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Big sound, stereo ambience, 3d sound, Binaural audio, the missing link.
  • I have been looking a lot, or I might say listening a lot to audio lately after my choice of buying sound devices mixpre-D has fallen because BH does not ship SD gear anymore outside USA. So looking at different solution, I found one serious candidate in the Olympus Ls-100. Searching for samples, I ended on a set of nature recordists samples in stereo and was really immersed in the audio. One example like this one had a car and very common sound for a movie, and I thought I was at the Cinema. It came like a revelation . The sound is so tri dimensional and can really feel there. What it told me was how much the ambiance sound was important for a movie and how indie films lack it and sounded hollow. Every-time we hear how we should get a shotgun microphone for outside dialogue and a cardioid for inside one. But no one put emphasis on those surrounding sound and how to capture them.

    So I started looking at stereo microphone and remembered the Mitra with philip bloom,

    that sounded fantastic. But the price was a bit high, and I saw other like the Audio Technica BP4025 (a bit high also). some example here

    Further searching I saw another system called Binaural recording when people use mannequin head and ears etc to really simulate human hearing. A company that does it

    I don't know what you lot think, but this was really a revelation to me about getting the big movie sound. From what I know is that lot of the sound effect and mixing are done in post to get the stereo or 3d effect. But some of these solution seems more appropriate to the indie crowd.

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  • In fact the first example done here is done with the internal mic of the ls-100. Makes me more want to get it.

  • I´ve got the earplugs from Roland for binaural recording.. Can´t recall the model name. Simple, works pretty well, very reasonable sound quality. Cheap and as I recall they come with a lifetime warranty.

    Thing is though, binaural sound is highly realistic / different from how we´re used to hearing sound in a movie context and so it´s not always a good choice for your film. But if you are playing with "Surround" sound it´s of course very handy.

  • I am more talking about the stereo effect, the big movie feeling it gives me. I did not mean for dialogue for sure, but for effects or general ambiance, when you hear the car passing by from left to right and the sound of the engine and wheels on the road. It is as if I can just see the car passing by then stopping and the actor coming out. I always felt the big movie sound was always different, and that indie film most of the time sound flat. It is as if the actors where livng in an aquarium.

  • With big movie sound, a lot of the sound effects are done in post, it's all make believe

  • @danyyyel For my last documentary I recorded some MS stereo which required quite an expensive boom set up and it is still just stereo. Double MS would be interesting but gets even more expensive and requires at least a three track recorder. We used a Sound Devices recorder which is top of the line and quite expensive. If you are looking for a similar quality for a lesser price with a bit less technical finesse check out the Oade Brother modified recorders:

    Recently I bought a Zoom H2n recorder which records a 4 channel signal of MS and XY. For the low price of that recorder the 3D sound image is quite impressive! I would recommend you to give it a try. Here is a link to a German dealer who tested a bunch of cheap recorders and provides sound samples of different soundscapes. I found it quite informative.

    I also agree with @Dazza, a lot of sound is foley created in a studio. Most Hollywood productions have their sound build from scratch. Check out this video:

  • I second the H4N. I have two of them and use them for nearly all my audio. You might want to start putting together some stock sounds. They'll save you a lot of time in post.

  • There are many ways to record, no right way, but for sure always consider AB and ORTF. For me, ORTF sounds more real than the fake heads, but some people like those things. MS can sometimes be really handy, but I think there is a limit to how good it can sound. Part of this is due to the fact that MS recorders often use cardioid instead of hypercardioid, but good MS sounds pretty good.

  • I did a lot of binaural recording in my BBC days as a sound effects and drama recordist, as in the 1990s at the BBC there was a temporary fad for doing things in binaural. We were also of course using coincident-pair stereo, which became interesting when people used both in the same production. Comparing them:

    • Binaural mic techniques seemed to be able to pick up sounds that were very far away - can't explain this except that the technique allowed you to locate / hear very distant sounds - frustrating if you were trying to isolate one sound and there was something else happening way off in the distance.
    • On headphones, if you had conventional, coincident-pair (or m&s) recordings, having a binaural recording in the mix would give you very weird images where you'd hear the stereo quite close to your head, with the binaural as another layer of sound "way out there" in the distance. This would probably not be a problem when listening on loudspeakers, but on headphones, conventional coincident-pair stereo isn't that wonderful and anything with a time-of-arrival difference (like binaural) will of course create a very different sound. You could probably mix a spaced-pair and binaural recording together and that would sound better on headphones.
    • back in those days, a lot of our foreign-language radio services, and most TV, was still being done in mono (believe it or not!) way after everyone else discovered stereo. When used in a mono production, binaural sometimes caused strange phase-cancellation effects. The way round this would be to take just one of the channels of the binaural source, not both, and that got over the problems.
    • Even with good headphones and a proper sit-down listening session, I personally find Binaural to be quite fatiguing (because it's so realistic). I don't know if that would be true when used with video.

    Because mixing coincident-pair stereo and binaural doesn't really work well, people who did binaural drama productions often played stereo effects into the set and picked them up on a binaural mic rig - which then (sort of) converted them into binaural.

