First of all, there are two main reasons why I started such a series of articles. First one; Turkey in the film / video productions in ‘sound recording’ ‘a matter of sufficient seriousness done that I have to observe (of course, that it’s the exception, like all generalizations, very valuable people committed to meseleg I need to keep out of this criticism). The second is; I do not believe that the teams that want to show the necessary dedication to this issue have failed either in the planning phase or in the implementation phase. I guess it would not be wrong to say that the biggest cause of these two big problems (at least for amateur / semi-amateur teams) is the lack of resources. When I first started this business, I was really surprised to realize that there were almost no Turkish sources. I’m not talking about some of the academic sources or populist videos here. As with many blogs abroad, our “how to do” content is almost zero. Lastly, I came across Sertaç Selvi’s great videos of this consistency and I hope she will continue. The issue here is not whether you have expertise in this field or not. This is a matter of everyone sharing as much as they know. Of course, the reason I decided to start this series is not that I am convinced that I have learned everything in this business. By sharing the things I have experienced and learned in this sector, which I have been in for an average of 4-5 years, I do not hope that those who are interested in this profession will benefit. During this process, if there are any deficiencies in my articles, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can write much longer on this subject, but I want to start the first topic in order not to bore it more. Lets start then.
In a movie production, the first link in the sound recording production chain is, as you might guess, a sound recorder. Before I go into brand / model suggestions here, I would like to emphasize a very important issue. The quality of the movie / series / video etc. you will shoot will be as much as the weakest link of your team and equipment chain. This is the sharpest rule, especially in audio productions. The possibility of correcting a bad image in post production and the possibility of correcting a bad sound have nothing to do with each other. So a movie you shoot with a $ 5K camera and a $ 150 audio recorder will drive the quality of the entire production to $ 150. Because, especially by the audience, a poor picture quality is seen as acceptable, while even an average sound quality will react as unacceptable and annoying. You can make a bad image interesting with a good sound design. But unfortunately, no camera game can be the solution for a bad sound.
A movie / video etc. Another important point to consider when choosing a sound recorder for production is to present your needs in a realistic way. Because, most of the time, high budget can create problems as much as low budget. The question you should ask in this regard may be;
How many actors are involved in a scene in the script at the same time?
This question should actually be the first question you will direct to the other side, regardless of the size of the production. (Of course, it would be best for you to find the answer to this question by reading the scenario.) If the answer to the question is 2 or less, let’s assume that 1 shotgun (boom) microphone will do the job for a medium / low budget job. In this case, we can say that 1-4 channel voice recorders can work with only XLR input calculation. The second issue we need to decide later should be the factors that determine the sound recording quality of sound recorders in the 1-4 channel range. So what are the factors affecting the sound recording quality of this recorder?
Yes, great technology, no more explosion-cracking, everyone will be able to record sound, we will all throw stones in Hollywood, etc. etc. Joking aside, the reason I made such an entry is not that I do not want to simplify 32bit technology or consider it important. I think it’s a really important development, but this technology has been so inflated with ZOOM F6 that you think the whole movie industry has let us watch movies with completely distorted sounds. Let me try to explain the issue without going into technical details:
There are 3 main elements that a voice operator should pay attention to in the sound recording process;
Adjusting the microphone gain levels optimally according to the range of loudness used by the actor in that scene and the noise level of the environment.
Starting from the microphone and adjusting the frequencies of the transmitter and receiver in the wireless system, if any (I will briefly summarize them later, I will examine these issues in detail), otherwise, to get the sound from the sound source with the least noise by using a low-noise and short and high-quality xlr cable.
If there is a preference option, choose the most ideal microphones depending on the parameters of the player / ambient conditions / desired vocal character triangle.
Just the first thing that matters to us in the 32-bit issue. The most important opportunity that manufacturers promise us when marketing 32bit technology is that sounds will no longer be clipping / peaking, no matter how loud they come from the source. This means that even if you have no sense of the job or because you are working with a limited team, there is no one to constantly check the sound levels of the sound recorder, the sounds will be recorded all kinds of clean, even if you hear as if they explode while you are recording, you will turn up the sound on the post, aaa! You will see that the sound is recorded clearly, does that mean? Both yes and no.
The GIF above is a very good example of how a clipping / peaking audio, 24bit and 32bit recorded versions look in the post. If you have noticed, I mentioned resolution. Yes, we can say to the friend that we call this bit, together with the sample rate, it is basically a unit of measurement that indicates the resolution of the sound, just like the Megapixel in image technology. Let me try to explain this resolution issue as follows; We understand how high the “resolution” of a recorded sound is from the bit rate and sample rate values, and these values are converted to electrical signals in the microphone and how faithful these converted sound vibrations are recorded in the audio recorder by means of 0101001s. It is a measure of its staying or how well it can imitate the original. (I think a separate and detailed article on bit rate and sample rate issues will become necessary in the future.) At this point, I think the table below will make the issue a little more understandable for you.
If you have noticed, there is no 32bit in the table. Because, in fact, 32bit does not have much to compare with 24bit in terms of resolution. At least as far as we can hear. Yes, our job is to record the best quality sound we can make. So fard-i example; If we can already hear between +5 and +10 units, what is the benefit of a device coming and recording between -100 and +100 units? It can be a benefit, if, at an unexpected moment, our actor suddenly comes to love and goes much higher than the range we were preparing for in rehearsal, it can help us recover that instant sound. Or, in post production, voices can be overwhelmed by more data by the plug-ins we use, making them work more efficiently through numerical computations, which is not something I have personally experienced, but a series of claims made by some of my 32bit advocate colleagues in foreign forums. I have not yet been able to figure out how DAWs work more efficiently under 33% more data load than 24bit.
