Chapter 6: Audio & Sound

The aesthetics of sound fall into three different categories: realism, modernism, and postmodernism. Realism involves using sound to replicate reality. A modernist approach uses sound to create more abstract feeling, separate from the visual images. Postmodernist audio includes the listener to evoke emotion.

Mics are transducers, in that the convert one form of energy into another. Digital sound requires the help of an analog-to-digital converter. The sound waves produced are picked up by very sensitive mics that convert the waves into corresponding fluctuations in electrical current, creating an analog copy of the sound wave. This can then be converted into a digital signal.

Dynamic mics are very durable and inexpensive. A ribbon mic captures sound with a narrow strip of corrugated foil suspended in a magnetic field. These mics are more fragile and most appropriate for use inside a studio. Condenser mics are the most complex. The weak signal from the vibrating diaphragm requires the assistance of a preamplifier a phantom supply in the mixer that supplies additional current to the preamplifier.  Condenser mics vary in price.

Mics may be used on-camera or off-camera hidden somewhere in the set, clothing, or just outside of the camera’s view. Hand mics are the most popular on-camera mics. They have a wide pick up because they are not usually fixed. Desk mics are less durable and placed one to two feet away from the speaker. A stand mic allows the speaker freedom to use their hands and is often used in musical performances. A lavaliere mic offers similar freedom but does not require a stand. It is attached to the performer themselves with a strap or a clip on their clothing. Attention needs to be paid to the placement of this mic so as not to capture rustling of clothing against the mic, interfering with the quality of the audio.

Off-camera mics can be attached to a mic boom, a long pole that holds the mic just outside of the camera frame. There are three types of mic booms: fishpole, giraffe, and perambulator booms. The fishpole boom’s adjustable aluminum pole allows for varying lengths, however this length cannot be adjusted during recording. A giraffe boom, on the other hand, is not a portable and offers more flexibility during recording. It is maneuvered on a dolly and can be rotated by a sole operator. The perambulator is the most difficult to maneuver due to its heavy, large pole. These are mainly used in studios.

Sound signals are mixed with a console, mixer, or DAW to create an authentic sound perspective. Sound perspective relates to the three-dimensional aspect of sound: left-right, up-down, and in front of or behind the listener. Stereo and surround-sound seek to replicate real life sound. It must be balanced so that every listener in the theater hears the same balanced mix of sound. Multichannel sound helps this illusion of depth of sound. Dolby Digital 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 and beyond incorporate many different speakers to blend the sound to create the richest auditory experience for the listener.






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