    A colleague of mine, Lloyd Silverthorne, did a BBC radio drama in binaural in the 1980s and it caused quite a run on headphones in shops. I still have the recording and it's pretty amazing - but of course it's designed for listening on headphones. You have to sit very still, because as soon as you move your head, the image swings around and destroys the illusion (and makes you feel a bit queasy). And on speakers, it sounds nice enough but the imaging doesn't work predictably.

  • Doesn't help you much with recording and mixing, but for playback have an experiment around with ambiophonics

  • I think if you want to experiment, experiment with surround sound. There's a million different ways to create interesting effects and create an audio image, and there's a large number of people who can actually listen to the end product, albeit on improperly calibrated systems. I would included a decoding key with the vid so the audio can be balanced on the home playback system.

  • Watch "The French Connection" DVD again. Not some crappy streaming quality version. Get the real DVD. Watch the last chase scene several times again. 40 years ago. Mono technology. Amazing...

    You have better audio technology than they had. Just using your Panasonic camera or smart phone.

    You don't need more technology. You may want it. But you probably don't need it yet. - You need to use your ears. - You need to layer dialog, foley, backgrounds, sound effects, and music, without distracting from the story.

  • Binaural is not that practical for film sound because the realistic stereo effect reproduces best on headphones, but not so well on speakers (unless they are 180 deg apart).

    There is tons of good literature out there on film sound theory, so its best to read up on the basics.

  • If you want to add a stereo sound to mono recordings in post (as opposed to recording them in stereo to begin with), then I would suggest you take a look at Numerical Sound ReStereo for Reason. I am a bit biased, since I was a consultant to Numerical Sound on that project, but I frequently applied the underlying technology in my own mixing work so I believe it is very useful.

    The comments already made about the importance of foley vs source recording are very pertinent and something novice filmmakers often forget. I had some great conversations with Mitch Marcoullier about his experiences teaching some of the Skywalker Sound/THX (in-between his Synclavier and Michael Javkson work) guys on that topic and honestly I am frequently blown away by the creativity and skill that goes into foley work. Not an area I have any expertise in myself at this point. :)

    But getting back to stereo miking, if you really want to hear an application of mixed layers of stereo-miking for "every track" in a piece of music, I would listen to Michael Jackson "Thriller" or any number of of other recordings by that mixing engineer, Bruce Swedien. You could probably also get some ideas from reading the interview with Bruce Swedien in Sound on Sound.

    But you know what one of the most useful indicators of the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of a given miking approach/sound/piece of music or other aural material is? Physical reaction. Note as you listen to the sound how your body feels, not just "how it sounds" and you can start to appreciate how the sound adds or takes away from your movie.

    Anyway, a lot of points I have stated elsewhere that I have repeated here, but hopefully it is still helpful. And do listen to the demos of Numerical Sound ReStereo if you have not yet - on a set of headphones or studio monitors, it is the first processing I have encountered that sounds more like stereo miking than a digital effect. Plus it can be helpful when you really need the isolation/ease of use of a shotgun or things like that but want to try other things in post.

  • Hi all, just in case anyone wants to hear the binaural Radio drama I mentioned a few comments ago, it's called the Revenge and it's on Radio 4 Extra tonight (21/12/12) at 2030. Available now at

  • Five mics in a decca/surround config--impossible to do with stereo mics.

  • You might give this VST a try: Just red about it, no idea how well it works with binaural recordings, but it comes with a movie mode that send dialog freqencies to center.

    Here is some manual approach:

    Anyhow, none of this frees you from pointing a boom right on your actor. ;-)

  • If you're looking for a high-quality unified surround miking package, here's one that several of my colleagues have spoken highly of for just under $1,000.

  • Or pop one of these bad boys on your Nex 7 ...

    @MarkTheHarp if I remember rightly didn't the Beeb transmit in B Format for a while - remember trying to use my Soundfield decoder to un-mangle the broadcasts ;p

    For very in depth info from "The Man" of Binaural and MS you should google Mike Skeet

    More info - good read:

    Had the pleasure of listening to his research a few times, he is a very knowledgeable and pleasant man.

    On a side not - did anyone every buy one of the old 4 channel Roland RSS boxes - may be a fond distant memory but remember them being fun!

  • I should have posted this earlier, a simple test using $10 DIY mics made with Panasonic WM-61A capsules. I plugged them directly into the GH2. No level adjustments or processing done. These little guys are still the best deal on the planet for mini-omnis (used in binaural, tie-clip mics).

    I also just got some Primo EM172 capsules which cost a bit more but are supposed to have higher sensitivity and lower noise than the Panasonics.

    I plan to make some comparison tests once I assemble them (and the weather clears up).

  • @MirrorMan

    Panasonic WM-61A capsules are know for long long time to be good performers :-)

  • Over the years I have bought several dozen of the smaller EM158 capsules:

    I also bought some WM-61A capsules but they didn't sound as clean, or have as high an output level. So I used them in an acoustic sound measurement setup (where their ability run off a higher voltage than 5V gives them a greater max SPL).

    I used the EM158 in lapel microphones (using the old Sony stereo lapel cases hacked to hold two EM158). Also used them in lavalier, and several other situations.

    The feather-weight diaphragm of the EM158 makes them almost impervious to handling noise.