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Tips: Recording Dialogue


Ok, so I've seen various questions and comments on recording dialogue, and have seen some fair amount of movies with very poorly recorded dialogue.

So I decided I'll share some tips with you all on what equipment you probably should have, and getting the best out of it.

Now for some people, this isn't reachable due to that thing called "money" however I really though I'd cover everything I possibly can, like equipment. This is assuming dialogue, just one part at a time. Nothing too fancy.

The Microphone:

You can spend anywhere from $10 to $10,000 on a vocal microphone. So I will start with what Oxhorn uses, which costs around $50.

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The Shure SM58 has been a highly versatile mic for decades, and still remains to be one of the most affordable. This mic is ideal for recording, mainly because it does not pick up every little sound in the room. if you spend 100's of dollars on a premier microphone, you better have a separate room to record in with all the correct equipment. Because if you record near you computer, you'll have nothing but fan noise in the background due to the microphones high sensitivity.

Also, whatever microphone you use. PLEASE USE A POP-SCREEN. If you do not use this, you will get distorted P's and T's. If you so much as breath in the mic, it will cause a rumble you won't like. A picture of two various kinds are below:

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This is designed to slip right over the standard performance mics, like an SM58.

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These are more for high quality mics, where you can't just slip it over due to the build. This is designed to hook to your mic stand, and the goose neck bends up to infront of the microphone.


Where to Record:

Bottom line is, record as far away from other appliances and equipment as possible. You don't need a fancy recording boot with fancy baffles and fancy wall coverings. Simply put, find an adjacent room to record in with little to no "room noise" so you get a nice clean recording. A good example would be a walk in closet, or another bedroom.

What do I mean by room noise? Simply the natural reverberation of the room. If you live in a house with hard wood floors and tall ceilings, you probably know what I'm talking about. Clap your hands in that room, do you hear any reverberation? You'll get that on your loud parts of dialogue. If you can't avoid it, it's no worries. Just try to minimize it by picking the right room.

Your Sound Card/Interface:

Find out what inputs your sound card has. If it has the standard small mic inputs (that look like headphone jacks) try to avoid it. Instead, see if you can afford a small mic pre amp, that will allow you to plug your microphones XLR inputs into the device. You can find ones that plug right in via USB. They can range in price, starting at around $100 dollars. They have input levels and ouput levels that allow you to calibrate exactly what levels you need. An example is shown below:

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If simply don't have the money for a mic and equipment, than you can use a standard HEADSET microphone. Do NOT use a desk microphone, as they will not be high enough gain and will sound quite bad. If you use a headset, you can get good speech dialogue with it. Especially if it's a pricey one that you bought [sign in to see URL]'s [sign in to see URL]!

How to Record:

Most people don't get taught how to sing/speak into a microphone correctly. Simply because it varies in sound depending on position and settings. Singers often "kiss" the mic, because their engineeers instruct them to. On stage, it's the easiest way to avoid feedback. The closer the singer is, the better the signal, the less the engineer has to turn up the vocals, thus avoiding feedback problems.

In your case however, you aren't recording on stage. Your in a room. So, how do you record?

First of all, don't eat the mic unless you want it to sound almost radio like. If you eat the mic, some of your P's and T's will pop through loud. I wouldn't recommend doing this for basic movie dialogue. instead, step back about 3-4 inches at the most.

Make sure you have the highest level on your input in your recording software, without distorting. In able to do this, say your loudest line in the whole film into the mic. Now check and see if you clipped. If you did, reduced the gain on the mic via your audio interface, or if you don't have that in your windows sound settings (or mac) make sure you have the maximum sound level as possible. This is to avoid that pesky hiss.

In this image, you see my software shows I have clipped while recording. Turn down the gain of the mic and re-record.

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Before you even record your dialogue, please by all means warm up your voice. If you can sing, do that. It's the best way to get your vocal chords ready for whatever punishment you have in mind.

When you start to record: BREATHE FROM YOUR DIAPHRAGM. To do this, simply make a beer belly, and push the air from down in your belly. It's hard to explain, but you can feel it when trying. If you breathe through your chest, you will not get the projection and power that is required for a good recording.

Don't believe me? Try this. This is a small exercise you can do as well for air support. Breathe in as much air as possible through your chest (normal breathing), and put out an "Sssssss" sound as loud as you can. Try to pay attention to the sound and power your getting, as well as how long you last.

Now, do the same thing again by using your diaphragm. See the difference? More power, and sometimes longer lasting. (no, this is not an Enzyte commercial)

The Software:

I don't expect you to get $500 dollar software to record machinima. Most audio programs are set toward music production anyhow and are way overkill for machinima. However, there are programs out there for directors that do have some features, just not as much.

