23 Jan 2005
My kit is an ever-evolving beast; it is a mixture of things I need, things I thought I needed, some things I don’t really need but wanted anyway, and things I bought because I couldn’t afford what I really wanted…too much of it falls into the latter category as it seems anything used for professional purposes in tv and film, whether it is gaffer tape or a full set of radio mics, has an additional 50% added to what would be an affordable and reasonable price for them.
Consequently I try to be prudent when buying kit, and rely heavily on fine purveyors of secondhand equipment, such as eBay and BBlist and Location Technical Facilities. For new items I use a variety of shops and websites such as Soundkit, DV247, HHB and Proactive, but occasionally find myself going further afield for things; I particularly like the Thomann site, who are a German company, and stock some really useful bits and pieces for audio at often crazy-cheap prices. (nb I don’t work for them, I just like them.)
Mixer - SQN 4Sseries II
I got my mixer secondhand from a retiring sound recordist based in London, who kept it in excellent condition. I like the SQN series mixers as i have used them for so long that i am quite familiar with them - I can do small repairs, know exactly what to expect from it, and importantly i can operate it easily without being able to see it - very useful a) when booming b) when squashed into a small space during shooting and c) at night. It doesnt have any lights on the meters, but they do glow a bit. The downside of the mixer is that it is quite large and weighty compared to the newer models, and with all the other bits and pieces in my bag it can end up being fairly heavy. The mixer is also a few years old now, but despite that, it is in excellent condition and regularly serviced by SQN so sounds as good as it did when it was first made. The background noise levels are not as low as some more modern mixers, but are perfectly acceptable for TV and film use.
Sennheiser 416 - The staple of many sound recordists over the years, and still one of the best. Again this mic was acquired from the same source as the mixer and is secondhand, but it is still the most useful microphone in my kit. A short gun interference tube mono microphone, the 416 has excellent directivity and feedback rejection. I mainly use it outside where it comes into its own - the system of rejection and reflection making it possible to pick out a sound source such as dialogue and reject a huge amount of background sound. In the hands of a skilled boom operator these are better than any number of radio mics. They are good inside too, but in smaller spaces the pickup pattern loosens to more of a cardiod pickup as the different reflections of sound in interiors decrease the amount of ’suck’ produced by the mic. So sometimes for interiors i use…
AKG C480B with CK63 hypercardioid capsule - this is a nice practical mic, as the C480 is a base preamplifier that has detatchable capsules so you can swap dependening on what you need; omni, cardioid, hypercardiod. The mic itself itself a fairly low noise mic, and works well in interiors. I often use it for interviews inside; it works well on a stand, and with a touch of bass cut to remove handling noise it works very well on the boom too. I can add the bass cut (or high pass filter depending on which way round your brain works) can be applied from the mixer, or from the mic itself as it has an integral low cut filter (12 dB/octave) which can be set for either 150 or 70 Hz, and it also has selectable attenuation of +6, 0, and -10 dB.
Sennheiser 3041/3063 diversity radio mics - Like most sound recordists, i am not particularly fond of radio mics but i do appreciate their necessity in modern filming, and they do get you out of trouble on probably as many times as they drop you right in it. A good set of mics is useful (although since OFCOM decided that UHF channel 69 would no longer be available to broadcast radio mics as of around 2012, with a possible relocation to channel 38 requiring retuning and in many cases ‘total crystal replacement’ at a fairly hefty cost, it remains to be seen how long mine remain ‘useful’ - see my colleague Mary Miltons site for more info on this and her and the IBS’s work to resolve the situation into something workable for the future) and a fairly important part of my kit. I use these Sennheiser transmitters and receivers with ME102 omni capsules. I also use an SKP3000 wireless transmitter with P48 power, which i attach to my boom mic to allow me to have a wireless boom - this helps me avoid wrapping myself in a spaghetti of starquad cable when shooting, and frees up the boom to roam as far from the mixer as necessary, within reason. At a push i can also have 4 radio mics out, and configurations thereof; 4 mics on contributors, 2 mics on contributors and 2 wireless channels connecting mixer to camera (no need for long cables attached to the camera!), one mic on contributor, one for the boom, and two to connect mixer to camera etc etc.
