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Audio for Film
by Joren Clark

Where do I start talking about sound for micro-budget movies? Umm, it’s important. Really important. Really, Really, Really important. 70 percent of how people react to movies is based on sound. A movie's picture can be grainy, drifting in and out of focus, and completely overexposed and it could be called an artistic choice. There is no way a poorly cut soundtrack that has changing room tone, too much reverberation, and a HVAC hum could pass as an artistic choice. Sound is held to a higher standard than picture. The importance of sound is more true in micro-cinema where the production quality might be suffering and filmmakers need every edge possible so the audience discerns between a home video of their trip to Mexico and your sexy spring break teenage coming of age film. How can you increase the sound quality in your micro-budget movie? Hopefully I can help.

But first lets talk about buying audio equipment and budgeting. How much did you spend buying that hot new digital camcorder? How much for the lighting and grip equipment you have? What about your new dual processor computer with a video editor that does real-time effects? Now, how much can you spend on good quality audio? Only a hundred bucks? Good quality audio costs money. The good news is it doesn't cost as much as good quality video, but it does cost something. As a rule of thumb, plan on spending at least half of what your video camera and picture equipment (grip, lights, tripod, video monitor, etc.) cost. Whoa, that's like, a lot of money! Yeah well, you might think about renting instead of buying, but don't think you're going to get decent audio out of a hundred dollar mic plugged directly into the camcorder. I've talked to several people that bought three thousand dollar camcorders, own a top of the line editing computer, and then get surprised when they realize they have to spend some money on audio equipment. I'm not suggesting throwing money at the problem, but do budget accordingly. Want to know how I think you should spend your money? Check out my Buying Recommendations.

Now, back to the how-to of audio:

There are three major components to a good micro budget soundtrack:

Dialog Recording
Sound Effects Recording
Music and Score

Additionally, there is the Sound Sweetening, Processing and Mixing stage.

While I don't claim to be an expert and won't be able to provide all the answers–there are hundred page textbooks on the subject, I do have personal experience and hope to offer a starting point so you can provide a better sounding picture for your audience. Start by clicking on the Forward Arrow to continue to Dialog Recording or just skip ahead to another section above.

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