Audio Tips For Camera Ops

First and foremost, ALWAYS try and hire an audio person. There are too many good reasons why it's necessary and important to hire someone to pay special attention to recording quality audio. Ok... now that's over, here are some practical tips if you have to record audio yourself as a camera operator. 

Tip 1: Fixing The !*%^!# Shock Mount That Doesn't Fit Shotgun Microphones

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WHY?! Why did every camera company design shock mounts that are too big for the thing they're intended for? I don't understand it, but I've come up with a couple good tricks to get around it without taping your mics:

- Pick-and-pluck foam. If you've ever bought a pelican case, you probably have some scraps or pieces laying around. Grab a small piece and wrap it around your mic before putting into the shock mount... and presto! Reusable, disposable and pretty darn convenient without hurting your microphone. 

- Self adhesive bandage. It's in every drug store and it sticks to itself without any residue. The only downside is you have to wrap the mic, but once you wrap it, it'll stay on the mic and won't slip since it's got a grippy surface. 

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Tip 2: Proper Lavalier Mic Clipping

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Ok, I may be a little OCD, but nothing bugs me more than poor lav placement. I'm a big fan of hiding mics, but if it's not hidden, it better look good. Obviously there are different garments to mic and situations that are tougher, but generally here's how you do it:

Step 1. Place the mic into the flat side of your mic clip. Note that not all mic clips are the same, so place the mic in a similar place on your clip. 

Step 1. Place the mic into the flat side of your mic clip. Note that not all mic clips are the same, so place the mic in a similar place on your clip. 

Step 2. Clamp the cable in between the clamp (not on it) so that there is a loop below the capsule. This is key to keeping things looking tidy. 

Step 2. Clamp the cable in between the clamp (not on it) so that there is a loop below the capsule. This is key to keeping things looking tidy. 

Step 3. If your clip has a point for tension relief feel free to use it so your mic doesn't get pulled by cable snags. This is not a dire step, but it is definitely helpful. Tape would be your substitute to this option on the inside of the garment you are miking. 

Step 3. If your clip has a point for tension relief feel free to use it so your mic doesn't get pulled by cable snags. This is not a dire step, but it is definitely helpful. Tape would be your substitute to this option on the inside of the garment you are miking. 

Step 4. Respectfully string your cable down the garment you are miking. This step is not optional. Get in there and keep it tidy! This is the step that some people skip when it's uncomfortable, but think about it this way: it's awkward but sound mixers have to do it all the time. Just be respectful and confident and I promise you'll make it through. 

Step 4. Respectfully string your cable down the garment you are miking. This step is not optional. Get in there and keep it tidy! This is the step that some people skip when it's uncomfortable, but think about it this way: it's awkward but sound mixers have to do it all the time. Just be respectful and confident and I promise you'll make it through. 

If you are miking a button up, slide the cable between the buttons at about the sternum on the chest. 

If you are miking a button up, slide the cable between the buttons at about the sternum on the chest. 

Step 5. Clip the mic onto the collar, or edge of the garment you are miking and sandwich the cable under the clip so it keeps the loop small. Lavalier mics are usually omnidirectional so if it faces sideways, don't worry, you'll still hear them fine. 

Step 5. Clip the mic onto the collar, or edge of the garment you are miking and sandwich the cable under the clip so it keeps the loop small. Lavalier mics are usually omnidirectional so if it faces sideways, don't worry, you'll still hear them fine. 

If you are miking a button up, clip the mic with the cord sandwiched under the clip with the mic facing up towards the mouth. 

If you are miking a button up, clip the mic with the cord sandwiched under the clip with the mic facing up towards the mouth. 

Step 6. Tidy up the leftover cable around the transmitter. I like to make a loop and sandwich it in the transmitter clip. After that, you're good to put the transmitter on a belt, waistband, pocket, etc. 