RØDE NT-4 Stereo Mic - Much of my day-today recording is done on mono microphones, usually the acquisition of dialogue. But sometimes it is necessary or desirable to record a stereo track of something. I often find myself using my RØDE NT-4 for music, and wildtracks in particular. The times when you want to create a real ambience, or get sense of movement or the balance of a musical performance. The NT-4 uses a clever bit of design to replicate the 90 degree X/Y configuration of a stereo pair - the capsule on the right of the mic picking up sound on the left axis (channel 1) and the capsule on the left picking up the right hand side (channel 2). It produces a lovely stereo image without the fiddling of a stereo pair, and more importantly with a significantly cheaper pricetag. This is one of my pieces of equipment that is brand new, and i have been hugely impressed with the performance of the microphone, whether in the studio recording music or on location. I have used it placed directly in front of an acoustic guitar, slightly angled towards the body end of the guitar, and was really impressed with how natural the recording sounded. With a bit of fiddling with the angle you can change the sound of the NT4 by rotating the capsules so that one capsule is slightly above the other; this changes the timbre and frequency response and overall sound. For stereo wildtracks on location it is really good too as it is fairly portable, and comes with a foam windshield and handy 5-pin stereo XLR to 2x 3 pin mono XLR’s for easy plugging into the mixer. It can be powere either by 40 volt phantom power, or with a 9v PP3 battery placed inside the unit. I don;t think you can find a better stereo mic for the price anywhere. Hurrah for Dick Manton who first suggested it to me.
Sound Devices 744T 4-track field recorder
The 744T is a four-track file-based digital audio recorder. The compact 744T records and plays back audio to and from its internal hard drive, Compact Flash cards, and external FireWire drives, making field recording for multicamera and film shoots a much easier proposition. It writes and reads uncompressed PCM audio at 16 or 24 bits with sample rates between 32 kHz and 192 kHz. The time code implementation makes the 744T ready for any recording job—from over-the-shoulder to cart-based production.
The pre-amps in the 744 are really impressive - there is virtually no background hiss, there is little or no distortion, and frequencies are recorded with clarity and accuracy
It plugs straight into my Macbook or PC for downloading of files, or you can attach an external DVD-Ram or best of all get a huge flash card and use that - solid state with no moving parts; pretty useful when it’s in the bag over your shoulder and you’re running after the camera op all day.
It’s a nice piece of kit, and has banished the days of sound recordists walking with a limp from years of hulking a Nagra around.
Bits and pieces - I also carry the usual vast array of ’stuff’ that a sound recordist needs…usually when i havent got it with me. These include portable recording devices such as as Zoom H2 hard disc recorder and a Sony minidisc, loads of cables; starquad XLR, minijack, phono, and lots of different tails for cameras - some with XLR returns, some with phono, some with minijack, lots of fittings for radio microphones, gaffer tape of all sizes and colours, a long Ambient boom pole and a short VDB boom pole, a Pro Tools Mbox2 which allows me to use my laptop as a portable studio along with the Pro-Tools LE software, and Logic 8; both of which i use for post production sound editing and dubbing mixing. I use a Portabrace mixer bag over my shoulder when shooting, although recently have started using a harness that loops over both shoulders, rather than one strap over one shoulder, pulling me to one side when shooting. It seems to be better for my back. Finally i use Sennheiser HD25 headphones which seem to be a common choice amongst sound ops of all varieties; they have a virtually flat frequency response, and a closed back design which helps block makground noise - very useful when shooting in noisy locations. They are quite comfortable, especially with the addition of velour earpads to keep my precious ears warm on those cold winter nightshoots (!), but after long days of shooting i do get a bit of a skullache from where they compress my head around the ears. I know some sound recordists who prefer different headphones, but i often find that this is because they prefer not to be able to hear all the awful background sounds they can do little or nothing about, whereas the HD25’s let you hear everything, not matter how painful that might be!
— Posted by Matt in Kit | No Comments
15 Apr 2004
AMBIENT SOUND: Sound naturally occurring in any location. Even an empty, quiet room has its own special atmosphere because no space is truly silent - examples of ambient sound are traffic, hum from fridges or computers and are often recorded by sound recordists to use later as a ‘buzz track’.
AC: Alternating Current
ACOUSTICS: The behaviour of sound and its study. The acoustics of a room depend on its size and shape and the amount and position of sound-absorbing and reflecting material.
A/D CONVERTER: Circuit for converting analogue waveforms into a series of equally spaced numerical values represented by binary numbers. The more ‘bits’ a converter has, the greater the resolution of the sampling process.
