Filmmaking – Make Your Movie Sound Like A Real Movie

I get a lot of questions on if I can “do” sound sweetening, usually by frantic filmmakers, calling in the middle of the night.  They are frantic because the sound in their movie or video is bad.

They’ve used a cheap mic, plugged into the camera, or worse, have used the on-camera mic.

They had a friend aimlessly point the mic at the floor, or the sky, anywhere but at the actor muttering his lines, and moved the mic randomly during shooting.

Some, from the sound of it, have pointed the mic directly at the whirring camera, or rumbling electric generator, or humming air conditioner, or buzzing fluorescent lamp.  They’ve bumped the mic against the wall, or the ceiling, or trees or bushes. They’re far away from what they’re recording, not even in the same vicinity.  There’s so much “room sound,” you can barely hear the actor mumbling along.

So, the Sound Guy (whoever they can get for a few minutes – usually a well-meaning person with no experience) turns up the level too far, which just makes the sound distort horribly, or too low, which buries the good sound in the mud.

Sound Editing adds more mistakes, and compounds the problem.

The filmmaker has the equipment, and wants the film to be good.

You’d think he’d read a book on the subject.  You would be wrong.

He chops the sound when he chops the picture, and that’s it.  He doesn’t split it into tracks, or replace bad sound, or finesse the tracks, or otherwise spend time exerting care and craft on his precious film’s soundtrack.

Essentially, when he’s done shooting and cutting and laying music, he thinks he is done, without spending the minimum of time and care and money it takes, to have a good sound track. So the filmmaker shows his movie, with its bad sound, to lukewarm audience reaction.  Ouch!

People don’t know why the movie is bad, actually.  Not one in ten can recognize “bad sound,” they just think the movie stinks. If the filmmaker is very, very lucky, somebody will tell him the sound is bad.  Otherwise, he has no clue.

He’s disappointed, but he still wants to maybe fix it.  Somebody says “sweetening” the sound will help.  So he comes to me. He wants to know if bad sound can be fixed.  I have to tell him the bad news – no.

At this stage, unless he has a great deal of time and money, and is willing to start completely over and take the proper care, nothing can be done.

Bad sound is the product of negligence.  If you spend the time and care, from the beginning, there is no reason for your film or video sound to be bad. sound system

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