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Hear No Evil: A Location Audio Primer

An interview with an audio/video specialist reveals the hows and whys of location audio.

The Power of Sound
When I was little, my parents owned a tiny movie theater in a small town in Montana. While my dad projected the film, my mom sold tickets and refreshments. Meanwhile, I watched what movies I wanted--especially the scary ones.

At the scariest points, I would cover my eyes. When the film scared me enough, I would run to my mom, who taught me a lesson she learned from her own father, a musical composer and arranger for Hollywood films. "Cover your ears, not your eyes," she told me.

And I found she was right. It was the sound that created the tension and the fear. I could watch even the scariest movies without the sound. I learned early the importance of sound in creating the proper atmosphere for a movie.

Ive since come to believe that sound is responsible for 50% and often more than 50% of the full effect of motion pictures. Yet all too many videomakers record notoriously bad audio. Its one area where almost every videomaker needs improvement.

Every camcorder owner whos serious about the craft should try to learn at least the basics of the science of acoustics. A good start is the article "Acoustic Bounce" (Videomaker, Sept. 1993). Another way is to watch and learn from professional videos; spend some time listening as well as looking when you watch a rented video.

For the purposes of this article, I took a different approach. I located an accomplished audio-for-video specialist and asked him a number of questions that I thought videomakers would ask in their quest for better camcorder audio. What follows is a brief account of the high points of that interview, interspersed with comments and pointers from my own experiences. In reading this, youll gain a better understanding of how to get good audio when youre shooting on location.

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Tags:  November 1995
Wed, 11/01/1995 - 12:00am