Audio Mythbusting

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Since we're all about information sharing on this site, I thought it might be interesting to have a thread to collect debunked audio myths. Who knows what wacky claims you've heard in the past, or what genuinely relevant information you may have stumbled across that others haven't.

Two examples for you:

  1. Transformer-less microphones are better - They're not necessarily better. transistors are just cheaper to produce than an equivalent transformer. The right transformer can sound amazing, though you're going to pay for it [sometimes dearly....lol]
  2. M/S is mono-compatible - This one stems from a conversation I had with a buddy at AES last year. He argued, and I now agree with him, that "compatible" is the wrong terminology. You still have phase cancellation, potentially eliminating sounds. "Mono-predictable" is a more accurate description. [Splitting hairs to be sure, but still accurate none-the-less.]

So, in the interest of public discourse and the redistribution of knowledge....what else you got?

Shaun Farley

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 14 704

I could see this on David Letterman "Ok everybody, here's tonight's Top Ten list, Top Ten Audio Myths... – Utopia – 2011-07-26T17:49:54.543

Answers

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The BIGGEST Audio Myth EVER "We can fix it in Post."

Sonsey

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 4 315

HA! bang on! +∞ – audiLe – 2011-09-10T19:25:01.330

we can recreate it in post. – VCProd – 2011-07-20T02:45:25.850

^ That's Foley and ADR. – Miles B. – 2011-09-02T07:41:27.113

14

Some great answers!

My own personal favorite:

Good Sound Design of a movie begins after we are finished shooting and the film has been edited.

I personally believe that having good sound design begins with the script and a scriptwriter/director thinking with sound design throughout the whole pre-production and shooting process.

--

A myth I used to personally believe myself before I started doing more and more recordings with these little critters is:

Lavaliers sound horrible. Don't use them at all. (I do agree with choosing a boom over a lav but when it's all you've got, it can be sufficient!)

But, they really do work if you know what you're doing and you spend a bit of time learning how they work and what they sound like and where they sound best on the person. Like all microphones, there are poor quality ones and good quality ones. The COS-11 I've been using sounds great when used correctly.

I used to never think of using them and only using the boom (which I still do use most of the time) but when it's not feasible to record with one like in a cramped room or outside in a wide shot, they actually do work when you use them correctly. I was shocked to discover that most of the dialogue in The King's Speech was recorded with lav's. I had no attention on the voices in that movie - they sounded great!

and:

Just about anyone can do the boom oping. Use the PA - he's just standing around doing nothing.

So not true. It takes incredible skill and timing and attention to do a superb job of boom-oping. I've seen a poor boom-oping job done by an inexperienced person who meant well but just didn't have any training and the director thought "anyone could do it" and it ended up costing about $10,000 extra dollars for ADR recording and editing fees. From what I've experienced in the indie film scene is that more often than not they give the job of positioning the microphones for their movie to someone with very little if any experience and it bites them later.

A beefy gun sound comes from ONLY the closer microphones. You don't need to record from farther away.

Almost true, closer mics sound great, but you should always get a long perspective because from my experience some of the beef of a gun comes from the echo rather than the direct sound. For example, try recording a whip crack in a dead room. It sounds like you're snapping a pencil on your finger. You need some acoustical support to make something sound huge and natural, IMHO. This is definitely true in music recording and mixing.

All actors perform perfect ADR. They're actors, right? So if we book them for an hour to do 80 measly loops, they should finish before the hour is up and we can all go get a drink.

In my humble experience, I've found that the actors who are the best at ADR have a strong sense of musical timing and ability to duplicate pitch and tone. Not everyone can do this.

Good ADR is close-miked and noiseless. When you close-mike a voice (2 inches from mouth), you can just roll off the low-end and add reverb and it will make it sound farther away!

As always, depends on what your source material is, but in my experience when someone has told me this and we've done it that way the closer, deader mic is always the toughest one to match in with production dialogue. Put the mic back a foot or even 2 feet - the proximity effect is the arch nemesis of matching ADR to production sound.

I was so sure you audio guys could fix this interview audio where the hiss is louder than his voice, the interview was done next to the waterfall, and the auto-gained track, so I didn't bother to consult you about the audio quality before we went ahead and edited the video. Here you go. Needs to ship tomorrow - I told the producer you guys are FAST!

