Recording sound in a moving car?


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    • #41884


      I’m shooting a road trip documentary that relies heavily on dialogue/interaction between the two people in the car. I have wired lavaliers attached to Zoom H2 recorders for each person, as well as a Rode VideoMic Pro that will be on the dash, attached to my A-camera. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions that might help reduce road noise in the moving car? Maybe settings in the H2 or mic placement? Would the H2s record better audio than my inexpensive Audio Technica lavaliers? I have little audio experience so any help is appreciated!!

      Thanks in advance,


    • #177031

      Can some of the road noise be removed in post if necessary?


    • #177032

      How much testing have you done? I’d suspect that between the lavs, zooms, and rode you got the best portable set you can do on a budget….

      once you reach a certain point you gotta look at noise removal with additional hardware and software… but even those options have compromises…

      looks to me like your best bets (on a budget) are going to be looking at how much noise you can eliminate in the car…

      muffler and tune up…Altenator making any whines/electrical/radio noise? replace it. pop the door panels off and install foam padding everywhere you can, as well as thicker carpets and progressive wound suspension springs/shocks also some tires make more noise than others, and check the weather stripping around your windows and doors. Fix anything that rattles… many of these things will improve your comfort and gas milage on your trip anyways so why not?

      then rubber mount your rode mic, make sure the ac works, keep your windows rolled up (but turn off the ac while recording)…

    • #177033

      Audacity has a noise removal tool… and it is free. But like I said, compromises..anywhere your ambient sound overlaps your vocals, you will get some clipping/distortion…

    • #177034
      Grinner Hester

      I’d just use the camera mic and eq as needed in post. I can’t count how many road docs I’ve done this way. When shooting motorsports, I’ll often clip the driver (or myself if I’m the driver) just because things get loud but for a tame road trip, no need to break out an external mic at all, imo.

    • #177035

      Amber – in addtion to the great advice from the pros above, you might try contacting: Watson is a professional audio engineer and makes his livingrecording sound for a variety of media industries. He has been very generous, sharing advice with this floundering newbie. Good luck!

    • #177036

      Personally, noisy vehicle or not, I’d simply use directional mic systems on each person and run the mic units to a standalone digital recorder such as the Zoom H2, you mention, or H1 or similar systems. Using a directional mic will isolate or reject more of the wind, ambient and related “noise” focusing more tightly (depending on how the mic is dressed on the talent) on the vocals. Another standalone unit, or the Rhode to your camcorder should do OK for needed ambient sound that could then be controlled in post so as to not overwhelm the narrative and to avoid gaps between vocalizations. I do think the H2 and other similar units probably do not have enough noise rejection or control to avoid being overwhelmed with other noises if their built-in mic units are utilized. Would definitely acquire a couple of wired directional mic components for getting cleaner conversation.

    • #177037

      Thank you, Don, grinner, ophelia and EarlC! I really appreciate your help.

      Don, I’m going to have my car tuned up (which I should anyway) and I’m also going to check out Audacity.

      grinner, I’m still not sure if I’ll use the camera mic or not, but it’s nice to know that I might have that as an option.

      ophelia, thanks for the link!

      EarlC, Would a uni-directional mic be the same as what you are describing?

    • #177038

      Exactly, Amber. Omnidirectional microphones can “hear” from all, or many directions and are unique in their designations and direction. In the omnidirectional mic systems (not like the cardioid pattern) they are often “pressure sensitive” which does actually help keep their response to wind noise and vocal “plosives” down … and on rethinking your situation, perhaps what you have WILL do the job. Again, as Don suggests, test them puppies.

      Unidirectional mics can tend to be “velocity sensitive” (perhaps a bit more sensitive to wind noise, etc.) However, as you ask, YES the unidirectional (what I previously referred to as directional) is also usually sensitive to sounds from ONE direction, so placement would be a key factor in the success of their use, and isolation of side noise … wind, etc.

      The cardioid pattern, according to good ol’ Wikipedia, is a type of unidirectional mic sensitive to sound in a sort of heart-shaped pattern. And the hyper-cardioid pattern mic has a tighter front-end range of sensitivity with a smaller rear pickup range. There’s also the super-cardioid, probably the most selective of the cardioid patterns in unidirectional systems.

    • #177039

      Hope it helps Amber… Audacity filters/noise removal you need to run through that twice:

      !st time you run the filter you select three seconds or so of ambeint noise, then

      you select the whole file, go to the filters/noise removal tool and apply the effect to the whole selection…

      not very intuitive, but once you figure it out it is easy enough.

      also… do not overlook the soundproofing of the car doors and thicker carpets/matts in the car… any car audio installer should be able to show you the best sound proofing materials to buy… (some cars are very noisy others are not, so you decide)… adding sound proofing is not that hard……

    • #177040

      All the above advice is good so I won’t add to that. However, my first bit of advice is CRUISE CONTROL.

      The road noise will have a variable frequency based on your speed. A long time ago I shot a scene for a movie in a jeep that was rolling down the highway with an actor driving. Post production was a nightmare because the speed and therefor the frequency of the noise changed on each take.

      So set your cruise control for the lowest speed you’re comfortable with and let the other drivers pass you by. No matter what you use to shoot or filter later, you will be glad all the noise is the same.

      My second bit if advice is that all cars are not created equal. If you can borrow or have the budget to rent a car, especially a newer luxury type vehicle, you may find the noise to be much less noticeable.

