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10 Audio Tips for Indie Filmmakers

10 Audio Tips for Indie Filmmakers

There are many common mistakes that get repeated over and over again by independent filmmakers.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate the waters of independent filmmaking.

 

1. Hire A Proper Production Sound Mixer!
This is perhaps the most important step!  If you don’t have enough money to hire a real production sound mixer, you don’t have enough money to make a film!!!  The production sound mixer will most likely have their own equipment and choose a boom operator for you to hire (and, if applicable, an audio tech.)  Again, pay for a proper boom operator.  Don’t have the producer’s kid, or some PA hold it.  This will save you time and money in post on ADR and additional dialogue cleanup, and lead to a superior product.

2. Location, Location, Location
Keep sound in mind when picking locations.  Do you HAVE to shoot this scene next to a highway?  Would it make a difference if it was shot on a side street?  Probably not.  When shooting in an apartment, unplug air conditioners and refrigerators.  When shooting on rooftops, remember there is probably a huge air conditioner there that will ruin ALL of the audio.  Are you shooting in a flight path from a nearby airport?  Is your set far enough from your generator?  Get the sound mixer you hired in tip #1 to go along on your location scout to spot potential problems.

3. Have a Conversation
Have your production sound mixer, assistant editor, and (if at all possible) supervising sound editor talk before shooting begins to establish a workflow to syncing audio.  Then have another conversation before cutting begins.  There are too many variations in workflow these days to go into detail here, but if everyone talks before hand you can avoid costly mistakes.  I see an alarming number of films that make easily avoidable workflow mistakes that render 95% of the production sound useless.  A film suffers greatly when the only track available is the camera reference mix-down. (yes, there is always a way to remedy this, but most films don’t have the time or money at the end of post to fix it!)

4. Loop Group
Want to avoid costly loop group(which you probably can’t afford)?  Spend 15 minutes and record the walla of the actors in a party/bar/concert scene, from multiple angles if possible.

5. Music on Set
Don’t play music on set if you can avoid it.  It will lock you into an edit nightmare and if you can’t get the track that is playing it becomes a real mess.

6. Shooting Without Sound
Shooting MOS is rarely a good idea.  You never know when you might want the audio, or need it for sync reference.  The scene may not end up MOS in the final cut.

7. Stay organized
Keep a consistent track layout while you are editing.  Dialogue, Temp FX, and Music should not share tracks!  This sounds trivial, but it can literally cost your audio post crew days of time.

8. Don’t use Final Cut “Pro”
Just don’t… it limits handle length and screws most file based recorder workflows.  This will be a moot point soon, as Apple has neutered Final Cut X.

9. ADR
ADR is inevitable, so make sure your actors are going to be available (and willing) to spend some time on ADR.  Especially if you ignored tips 1-3.  If you’re planning on recording VO try to get it on set just in case.  It sometimes can be hard for actors (especially inexperienced ones) to get back to where they were 6 months to a year later.

10. Don’t Double Clips
Someone started the terrible practice of duplicating a clip while editing to make a sound louder (because you have 2 of them playing now!)  Don’t do this!  Nothing screams “I have no idea what I’m doing!” more than that.  If you want to turn something up, use clip gain, or volume automation.  Making duplicated all over the place wastes days of time in the editorial process.

Bonus Tip!
One of my pet peeves!  If you are doing a scene in a crowded bar/party that will have loud music added in post… make sure you have your actors project/yell like there’s loud music!!

Steve “Major” Giammaria is a Re-Recording Mixer / Supervising Sound Editor at Sound Lounge in New York City. Contact
Ryan M. Price is a freelance Re-Recording Mixer / Supervising Sound Editor in New York City. Contact

2 Responses to “10 Audio Tips for Indie Filmmakers”

  1. J McGill says:

    All very good tips – follow religiously! I have a little doubt with #6 though – MOS is MOS for good reasons often enough. To encourage folks to run sound on everything does a) scream amateur very loudly, b) slows down shooting, and c) tires unnecessarily the sound department as they know full well when running sound makes sense and when not.

  2. Major says:

    @J McGill
    Good point. I suppose we included that because too often people DON’T have a sound department that knows better… if they follow tip #1 then tip #6 is a little strongly worded… And being bias towards post , we only realize when shooting MOS goes horribly wrong, not the time and energy saved when used properly.

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