Have you ever gotten amazing video footage, edited it together into a compelling film, and then realized that your audio is crap? Terrible audio or the lack of audio can ruin an otherwise great film. Most viewers can see beyond poor video quality if it is shot and edited well. However, bad audio quality is just plain bad. Yet audio is something often overlooked but just as important as the image.
Audio is what makes the medium of film distinct. With wedding photography, you’ve got images, single moments in time which serve as glimpses of what happened. Photos can reveal emotions, specific memories, and new perspectives. With videography, you are not only working with images, but also sound. Films add something unique: they tell a story over time and immerse viewers in the world of the film – which includes the sights and sounds. Since sound is an often neglected yet essential component to telling a story, we need to pay special attention to it.
Here’s how we make sure we get great quality audio on a wedding day while still being discreet and quick on our feet (imagine having a boom operator following everyone around all day!).
In the morning, we use on-camera shotgun microphones (we use the Rode ___) to capture what’s going on around us. Because we never know what types of noises we’ll record, we set our audio levels to “auto” to be ready for anything. We are looking for great sound bytes of people saying something, background noise of people chattering while getting ready, or ambient noise from the environment, whether it’s the hum inside a room, birds in the woods, or cars on a nearby highway.
For the bride and groom interviews, if we are in a quiet environment, we record into our on-camera shotgun mics. Sometimes if we’re in a noisier space, we’ll attach a lav mic, also known as a lapel mic (we use the Seinheisser ___). For these, we make sure to set a manual recording level.
During the ceremony, we attach one lav mic to the groom which captures the groom’s as well as the bride’s voices during the vows. We attach a second lav mic to the officiant to get his or her voice. And then we also plug in an audio recorder (we use the Zoom H4n) into the sound board in order to record any audio that comes through a microphone (instruments/musicians, readers, and also a backup of the officiant’s audio). We also have our shotgun mics running on our cameras to get the ambient noise inside the space.
For the reception speeches, we have multiple options. The simplest way is similar to the ceremony where we plug our audio recorder into the DJ’s sound board. This allows us to capture the audio that comes through the DJ’s microphone that the speakers use. In the event that a reception is without a sound system, we have our own wireless handheld mic and receiver. We could attach our lav mic to the speaker, but this can be difficult and distracting if there are multiple speakers talking in a row.
Finally, when the day is over and you’re watching your footage, you might notice that depending on the sound system, how loud someone talked, or noise going on in the background, there is considerably distracting static or buzzing noise in your audio. To clean this up, we recommend using the noise removal feature in a program like Adobe Audition.
Capturing awesome audio on a wedding day adds a dimension to storytelling and will take your films from a decent montage to an amazing immersive experience. We hope you will pay as much attention to the audio you’re recording as you do to the images.
Have any additional tips to getting great audio, or have you had to get creative in order to capture audio at a wedding? Let us know in the comments!