ADR: Additional Dialogue Replacement, the act of changing the original location dialogue with a dialogue track recorded separately in a studio, and overlaid onto the picture. The enemy of the location sound recordist.
AES: Acronym for Audio Engineering Society, one of the industry’s professional audio associations.
AFL: After Fade listen; a system used within mixing consoles to allow specific signals to be monitored at the level set by their fader of level control knob. Aux sends are generally monitored AFL rather than PFL.
AMBIENCE: The portion of the sound that comes from the surrounding environment rather than directly from the sound source. The result of sound reflections in a confined space being added to the original sound.
AMP: (Ampere) Unit of electrical current.
AMPLIFIER: Sound equipment that converts the low voltage, low current signal from a tape deck, mixer etc. into a higher current signal suitable for driving speakers.
AMPLITUDE: The strength of a vibrating wave; in sound, the loudness of the sound. Another word for level. Can refer to sound levels or electrical signal levels.
ANALOGUE: Circuitry that uses a continually changing voltage or current to represent a signal. The origin of the term is that the electrical signal can be thought of as being ‘analogous’ to the original signal.
ASPECT RATIO: A term used to define the shape of the screen, presented in the form width:height. Older televisions have an aspect ratio of 4:3, British and many European widescreen films have an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, US and some European widescreen films have an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic widescreen films are usually 2.35:1. Widescreen televisions have an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 1.77:1, roughly halfway between the two standard widescreen ratios. Other aspect ratios are also occasionally used, though the ones cited above are the most common.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: The assistant director is primarily responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly during the shooting, that schedules are kept to and that everyone is where they’re supposed to be. On larger productions, there may be grades of assistant director - usually, the second AD is responsible for supervising principal cast while the third AD handles extras and other background artistes. And shouting at the sound mixer / sound recordist because they still have their headphones on.
ATTACK: The time taken for a sound to achieve maximum amplitude. Drums have a fast attack, whereas bowed strings have a slow attack. In compressors and gates, the attack time equates to how quickly the processor can change its gain.
ATTENUATOR (POTS): The electronic device under the faders that increases or reduces the strength of the signal running through it.
ATTENUATION: an electronic device that reduces the amplitude of a signal - eg attenuator switches can be found on microphones and mixers to allow a reduction of amplitude.
AUDIO FREQUENCY: Signals in the human audio range:nominally 20Hz to 20kHz.
AUX: Control on a mixing console designed to route a proportion of the channel signal to the effects or cue mix outputs (Aux Send).
AUX SEND: Physical output from a mixer Aux Send buss.
AUX RETURN: Mixer inputs used to add effects to the mix
AXIS: A line around which a device operates. Example: In a microphone, this would be an imaginary line coming out from the front of the microphone in the direction of the microphone polar pickup pattern eg cardioid. The main focus of many boom operators while shooting.
BAFFLES: Sound absorbing panels used to prevent sound waves from entering or leaving a certain space
BASS TIP-UP: An increase in the lower frequencies produced as a result of close micing.
BAND PASS FILTER (BPF): Filter that removes or attenuates frequencies above and below the frequency at which it is set. Frequencies within the band are emphasised. Bandpass filters are often used in synthesizers as tone shaping elements.
BALANCED LINE: Wiring system which uses two out-of-phase conductors and a common screen to reduce the effect of interference. For balancing to be effective, both the sending and receiving device must have balanced output and input stages respectively. A “balanced” connection is one that has three wires to move the signal. One is a ground, and the other two (called conductors) carry signals of equal value. This is why they are called balanced. Starquad cable is a commonly used balanced line in location sound recording.
BANDWIDTH: A means of specifying the range of frequencies passed by an electronic circuit such as an amplifier, mixer or filter. The frequency range is usually measured at the points where the level drops by 3dB relative to the maximum.
BI-DIRECTIONAL PATTERN: A microphone pick up pattern which has maximum pick up directly in front and directly in back of the diaphragm and least pick up at the sides.
BIT: Binary digit, which may either be 1 or 0. Many modern recording devices are between 16 and 24 bit.
BOOM: Extendable lightweight support pole for attaching a suspension device to hold the microphone. Principally used by the boom operator or sound recordist.