Step 6. Tidy up the leftover cable around the transmitter. I like to make a loop and sandwich it in the transmitter clip. After that, you're good to put the transmitter on a belt, waistband, pocket, etc. 

Tip 3: Where to Point the Shotgun Mic

Your microphone is NOT a solution to a bad sounding room. Where you point your mic is going to determine what your talent sounds like, not how loud the room will be. To get the best sound, set up in a quiet space and place your shotgun mic above your talent. Now there isn't just one "right place" to point your mic, but let me explain: Your voice has lows, mids and highs and they all come from slightly different places. The lower frequency sounds come from the resonance of your chest cavity and thus, if your talent needs more presence, you can point your microphone lower towards the throat. The high frequency sounds come from your tongue and teeth. S's and t's come straight from your mouth so if your talent mumbles, you could probably stand to try and capture more sibilants by pointing your mic more up.  Mid tones are tricky because they aren't as easy to identify. Usually mids come from your vocal cords and your nasal cavity. Mids are the balance of your voice. All in all, finding a "sweet spot" is subjective and can change, but if you know where the sounds are coming from, you can usually find a good middle ground. 

Tip 4: If Things Are Too Complicated, Hire Audio

Alright, I just got to say it again: try your best to hire a sound mixer. If things are too complex and need complicated solutions, find the budget for audio. Practice the techniques and tips as you need them, but all in all, a professional sound mixer will be able to help you with better sounding solutions while allowing you to focus on making things look good. 

100 Correct Ways to Identify Your Sound Person

I’m an audio-sound-location-production-mixer-tech-engineer-boom-person working in Seattle, Washington. Seriously?! That would be an awesome title, but unfortunately it gets broken down into countless different names and titles. I’ll respond to each of them, but at the end of the day, I mic, mix and record sounds on location for film & video. Within that, the content varies from interviews, talking heads, ambient sound, on set dialog, voice overs, etc. All of which hover around the idea that there is a voice that carries an idea or story—I record that voice.

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  • Sound
  • Sound mixer
  • Audio
  • Audio mixer
  • Engineer
  • Boom
  • Production sound
  • Production sound mixer
  • Production sound tech
  • Production sound engineer
  • Production audio
  • Production audio mixer
  • Production audio tech
  • Production audio engineer
  • Soundie
  • Soundo
  • Sound person
  • Sound guy
  • Sound man
  • Sound geek
  • Sound nerd
  • Sound specialist
  • Sound tech
  • Sound engineer
  • Audio person
  • Audio guy
  • Audio man
  • Audio geek
  • Audio nerd
  • Audio specialist
  • Audio tech
  • Audio engineer
  • Location sound
  • Location sound mixer
  • Location sound engineer
  • Location sound tech
  • Location audio
  • Location audio mixer
  • Location audio engineer
  • Hey you


My name is Luke Knecht and I mix and record location audio and sound in Seattle, Washington. I’m a location sound mixer, a location audio mixer, and I am available to work under those titles or any of the titles above.

Sound speeds!

For a Living?!?

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Working freelance for a living... it's actually a thing! I can't tell you how many times someone has remarked on that with some sort of disbelief. Yup, it's what I do now and it is absolutely my primary source of income. I don't wait tables or bartend to supplement my budget and I certainly do not sit at a desk or in a cubicle. My daily grind involves things like writing this and staying relevant in a constantly changing environment. In a good week I could work every day on set and in a not-so-good week, I'll be working from home on my website or emailing. 

So what does my work look like then? Let me describe the process:

1. Confirm and negotiate:

First I have to confirm the bookings and potentially negotiate price. I will receive the email or call and talk shop aka what's the need of the production, when is it, and then pitch my day rate. If the answer is yes, then I put it in the ol' google calendar and make sure I have everything I need. Usually the project is booked at least a week in advance. 

