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28 October 2014

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Getting the sound right on your 60 Second Shakespeare

Advice on sound

Nothing ruins a film or audio quicker than bad sound - if your audience can't hear what's going on, they won't enjoy your story.

Here's some tips and advice to help you get it right.


The basics

Use a separate microphone
If you possibly can, get a separate microphone. The microphones built-in to cameras and minidiscs are never very good. It'll mean you're able to get nearer to the sound, too.
Avoid background noise!
Your brain filters out background noise, like traffic or air-conditioning or planes overhead. Sadly, microphones don't. If you're recording actors, you'll need to be somewhere quiet. Bear this in mind when you're choosing where to film or record your 60 Second Shakespeare.
Always listen to the sound on headphones as it's recorded.
That way you'll know immediately if there's any noise on the soundtrack, or problem with the microphone rather than being disappointed when you watch or listen to it back.
Add music afterwards
Don't have it playing as you film or record. It'll be a nightmare to edit your piece if you do!
Don't use copyright music
We won't be able to put your film or audio on the website if you do.

Yes, it might be lovely to have hit tracks on your film's soundtrack - but you'd have to get permission from the people who wrote and performed them first. And frankly, it's going to be hard getting a yes out of Kylie or JLo for this. You could try making your own music for the soundtrack, or see the Sound Links page for copyright free music.
Do you even need sound?
One option is to make a silent movie. You could add captions to explain the plot, or just use mime.
You don't have to get it all right on one take.
Especially if you're making an audio 60 Second Shakespeare. If the beginning is good on one take, the middle on another and the end on a third, just take the best bits from each and edit them together.
Get a bit of atmosphere
Record thirty seconds or so of silence so you have the background atmosphere without anyone talking over it. It'll come in handy for making silent moments when you're editing.

Sound Effects

Spot or Foley?
Sound effects can either be done during recording (called "spot effects") or afterwards and added in the edit (called "Foley").
Watch sound effects being made.

If your audio needs background sound effects throughout it, like wind, waves etc, don't record them at the same time as the actors - the effects may drown out their voices. It'll work much better if you record them separately and add them in during editing.
Easy sound effect tips.
  • To get the sound of someone being hit, try smacking a vegetable, such as a marrow or aubergine. For a head being chopped off, record a cabbage being chopped in half.
  • If you want the sound of someone being cut, squidging wet tissue paper can give quite stomach-churning effects.
  • A common trick for recording realistic "outdoor" footsteps is to pour a bit of sugar onto a hard floor, then record someone walking on it. [See video]
  • For the sound of footsteps on grass, walk on tangles of old video or cassette tape. [video]
  • For sword fights, try slapping and twanging metal spatulas together.
  • Crinkling bits of cellophane make a good crackling fire sound effect.

  • Advanced sound

    Record the sound separately
    If you haven't got a separate microphone for the camera, you can try recording the sound on a seperate minidisk and matching the two up when you're editing - it's not that hard!
    If you do this, you might want to use a clapperboard - it'll help you match the sound to the pictures. Just match up the sharp "crack" sound of the clapperboard with the shot of it shutting. You don't even need a real one - two pieces of wood will do.
    If you have a film with lots of noise on the soundtrack, and you want to get really advanced, you could try re-recording the actors' lines in a quieter place later on. Then add them in while you're editing. It'll be easier to get them to match if the actors watch the film while re-performing their lines. (In the film and TV industry, this is called ADR - Additional Dialogue Recording).


    Watch videoclips demonstrating tips, techniques and more to help you make your 60 Second Shakespeare a masterpiece.

  • Acting exercises
  • Making sound effects
  • Directing - shot guide
  • Editing audio
  • Editing video
  • Microphones

    Using Microphones
    Use that mic right!

  • Find out all about how to get good results on your 60 Second Shakespeare's sound with our handy guide to using microphones.
  • Top Tips

    Get Started
    Take advice from the experts.

    Read top tips from professional actors, writers and directors, from shows including EastEnders, Doctor Who and Casualty.

  • Writing tips
  • Acting tips
  • Directing tips
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