IFH 101

IFH 101: How to Record Audio for Your Indie Film on the CHEAP!


I was lost when it came time to record audio for my film. So since my podcast on How to Build a Pimp’d Out BlackMagic Cinema Camera Rig on the CHEAP! was such a hit with the tribe I decide to put a list of the gear I used to record audio on This is Meg.

I go into great detail on each piece of gear, how I used it and what worked and didn’t work. The biggest tip I can give you is no matter how inexpensive the mic you have the key is to get that mic as close to the subject as humanly possible.

record audio. recording audio, record audio for film, indie film, filmmaking, sound mixer, boom pole, sound recorder, Rode mic, Tascam DR-40,

The audio I recorded on This is Meg came out surprisingly great! Since I’ve never had the chance to record audio for any of my other films this was a first. What saved my ass was taking an online course the explained everything I needed to know about the art of how to record audio on set and location.

It’s called Sound for Indie Film: Recording Audio Like a ProI not kidding you, this course was a lifesaver for me. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it to anyone even thinking of recording their own audio for a film. I also recommend it to any director or producer so they can get a better understanding of what the sound man is doing on set.


Below is a list of all the gear I used, tested and recorded with on This is Meg.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 2:32
I've been getting multiple messages and emails about can you tell us how you recorded audio Alex on such a small budget. So I decided to put together this episode on how to pimp out an audio rig on the cheap. And this was this is something that I did not know much about prior to shooting this as Meg I did a ton of research. And I also took a course that is offered in the indie film hustles film school online. It is called sound for indie film recording audio like a pro, I really did not have a lot of experience if much at all. Using recording audio I always had a sound guy always had budgets to hire a professional sound guy with a professional mixer, but this movie was not that kind of movie and I wanted to see again as an experiment how good I can get the audio and how good I can get the image and so forth so audio was definitely a big part of that. So by the way, I will leave links for the course and all of the equipment that I'm talking about in the show notes at indie film hustle calm Ford slash 101 and in that course I learned a lot about cardioid mics and hyper cardioid mics and how to record really good audio and the key is you know a lot of you know a lot of people think they could just slap a even a good mic even a $20,000 mic on the on the top of a camera and record an actor across the room and you're gonna get crisp and clear audio no you're not it's gonna sound horrible. The quality of the audio is only as good as one the mic but more importantly, how close you can get to the subject your recording. And that is one of the biggest tips I can give you is try to get that mic as close as humanly possible to the subject because that's when you're going to get that crisp, clean audio and then I'll talk about qualities of mics moving forward later in the episode, but that is number one right there. Even with a lower quality mic getting it really close to your subject is going to give you really surprisingly good audio. Now I know a lot of you guys were like well do you labs lav microphones, which are the little mics if you guys don't know what alive is it's a little mic that you put on underneath the the actor's clothes or on their skin themselves. And they have a little battery pack with a little transmitter that transmits the audio across the room to the reader. siever where then it records the audio now I've had a lot of experiences with labs labs are awesome especially if you got good labs really great but there's a lot of things especially on a on a film like this which was you know I didn't have the personnel that kind of be dealing with it so what I did was I decided not to use any labs at all the problem sometimes with Labs is interference with the sound the sound in general because it's transmitting over airwaves so that you know it could be you could pick up you know, a baby monitor or a bunch of different you know, signals that are flying around in the air. That's Problem number one. Problem number two is batteries. You gotta have to be constantly unless you're unless you're, you know, plugged into a wall or an electrical socket of some sort which I don't see many many labs do that kind of defeats the purpose labs you need to put batteries in them and they just drink up batteries like it's water man it really is. So imagine if you haven't changed those batteries if you're alone or on a small crew and you don't have a dedicated audio guy on your crew then the battery can go go dead on you right in the middle of an amazing take or multiple takes that you haven't even noticed that the batteries are gone so that's one of the things I didn't want to deal with on