2. Wait for the callsheet:

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If you don't know what a callsheet is, it's a little document that gives you all the necessary information to do your job, know the schedule and know the location the day before the shoot. This little document is the thing many filmmakers stay up biting their fingernails waiting to get. Sometimes it arrives really late and you end up not getting enough sleep, but it always gives you better peace of mind when it shows up. 

3. Work work work:

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Prep gear, load gear, drive to location, unload gear, find site, find out details, prep gear, record the thing, lunch, record more things, wrap, offload files, breakdown gear, say goodbye, load gear, drive home, offload copy of files, invoice the client, drink, sleep, repeat. Yep, that about covers it and usually a full day is up to 10 hours. 

4. Wait for payment: 

This is by far the most painful part of freelancing. You know how most people get paid every two weeks? Yeah, not the case over here. Usually the turnover for most payments is net30 aka 30 days. If the payment is not made within 30 days then comes the fun part, gently demanding payment. After a while you get pretty good at following up respectfully, but sometimes you just don't get paid for awhile. 

5. Update: 

After all the work work is done, you get to work on the backend of your business. This involves all the emailing, updating your website, finding new work, balancing your budget, and buying new gear. All of this is a must and can take up the rest of the "dead time" during a given week. 


So there it is folks, the rundown of my personal experience working freelance in the world of filmmaking. It's fast-paced, it changes from day to day and I wouldn't change a thing. 

Work of 2016

This year was exciting in the world of production. While the Earth circled the sun I had the pleasure working with incredible people on insanely cool projects. From holograms to music festivals, the variety of work in 2016 kept me grinning ‘til my cheeks hurt. Here is a snapshot of what the year looked like:


Hololens
One of the first projects I got to work on in 2016 was a piece for Microsoft on Hololens: a one-of-a-kind hologram headset. In the course of a few months, Microsoft was able to build an app called “Galaxy Explorer” which basically puts you in a room with the Milky Way all around you. For this series, I recorded audio for many of the interviews and got to hear first hand what the process was like to build a galaxy from scratch.

KEXP - Ty Segall & the Muggers
This year marked my moving on from KEXP's employment as a videographer. While it was a sad parting of ways, I have since been working with them as a volunteer. One of my favorite moments from this year was the first ever live video stream from KEXP’s new home: Ty Segall. This video is not for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly entertaining as Ty ran around the room in a baby mask. 

TEDx
In March, TEDx made their way to Orcas Island for a series of creative talks. Composting human bodies, big marijuana, and conquering fear with poetry were only a few of topics in the sea of creativity and entrepreneurship. I ended up both operating camera and editing this series. 

Malaria Research
One of the more unique projects early in the year was a piece in the Center for Infectious Diseases. One of their primary goals has been to research malaria through mosquitos and developing antidotes for those infected. Alexis Kaushansky is one of the main scientists and walked us through the incredibly delicate process of dissecting mosquitos and using that information to build research. It was an honor to record audio for this one, I still can’t believe how far that kind of research has come. 

Jack Endino
Jack Endino was the engineer on Nirvana’s album Bleach, Mudhoney’s self-titled album, and is one of the masterminds that spearheaded the grunge movement in Seattle. In April, we got to sit down and talk with Jack about some of the things that he wished bands knew before coming in to record. This makes the 3rd time I’ve recorded audio of Jack and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Radio Disney - Music in Our Schools
This project took me by surprise.  I received a call from Radio Disney in April and coincidentally, they were going to be recording at my old elementary school in Puyallup! Sure enough, the music program at Maplewood Elementary was featured as one of the best in Washington. Recording the music and the interviews was a great experience. So glad Radio Disney called me for this one. 

Collingwood Whiskey
In a small off the grid cabin at the top of San Juan Island I got to record audio for a few commercial spots for Collingwood: a Canadian whiskey company. Amidst whiskey tastings and fancy cocktails, the sounds from the top of the mountain were incredibly beautiful. Every sound was organic and unobstructed from human sound pollution. It’s hard to call this one work—it was nearly a vacation. 

