearing. Do you have a lapel recording throughout the whole thing? I'd drop everything and swap out all dialogue to be that mic - that would be the best possible match, I think. Otherwise, live and learn, do it better next time and don't dwell on your mistakes - learn from them and move on. You're only smarter now. We've all made mistakes. Don't let it happen again and do better next time.

  • @Utopia : No worries, she wasn't criticizing me, but rather asking what we should do next time. Indeed the two mics must have been my main problem -- switching between the boom and the lav -- when the transmitters stopped working while shooting, and I resorted to the backup boom instead. But then the problem was that I couldn't get very close in many of the wider shots, and that captured the whole environment. Thanks fo the great detailed answer!
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 7:09
  • I also think for people who might find themselves asking the same question as I did will find this answer useful too: Posted by @Christian van Caine in "How do you combine boom mic track with lav mic track for best dialog?" socialsounddesign.com/questions/11491/…
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 7:10
  • Ah @nomadlife I get it now. Sorry if I was brash - I see what you mean now. Glad I could be of assistance!
    – Utopia
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 23:12

I'm not sure I understand if you mean fix it in post or on set...

If it's in post:

I'd start by setting the levels so that they match somewhat. If the BG noise is too high in one scene I'd try and de-noise it. If the de-noising don't sound good, just forget about it and try to cut around it. Setting the levels and using EQ to match the previous clip can make it work... but it really depends on the situation. And, crap in = crap out, always, I'm afraid. It's not your fault! You did what you could.

When in the field, to keep a consistent sound is extremely hard. I mean if you have different settings there's no way of keeping it super consistent all the time due to the BG noise changing and reverberation and voice's intensity and all these things. Always go with "If it sounds good, is sounds good". Very simple. Just remember to try and keep the levels sort of the same. But this is also relative to all the other elements.

Personally, I always lav and try to boom as good as I can. The lav will be somewhat consistent. But consistency in sound with lots of different settings , again, is just... well it's hard.

It's all about signal to noise ratio and luck, really. Remember to trust your ears. You'll be fine.

  • @Olle indeed I did mean both. To do as much as I can on location, and as much as necessary in post. I like the idea of matching the levels in post to begin with. Great advice! In this case, I was both the location-person and the post-person, so any poor sounds would have been my own fault. Another shoot coming up soon, this time it's all inside, so I'll see how I can improve this time. Thanks for the advice! Tack så jättemycket! :)
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 6:30

.One extra thing apart of the already mentioned above. As sound dudes we are very aware (much more than mortals) about the sound quality of our recordings. To add consistency to your recordings a trick is mach your best (cleanest/driest) recordings to your crappiest one (after you have done everything you can to improve this bad recording) People tend to take noise for granted, it doesn't disturb them as much as us, as long as it is consistent. So to an extent you can dirty and add different amounts of reverb (if the image allows it) to the recordings to add consistency.

In a way this is what you are doing when you add room tone to ADR...

  • Thanks @Eric I think I I'll give this a try too! To dirty up the cleaner sounds so to say in order to add consistency. Cheers!
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 6:32

If you keep your radio mic in a similar area all the time (which can be difficult with wardrobe changes, but that's part of the challenge!), that should be consistent and not contain too much noise. A big thing to watch out for though, is clothing rustle.

Booming is a trickier proposition. You want push that thing so far into frame that the camera op starts gesturing wildly at you, then slowly back out until he/she stops. During the rehearsal, of course. And make sure to tell them that you're getting your position, otherwise you might piss them off.

Always lav and boom; having 2 tracks is very useful for post production. Even if you can't get in as close as you'd like with the boom, record it anyway.

It's a big, long learning curve, but a good location recordist is priceless.

  • @Roger I did indeed try to do those things for this shoot, but unfortunately our wireless kits were not working for this shoot. For the next one we'll have a new kit though, so I'll be able to both lav and boon :)
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 6:35

Firstly, directors get a kick out of running the sound guys down unless, of course, they're doing it for free.

Secondly, if you can close your eyes and still get a reasonable idea of the location just from listening, then the sound is good. Only reduce location noise when it detracts from the focal point of the recording. Even then, don't overdo it - just enough that it is no longer a distraction. This makes for a much more natural result.

Locations are not the same and, consequently, the sound shouldn't be either. It is, however, important to be as consistent as possible with your levels, particularly with respect to dialogue.

  • @Bluesman69 : While that may indeed be true, this director is a gem. A very nice person, and if I can live up to her perfectionist visions, then I know for sure that I'm doing something right. Until then, I have lots of learning to do, and I'm lucky she's patient with me. :) Great advice there! I made a point of trying to reduce location noise in every single scene, which I think made the voices sound very different from place to place. I might do less noise-reduction for the next shoot. Thanks!
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 6:50

As a side note. I have been known to add crap to sell less than stellar performed ADR. Example several shots of couple walking and talking. Down stairways corridors etc. Lavs unusable. Added reverb (of course) and fake lav noise rustling. As viewers we have been used to hearing lavs ins scenes like his and the added rustle really sold it. Without it it was screaming ADR.

  • @ErikG Great approach!
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 21:39
  • one thousand points ++++
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Nov 26, 2011 at 22:12

As far as my experience goes, if you are doing location sound for a project,a proper recce has to be done to find out whether location sound is possible for the given script and location.I have seen some directors doing location sound thinking that ADR is expensive.What they really don't know is that, sync sound can be tougher and expensive. Given your current situation i agree with utopia.Its better to rely on the lav and EQ the boom to match with it.Always remember to do a sound recce next time.

  • @chrisnanny Yeah unfortunately, given the budget and the amount of locations we had (some in other cities), this time it wasn't a possibility. But the next the director will give me some time to do some scouting. That's great a idea, to match the boom with lav, that is. Thanks a lot for the advice! Being a studio-person, I would prefer ADR 10 times out of 10, but I guess it's not really a possibility when you're doing interviews with people in crazy locations, on no notice what-so-ever.
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 5:38

You can always pray to the a god of Sound Design like Randy Thom, Benny Burtt, Jay Jennings, Tim Prebble, me or whatever...Andrew Spitz, Shaun Farley...

  • @Chris any specific prayer I should say to make the prayer more effective?
    – nomadlife
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 6:52

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