I've been asked to supervise the set recordings of an upcoming short film and I was wondering how much it is necessary to try to get from the locations itself while shooting?

Is it worth planning to be there and trying to get all the door opens and closes, ambiences, walla from actors on set, etc. etc.? My instincts say to try and get each and every little detail I can possibly get - but I also know there's about 30 other people there making noise.

What is your opinion and what is your philosophy when boom oping a shoot with regards to capturing FX such as doors, footsteps, foley etc.?

Thanks in advance.

5 Answers 5


Hey Ryan,

My philosophy is to get as much as you can. If time allows you to get wild effects on set, go for it! Even if the post guys don't end up using it, they have something to work with. If there's something really cool on set that makes a unique noise (something that might be difficult to find in a library), I'll try to make sure to get a half decent recording of it. Sometimes this means doing a wild recording of it, and sometimes it means planting a mic for the effect and sending it to an iso track. Just make sure to note all of that kind of stuff in a detailed manner on the sound report so the post guys know what everything is.

All of that being said, my main focus would be to get the dialogue as clean as possible. So make sure nobody opens or shuts a door over a line, etc... Make sure that the effects that you do get don't interfere with the lines. Probably common sense, but just thought I'd mention it.

Hope all is well,



My list of sounds to record on set is as follows (in order of priority):

1- Dialogue

If I only get to capture the dialogue, it is still a good day. If I fail to capture the dialogue, because I'm busy recording less important sounds, I'm not doing a good job as sound recordist. It is THE most important part of recording on set, and it is the most expensive sound to reproduce afterwards.

2- Wild tracks of dialogue

If for some reason I don't get a single clear take of the dialogue of a scene, I will ask for permission to do a wild track of the dialogue of the scene. This is not something which should happen with every scene, because you have to do it on set, just after the scene, while the scene is still fresh in the memory of the actors. You also have to keep everybody on set silent, so if you do it too often, people will just get tired of you and make it harder for you to capture clean dialogue in the first place. I do wild tracks less than once per day.

3- Walla from actors/extras

This Can also be pretty hard/expensive/impossible to do in post, so you should record this. Extras should be miming when in talking in the background, so you need their sound at some point. This can be planned in advance, but you have to keep reminding the AD of it, because sometimes they forget you and send all the extras home before you get your recording :-(

4- Ambiences

Try getting the sounds that are unique to the location. Background that may set a tone or be an interesting element in the sound design. I always carry a couple of zoom H4 and H2 recorders, so i can quickly go and pick up some interesting sounds, without having to carry my main recorder, which is set up for recording dialogue. Sometimes I record ambiences on the Zooms while the crew (and I) are shooting the scenes, because people are quiet at that time. I would also use the Zoom to get an interesting perspective on the action in the scene, for instance by mounting it close to the camera to get a point of view sound in chase scenes. All of this I try to do without interfering with the rest of the crew, sometimes delaying my lunch break by 10 minutes or so.

I don't spend any time recording IR's and I am generally not very interested i recording doors, but maybe that's just me being more of an ambiences kind of guy...


I definitely try to capture door openings/closings, room tone, and any handling of objects by a character if they're not talking. Rarely will I be able to get footsteps, unless there's no dialogue during the scene.

  • @Mitchell & @utopia, I wonder, would it be better, if possible, to go back to the location after shooting is finished? Or even before it starts. Just thinking it might be more efficient and you'll be able to record the sounds/rooms without all of the miscellaneous camera stuff ruining the impulse response and RT60. Assuming of course that'll you'll have access...
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 21:52

I agree with Colin about getting as much as you can while on set. It can often be a battle on a quick-paced or low-budget set to pick up wild sfx, and sometimes even room tone. The problem is that everyone usually has to stop what they are doing and wait while you grab your recording. On fast paced shoots, I have sometimes shown up early in the morning just to grab sfx. Another great technique if you are moving around to different locations is to stay at a location an extra half hour to grab wild sfx (with permission of the AD).

They will usually say yes and by the time you get to the next location, the crew will probably still be unloading.


An on set sound recordist is a tough job as I'm sure you know Utopia. Mainly tough because the AD forgets about you, the Director and producer don't know what you need and the extras and actors and everyone else thinks everything can be done in post.

Just be stern and demand stuff, if they don't let you, explain to them when they have to pay for post work why they have to pay so much and that when you asked for it they should've granted you that time to capture extra sound.

  1. Dialogue
  2. Wild track
  3. Room tone
  4. Impulse Response
  5. Extra effects

It should run in that order for me. If you have that IR you can work with library / foley sounds easily enough and have them sit in the mix well.

Be stubborn, the crew will hate you but once the film is out they will realise what a great job you done.

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