I always look at Post-Production to picture as my first reserve when it comes to career considerations. I can easily see myself as a failed games composer, sitting at a mixing desk doing post for my 100th corporate add job or working on an indie documentary, and not hating myself as much as if I were stuck at McDonald's or something. A few months ago I had the opportunity of doing a fun little exercise in post-production where I replaced all of the voices, sound effects, Foley and background music in a movie scene. This was one of my first experiences of doing post and this month I got to tackle a short student documentary. It went well but I just wanted to go over some important things, mainly regarding equipment, that I learnt about during this project.
Firstly, I discovered the secret behind Foley recording and the use of Shotgun microphones. Pictured above is the Rode NTG-2 Shotgun microphone which I've been using to record sound effects for quite a while now but, after this project I really wanted to dive into why shotgun microphones are so good for Foley and sound effect recording. for me specifically
Although there are multiple reasons why you would use different microphones apart from Shotguns during sound effect recording, like using bi-polar pattern mics to pick up a room space or reverb on-set, for recording raw materials to be used in editing a shotgun microphone is invaluable. If you want to edit a sound in later, recording the effect as clean as possible can be a huge benefit. For example the footsteps we recorded to be used in the documentary were recorded closely and cleanly, then later on we did a little experimentation with reverb to create the sense of space needed for the scene. Pictured below is the reason why shotgun microphones are so good at clean recording, they are extremely directional and only pickup what is directly in front of them giving the engineer greater control over the recording.
These microphones are very useful to a post producer and as video games are a form of post-production in and of themselves, knowing these things is extremely useful to me. I believe shotgun microphones are even more useful for video games because raw recordings are even more important when you're working in a game engine that has it's own audio systems. Game engines like Unity and Unreal have tools that allow developers to customize the "natural" reverbs of a 3-dimensional level that they have created. This combined with clean sound effects can make a video games space feel very immersive, as everything will "make sense" to the players ear.
Another big opportunity I had during this project was the chance to use a very expensive control surface.
This is the Avid S6, a huge, digital mixing desk/control surface that is heavily integrated with Pro Tools (as you could imagine). It has a slew of features that at first I found a little daunting although when watching someone who knew how to use it take advantage of its features I immediately recognized its potential. The workflow speed benefits granted by having this much control over automation were insane. Although the system costs thousands of dollars and I wont be getting an S6 anytime soon, this experience opened my eyes to what having a control surface could do for me. I love using my mouse as much as the next millennial but I did learn to mix originally on a console with faders that I could touch so it might be worthwhile just getting something small that I can use for automation and mixing. Maybe something like the Behringer Control Surface pictured below:
Lastly, ambiance is something that has been at the front and center of nearly every one of my projects this month. From the ambient soundtrack of the VR game I worked on to the song-exploder project I did that included a few old-school Nintendo 64 ambiance tricks. Most films and documentaries will use ambient soundscapes at one point or another to create a real sense of space. If my scene is taking place on a busy street, you're going to hear cars and a crowd in the background, are we at the beach? If so, be prepared to hear seagulls and waves in the background. I've already gone over extensively why ambiance is so important in a previous blog that you can check out here, but in this post I wanted to talk about some of the equipment and techniques involved with actually recording ambient sound.
You may have seen people walking around like this before, they're not the ghost-busters, they are engineers out doing some field recording. This is a common technique for recording feature sounds or something that is going to be layered into an ambient soundscape. Most of the time they will be using either a shotgun mic or a hyper-cardiod microphone for these kinds of recordings although it isn't uncommon to see bi-polar or regular cardiod microphones for this purpose.
Sometimes sound designers will want to hone in on a stereo effect with their ambiance so sometimes stereo microphone techniques are used when recording ambiance. Here is a shot of an X/Y technique being used to pick-up the sounds of a forest:
Also, along with these more common techniques, sometimes field recording engineers will use something really crazy to get the sound they want:
This will net them a really good set of sounds that they can use in combination to create a really interesting soundscape. As always field recording is like the production process as a whole, you do whatever is necessary to make the project work and then go above and beyond to make it great.
Hopefully you got something out of this, I know I'll be looking back on that S6 in 10 years and kicking myself for not using it for every second it was available. As always thanks for reading and see you next time.
Have a good day,