Modern Sound Reports

RECORDING IN STEREO

Q I’m embarking on my first student film and want to record the sound in stereo. Assuming the film will end up mixed in stereo or surround, is this a good idea?
Ari R.
Via email

A You ask a simple question that actually has a pretty complex answer. Anytime you record or play back stereo signal, you’re creating or re-creating a soundstage. This means that there’s a distinct difference between the left and right channels, and the recording that your listener will hear is from a position re-created within that soundstage.

Let’s think about the sources you’re recording for your film. Assuming you have actors delivering dialogue, those actors, if they’re solo in a scene, perhaps speaking to someone on a phone, are a mono sound source. It’s an artistic choice as to whether it makes sense to have the actor’s dialogue move around the stereo soundstage. Some might feel that having the actor’s dialogue moving around could be distracting.

Also, we’ve been talking about a single wide shot. What happens to the actor’s dialogue when the director or editor decides to cut together a sequence from multiple angles? It would be disorienting for the viewer to have the actor switch from the center of the soundstage and then suddenly come only from the left-side speaker, wouldn’t it?

For what it’s worth, most programming, whether in the theater or on television, is recorded in mono, and any movement you hear of a voice across a stereo or surround soundstage is created in post. There are reasons to record in stereo. Some sound mixers record an ambient environment for background in stereo because it allows the recording to contain the stereo cues that give it a sense of space and openness.

If you’re recording a live musical performance, perhaps it makes sense to record in stereo. Stereo recording offers its own unique challenges in regard to phasing, phase cancellation and several other properties that may prove to be a large obstacle to you recording and posting the sound for your film. Recording stereo effectively for picture is beyond the scope of the space this response permits, but my advice isn’t to record your film in stereo. There’s too much to lose if you don’t record it correctly, and very little to gain that can’t be re-created by your post audio sound mixer.

WRITING SOUND REPORTS

Q I’ve been mixing sound on television and for commercials for a few years now, and I’m looking for the best way to streamline my sound reports. Have you heard of any apps for the iPad or iPhone?
Simon V.
Via email

A A sound report is a written form that’s usually generated from a production’s sound mixer. The sound reports accompany the film rolls, videotapes, memory cards or hard drives that contain the picture when production sends the picture elements to postproduction. In the case of smaller productions where you may be both the shooter and the editor, there are reports to remind yourself of how the sound was recorded for each scene/take. I’ve found two new apps that should be of interest to you.