Michael Robinson - Seahawks Training Camp
Yes, it was exactly what the title implies: Mike Rob hanging out with the Seahawks at training camp. For this NFL project, we got an incredible behind-the-scenes look at a day in the impressive Seahawks training facility. Mike was hilarious and it really was pretty special to see all the football players working. I recorded audio for this one.

VSCO Academy
If you haven’t heard of VSCO, you should check them out. VSCO is a company that develops film looks for editing digital photos. One of their new projects, VSCO Academy, is aimed towards educating their app users on how to approach photography. Their comedy was gold and it was super fun to listen to their banter both on camera and off. 

Capitol Hill Block Party
My year was packed with music and it would be inappropriate to not mention CHBP. I was part of the video team for this one and got to film to my heart’s content during the festival. Being one of the better lineups in a while, it was definitely the right year to go. This one was one of my favorite projects I was on camera for. 

C’mon Team - Totem Star
Without going into more detail, this project was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling to film for so many reasons. The people involved with C’mon Team are some of the most giving and kind individuals that I’ve ever met. I will never forget this experience. You can see more info in my previous blog post: http://www.lukeknecht.com/blog/2016/9/29/cmonteam

Chefsteps - Epic Grilled Turkey
Throughout the year, I recorded audio for a company called Chefsteps. They specialize in sous vide cooking and quite honestly the craft services during those projects cannot be beat. One of the year ending episodes involved sous viding a whole turkey and then grilling it. It was delicious—can’t wait to do more with Chefsteps. 

Farewell 2016, many thanks to the people that were a part of my journey. 2017 will begin a new voyage around the sun, and I can't wait to dive in. 

C'mon Team

How many creatives does it take to change a lightbulb? 

- Why do you need a different lightbulb?
- What is the lightbulb's purpose?
- Whose lightbulb is it?
- What shape and size lightbulb do you want? 
- What color? 

It took three days and almost all of my remaining energy, but it refilled my lungs with creativity. C'mon Team was an experience I'll never forget and it has fundamentally transformed my state of mind as a freelancing filmmaker. 

A little background: "We're a group of creatives that visits non-profits around the world to create digital content and tell the story of their organization and cause online all at no cost to the non-profits. Our aim is to give back to the givers by sharing our skills generously in the spirit of community." What they don't say is that the process is just as important as the result. C'mon Team is medicine to creatives with the reward of providing unique content to non-profits. I'm not going to tell you a personal transformation story, but what I will tell you is that I was reminded of what everyone already possessed: perspective. These days perspective is elusive and hard to nail down without using buzzwords. Storytelling has deep roots, but it needs new perspective and C’mon Team helped me to realize that.

Our group was assigned to Totem Star, which is a record label for teen artists that provides all the circumstances and resources to develop successful musicians. I am so incredibly grateful to have been able to build a relationship and provide Totem Star with things to bolster their already amazing organization. And although we are done with this particular event, my wife and I are now in a position to continue to provide for a place that we relate to and love. Creativity and inspiration is contagious—many thanks to C’mon Team and Totem Star for reminding us this. We will never forget.

 

 

 

Do you need to hire an audio person?

Do you need to hire an audio person?

Let me rephrase the question: do you need to hear your subject? The answer in most cases is “Well yeah, of course we need to hear them, but can’t we just rent a mic and do it ourselves?” Let’s dive into it.

I’m not going to give a lesson in sound, but I need to answer a few questions, so get ready for some lite nerd talk:

  1.  Can you just mount a mic on camera?

    Your microphone always sounds best when it is close. This means it’s better when it’s on a boom closer to your subject and not on your camera. (Also note: 99% of the time the boom sounds way better than just a wireless lavaliere microphone.)
     
  2. Do you want your lavaliere microphone to show on camera?

    Sound professionals spend years perfecting the art of hiding microphones on your subject. Unfortunately it’s not something you just pick up naturally—it takes a lot of practice to minimize intrusive sounds on a body mic. 
     