BOOM OPERATOR: The principal responsibility of the boom operator is mic placement, sometimes using a boom pole with a microphone attached to the end and sometimes, when the situation permits, using a Fisher boom - a larger mechanical device on wheels which allows operation at a much greater distance away from the actors. He or she will also place wireless microphones on actors when it is necessary. The boom operator must decide where to place the boom microphone based on a combination of factors, including the location and projection of any dialogue, the frame position of the camera, and any unwanted noise sources. Usually work as part of a team with a sound mixer and maybe a sound assistant / technician. Sound recordists often boom themselves whilst carrying the mixer in a harness.
A microphone mounted on a flat plate that acts as a reflective surface directing sound into the mic capsule. Used for general pick-up over a large area.
BPM: Beats Per Minute.
BUSS: A common electrical signal path along which signals may travel. In a mixer, there are several busses carrying the stereo mix, the groups, the PFL signal, the aux sends and so on. Power supplies are also fed along busses.
BYTE: A piece of digital data comprising eight bits.
CARDIOID: Meaning heart shaped, describes the polar response of a unidirectional microphone.
CAPACITOR: Electrical component exhibiting capacitance. Capacitor microphones are often abbreviated to capacitors.
CAPACITOR MICROPHONE: Microphone that operates on the principle of measuring the change in electrical charge across a capacitor where one of the electrodes is a thin conductive membrane that flexes in response to sound pressure. (see condenser mic)
CAPSULE: The variable capacitor section of a condenser microphone or in other types of microphones, the part of the microphone that includes the diaphragm and the active element.
CHANNEL: A single path that an audio signal travels or can travel through a device from an input to an output; most recording devices have at least two channels, with more modern devices often having 4. In two channel systems channel 1 is the left channel and channel 2 is the right channel.
CINEMATOGRAPHER: The person whose job it is to set up both camera and lighting for each shot in a moving image text. The cinematographer has perhaps paramount influence over the look or tone of a shot or scene, and is often held in as high esteem as the director. Cinematography is therefore the art of positioning a camera and lighting a scene.
CLIPPING: Severe form of distortion which occurs when a signal attempts to exceed the maximum level which a piece of equipment can handle. Distortion of a signal by its being chopped off. An overload problem caused by pushing an amplifier beyond its capabilities. A bad thing for a sound recordist to do.
CLOSE MICING: A technique of placing a microphone close to the sound source (within one foot) in order to pick up mainly the direct sound and to avoid picking up leakage or ambience.
COMPRESSOR: Device designed to reduce the dynamic range of audio signals by reducing the level of high signals or by increasing the level of low signals. Effect used to squash the sound together.
CONDENSER MIC: A microphone that uses the varying capacitance between two plates with a voltage applied across them to convert sound to electrical pulses. Condenser microphones need a power supply to provide the voltage across the plates, which may be provided by a battery within the case of the microphone, or it may be provided from an external phantom power supply. A condenser mic is more sensitive and has a faster reaction to percussive sounds than a Dynamic mic and produces a more even response.
COINCIDENT PAIR: Two microphones whose heads are placed as lose as possible to each other so that the path length from any sound source to either microphone is for all practical purposes, the same.
CROSSTALK: Leakage of an audio signal into a channel that iris not intended to be in, from an adjacent or nearby channel.
DAT: Digital Audio Tape. The commonly used DAT machines are more correctly known as R-DAT because they use a rotating head similar to a video recorder. Digital recorders using fixed or stationary heads (such as DCC) are known as S-DAT machines.
dB: deciBel. Unit used to express the relative levels of two electrical voltages, powers or sounds.
DC: Direct Current.
DE-ESSER: Device for reducing the effect of sibilance in vocal signals.
DECAY: The progressive reduction in amplitude of a sound or electrical signal over time.
DISTORTION: Usually undesirable result of overloading sound equipment. Reducing the levels can remedy the situation.
DIEGETIC SOUND: Sound indicated not only by what can be seen, or by sounds generated from on-screen actions and objects (e.g. footsteps, explosions), but also by off-screen sounds that belong to the world being depicted (e.g. birdsong, church bells). Non-diegetic sound is typically music or sound effects not generated in the filmic world but added to indicate characters’ state of mind or to generate audience response.
DIRECTOR: The person responsible for the physical creation of a film or television programme, who is often the final decision-maker with regard to creative matters.
