get to know more and more microfilmmakers, I am pleased
to find a warmth that arises from realizing that, as Fight
Club put it, "we are not alone". While this
is a good thing in the sense that this allows us to grow
strong by uniting, it is a bad thing in the sense that many
of us are all making the same mistakes.
in the interest of helping with both the former and the
latter, I've decided to address one of the rampant problems
in the micro-film community. It's the A-word that your mom
would have washed your mouth out with soap for saying.
right, it's: audio.
now, I hear moaning in the back: "We're filmmakers
after all! Why must we learn about audio? Isn't that the
audio guy's job?" Well, sure, in a way, it is the audio
guy's job. However, let us not wax eloquent on the multitudes
of different people we have working for us. By the very
definition of micro-filmmaking, if you're a micro-filmmaker
then you and most everyone on your "crew" wears
about a dozen different hats.
often times, the audio guy is just your cousin Morris who's
tall enough to hold the boom mic above your talent or your
crazy brother Edward who's devised a super-microphone by
combining eight $4 USB mics! Let's be honest with ourselves!
There's nothing wrong with starting from humble beginnings,
but there is a problem when we focus too much on video quality
to the exclusion of audio.
as every one of us loves the filmic look of the high end
Panasonic, Sony, and Grass Valley cameras, a better camera
will not help you if you do not understand the basics of
am I to talk about audio, you may ask? I am the filmmaker
who has probably made the most mistakes in audio on this
planet. While I'm sure that someone has outclassed my ability
to screw up audio somewhere, I have yet to meet him. (I
heard a rumor that there is a man in Swahili-land that has
made more audio mistakes, but I discount that rumor because
I don't think Swahili-land exists.)
first film, I was putting a cheap shotgun mic 5, 10, and
15 feet away from my talent, allowing my camera person to
"proof" the audio from a day's shooting with $4
headphones, and accidentally putting the mic-in plugs into
the line-in ports on the switcher. Oh, and, just for fun,
I shot an entire shooting day with the audio muted! The
fact that I caught that last element is shocking, since
I was "too tired" to actually proof any
of my dailies as I was shooting!
to say, when I finally hooked up with my eventual audio
guy, John (John waves from the corner, sipping an
iced mocha), after a year of editing and re-editing
the film, John tore out all his hair. You think I'm lying?
John used to have a full head of hair now he's bald!
Oh, wait that's me. He's the one with the pony tail.
(John smacks Jeremy, being careful not to dump his
coffee on his audio console.)
am I saying that in order to get good audio we have to be
masters of sound design? No, although familiarity with that
art can help you create a more three dimensional film. (If
you're especially interested in that, you can read the review
we did of David Sonnenschein's book Sound Design in this
issue.) Instead, what I am saying is that you need is to
simply be aware of audio and its importance.
filmmakers think that the footage you capture is about 40%
of a film, the editing is another 40%, with audio elements
"filling" in the other 20%. The reality is that
the audio is actually more like 70% of the film and
the shooting, editing, and snappy titles are only 30%.
I'm wrong? Explain The Blair Witch Project, then.
poorly shot film, it was nonetheless watchable because Artisan
spent a lot of money sweetening and re-looping the audio
after it was purchased. (Of course, good audio can't salvage
films that break every rule of visual filmmaking, like Paul
Greengrass' migraine-inducing The Bourne Supremacy.
But that's a bit more of a rarity than bad audio.)
what you can do if you combine competent shooting with decent
audio? Literally, the world is limitless if you can get
your hands on both of these.