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General Audio Kits

When working on a films, I’ve noticed that sound is typically the thing I’m least worried about. This isn’t because it is an easy, insignificant part of filmmaking, because it’s the exact opposite. Sound is a very important part of a film, and does just as hard of a job of telling a story and evoking feeling as story, acting, and cinematography. That is why I’ve come to acclimate myself with the various equipment used for recording sound. The first, and most important instrument in sound production is the Sound Device 702 recorder. This piece of equipment has two sound channels, XLR and BNC outputs, records to compact flash cards, and has easily navigable menus. On top of all this, it is made of a sturdy (albeit heavy) material that will prevent simple destruction or damages. The 702 recorder works well with the Sound Devices 302 mixer. Along with the recorder, the mixer is an extremely compact, portable, and ergonomic device. Its three channels are easily monitored and adjusted, requiring little time to learn. As for devices for gathering sound, I have found that there are numerous options. Obviously there is the array of dynamic and condenser microphones (cardioids, hyper-cardioids, omni-directional microphones, and so on). The latter are the typical “shotgun” microphones that are mounted on top of cameras, or found at the end of boom poles. They are the go-to microphones for filmmaking. For scenarios in which condenser microphones aren’t practical – such as for wide shots when boom poles risk being seen and camera microphones are too far for authentic sound – then there is a wireless alternative: lavalier microphones. Rather than looking for a ficus to hide a condenser microphone in, a lavalier microphone is wireless, and can be mounted and hidden on the actors and acquire usable sound. When I say usable sound, I mean sound that doesn’t quite come to par with condensers, but considering the situation, they get the job done. Many times filmmakers will gawk at the idea of using lavalier microphones because of a lav’s potentially inferior quality (especially when you have cats in the scene – they’ll play with the little bobbing microphone like a ball of yarn). However, the day will come when your boom pole will catch fire, and all you’ll have left are these bad boys. On the subject of wireless sound devices, there is an astoundingly useful tool for filmmakers to use behind the camera: the HME 800 or HME PRO 850. These are kits with 5 headsets with built-in microphones that are used like walkie-talkies (however, with many more batteries required). This intercom kit is so practical that its uses are near limitless. On set crew can communicate swiftly without running around; assistant directors can let a set know what the afternoon schedule looks like; and in a case where a shot requires multiple cameras with operators, a director of photography can give each one of them commands without any issues. The HME 800, and the HME PRO 850, are both quite intuitive devices and require very little time to learn and grow accustomed with. Even though they aren’t used for the creative part of filmmaking, “in front of the camera,” they are priceless assets for effective and efficient management on a set. This amalgamation of sound devices each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The benefit with having each of these items on your film set provides you with options, and options create flexibility, and flexibility leads to efficiency. -Kyle Huemme, Fall 2013 Intern, Curry College