DUBBING MIXER: Dubbing Mixers (also known as re-recording mixers - an americanism maybe?) work with all the sound elements; dialogue, automated dialogue replacement (ADR), foley, sound fx, atmospheres and music to create the final soundtrack. They are primarily responsible for ensuring that film sound is correct both technically and stylistically, and use the location recordings made by the sound recordist on set.
DYNAMIC MICROPHONE: A type of microphone that works on the electric generator principle, where a diaphragm moves a coil of wire within a magnetic field. Robust microphone which picks up the sound on a diaphragm connected to a coil of wire which moves within a magnet. An alternating current is induced into the wire which provides the electrical output. Most dynamic mics have low output impedance of 200 Ohms.
DYNAMIC RANGE: The range in dB between the highest signal that can be handled by a piece of equipment and the level at which small signals disappear into the noise floor.
EARLY REFLECTIONS: The first sound reflections from walls, floors and ceilings following a sound created in an acoustically reflective environment.
EDITOR: On its most fundamental level, film editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling shots into a coherent whole.
ELECTRET MICROPHONE: Type of capacitor microphone utilising a permanently charged capsule. A condenser microphone has a permanently polarized (charged) variable capacitor as its sound pressure level sensor.
ELECTROMAGNETIC INDUCTION: The generation of electrical signal in a conductor moving in a magnetic field or being close to a changing magnetic field. Unbalanced cables can suffer additions and degradation to the signal as a result of induction, which is why balanced lines are used on set.
EQUALISER: Device for selectively cutting or boosting selected parts of the audio spectrum. Equalisation is he process of adjusting the tonal quality of a sound. A graphic equalizer provides adjustment for a wide range of frequency bands, and is normally inserted in the signal path after the mixing desk, before the amplifier.
EXCITER: An enhancer that works by synthesizing new high frequency harmonics.
EXPANDER: A device designed to decrease the level of low level signals and increase the level of high level signals, thus increasing the dynamic range of the signal.
FADER: Sliding potentiometer control used in mixers and other processors.
FIGURE-OF-EIGHT: Describes the polar response of a microphone that is equally sensitive both front and rear, yet rejects sounds coming from the sides.
FILTER: An electronic circuit designed to emphasize or attenuate a specific range of frequencies.
FISHPOLE: A handheld microphone boom
FOLDBACK: System for feeding one or more separate mixes to the performers for use while recording and overdubbing. Also known as a Cue mix.
FOLEY SOUND: Sounds recreated in a sound studio. The construction or approximation of sound effects using sources other than those represented on screen. Examples would include a knife piercing a watermelon to approximate a stabbing sound, or the use of coconut shells to approximate the sound of horses’ hooves. The Foley artist is the person responsible for sourcing and making these sounds.
FREQUENCY: Indication of how many cycles of a repetitive waveform occur in 1 second. A waveform which has a repetition cycle of once per second has a frequency of 1Hz (pronounced Hertz).
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: How sensitive an electronic device (mic, amplifier, speaker, etc.) is to various frequencies; often communicated with a graph.
GAFFER TAPE: Cloth tape specifically for use on film shoots, usually 2 inches wide in black or silver. A good friend of all the crew.
GAIN: The amount by which a circuit amplifies a signal.
GRIP: The crew member responsible for setting up dolly tracks and camera cranes, erecting scaffolding, moving props or scenery, or the adjustment or maintenance of any other production equipment on the set.
GUN MIC: Ultra-directional microphone useful for minimizing the intrusiveness of ambient sound and a main mic of choice for many location sound recordists.
HARD DISK: High capacity computer storage device based on a rotating rigid disk with a magnetic coating onto which data may be recorded.
HARMONIC DISTORTION: The addition of harmonics that were not present in the original signal.
HEADROOM: The safety margin in dBs between the highest peak signal being passed by a piece of equipment and the absolute maximum level the equipment can handle.
HIGH PASS FILTER (HPF): A filter which attenuates frequencies below its cutoff frequency.
HISS: Noise caused by random electrical fluctuations.
HUM: Signal contamination caused by the addition of low frequencies, usually related to the mains power frequency.
HYPERCARDIOID: A microphone pick up sensitivity pattern where the least sensitive pick up point is more than 90 degrees but less than 150 degrees off axis
Hz: Short for Hertz, the unit of frequency.
IMPEDANCE: Can be visualised as the ‘AC resistance’ of a circuit which contains both resistive and reactive components.