this on this show. So I decided not to use any labs at all I decided to get the the best the best way I can get clean audio was with a mic and a boom pole but first and foremost What are you going to record this on? So I had the black magic and you know I love the Blackmagic as everybody knows but audio recording on the Blackmagic sucks I hate to say it It sucks so we tried patching it in to the audio into the audio jacks of the of the actual camera it just sounds horrible actually took it to my post sound guys and we ran tests to see why was why am I this mic is good. Why does it sound like crap. So the second I put it into an external recording device. The mics were fine but the thing was not the the audio going into the camera was not so I would always avoid recording into the camera. Even a read or an Alexa always have it recording on a secondary system. So whatever that system might be, I'm going to tell you what my system was. So the big thing I used was the Tascam DR. 44 track portable digital recorder. Now this little guy is has an amazing has amazing customer reviews on Amazon. And again, don't worry about it if you want to get links to this stuff go to any film hustle.com forward slash 101 so don't think I have to write it all down. It's all on the show notes. Now with this, it costs 147 bucks guys 147 bucks. And you can put a little eight little SD card in by eight gigs will last you all day comfortably. You can record literally just sit there and record for hours and you should be fine. If you want to get a 16 get a 16 gig SD card which is the little card that actually recording media and then you get a little adapter that you can use to plug into your into your Mac or into your computer to download the audio files. The task cam is great, super easy to learn. It's not complicated. It took us a minute to figure some stuff out but once you figured it out it's super easy. It's It's really good. Now it has a preamp inside, so you don't have to worry about preamp. Now the mixer the mixer is the big thing a lot of people talk about like well you know Do I need a mixer? Yes you do it would really be nice. But on again our project because of the kind of movie it was which is basically dialogue driven, you know character piece, you know unless they were going to start yelling and screaming, they wouldn't really matter as much. So a lot of times I had the sound guy and when I'll talk about the sound guy in a minute, he'll ride the levels because you can actually go up and down on the side of it and actually kind of ride the levels like so if you know it's really getting low. You that gets closer to the to the subject or you push the levels up a little bit but just make sure it doesn't pop you can never make it pop. So you know you have to get a little bit you have to get in within probably the 85 to 90% if 100 is popping you want to get into the 8590 and live there. You can work it at 70% let's say on the levels but you rather keep it in that 85 9095 even world because that's what audio post is really going to love you for now this little puppy is battery powered. Now you can either get I think it's four or six I think it's or three I think actually double A batteries which will last for quite some time. Now I would suggest you have those in there but what I did is I got myself a little $20 rechargeable. The same one that's indeed the same the same battery pack that I charged up the the monitors adapter, the HDMI to BNC adapter on the Blackmagic rig, which is basically this little charger. It's one of those little superchargers that will charge up your iPhone or your iPad really fast on the road. So you always have like an extra battery source. So you don't have to plug in somewhere, I just used that and I strapped it to the end of the, to the Tascam. And that thing will keep that task and going for days days. And for whatever reason if cable gets knocked out or something like that, you've got the backup battery power of the actual unit. So it just worked wonderfully. I can't even explain to you how cool it was. And a lot of people ask me like, how did you get it? Like what did you hang it on? Did you have a you know, some sort of rig or something. What I did is I got myself I had exactly, but you can purchase yourself a $20 little like, you know, DSLR or $15 DSLR pair of sticks, and really small something that's built literally for a DSLR. And I strapped it into that, and then the audio guy would just sit right next to you next next to him, and he would record it. Now, it was really, really, really simple. Really, really cool. Now with that I keep talking about the audio guy, the audio guy was non existent, we did not have an audio guy on this movie. What we did have, we didn't have a professional mixer, we didn't have a professional sound guy. What I did have is educated guys, I had about three of them for scheduling reasons, not because they weren't good, they were all excellent that I needed someone to hold the boom because when I started the price out what it would cost I get an A sound guy and I'm like I can't afford that for this movie. Really just not really