location sound / sound for film


written & directed by Kathleen Barth

Doing location sound for this short film was a great experience. I do sound for a lot of short films but this one in particular stands out because everything came together perfectly and all departments were cohesive. Also makes a great story.

TDOAB is a period piece, set in UK in the 1800s. As such, there was an amazing wardrobe department with many costumes from that era. In order to capture the cleanest, purest, and most workable sound possible, I headed straight to the wardrobe department on the first day of shooting to see what I had to work with.

The costumes were beautiful and handmade. There were however, areas of thick lace around the neck and breast that would greatly muffle the sound of a hidden lav, even with the high-freq caps on. Luckily, the patterns on the dresses and costumes were such that I could easily hide a lav in (almost) plain sight and it wouldn’t be noticed.

I asked the wardrobe department if we could cut a tiny hole in each of the dresses for a lav, and the answer was yes!

There were no costume changes on the first day of shooting so the lavs were rigged into the dresses such that they would stay all day without any hassle or fuss. They were then connected to Viviana ankle straps (my fave), to make checking / changing batteries a breeze.

In addition to having lavs on all three actors, I was booming with an MKH50. I also happened to do post audio for this short film, and it made sense to mostly use lavs, but on super-close up shots and quiet emotional scenes I would use the MKH50.

In post I used many instances of the brilliant Waves NS-1 noise suppressor. I have many noise reduction plugins but for quick and great results the NS-1 performs wonderfully. There wasn’t a ton of noise but in some scenes we could clearly hear the SmallHD monitor, Aputure lights, and Teradek monitors. From shot to shot they would change position and thus we’d have slightly different noise in each shot.

One way to mitigate this is to have the boom mic around 120 degrees off-axis to whatever is generating the noise. Unfortunately this is not always possible because off gear moving around etc


Unless the producers have an experienced post-audio person already in mind, I tend to bundle this service in with location sound for two simple reasons:

  1. I’m already familiar with the audio and little things that might need to be fixed
  2. It’s annoying to have my name attached to a project where audio hasn’t been mixed properly, especially when you’re credited as “sound mixer”.
  3. I have plenty of experience editing, mixing, and mastering audio and will most likely do a great job.
  4. I already have all the audio files. Unless new sounds have been added, all I need to start is a low or medium-res render of the picture-locked short film (uncolored is fine), and an XML file of the edits.

Process: First step

Room tone was made artificially using EQ’ed pink noise. I find this much easier than editing together room tone from recordings. The “room tone” recordings, if you turn them up loud and really listen to them carefully, there are hums and buzzes, people coughing, walking etc.

Things that could have been better for sound….. Sound of pen on paper….. Footsteps, doors creaking etc, wind outside.

There are parts of the short film that sound very bare but it was decided that it was better to leave it bare (and fine) then add things that might end up being a distraction.