INVERSE SQUARE LAW: Simply stated, the fact that in an un-obstructed area (like an open field) the sound pressure level will drop to half-pressure (-6 dB) every time the distance to the sound source is doubled.
I/O: The part of a system that handles inputs and outputs, usually in the digital domain.
JACK: Commonly used audio connector. May be mono or stereo.
JAM SYNC: The process of syncing Timecode between two devices eg hard disc recorder and camera.
LAVALIER MIC: a miniature type of microphone, usually omni-directional and wireless, and small enough to be taped or clipped to an actor, to record dialogue; aka lav or lapel microphones. Often not much liked by sound recordists but can be very useful for shots where booming is impossible or to close mic dialogue.
LEVEL: The amount of signal strength; the amplitude, especially the average amplitude.
LIMITER: Device that controls the gain of a signal so as to prevent it from ever exceeding a preset level. A limiter is essentially a fast acting compressor with an infinite compression ratio. It is often present on mixer hardware to prevent the location sound recordist / sound mixer overloading the signal. (see clipping and distortion).
LINE LEVEL: A nominal signal level which is around -10dBV for semi-pro equipment and +4dBu for professional equipment.
LIP-SYNC: Refers to synchronization between mouth movement and the words on the film’s soundtrack
LOCATION SOUND RECORDING: The fine art of recording sound on location including dialogue and fx. Practised by a sound recordist or a sound mixer.
LOW PASS FILTER (LPF): A filter which attenuates frequencies above its cutoff frequency.
LOW END: A slang term for bass-frequency signals (below 250 Hz).
mA: milliamp or one thousandth of an amp. See Amp.
MIC: An abbreviation for microphone.
MICROPHONE: Device for converting sound into electrical pulses which can then be amplified or recorded onto tape. Signals from a microphone are very low level and are amplified in the mixing desk to line level. See Dynamic Mic, Condenser Mic, Phantom Power, Pick-up, Radio Mic.
MIC LEVEL: The low level signal generated by a microphone. This must be amplified many times to increase it to line level.
MIC PAD: A device that reduces the level of the signal and is placed just before a microphone preamplifier to prevent overload of the preamplifier.
MIC PREAMP: An amplifier to boost the low-level audio signal out of a microphone up to line level.
MIDI: Musical Instrument Digital Interface.
MID SHOT: refers to a conventional camera shot filmed from a medium distance; although it is difficult to precisely define, it usually refers to a human figure from the waist (or knees) up; between a close shot and a long shot; abbreviated as m.s.
MIX: To blend audio signals together into a composite signal OR the signal made by blending individual signals together.
MIXER: A device which can combine several signals into one or more composite signals, in any desired proportion. One of the key pieces of equipment for a sound recordist.
MIXDOWN: The process during which a multitrack recording is balanced and transferred to two tracks (stereo) for playback or reproduction.
MONITOR: A reference loudspeaker used for mixing/the action of listening to a mix or a specific audio signal.
MONO: There is only one sound source or the signal was derived from one sound source.
MOVING COIL MIC: Similar to a dynamic microphone; a microphone in which the diaphragm moves a coil suspended in a magnetic field to generate an output voltage proportional to the sound pressure level.
MS STEREO: The mid-side (M-S) stereo recording technique puts the center of the soundstage (mid) in one channel and the side information in the other. These mid and side channels can be adjusted and reconfigured to accurately represent a conventional left and right stereo image (on their own, they do not give you a left/right image). The M-S technique gives you more control over the width of the stereo spread than other miking techniques
MULTITRACK: A recording device capable of recording several ‘parallel’ parts or tracks which may then be mixed or re-recorded independently.
NOISE REDUCTION: System for reducing analogue tape noise or for reducing the level of hiss present in a recording.
NOISE GATE: A piece of sound processing equipment that reduces background noise by muting a sound signal when it falls below a certain level, restoring it when the level increases again; also known as an Expander.
NOISE FLOOR: The level of the noise, in dB, below the signal.
NOTCH FILTER: A device that rejects signals that have frequencies within a narrow band of audio frequencies and passes all other signals.
NYQUIST THEOREM: The highest frequency that can be recorded and reproduced properly by a particular sampling rate (a frequency that is one-half the sampling rate)
OB - OUTSIDE BROADCAST: A broadcast made from outside a television studio, often live, usually by means of portable cameras linked to an Outside Broadcast van, which contains the necessary equipment for broadcasting them back to the production company. Typical OBs include sporting events and news reporting. The term is not generally used to describe location shooting for drama or comedy.