Anyway, let’s not extend it, as a result, the real feat of 32bit is that it can record sound in a very wide dB range, not better quality. But this also brings some problems with it. In order to save a second of clipped audio, you store 33% more data in your memory than a standard 24bit 48kHz audio recording would generate. And the funniest part of the job is that when those 32bit recorded sounds are given to the studio for post production, unfortunately they are mostly reduced to 24bit and processed that way. Because already, even 24bit is too much for human sense. I will explain this later in a separate article with more detailed examples.
So, after all, whether it is 5bit or 100bit, we need to adjust those gain knobs in our recorder by listening to the sound ranges they will ask our actors before shooting, and if we hear an unexpected clipping during the scene, we should notify the director that we want the scene to be cut and taken again. In spite of all this, if you think 32bit will be your savior (which can be a savior for indie film crews who want to get good sound without much effort), you can add this feature to your preference list in your voice recorder search. But the feature that changes the color of the main game is very different.
Preamp (preamplifier) is actually a technology for amplifying the audio signal, as the name suggests. At least it can be summed up this way. At the beginning of my article, I mentioned that I will not drown you in technical details. Therefore, let me try to explain this marine issue as follows:
We said that the vibrations created by our source in the air (which we call sound) are detected by our microphone and converted into electrical signals and come to our sound recorder. Here, in fact, the strength of the sound coming from our microphone to our recorder is too weak to be distinguished from the noise. At this point, the preamps in our recorder come into play and this increases the power of the electrical signal. In fact, this is the whole task. So how does this friend, who has such a simple function, change the color of the whole game?
Every signal that is amplified decays to a certain extent. The simplest example of this is distorted sound in tube guitar amps, which is caused by the excessive gain level, which gave birth to rock music. But our goal is not to make our players sound like les paul. The trick to getting the sound we aim for; It is the ability of our preamp to amplify the sound with the least amount of distortion and deep noise during this signal amplification. This is one of the biggest factors in pricing anyway. So how do we tell which recorder has the best preamp?
Frankly, I am one of those who think the best way is to try it out. There are several reputable organizations that sell these devices in already industry standards in Turkey. You can go to the store of one of them and try the devices you are considering buying and make a decision by relying on your own ears. Because the only way I can tell you the difference between these preamps will be abstract definitions such as stuttering, warm, saturated, or they will not go beyond giving figures that mean nothing to you at first glance. If you do not have such a trial opportunity, you can find hundreds of test and review videos on the internet for many recorders from the cheapest to the most expensive in the industry. Although these do not offer one-to-one trial experience, they will provide you with an idea to a large extent. You can find links to a few examples of these videos below.
Ease of Use
We found the quality at an affordable price, and I can hear you asking whether we will look at the comfort. First of all, you will not find the quality suitable. But you may be surprised when you realize how important ease of use is on the set. Because everything you say “N ‘will be my dear, we will manage” while you buy it will be loaded on your back one by one. I think the most important of these; Convenient access to the gain knobs and a clear view of the mixer screen while recording. You may have noticed that there is a common design in almost every audio recorder produced specifically for film production. This is not a design that is applied accidentally, or because it is fashionable.
If you pay attention, you can see that the front of all of them is in the shape of a thin long rectangle, and all the controllers along with the screen are positioned on this front. You can see the two different uses of this design in the field in the examples below:
We see the biggest benefit of this design in the example in the first picture. In the system called “Sound Cart” in the second picture, your team should consist of at least two people, one voice operator and one boom operator. But in the first picture, you are in control of both the slide and the boom. Therefore, the whole mechanism you use should be designed to make your job easier. Because your job is already difficult.
If we continue with the example in the first picture, you will have noticed that the gain knobs are much larger than the other buttons. Likewise, the size of the screen is quite large compared to the front console and we see that the image is also very clear. Actually, the whole thing is that simple. During the recording, the ideal voice man should neither rely solely on his ear, nor on his eyes. You should constantly check both of them and your equipment should be suitable for it. There is a reason why I put so much emphasis on these simple elements. Here are our main heroes!
ZOOM-H series! Especially in amateur / semi-amateur teams, he is an old friend that I have used for a long time, and I still continue to use it in low-budget jobs. I want you to look carefully at this ZOOM series with the previous recorders. Let’s bring those ergonomics and design advantages to mind and make a tiny comparison.
First of all, since we use this device, our project is a low-budget business and if you do not have a recording device of your own, you will either rent it or request the device from the team. In this case, it is impossible to talk about the existence of a sound cart. So you have to put this friend in the sound bag. We also saw the sound bag in the previous photo. Isn’t it physically impossible for a device like this to provide gain control while standing in that bag, or to track sounds on its screen? So do the gain knobs seem easy to control and solid? Unfortunately no. It has buttons that you have to correct with very gentle gestures and cause huge swings at the slightest touch. What if our budget is enough for this?
I will try to make one-to-one product comparisons in detail in my next article. But remember that the best equipment is the one you have. Yes, of course we always aim to get better, but for the moment, it is up to us to make the most of the average equipment we have or to use a high-end equipment in a mediocre way, unaware of its many features. Information is always stronger than equipment. Handcrafted tool boasts calculus.
Thank you so much for reading up here patiently. For now, I wish everyone ease in their studies. See you until the next article, stay healthy …
By Talha Enes Bişkin Translated by: Elif Tan