Thoughts on Production: Audio

In Chapter Six, the author explains audio production techniques and the equipment used to record and control high-quality sound.  Whether the audio and visuals in a production can stand alone or are meant to be seen/heard together, high-quality audio is a must for a great media production.  In order to better communicate your message or tell a story, choosing the right equipment and technique is essential.

Like the aesthetics of video and film, audio can be approached from the same three aesthetic perspectives: realism, modernism and postmodernism.  In realism, audio is used to stimulate the illusion of reality being portrayed on screen. Modernist audio creates sounds separately from the visual images, creating a more abstract impression rather than clinging to realist or traditional sounds.  Lastly, postmodernist audio places importance on listener participation within productions in order to emotionally involve the audience as much as possible.

The ability to capture and duplicate quality audio depends on the careful selection of a mic and its position.  A microphone is a type of transducer, which is a device that change one form of energy to another form of energy.  Microphones can convert analog sound wave action into analog fluctuations in electrical voltage.  A digital signal is then created when that analog signal is converted through an analog-to-digital converter.  Microphones are classified by their type of transducer element and can be separated into three categories: dynamic, ribbon, and condenser.

Dynamic microphones are very durable and not extremely susceptible to wind noise.  They’re also fairly inexpensive.  A ribbon mic usually produces a smooth, bass-accentuated sound, and is usually preferred by television and radio announcers for that reason.  It is also ideal for digital recording due to its warm sound that accentuates high frequencies. Ribbon mics are priced at the higher end for professional microphones.  Condenser microphones are more complicated than dynamic or ribbon mics and generally reproduces high-quality sound.

Microphones are chosen for various different reasons.  Pickup Patterns tell the user what the mics directional sensitivity will be, helping a production team choose the right microphone based on where the audio will be coming from.

Impedance is another factor to look at when choosing a microphone. High or low, impedance measures the property of wires and equipment that determines the ability of a signal to pass through that piece of equipment.

Microphones are also chosen based on their use in recording audio either on-camera or off-camera. Depending on the director’s vision for the recorded shot, mics can be hidden on or off camera, or be chosen for a visual effect.

In order to create high-quality sound, it is also important to have an understanding of how to control sound.  Distortion and noise are two things that always want to be avoided.  There are two types of noise: ambient noise and system noise. Ambient noise comes from microphones that pick up sound coming from lights, cameras, or other devices. System noise comes from electrical equipment.

It is important to control the level of noise to the signal sound you are trying to capture, and manage the signal as it passes through cables and operational equipment.



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