Audio excellence is essential in video: bad sound design can wreck the final product, even if the video’s perfectly shot, edited, and acted.
Background noise behind voiceover can distract your audience from an important message. Loud distractions on shoot day can cost you dollars in extensive editing fixes. And tasteless music can ruin the feeling you hoped to create with your masterpiece.
But we’ve got good news: there’s a cure to bad sound.
Listen up to find out what!
First, understand the challenge of sound on set.
It all starts on shoot day. If you’re filming a live cast, interviews with your executives, or on-location action, the journey towards perfect sound begins as soon as your crew steps on set. Your dedicated sound person will use a mix of microphones, audio recorders, wireless systems, and more to efficiently record during the shoot.
However, sound professionals who record sound on set face some unique challenges. “Location is everything,” says The DVI Group’s sound designer, David Frey. “The ideal place for recording sound would be in a treated studio space with no reflective surfaces, no electrical or appliance noise, and no bleed-in from the outside world. If you’re working solely within the realm of recording music, this may be a reasonable demand. However, when it comes to film, sound folks have to be a bit more flexible and willing to employ their ingenuity to fight off those pesky undesirable noises.”
Sound professionals work tirelessly to control the sounds they capture. “As a production sound person, sometimes you’ve got to act as a sort of gatekeeper for all the sound sources,” David admits. “Unplug the refrigerator, turn off the AC between takes, insist (again) that all phones are on silent.”
And sound is always on red alert, ready to halt production if unavoidable noises pop up—especially when shooting outside. David adds: “What about the intermittent, disruptive sounds that always seem to arrive on cue with ‘Action!’? That’s where it gets tricky—and oftentimes the best option is to just hold for sound. You don’t want an airplane flying overhead or a loading garbage truck ruining your talent’s best take.” Just an extra minute or so of waiting can save you countless minutes in the editing process. Better to avoid bad sound from the start!
Oftentimes the best option is to just hold for sound. You don’t want an airplane flying overhead or a loading garbage truck ruining your talent’s best take.
- David Frey, Sound Designer
But the job shouldn’t stop there.
After sound is recorded and stored on set—or after a voiceover artist is recorded, if animation is your chosen medium—sound has to go through post-production and editing phases. In this stage, a dedicated sound professional will sort through all the sound clips, splice them together, and work on each one to try and erase any tiny, unwanted background noises. They’ll also choose and insert extra ambient noises, sound effects, and the perfect background music.
David says, “There’s an amazing number of tools and techniques available to help repair, remove, and clean production sound. And using these resources effectively is an art form. We have ways to separate dialogue from background noise, reduce ambience, and even match ambience to create smoother transitions between shots.”
Post-production is the stage where your sound person can make things sound natural, exciting, professional, scary, or humorous. It takes a lot of work—and a great ear!—to make things come together just as they ought to.
Now, bring in the professionals.
At this point, you might be wondering how all these sound pieces come together. That’s where finding the right professional comes in.
Some sound artists are dedicated to recording on set—they’re masters at wrangling equipment and people to capture the best audio when the camera starts rolling. These professionals are often called “production sound engineers,” which can include “production mixers” and “boom operators.” Others focus on the post-production process, staying at their computer and working magic on already-recorded audio: these professionals often go by “sound editor” or “re-recording mixer.”
But there are some sound professionals who do it all, training in every part of the process to become audio masters in every sense. Here at DVI, we call this position “sound designer”—someone who takes care of everything heard, from the beginning of your project to the end.
Last, trust their plan. And then watch the magic happen.
We’ve learned that it’s never wise to underestimate the importance of sound. Good sound design can take your video to new heights, injecting professionalism and crystal-clear dialogue into the mix. The most experienced professional can work in all worlds, managing and capturing sound on set, then putting it all together during the editing process.
“Good sound starts from the top down,” David reminds us. “At the end of the day: it’s a balancing act. A great sound person will be able to walk onto a set, analyze and digest the soundscape, make a plan, apply, mediate, and navigate the pathway to the best audio possible. Relying too heavily on one method of intervention will only allow other unwanted sounds to seep through.”
Sounds like a difficult job to us. But that’s why we leave it to the experts.