Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Next Night in TV

So, tonight I go down and turn on the TV and sit on the floor to stretch. The first thing I hear is a voice I've been obsessing over the past few weeks, that of this newscaster. And you know, it really sounded a lot like how I heard it in the second episode of our new crime show as streamed from the website.

I had been worried that I had made the host's voice sound muffled by hiding his mic on the crime show, an unnecessary thing to do on a so-called "studio" shoot. But what I heard on tonight's news on an exposed mic sounded so much like my audio that I am no longer very concerned that I had made his voice sound muffled. I think maybe his voice just sounds that way. And it sounds fine -- I'm just obsessing over whether I'm altering its sound in some way. One time I totally obsessed over a certain celebrity's voice. I had never heard him, or heard of him, before the day two years ago when I worked with him, and I kept taking my headphones off to see that rasp in his voice was natural, or was being caused by some minor distortion that I was introducing. And there was a short time where I did have an actual distortion problem, but that got fixed. Other than that moment, yes, his voice is naturally raspy. And he's loud too. Turn down that transmitter before you put it on him, 'cause he'll overdrive it just by talking about the weather, and to make things worse he's squirrelly, so once you get it on him you'll never catch up to him again to make further adjustments.

So anyway, tonight I feel better about how this newscaster sounds under my audio care, in his role as host of the new crime show.

Meanwhile, there's this other thing I worked on recently, which is a series of commercials for a local car dealership. It would be nice to be able to watch these short commercials online, but I can't find them anywhere. I can only find outtakes, which are not as funny as they are probably supposed to be, as streamed from the dealership website here. There's one outtake where you can see the body mic exposed and hear wind blowing on it. I did not work on that commercial. But I worked on the commercials where all the other outtakes came from, where I'm rather proud that the mics are completely hidden and still sound pretty good.

Over the past year, I've done several days of work for this dealership, and its owner's other dealerships in Sanford, NC, and in Columbia, SC. The Raleigh and Columbia commercials always have the grown son and general manager, a woman whom everyone thinks is his sister but is really a family friend and actress, and sometimes her twin sister, giving their spiels in the dealerships' lots, as you can see in the outtake examples. I also happen to have the same birthday as these twins.

It's an advertising agency in Baton Rouge, LA that makes these commercials. They handle many dealerships of this brand around the Gulf area and Southeast, but not all of them, because once they land a client, they don't take on any other dealerships that could be considered competition for that client's business. This means that while they don't do these commercials, and thank goodness for that.

All this relates to my discussion in the previous posting of hidden vs. exposed body mics. I had the rare opportunity this week of working with another sound guy whom I feel comfortable asking anything. I asked him today about equalizing, in post production, the audio from hidden mics, to make them sound less muffled. He said yes, you can boost the high frequencies, and maybe bring back some crispness to the sound which can be lost when the mic is under clothing. We both agreed that even when you position the mic so it is not completely covered and can "see" out from behind clothing, it still sounds a little muffled. But I never do post-audio and he does not do much of it, and neither of us ever has a chance to do post-work on the audio we've recorded ourselves. And we both agreed that most of the editors who do the post-work on shows we work on don't bother to do anything with the audio. They just use the audio as we give it to them without equalization or anything. Often all their skill lies in picture editing and graphics anyway, and it has not occurred to them to do anything with audio.

This week, another audio guy and I were working for a local video company that is really cool to work for and has really nice folks. But they have sort of lame body mics that we have to use. I was using them all this week, so their lameness is fresh in my mind. I also happen to know that the ad agency from Baton Rouge made one commercial in studio for this local car dealership whose commercials I had been working on, but they had NOT hired me for the studio commercial.

Okay. So tonight, while I was stretching, after the newscast with the crime host ended, there came this OTHER commercial for this same dealership that was shot in studio, that I did not work on. And there, in this controlled studio shot done against a green screen, the type of situation where a boom could have been used, or where the audio guy would be less harried by distractions and could spend a little more time hiding body mics carefully, the body mics were exposed. And they were the same lame body mics I was using this week. And they still sound muffled, even when exposed. This time it's not because the people's voices sound naturally muffled, but because of the mics' lameness. And they're huge too, like two big cockroaches up there on the lapels. Sheesh. It makes me feel good that I hid them on all the commercials I worked on. It just looks so much better. I even hid them on testimonials with customers for the Sanford commercials. Yep, total strangers get mics dropped down the insides of their shirts and taped in there by me.

So now all we need is for editors to pay attention to audio a little more, and try out a little equalization to see if it helps.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Margaret and Reston, BOTH! Wow, what a coincidence :-)

Not do diss your work, but the only time I've ever been ripped off by a car dealer was at Fred Anderson Toyota. I can still recall the song-and-dance routine (really, almost a dance) that the salesman used to get us to come back to a deal after we said we were walking away.

In retrospect, the family and I were pretty stupid to buy a car that had so few miles on the odometer for something so old and worn out. Still, that doesn't excuse someone trying to rip us off.