Production Sound Equipment for Film

Every style of video production has varied requirements & workflows that the sound department needs to integrate into. Offering scalable equipment package rentals tailored to the needs of each individual shoot. From lightweight bag based sound recording packages for ‘run and gun’ shoots to a cart based production sound rig ready for any scale of production; from commercials to narratives, comedy specials, concert recording, and everywhere in between. Let’s work together to find the right equipment package for your shoot!

Producers Guide To Location Sound Gear

The nature of the shoot’s content & production workflow determines a lot about what kind of gear you might need. Answering some basic questions about the shoot will help determine what gear package will best suit your budget and production requirements.

What type of video content are we shooting? What's it's end use?

Is it a documentary, narrative film, commercial, reality TV show, or something else entirely?
The nature of the content we are shooting & workflow determines a lot about what kind of gear package will be needed. While a sit down interview may need a relatively small equipment package, as the number of talent on screen and cameras increase, so do the requirements from the sound department.

How many on-camera talent will there be with dialog?

The number of people on camera with dialog helps determine the number of wireless lavaliers and booms needed for your shoot. What this means for equipment may vary depending on the content type, from narrative to commercials, reality TV, and more. For a multi person sit down interview, generally speaking best practice is a boom mic & lav mic per person. With different content types where multiple booms isn’t realistic we can still capture quality sound with lavs alone. For some content types, the addition of plant mics or a dedicated boom operator may be necessary as well like in the case of narratives, some commercial content, or comedy specials.

How many & what model cameras will we be working with?

Knowing the number of cameras & what model will help determine how many timecode boxes & cameras will need to be fed a mix. It also lets me know what types of cabling I will need to interface with each camera. While rental houses should include the breakouts for each camera, often they do not come with the necessary accessories. Therefore I stock custom cabling for Arri & RED cameras that require proprietary connectors.

How much camera movement will there be?

The amount of camera movement in the shots we are doing will determine if a mix can be fed with a hardline or if wireless camera hops will be needed, While hardline feed is superior in terms of quality & reliability, when it comes to unpredictable shooting environments it’s a matter of safety for both the camera operator, sound recordist, and equipment that wireless camera hops needs to be used. Alternatively if doing complex shots with steadicam, technocranes, or camera dollies, then cabling in is also not possible.

Is timecode a part of your post-production workflow?

Timecode has become a mainstay of professional video production, and for good reason, it saves a lot of time and money in post-production by speeding up the workflow. To ensure the separately recorded sound and one or more cameras stay in sync with one another timecode boxes get attached to each camera. This common timestamp is then recorded as metadata to every video file & audio file. Even if shooting with cameras that don’t take timecode natively, it can still be implemented with the use of a smart timecode slate or by recording linear timecode to an audio channel and decoding it in post. Here is an explanation of audio timecode workflow.

Are we rolling continuous takes for longer than 30 minutes? Do we need Genlock & Wordclock?

For productions that require continuous takes longer then 30 minutes (i.e. Reality TV, Comedy Specials, Documentary, etc), the use of genlock & wordclock in addition to timecode is highly recommended. While timecode is only metadata, genlock clocks the cameras’ sensors to prevent them from drifting apart once recording. Like Genlock, wordclock is used to clock audio equipment at the sample rate lavel (Though by the nature of the clocking required for audio recorders drift is far less likely than cameras). It’s not unheard of to have 2-5 seconds of drift between cameras by the end of a take longer than an hour, while the beginning might be perfectly in sync.

Do you need a timecode smart slate?

This depends on your production and post-production workflow, but they are highly recommended anytime audio isn’t recorded on camera and when cameras don’t allow for timecode inputs.

Do you need wireless IFB Headsets for clients, producers, directors, or reporters?

The ability for the Director, Producer, or Clients to listen in and clearly hear the audio being recorded can be incredibly valuable; this is where wireless IFB headsets come in. Additionally when doing live television the reporter in the field needs to hear an IFB mix-minus feed of the show in order to talk back to the host on the set. Sometimes additionally camera operators and 1st ACs will additionally need IFBs for cueing.

How many people on your production will need to listen in?

Is there anyone remote via Zoom or similar who needs to hear too?

Virtual productions & remote clients, producers, interviewers, etc has become more and more commonplace. Is there anyone on who will be remote who will need to listen in as if they were on an IFB? Is there a video feed too or just audio? To get audio reliably into a computer a USB interface is usually the best method. While many cameras and capture cards are capable of passing audio downstream, it’s fairly common to run into issues that way too so I highly recommend using an USB audio interface.

What kind of locations will we be filming in & foot print can we have?

Are there more than one location in a day? What is the filming location like? What kind of access to space do we have? Is it cart accessible? What kind of footprint can we have on location? Is there a place to stage equipment? The answers to these questions are invaluable information when planning the logistics of getting gear in and out of locations and traveling from location to location. Poor accessibility makes for a much slower moving crew, and should be factored if you intend to shoot at multiple locations.

Now matter what the production requires; I can customize a sound recording equipment package to suit your project’s needs.