  3. Can you monitor and change sound levels while also operating a camera?

    I’ve seen it done before, but I can say with some confidence you will lose something in the process. It’s better to have the best of both worlds instead of pretty good for each.
     
  4. Did you hear the clock or plane or flub in dialogue or car horn or alarm or cough or person whisper or…? Well you get the idea…

    A sound person’s job is to prioritize content over everything, so if one of these sounds interferes with the story or content, we will let you know.
     
  5. Do I really need to spend that much?

    I can’t answer this for everyone, but I can say that most productions can find a middle ground. Consider that the amount of attention you pay towards camera should be balanced with what you budget for sound.

The short of it all is that sound is half of your production. We are tech nerds, we are discreet and we insist that your story will benefit from professional sound recording. And if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask: a good portion of preproduction involves educating people on what we provide. Best of luck and “sound speeds!”

Let's talk budget

It's the elephant in the room and it's reaching into your pockets! When it comes to video and audio production, money is a sore subject. Production is expensive and it's a delicate topic, but it's time we brought it out in the open. So open your earholes and buckle up--I'm about to blow your mind!


1. Help me I’m poor.

It’s sad but true, like regular day folks, we filmmakers need those moneys to pay for things like rent, food, shelter, beer, etc. BUT all kidding aside, the rates of our industry are dictated by the ratio of our professional training and expertise to the time we spend for a project. The emails, preparation, execution, and postproduction all take time and plenty of time, emails, tears, and energy from our lives and we’d like to invoice you for a reasonable amount of them.

 

2. I’m a professional or something.

Like a fine wine or an aged cheese, filmmakers have been aged to perfection. Time in the industry means experience in the industry and like both wine and cheese, sometimes you have to pay a pretty penny. I won’t say that you will always need to go into horrendous debt to pay for production, but know that most filmmakers will ask for a reasonable price for their service. Some greenhorns may take some time to learn these rates, but all prices tend to fall in the same ballpark for each role on a set.


3. There’s more than meets the eye.

I own a SD502 multitrack mixer with timecode and direct ins and outs and my friend owns an A7S with an Atomos Shogun that records 4k uncompressed 30p video in 10bit. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?! Those surely aren’t the winning lotto numbers, but yes they are in fact important. There are few things priced as high or as complicated as film equipment (maybe in the medical industry?), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We know that you know that we should know many things. You got that? Well we do know things about stuff and it’s actually pretty valuable stuff. The equipment, the techniques and the concepts behind all of them are an absolute necessity. So if we look like we are a little too relaxed on set, it’s because we did the work ahead of time to come prepared—we’re actually bubbling with knowledge that helps us run very complicated stuff.


4. Creativity loves company.

There is nothing worse than too many cooks in the kitchen… unless it’s just one cook with many kitchen staff, in which case that’s fine… or something. Let us fill your kitchen with fine pastries and delicate crème brûlée. It takes a team to be successful in fine dining, but just as much on set. Hire an audio person to work with your video person, or a gaffer to support your director of photography. There are so many moving parts on set, but they all function as one to give you a spectacular product.


5. Filmmakers are your friends.

Those people behind and around the camera are as cool as cucumbers dipped in liquid nitrogen and sent into space!! It wouldn’t take much to send a reasonable human to the loony bin on set sometimes, but most of us pride ourselves to be as docile as a monk in a library. I have met some of the most relaxed and caring folks in this industry and you should meet them too—they’re good at what they do and you’ll enjoy being around them.


So what am I getting at?
Mostly I am asking you to consider investing in your local professionals. I know it may sound absurd sometimes, but I assure you we are not trying to pillage or plunder. And if you have questions, please ask away--honesty is your best tool while working with filmmakers. We would love to work with you and hope that you would like to have us around.  

So here's to you and to us in the future--Let's make something together!