OCTAVE: When a frequency or pitch is transposed up by one octave, its frequency is doubled.
OFF AXIS/OFF MIC: Sound source that is not within the pickup pattern of the mic.
OHM: Unit of electrical resistance.
OMNI MIC: Meaning all, refers to a microphone that is equally sensitive in all directions.
OVERDUB: To add another part to a multitrack recording or to replace one of the existing parts.
PAD: Resistive circuit for reducing signal level.
PAN POT: Control enabling the user of a mixer to move the signal to any point in the stereo soundstage by varying the relative levels fed to the left and right stereo outputs.
PANNING - The process of distributing sound signals to different channels - panning left and right.
PARALLEL: A means of connecting two or more circuits together so that their inputs are connected together, and their outputs are all connected together.
PARAMETRIC EQ: An equaliser with separate controls for frequency, bandwidth and cut/boost.
PEAK: The highest signal level in any section of programme material.
PFL: Pre Fade Listen; a system used within a mixing console to allow the operator to listen in on a selected signal, regardless of the position of the fader controlling that signal.
PPM: Peak Programme Meter; a meter designed to register signal peaks rather than the average level.
PHANTOM POWER: 48V DC supply for capacitor microphones, transmitted along the signal cores of a balanced mic cable. Some condenser microphones require a power supply in order to operate. If this supply is not from a battery within the microphone body, it is known as a phantom power supply. It is usually 48 Volts DC but can sometimes be 12v.
PHASE: The amount by which one sine wave leads or lags a second wave of the same frequency. The difference is described by the term phase angle. Sine waves in phase reinforce each other; those out of phase cancel.
PHASING: An effects created by variable phase shift of an audio signal mixed with the direct signal.
POST PRODUCTION: Studio work done on location recordings after filming is complete.
POST-FADE: Aux signal taken from after the channel fader so that the aux send level follows any channel fader changes. Normally used for feeding effects devices.
POTENTIOMETER (POT): Act as a variable resistor or rheostat. Potentiometers are commonly used to control electrical devices such as a volume control of a radio.
PRE-FADE: Aux signal taken from before the channel fader so that the channel fader has no effect on the aux send level. Normally used for creating Foldback or Cue mixes.
PRESSURE GRADIENT MIC: A microphone whose diaphragm is exposed front and back and diaphragm movement is caused by the pressure difference between its front and back, usually bi-directional pickup.
PRODUCER: The person ultimately responsible for the creation of a film or programme. Usually involved right from the start, the producer will either devise or purchase the original idea, calculate the likely budget, pitch the idea to financiers to raise the money, hire the necessary creative personnel, supervise all stages of production and marketing, negotiate deals with prospective distributors or broadcasters and be the first point of contact for anyone interested in the production in question. Although often disparaged as being purely a business role, the best producers have considerable creative input as well.
PRO-TOOLS: A trade name of Digidesign for a hard disk digital audio recording system
PROXIMITY EFFECT:In directional microphones, the boost in the microphone’s output for bass frequencies as the mic is moved closer to the sound source.
PZM: Pressure Zone Microphone. A type of boundary microphone. Designed to reject out-of-phase sounds reflected from surfaces within the recording environment.
QUANTIZATION: A method of converting analogue sound signals into a digital representation.
QUADROPHONIC: A sound system which uses four independent speakers (channels are designated as left front, left back, right front, and right back). The fore-runner of today’s Surround Sound.
RADIO MIC: Device consisting of a microphone head, transmitter pack with batteries, aerial and mains receiver unit which allows actors and singers to be amplified with no visible means of connection. Many moodern radios mics transmit an RF signal at UHF, but can also utilise VHF, FM, and IR. Many sound recordist do not like radio mics due to the vagaries of RF tranmission/reception and the effect of concealing a microphone on an actors/contributors clothing which may rustle etc.
REFERENCE TONE: A tone sent by mixers to allow calibration of signal level of associated equipment. Typically 1khz transmitted at -18 db fs and the sound that all sound recordists hear as they go to sleep at night.
RESISTANCE: Opposition to the flow of electrical current. Measured in Ohms.
REVERB: Acoustic ambience created by multiple reflections in a confined space.