    • #177041
      Grinner Hester

      I don’t suggest cruise control when recording audio. The driover hasd much more control over the rpms/noise than the computer does.

    • #177042

      It’s not the cheapest solution, because there is a price involved, (unlike ‘Audacity’), but I have used, for some time, a European ‘Magix’ product called ‘Audio Cleaning Lab. deluxe’. The cleaning-up of the audio is all done in ‘post’, so recording-wise, ‘what you hear, is what you get’. You find a point in the audio where there is no apparent noise audible but what you wish to eliminate, and by moving the cursor to that spot, take a sampling of the offending sound. (You even hear a momentarysample of what is to be subtracted from your audio overall, if you listen for it). Then a ‘subtraction’ process goes into action, and removes the offending sound with almost surgical precision. That is far more satisfactory than relying on ‘presets’ to do it for you. I have totally removed the sounds of throbbing diesel engines which are always a problem in harboursidelocations where fish are stored in freezers etc. for example. It has also proved invaluable when I have been recording commentaries, with heavy rain drumming on our roof, as well, and will even eliminate the sounds of cooling-fans etc, if you have recorded material in the vicinity of your computer.The greater part of your car’s sound, unless I miss my guess, would likely be tyre-noise/road-surface noise. (It certainly is on New Zealand roads, because of the coarse basalt ‘chip’ used here on the highways). If the unwanted soundis reasonably constant, it can be removed, with care, and no great skill is needed, because the procedure is ‘wizard’ driven.

      An additional use of this great piece of software, is to bring minor sounds ‘to-the-front’ when editing in the timeline. In a recent use of the product, I made thecroaks of distant frogs plainly audible that way. It is also a great product when it comes to recovering sounds from a background of surf-noise, since surf comes-across as more-or-less uniform ‘brown-noise’ (eg random-noise frequency-weighted a bit, towards the ‘bass’). Where all else fails, there is the possibility of removing spot-soundsby means of spectrum analysis, and that works well with this software as allmanipulations of the sound may be carried out graphically. And,as if that wasn’t enough, you are able to step-through the cleaner functions into one of the best audio-editors I have ever come across, and ‘trim’, ‘cut-and-paste’ and do all the things you would normally expect. Finally, on the way back thru the ‘Cleaner’ software, you can normalise everything to constant audio levels, again by ‘sampling’, if you wish.Best of all, I can step-through my video-editor to do all of these things, without leaving the timeline. There is now a ‘video-cleaning’ equivalent, which is even more convenient, but lacks a few of the high-end features of the audio-version. A fault of an early version of ‘Audacity’, which permitted stereo tracks to drift out-of-synch. with each other in longish ‘takes’, put me off it, I am afraid. (It may be better now).

      How did I learn this? Well, I score music for Symphony Orchestra to go with my videos, and some of the stuff comes fromthe sequencer, (as ‘wave-files’), a bit the worse for wear. Use of Audio Cleaning Lab. restoreseach instrument group back to a pristine sound again, before final mix-down. Not surprisingly, the software was created originally, for those restoring old tape-cassettes and vinyl recordings, possibly even ancient 78’s.

    • #177043

      “I’m shooting a road trip documentary that relies heavily on dialogue/interaction between the two people in the car. “


      Have you noticed that on commercial TV, live commentaters in a situation with high ambient noise backgrounds often use the almost transparent little boom mic headsetswhich are attached to an over-the-ear wire support . . . not lavs? I’m assuming that you’re shooting with one camera. These little ” headsetboom ” mics can be worn in an inconspicuous way, out of sight of the camera.

      I recorded production for a ” Hollywood ” feature some time back. One of the scenes was three people in a car with the camera mounted on the hood. I used a pair of Sennheiser 416 shortshotgun mics wrapped in foam and stuffed into the dashboard air conditioning ducts ( the AC grates popped right out ) to cover the actors in the front seat; and I had a cardioid condenser wrapped in foam, taped to the back of the front seat for the actor who was in the back seat. The recorder was a Nagra which had really good adjustable ( high pass )filters which I used to reduce the road rumble significantly.

      Ingenuity and a working knowledge of the available hardware go a LONG way toward good sound quality.

      Rick Crampton

    • #177044


      Simple solution I picked up recording audio in a hanger bay beneath an active flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier; Wrap your mic’s with leather car chamois.

      I was interviewing an officer in that hangar bay with all sorts of industrial racket plus flight ops going on overhead. Noise and more noise. I ended up wrapping the mics with the chamois sheet we used to cut lens cleaning cloths. I ended up having to do a manual tweak just to get his voice loud enough, but surprisingly enough the chamois attenuated the audio making the harsh nat sound useable background noise.

      I’ve been using car chamois ever since to augment my mics in tough situations. Only once did it not work and that was on the floor of a steel mill. Nothing we tried could help kill that racket! Inside your car (unless there’s a war going on outside it) will be a cinch.

      Just go to your local ‘S-Mart’ and pick up some in the Automotive section. Shouldn’t cost you more than $10 bucks.

    • #71105988

      I think to reduce all of the sounds to use noise barrier material which material can actually reduce road noise. I am using this and I get benefited to use this material.

    • #71105992

      I think to reduce all of the noise to use noise barrier material which material can actually reduce road sound. I am using this and I get benefited to use this material.

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