There are plugins often included with these programs. Plugins are little virtual "effects" units that you would other wise spend thousands to get. In dialogue recording, there are a few plugins that will be useful, but won't be included with every package you look at.

1. EQ (changes the frequencies in the recording)

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2. Compression (evens out all the dialogue, and makes it sound more professionally "polished", compression is used widely in every audio project)

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3. Restoration (often some programs will come with hiss removers and such

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4. Reverb (makes things sound like they are in a hall or church, depending on settings)

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Restoration: Programs that have restoration features often add artifacts to the audio, so try your best not to use them. A little bit of hiss won't kill you. But it's all based on how high quality that plugin is, and whether you think that "warbling" they can cause is worth it.

Compression: You will want to use this at all times. The settings can be overwhelming however. There are often presets in programs that are based for certain things, try those. If that doesn't work, you can use these settings which I used on ISW4:

Attack: 19ms
Ratio: 2.4:1
Release: 310ms
Compressor Threshold: This is really based on what levels you have, just play with it best you can. Try not to make everything sound terriblly "smashed"
Gain: This is a general volume control, just in case you need a bit of boost overall.

EQ: Try not to use EQ as a means of improving the audio sound, because it won't work unless you have super high quality mics. Instead, use EQ to get rid of annoyances, such as a certain frequency that is more present than others. EQ can also be used for effects, such as making someone sound like they are on the phone.

Overall, if you are recording in not so ideal situations, you will want to add a "Low Cut" of about 100hz, so if any bumps to the table or stand during recording don't show. You may not hear them now, but I sure will with my powered subwoofer when I watch your film. Also, dialogue doesn't neec to be so bassy in the first place. Remove the low frequencies, and the dialogue will seem clearer.

Reverb:

Use this for effects only. If your characters are in a cave (like in ISW3) add a bit of reverb to make it sound realistic. Just don't get too carried away.

Finally, on the main output track of all your audio, add an overall compression to even everything out. OR use a limiter which does not allow any audio past a certain level. If you do not have a limiter, set your compressor to the highest ration (usually 1:100) and it will serve as a limiter.

That's about it. Hopefully your audio will sound nice and clear as you wanted it to. Hope you found this guide useful!

Nathan Allen Pinard
Composer and Sound Engineer of Oxhorn's Movies

Last edited by Sonrise, 2/25/2008, 3:53 pm


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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


Nice guide Nathan! Yeah, a pop screen is on my list of things to get :P

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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


Note to self:

Get better mic.
Get pop screen! emoticon

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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


quote:

Archmage Magnus wrote:

Note to self:

Get better mic.
Get pop screen! emoticon



My mic is okay, but I do need a screen... and a sound recording apparatus other than the standard sound recorder...

EDIT: Sticky this if it's not already, Brandon! More people need to see! :P

Last edited by MasterYuke, 2/25/2008, 8:00 pm


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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


Thanks all. Just remember these are tips to get you started. There is no bible when it comes to audio engineering. It's a matter of trial and error, trying different things out. See what works and doesn't work.

Some of the oddest tricks have been used in albums gone platinum. Such as recording the vocals in a bathroom, screaming the vocals through a megaphone into a $20,000 mic, using the microwave bell for a percussion instrument, or making the female lead singer workout out strenously before recording to get a bit more sex appeal in her voice. Or in some [sign in to see URL] other thing (not confirmed, but rumored)

Just remember to play with things, and don't even be satisfied with what you have. Always attempt to make it better.



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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


Augh! its nathan! Anyway, great tips.
Also. I have a little addition. If you have a headset mic. Maneuver it until the mic is over your nose. That way you won't get the breathing noise, and it'll cut down on the annoying p's and t's.
Mifio

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My favorite oxhorn quote: Pwn that n00beh with da ub3r l337 h4x and the pr0n, and the wtg ftw. roxors boxors omg? H4x.
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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


GOOD call Milf (sorry I had to)

That's something I forgot about.

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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


quote:

Sonrise wrote:

GOOD call Milf (sorry I had to)

That's something I forgot about.



rofl waffle pwnt.
and yeah great tips, I'll try the bathroom/megaphone ones for sure.

EDIT: and maybe I'll do... nah I'll skip that one.

Last edited by MasterYuke, 2/26/2008, 2:44 pm


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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


Ok, you are a total butthead emoticon
Thanks for the tips though. I'll try some out next show.
Mifio

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My favorite oxhorn quote: Pwn that n00beh with da ub3r l337 h4x and the pr0n, and the wtg ftw. roxors boxors omg? H4x.
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Re: Tips: Recording Dialogue


lol i think i got evrything, the only thing i need is a good voice emoticon

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