the kind of scope of the movie that we're working on. So I'm like I need a boom guy. And then the boom guys were you know getting a little bit pricey as well. So I wanted to make sure I found someone and I was lucky enough to found three guys who were some of them were actual boom guys, I've had experience doing boom. And they just held the boom, they didn't know it. I taught them how to use the pass scam on the day. And it was super simple, super, super simple, super affordable. And that's something I would suggest you do again you got to make sure whoever's holding that boom, understands what they're doing. Even the basics, you know, frameline, things like that. But if they have any questions, let them see that course because that course goes on about four or five I think it's like four hours, three or four hours of stuff and it teaches you everything about audio, how to record great audio I'm telling you that is the course that I took to be able to record audio on this MAC so I'm very grateful to the course. Now the next thing you need to get is XLR cables XLR cables are professional auto audio recording cables. They're really inexpensive. I got myself like a three footer for like close counters like really stuff that when I attached the camera, the mic to the camera, which I did at the beginning of the movie, but I wouldn't suggest doing but if you're just doing something that sound it kind of works and it was perfectly fine. But I would recommend getting at least a 10 foot 15 foot or 25 foot I would say 10 foot minimum then maybe get a neck I would have always have extra cables with you and they're really inexpensive a 10 foot cable cost you 899 and Amazon 15 foot cost 999 and a 25 foot cost 1499 now if you're going to be doing things from a huge distance which I don't think you would you'd get 100 foot but I wouldn't suggest that 25 foot should be more than enough gives gives the audio guy or the boom guy plenty of plenty of slack to move around and things like that if you have you know long takes or something like that so works really really great. So XLR is very important now the next big thing I got was a boom pole now there's the road boom pole microphone, boom arm. Now the road one and the road is is a manufacturer of amazing mics we're going to go over the mics that we used and they were amazing. The boom poles 149 bucks. Now you can use this boom pole but I also found other boom poles like an eBay which were like 70 bucks which were very equivalent to the road one and it was I'm not sure if it's there anymore but if not the road one works amazingly well. I had a friend of mine, let us borrow one for one of the days and that's why I got the idea of like hey I need to get a better boompole so it's really cool really good. And I would suggest you getting it now that boompole make sure it's light. Make sure it's something that works with the that's pretty standard though the mics the the mic mounts and stuff like that pretty standard. So I definitely a good boom pole with some nice cushion on the end. Your sound guy will love you for it but also by the way, a lot of times when if you hire a boom guy, he might have his own pole. One of our boom guys one day had his own boom pole that he feels comfortable with and was like an $800 boom pole that he just has because that's his business. So you can kind of package it out so look for guys that have maybe even higher end equipment than you do you never know you never know but I'm going again again this is what I did for this is mag and what has worked for me on this is mag and and I know it's worked because I'm in audio as we speak we're doing the final mix of the movie and my sound. My sound house was very happy with the With the sound of the movie, we only had to ADR, two lines in the entire movie and that would julis lines. And we knew that we had to ADR them because the sound was like too windy or something like that outside. Other than that, everything else was usable. So it's pretty, pretty amazing. So this system that I'm telling you can work and does work from my experience. So the mics that I use, I had two mics on this on this show. I had a Rode NTG two. That's a shotgun condenser mic. Now I've had this mic for a long time. It's really good little mic cost around 269 bucks. It's a good little mic. Is it the best? No. Is it something I would use again? Yes, depending on the situation. There was one night shot that one night scene that we had no choice but to use this mic, because the other mic that I'm gonna talk about a bit minute didn't have a blimp or anything else like that. So we use this mic and I was kind of scared. I was like, Man, this is kind of low, but we we worked with it. And I was so prising Lee amazed at how good the sound work because we pumped up the levels a little bit, made sure that that mic was a little bit closer than normal to the actors and it sounded amazing. So again, it's not always the quality of the of the mic, it's really how close you can get to it. Of course, a good mic always helps, which is what I'll talk about in a second with the next mic we use. But it's always