two guys with their backs turned to the viewer runing towards some kind of abandoned factory with sun setting down behind it. Title on the left: location recording with rode ntg3

Rode NTG3 shotgun microphone on set of my first short as A1.

Learning new things

After many years of recording, editing and mixing music tracks for various bands here in Lithuania somehow I got hooked on movie sound. That happened in 2010 I believe… As always I started to dig the subject by reading tons of books on booming, location sound recording, sound effects gathering and design, ADR, sound post production and finally mixing and mastering for various playback places a movie can end on. A series of equipment purchases followed thereafter: Rode NTG3, Rode Boom-pole, Rode Blimp, Marantz PMD-661 Portable Recorder.

Finding practice

Once I felt confident enough to try location recording in real life I signed up on a local forum of independent hobbyist filmmakers and got myself my first unpaid gig as A1 on an upcoming short “Klasiokai” (“Classmates” that is). Guys were very happy about me joining their team not only because I had Rode NTG3 and all the equipment needed but because I already was a professional full time working sound person (not on set, but still). That meant a better sound for their movie compared to everything that was done in that community in years. And because I had no experience on set I started to get nervous to not let them down.

On set with Rode NTG3

The shooting itself was an interesting experience, I enjoyed it a lot and did my very best to keep my Rode NTG3 out of frame but at the same time record the best dialog possible. I even took wild lines for half of the scenes just in case. According to all the books and forums I’ve read, my actions could have caused serious resentment on a Hollywood set, but as long as we were all amateurs of lower or higher levels and far away from Hollywood, my demands for wild lines were taken very well (that payed of even more well in post). And regarding my gear – Rode NTG3 and Marantz PMD661 tandem performed very well. Glad that I thought it trough and had 20+ AA batteries in my pockets because believe you me – Marantz loves being fed, but Rode NTG3 is pure energy sucking beast (we’re talking +48V here). Later in my life I substituted it with a Sennheiser MKH 416 which compared to Rode NTG3 uses no energy at all.

Problems

From the first scene I noticed a strange rattling in low frequencies as if something inside the Rode NTG3 was hitting something. Checked several times but couldn’t find the cause so the whole shooting I not only tried to stay out of frame but to move extremely smooth to not induce the rattling on top of recorded dialog. Now in retrospective I can’t remember why I did not find the cause as it was quite obvious… After everything was done and I sat in my car wrapping up I realized that it were screws on mic’s mount that were loose and thus the parts of it were bumping onto one another.

That’s where I got cold sweat and started to fear that all the dialog I recorded will be unusable. After coming to my studio I checked everything immediately. Bad news were that there was a lot of bumping and low frequency pops throughout all scenes. Good news were that we did lots of takes and I had a ton of wild lines to substitute useless parts with. Bad news with a good aura was that instead of just digging into dialog comping I’ll need to spend lots of hours trying to get rid of the bumps.

Post & lessons learned the hard way

Extensive editing and iZotope RX came to help here. And several weeks later I gave the finished sound track to the editor/director to lay it under the visual part. Everyone (me included) was happy and I learned a valuable lesson to check EVERYTHING if it’s working properly before going on set. And if you hear something you don’t like in your headphones – find it and get rid of it right away.

This short was mixed in stereo using Steinberg Cubase 5 (most likely). Maybe there’s nothing too much to brag about but I am still proud of myself. Because you know – most of our best pieces of work are done for free (talking about best – I never thought that I’ll ever do one of my best music mixes on headphones – you can read more about it in this post of mine if you like). I did everything I could and much more here (e.g. composed some music).

So give it a spin, skip trough it or just ignore the short completely. Thanks if you read this. Comments on sound are appreciated as well as questions of any sorts.

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