RF: Radio Frequency.
RIBBON MICROPHONE: A microphone where the sound capturing element is a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic filed. When sound causes the ribbon to vibrate, a small electrical current is generated within the ribbon.
ROLL-OFF: The rate at which a filter attenuates a signal once it has passed the filter cut-off point.
ROOM TONE:The background noise in a room without additional sound such as speaking - see Ambience.
RMS: (Root Mean Square) A method of specifying the behaviour of a piece of electrical equipment under continuous sine wave testing conditions.
SAMPLE RATE: The process carried out by an A/D converter where the instantaneous amplitude of a signal is measured many times per second (48kHz in the case of broadcast sound).
SHOCK MOUNT: An elastic mount for the microphone that reduces movement of the microphone it is moved - eg Rycote
SHOTGUN MIC: A microphone with a long line filter (a tube that acoustically cancels sound arriving from the side) to make the microphone pick up much better in one direction than in any other direction. The best friend of the location sound recordist.
SIGNAL: Electrical representation of input such as sound.
SIGNAL PATH Route taken by a signal from the input to a system to the output.
SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO: The ratio of maximum signal level to the residual noise, expressed in dBs.
SLATE: The voice recorded onto the beginning of a master tape to identify the tune and take, or the action of making it.
SMPTE: Time code developed for the film industry but now extensively used in music and recording. SMPTE is a real-time code and is related to hours, minutes, seconds and film or video frames rather than to musical tempo.
SOUND PERSPECTIVE: Apparent distance of sound source from the microphone. Clip-on mics, for instance, give no change of perspective when characters move or turn because they remain in a fixed relationship to the wearer; a key consideration for the sound recordist / sound mixer.
S/PDIF — Acronym for “Sony/Philips Digital Inter Face” - an unbalanced line for home use.
STEREO: A recording or reproduction of at least two channels where positioning of instrument sounds left to right can be perceived.
STRIPE: To record time code onto one track of a multitrack tape machine.
SURROUND SOUND: A technique of recording and playback of sound used in film where the sound has a front to back quality as well as side to side perspective.
SYNC SOUND: A film or television soundtrack that is specifically timed to suit the images, so that dialogue fits the appropriate lip movements and sound effects match what can be seen on screen. In order to achieve this, the soundtrack is recorded at the same time as the images in such a way that picture and sound can easily be matched up during editing, and devices such as digislates, clapper boards, timecode and lockit boxes are used to achieve this.
TIMBRE: The tonal ‘colour’ of a sound.
TIMECODE: Short for SMPTE Time Code (a standardized timing and sync signal specified by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers).
TONE: Sound generated at various frequencies to align a tape machine or for other testing purposes. Typically 1khz at -18db fs.
UNBALANCED: A 2-wire electrical signal connection where the inner or hot or +ve (positive) conductor is usually surrounded by the cold or -ve (negative) conductor, which forms a screen against electrical interference.
VOICEOVER: The recording of vocal announcements over a bed of other sounds and picture.
VOX POP: Technique used typically in news and current affairs, but also in other types of non-fiction broadcasting, in which a sample of people are approached on the street, more or less at random, and asked their views on a given issue.
VU METER: Meter designed to interpret signal levels in roughly the same way as the human ear, which responds more closely to the average levels of sounds rather than to the peak levels.
WATT: Unit of electrical power.
WAVEFORM: A graphic representation of the way in which a sound wave or electrical wave varies with time.
WHITE NOISE: A random signal with an energy distribution that produces the same amount of noise power per Hz.
WILDTRACK: A sound track shot alone and with no synchronous picture, wildtracks are often used by post-production sound.
XLR: Type of connector commonly used to carry balanced audio signals including the feeds from microphones, 3 pin for mono, 5 pin for stereo. See balanced line. The UK standard for wiring the 3 pin connector is as follows: Pin 1 (Screen), Pin 2 (+ve / “hot”), Pin 3 (-ve, “cold”). (Xternal, Live, Return).
Y-Lead: Lead split so that one source can feed two destinations. Y leads may also be used in console insert points in which case a stereo jack plug at one end of the lead is split into two monos at the other.
ZERO DB: The common reference point when discussing sound levels. Levels above 0 dB are expressed as positive (+5dB) and those below as negative (-20dB).
— Posted by Matt in Careers in Sound, Glossary, Kit, Work | No Comments