about how close you can get to your subject. Now the mic that we used I'm going to say about 90% to 95% of the time on this movie was the road and T three, it is a hyper cardioid mic in the course they'll teach you more about what cardioid and hypercardioid is. But understand that this mic is built for dialogue it is it has a very nice range of where it can pick up audio and it when I plug this in only ever using the n to the n t three. When I listened to the audio different I was like oh my god, it was amazingly different. And it was so so good and we ever since then, the rest of the movie was recorded in that it was really really amazing. And it's only 269 bucks as well. So really the best bang for your buck if you're going to do interior dialogue. This mic is awesome. Now, again, you can use this mic exteriorly with a blimp but I'll talk about blimps in a minute. Now if you want to get a shotgun mic, a little bit higher end shotgun mic I don't have this one. But I hear it's really good as the RODE NTG four which is basically the one level up from the NTG two and that one is a plus shotgun microphone, it's 369 bucks. I hear nothing but good things about this mic and I definitely would suggest that if you want a good shotgun mic again a little bit more expensive than the the mics that I use but again, if you have a little bit extra cash, it's a good investment to have. Now one mistake that we did make and it wasn't a mistake we just didn't have the equipment and the day is when you plug it when you put one of these mics to the boom pole you are if you don't have some sort of shock mount on it. Anything that that boom guy does a holding it moving it clinking it that mic will pick up so there was one scene that we did which we actually deleted that scene out of the movie didn't work that that's the one scene in the movie that we decided to cut which worked out great not because of the audio but just because it didn't it was it just didn't work for what we were trying to do with the movie but we didn't have this shock mount and that shock mount you could hear a little bit of like this clicking and you know pounding a little bit just by him moving his hands you heard everything so you definitely need a shock mount the one I suggest is the road s m for microphone shock mount for all the NT models so it will work on the NT three and T 425 models. It's perfect I put it on never had a problem again it's 50 bucks 4995 also by the way guys road has not paid me a dime to do anything that I'm talking about here. This is all my experience I'm just relaying good information from for a good quality product like I said with all the on the black magic episode. Black Magic hasn't called me or any other cam tree and those guys never have contacted me nor have they been paid to promote any of this stuff. This is just my truthful honest opinion of these products that actually worked for what I did with this as mag so the the road SM for shock mount absolutely without question can't do without it, you have to have it. Now there is another option called the movie kind of camera shoe shock mount which is great that it's great for a shotgun mount as well. And it works for the NTG two shotgun mic, it's only 1295. Now again, when you buy these cheaper brands, the rubber bands may break or something like that, so you have to be careful with it. So you might want to just invest in a little bit higher quality with with the road but If you're under the and I bought this one too by the way, this is the one I use for the N gt two, mic. Definitely something you can use mo via MOV Oh, and I'll put a link of that in the description as well. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, the One really cool thing I did get and I did use on occasion is the road PG two pistol grip shock mount version for shotgun mics. Now what this is, is basically it's exactly what it says a pistol grip that you can put, you can either hold it by your hand, and use it like like a pistol, or you can put it on the end of a shot and have a shot, a boom pole. And that way you can actually go in close and it's really cool. I mean, you'll see pictures of it in the show notes. Really cool. It's 7250. Now what I did, because I didn't have the mount that I needed for the NT to actually cut it physically cut it so I can fit a wider the wider mic which is the the NT two, but it worked fine and it was great and I could still use it for the shotgun mount. That is one I would really recommend you guys get as opposed to the other shock mounts. This one really is excellent. It's a little bit more meaty than the other shock shock mount you have to worry about rubber bands or anything like that. So what I would like to discuss now is the dead cat. Now, I know that sounds mean but that is a technical term. It is a dead cat or dead wombat depending on where you are in the world, but here in the US we call it a dead cat. Now a dead cat is basically a wind screen. It's something that you can toss on to your microphone to if you're outside to get rid of all the wind because without a windscreen or a blimp, and I'll talk about blimps in