You may be tempted to skimp on audio quality in your first movie. Don’t—a single garbled conversation can drive an audience to the exits.
Step 1: Learn microphones Learn the most common types of microphones, from wireless to boom, and learn when to use them.
Step 2: Assign the boom mic Find the tallest person on your set and assign him to hold the boom mic. Give him a set of headphones and a mixer, if you have one. Tell your boom operator to aim the mic at whoever is talking.
TIP: Be sure to keep the boom—and its shadow—out of the frame!
Step 3: Alert the set Make sure everyone on your set knows when you’re recording sound. Be sure to have someone yell out rolls and cuts. If someone is making loud noise in the background, go over and ask if they mind stopping until you get your shot.
Step 4: Monitor sound levels Using the meters on your camera or mixers, monitor sound levels when you’re recording. Make sure actors are loud enough to be heard, but not so loud that they’re 'in the red.'
TIP: Always, always make sure microphones are turned on and working—nothing kills an otherwise successful day of shooting like finding out that there’s no sound.
Step 5: Use windscreens Use windscreens on your boom mic where appropriate, specifically when you’re shooting outdoors.
Step 6: Mix the sound Once everything is recorded and the film is edited, mix the audio for the movie. This can be done on a mixing console or on a computer with a mixing suite. Use good speakers—and never mix while wearing headphones.
TIP: If you can afford it, have a professional sound engineer do your mix for you.
Step 7: Editing volumes If you’re stuck mixing the sound on your own, first practice changing volumes—make dialogue louder or background sounds softer.
Step 8: Use music and sound effects If possible, use music and sound effects in your edit. But be careful—if you’re using someone else’s work, be sure to get the proper licenses.
FACT: The first Academy Award for Sound Editing, then known as the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects, went to Walter Eliot in 1963 for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.