Film sound recording contrasts in some ways with TV production techniques. Whereas TV studio sound recording is typically done with in-house equipment, it is much more widely seen for recording sound for features to be done initially on separate recorders from the camera to get a better sound. Also, sound is routinely taken to professional recording studios to be reworked.
For both film and TV sound recording, microphones, mixing boards, and DAT recorders are important equipment that should be understood by producers and sound engineers.
Many sound engineers prefer the use of external dynamic shotgun mics. These are mics at the end of a long boom which can make a big difference in the final sound quality to be edited; for instance, ambient equipment sounds are diminished considerably.
Some people choose wireless microphones for more precise mic placement. Some people say that wireless mics don’t have the same signal fidelity as wired ones, but they are in the minority.
Most film sound is sent through a mixing board and not directly to the recording device. This allows for very subtle fine-tuning of sound, the way a large graphic EQ in a component stereo system allows one to get the “perfect” sound playback for different recordings.
Film sound engineers also make heavy use of the DAT recorder. These “digital audio tape” recorders were first developed by Sony in the early 1980s.
Sony discontinued their production in early 2006 to make way for the hard disk recording revolution but DAT recorders are still in heavy use in film.
DAT recorders are especially used for on-location filming as they allow for much greater post-production sound editing control. They’re great for capturing “natural” background sound.
Film actors add in their voices later on via over-dubbing. They speak their lines aloud on camera but their voices are not recorded at that time, or if it is, this will be totally replaced later on in a recording studio through Automatic Dialogue Replacement.
Special effects sounds such as the firing of laser cannons in “Star Wars” are also recorded separately and dubbed in later. The mixing-in of sounds later on in film allows for very great levels of control over the final quality, which is why film sound quality often seems more “sonorous” than TV production sound.
For film, a sound editor will take separate tracks of dialogue, special effects, and music scoring and dub them all together into a multitrack recording and edit the mix later on.
Modern film making, especially for independent productions, makes increasing use of computer-based DAWs, or digital audio workstations.
Using a computer, an ADC-DAC (analog to digital/digital to analog converter), and digital audio editor software, the sound editor uses the computer’s sound card acts as an audio interface, especially when converting analog audio signals into digital form.
The software controls the two hardware components and provides a user interface to allow simple access to recording and editing.
Some modern DAWs, such as the Euphonix System 5-MC integrated DAW controller, are made to integrate with other computerized DAWs such as Pro Tools, Nuendo, Logic Pro, Digital Performer and Pyramix. These give ever more powers of control and refinement to sound recording editors.