a minute. You will you will get all the sound of the wind hitting your mic and it's just horrendous. This little this little dead cat that I got which is the road Ws six Deluxe shotgun mic windscreen it's 5890 now guys that really the outside external external scene that we did which was night windy a lot of people this is the only thing I had had that in the end to shotgun mic, which was my lesser of the two mics I was really worried really scared and oh my god, this combination was amazing. It really really worked wonderfully. This dead cat is really really great and it works great with that that microphone so definitely if you're going to be outside, you might not have to invest in a blimp this might work if you're going to be using a shotgun mic and do a lot of exteriores you can just do the shotgun mic with the with this dead cat or the deluxe shotgun microphone windscreen as they call it. And finally what we did not have on this entire shoot wasn't blimp I did have a blimp on the very first day but it broke so we didn't use it that's why I started looking for this dead cat windscreen instead but generally speaking any good audio kids gonna have a blimp so again, it depends on the kind of movie you're making, but I didn't have one but you should probably get a blimp a good one at that. So the road road makes a good blimp called the road bumper blimp with this suspension system inside of it and basically a blimp is something that just covers up the microphone again to protect it from wind and also sustained does a nice suspension of it so you don't hear any of that clinking and clanking and things like that really really good little system as well you could find this is the one thing I did find out guys if you go cheap on a blimp, and by the way, 298 is super cheap, they go up to 1000s of dollars these blimps It's kind of crazy the pricing. So rode is probably the cheapest good quality when you're gonna find I did purchase one for probably like 120 bucks on eBay, from China. And it It broke on day one and we barely got it to work and we were barely able to use it on that day. So you know, be careful Be careful when you're buying this kind of equipment because it's really sensitive has to be good. Now you also should buy a dead cat with it, which is a windscreen that you can purchase separately to put on top of the blimp and then now yours protected from the wind as you possibly humanly can. So that is the kit guys that is as simple as it is you will find all the links to everything I used in the show notes at indie film, hustle calm for slash 101 but the one thing I wanted to talk to you and I've talked about this product on the show before and I would not and I repeat would not have been able to do this film without it in a timely fashion. It's called pluraleyes. Now pluraleyes did give me a evaluation copy. So they did to be in full disclosure did good gave me a free copy of this so I can use. But if I didn't like it, I wouldn't say anything about it. So it is amazing guys, I cannot explain to you how remarkable it is, you literally just drop your audio, drop your video into its program, you can actually have it as a plugin for other editing programs like Adobe Premiere, and so forth. But they have their own standalone programs, which is what I use. So you literally just take your audio file, dump it in, take your video file, dump it in, and it doesn't do it by timecode. It does it by the waveform, so you literally just hit sync. And by some sort of magic that I still don't understand. It syncs it up for you perfectly. I've yet in all we didn't have one problem sinking audio in all of this is Meg. And since then I've used it on other projects of mine, I've never had a problem it is rock, frickin solid, guys, it's awesome. Also, I'll leave you a link in the show notes as well, where you guys can get it's really affordable, I think like 299 bucks, but my God, the amount of time it saves you it is mind blowing, absolutely mind blowing. So that's how I was able to use an external recorder audio recorder and sync it up so quickly. I mean Quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly. In for this is Meg from the Blackmagic. So definitely check that out. Now I hope this episode has helped you guys out a bit. As far as audio, there's a lot of research I did to get to where this is to get to this podcast. So I hope, my research and time and kind of just being a guinea pig or crash test Tommy, if you will, for this process has helped you guys a bit to go out and get go out and make your own movie and go out and make it without the fear of all I need to hire a big audio guy. And again, I'm not saying you don't need audio people. Yeah, definitely do, I would love to have one. Like I would love to have a lot of things on this project. But it all depends on the kind of project you're going to do. And when you're starting out, you got to do everything DIY man, you got to do as much of you as much as you can. But now it's super affordable to get really high quality audio. So for under 800 bucks, you know, under 800 bucks, 2000 bucks, you can get a whole audio rig