Location Sound Recording: How to Cut through the Noise

Cutting Through the Noise: Overcoming the Challenges of Location Sound


You forgot proximity

Microphones work best and reject extraneous noise when they're as close to the subject as possible. A shotgun should be within 12 to 18 inches of your subject, but even closer is better.

Be aware of what is 'in-line'

artsmith's picture

In 'field' situations, I use a Sennheiser mic. with a pronounced 'frontal' characteristic. Until I caught onto the fact and began to use that mic. more intelligently, much of my audio had to be thrown out, due to what was happening 'behind' the subject and approximately in-line. I have a handy local lagoon, only a couple of kilometres away and always available, but any recording must be done with the distraction of the noise of the distant city in the background.

Accepting this situation and trying to clean-up unwanted noise in-post works to only a limited extent, since for each noise removal step, some of the baby goes out with the bathwater. The solution, in my case has been to record suitable audio 'wild' during times when the noise problem is at its least acute. A Sunday morning, (with reduced traffic noise), and at a time when it is freezing, or in some other way objectionable so that no-one else wants to be in the vicinity seems to me to be the only answer. Two of the prime wetland areas I work in are on the flight-paths into or out of airports. On one I have to keep a note of landing and take-off times where possible and work around them. Likewise the second instance as well, where the characteristic whine of turbo-prop aircraft is far more objectionable than the roar of jet aircraft.

But the most important aspect. of all, is to avoid noise sources 'behind' your subjects and in-line. Monitoring while recording is a handy way of being aware of noises you would not usually regard as subversive to your efforts, until after returning home.