Sound Recording Equipment for Film Production:

Let’s work together to figure out an equipment package that makes sense for your production meeting the needs and requirements of your production’s unique content.

Field Mixers w/ Integrated Multitrack Recorders

The field mixer / recorder is the heart of any location sound kit, allowing multiple inputs & output busses, multitrack recording, and timecode capabilities, it’s truly the workhorse of every production.

Automixing, EQ, & Compression

When it comes to delivering a quality mix, whether for dailies, as a backup to camera, to speed up post workflows, or if going out live on air,; You want it to sound as good as possible. A lot of video content out there unfortunately doesn’t have the luxury of dedicated audio post production. In these circumstances having tools like EQ, Compression, & Automixing comes in to enable high quality on location.

Realtime Noise Suppression

Not all locations are ideal and some need a little help from noise reduction to clean up the audio in that environment. While the tools available in post have far more finite control, not ever production has dedicated audio post, and some shoots are even live to air. In these circumstances having active noise reduction pushing the noise floor down in real time can create some much needed separation of talent from the environment they are in.

RF Master Clock

The RF masterclock creates a network between the cameras and audio recorders sharing a single clock source (via RF sync boxes) for timecode, genlock, and wordclock achieving perfect sync indefinitely.

Timecode & Genlock Sync Boxes

Timecode sync boxes are an essential part of modern video production workflows, saving time and money in post-production. Every timecode kit includes a RF master clock, and RF jammed sync boxes for each camera that provide Timecode & Genlock, cabling for most cameras, & mounting accessories.

Timecode Smart Slates

Smart Slates are a convenient way to ensure sync between audio and any camera (even those that don’t take timecode). The auditory slate clap will match perfectly to the visual slate while also flashing a timecode display to camera burning a visual LTC indicator into the footage.

Wireless IFBs Headsets for Client, Producers, Directors, or Reporters

Being able to listen in and clearly hear what’s being recorded can be a valuable asset for producers, directors, & clients.Additionally for live TV reporters typically need to be able to hear a mix minus feed from the TV studio so they can communicate and hear timing cues. Every IFB kit comes with transmitter, requested number of wireless IFB receivers, headphones, & a day’s worth of batteries.

Wireless Camera Hops (Camera Links)

Shoots that require any type of camera movement makes wireless camera hops a necessity to be able to feed a reference mix for the editor to camera without having any cabling tethered to the camera. Coupled with a timecode box this can be a very effective combo for fast paced ‘run & gun’ shoot.

Wireless Lavaliers / Talent Mic Kits

Not every action scenario or camera angle will allow for ideal placement of boom mics, this is where wireless lavaliers come in. Every wireless talent mic kit includes a TX & RX combo, Lavalier Mic, and required accessories & expendables.

RF Distribution & Remote Antennas

Many shoots require the sound cart to be hidden away a distance from set or need talent to be further they whip antennas will provide. This is where high gain active LPDA antennas come in. They can provide exceptional RF reliability under challenging circumstances. RF Distribution allows all the receivers to share a single pair of diversity antennas. Anytime wireless channel counts increase (Above 4 channels), to prevent the receivers from interfering with one another in close proximity the use of RF distros is highly recommended to provide additional isolation between one another.

Boom Mic Kits w/ Interior & Exterior Mics, Wind Protection, etc

When it comes to detail and quality in recorded dialog there is no substitute for a high end boom microphone. Every boom mic kit includes a boom pole, interior mic, exterior mic, shock mount, wind protection, & all accessories needed.

Audio Playback System w/ Timecode

Commercials, Music Videos, & Narrative Films sometimes require a dedicated playback operator. Timecode audio playback system rental includes a Laptop with DAW Audio Software, PA System, & Wireless Timecode Playback Slate.

Plant Mic’ing Solutions

Plant mics can be an excellent way of capturing dialog (like in vehicles), or for capturing nat sound, ambiences, or crowds. Similar to boom mics, it’s essentially a different way of rigging the same mics.

Stick Mics & Studio Microphones

Dynamic microphones are especially useful in high noise environments for their ability to reject unwanted sounds; Especially useful for scenarios such as rushing a stadium field with reporters after a game or the dialog mic for a comedy special. Occasionally shoots like music performance videos & comedy specials require studio microphones to capture the nuances & character of instruments, crowds, and more. High end studio condenser microphones have incredible sound and practically non-existent noise floors, making them great on nearly any source.

Dante Equipment

Dante is a widely adopted audio over IP network protocol. Having a Dante equipped recorder, multiple headphone amps, Dante Virtual Soundcard, PoE network switches, and more. Because of its heavy use in the live sound world, it makes an excellent choice for capturing multitrack recordings of events.

Additional Support (Media, Van, Carts, Stands, Weights, Cases, etc)

Working efficiently & safely requires a lot more than just the equipment but the support around it. The ability to efficiently transport gear while keeping it organized makes a huge difference in how efficiently a crew can work. This is where carts and a work van comes in. Having proper equipment as far as stands & weighted sand or shot bags keeps things flying above talent safe. It’s not just about the tools, but all the accessories around them to make it all come together.

Let’s chat about the unique needs of your production!