that will work for you for multiple movies, multiple projects down the line, very, very affordable, definitely something I would suggest you do. And even if you don't have an audio guy or sound guy, if you have a sit down scenario, if you have a sit down scene where people are around the table, if you have interview situations, you buy yourself a C stand or a mic stand of some sort and you can plug all this stuff into it and let it sit off to the side and just hang it there and you literally don't even need a sound guy for certain scenes. What I suggest a sound person or somebody in the boom absolutely can they can follow people and do things that that stand cannot. But again in a pinch that works as well. So again, guys, I hope this helps you guys out a lot. Of course head to the show notes at indie film, hustle comm forward slash 101. Now, guys, don't forget that until Thursday, end of day Thursday, we are still giving away one free month of the indie film syndicate for you guys to check it out. So all you have to do is go to obviously the show notes or you can go to indie film hustle.com Ford slash i f h 100. And they'll give you one free month they'll take you right there. The code of course is what if h 100. For whatever reason if the link doesn't work, but it should work fine. Click on that link, or go to that website and you get one free month of the indie film syndicate. And you guys can check out all the great content all the Great Courses be part of the Facebook group that is growing. And it's there's a really great little community of filmmakers helping each other out asking questions and it's really really cool and wonderful and I really wanted to give you guys an opportunity to check it out. So again indie film hustle comm forward slash i f h 100. Now a final note guys, I'm giving you an update on this as Meg. We are in Final Mix this week, we are getting everything ready for the Sundance the Sundance submission date, which is at the end of this week. So we're rushing going crazy and I'm still with all that sitting here right now recording this episode for you guys. This is how much I love you guys. Anybody else would have just said hey, you know Screw it. I'm just gonna take the week off. I got too much to do. But I love you guys. I love the tribe man. And I got to keep giving you guys as much information and inspiration as I can. That's my job. So I want to try to do as much of that as I can and still get this is make ready for Sunday. So we we it sounds great. By the way. We did ADR last Friday with Julie. It looked great. sounded great so far. Chris Velasco is my composer on this. He also was my composer on red Prince's blues. Red princess blues Genesis. And if you want to hear his interview, just go to any film, hustle calm for slash, zero 82. But it will be in the show notes as well. So I cannot wait guys cannot wait to get this out into the world. And you guys to see it. As soon as this is done and put in the can, I'm going to be working on a movie trailer for this, which will be the first time you guys will see anything about the movie. And that's going to probably be in at least four to six weeks. Give me some time to get it all together. But it is it's going to be exciting and and then let's see what happens, man, we're going to go on this trip together. Let's see what happens with this little movie that we started in April. And we're finishing it basically in September. And let's see what happens. Let's see what happens with the whole process with the film festivals, how it's received, how we distribute it, and all that kind of stuff. So you know, I'm glad you guys are on the journey with me, man, I really am. And like I said before, if it wasn't for you guys, I don't think I would have the gumption to get off the ground and do this is Meg. So I did a lot of it just because I wanted to help you guys and show you that it can be done. So hopefully I'm inspiring a few of you guys out there to go out there and tell your own stories and make your own movies. All right. By the way, if you guys have not had a chance to go check out some of my older work. Some of my short films which I now have on Amazon Video direct, head over to indie film hustle.com Ford slash Amazon, it'll take you directly to Amazon Video direct where you can actually watch for free if you have prime, read princess references blues, Genesis, sin and the movie that started at all for me which was broken, which is now going on 12 years old. But you can take a look at it and see what we were able to do back then. And if you like it, please leave me a review. It really helps us out a lot. And I'm going to be doing a future episode on how you know how much money I'm actually making on Amazon Video direct and show you some stuff when I do a whole video on that as well as a podcast explaining the process of what it took to get it on there. And all sorts of cool stuff about Amazon Video direct. But if you want to check it out, see what I did and let me know what you think. So keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




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