Utopia

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 14 155

@Stavrosound Wish I could sit in on one of your sessions one of these days to see how you match it in! Sounds really awesome. – Utopia – 2012-02-02T00:21:52.853

yes, yes, yes, and yes! re: ADR - i've always found that a good actor can do around 10 cues/hr; how's your experience there? and Auto Gain Control should be illegal. – Roger Middenway – 2011-08-03T18:26:54.370

@Roger Thanks! That is about right. To get it perfect, it's about 10 an hour depending on length. However, I do work with the voice talent for the E! TV channel in Italian and that guy is so good he can do about 100 loops an hour (granted, it is an overdub, but he is so fast it's scary. I wonder how good he is looping in his own language). His name is Luciano Palermi. He's based in LA and does video games and dubs E! Best Italian voice talent I have ever met. – Utopia – 2011-08-08T20:33:55.927

Great post! I've been told that actors average about 6-8 lines per hour and tends to be what I gauge when I'm prepping my cue sheets - has seemed to be pretty dead-on whenever I've had to shoot ADR. – Stavrosound – 2011-08-10T09:46:28.913

1For ADR I've also found dynmaic compression to help with matching production - it's my secret sauce. Usually the ADR has too wide of dynamic range, so when you crunch it with something like the Waves C1 and do A/B comparisons until the timbre "feels" right against production, the matching process has seemed to move smoother. – Stavrosound – 2011-08-10T09:48:23.420

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Here's one:

Foley miking must be pretty tight on the prop and must be hyper clean.

In fact, lots of really great sounding foley ends up being miked from 3' to 6' away. Adding a little distance to the mic position makes mixing that much easier because the perspective is much closer to what you need the sound to be, and because it naturally loses any proximity effect and off-axis effects that could mess with you.

Also, re: cleanliness - it really is amazing how much noise you can get away with when cutting foley. Its important to always cut in context, because doing so will give a clear indication as to how much cover one has in the foley room. This is not to say that one should be sloppy with regards to noise, but more to say that one should be obsessing over performance far ahead of obsessing over noise floor.

Rene

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 10 706

absolutely. don't sweat the noise too much until you hear it in context. masking is a beautiful thing when it works to your advantage. – Shaun Farley – 2011-07-18T13:36:23.580

1Definitely agree. I love a bit of dirt in my foley. – Roger Middenway – 2011-07-18T16:12:26.907

@Rene What do you mean by "off axis effects that could mess with you"? I thought if you moved a mic away from the source you'd get more ambient off-axis coloration? Not challenging, I totally agree with you, I'm just curious. – Utopia – 2011-07-26T17:19:14.640

@Rene and to go further with that topic, I sometimes have to look for random noise and environmental noises because when a scene is edited without putting ANY noises or natural sounds that happen out there in the real world, it sounds so fake to me. When someone moves in their chair, THEY MAKE NOISE. It's perfectly fine to have clicks and things (of course from the source and not something digital or distortion) because it makes it so much more realistic and believable. So true. – Utopia – 2011-07-26T17:21:46.497

re: the off mic thing - if the mic is further back then the sweet spot on the pickup pattern is wider, so movement in space doesn't give away mic position as quickly as when the mic is right on top of the prop. – Rene – 2011-07-26T21:01:01.537

@Rene Ahhh 10-4. – Utopia – 2011-07-26T22:24:02.303

"I like my women like I like my foley... dirty." – Syndicate Synthetique – 2011-07-28T04:19:47.130

Great point. A much more experienced colleague once coined the phrase "keep the crap in the content" -- know which elements of a sound should be pristine and which can/should retain a bit of noise/dirt. – Tyler – 2011-09-03T01:25:31.950

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Although according to Frank Zappa, apparently just as big of a myth is that "we can fix it in the shrinkwrap"

One of my favorites though - "Picture is locked"

Stavrosound

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 6 616

That should be tied with "Fix it Post"! – Sonsey – 2011-07-19T20:16:57.277

HAHA! Coll Anderson and I have had some fun conversations on that topic. – Shaun Farley – 2011-07-20T01:03:30.537

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Oh I read this one the other day: "I use a convolution sample of an anechoic chamber in my convo reverb to remove room reverb from location sound, when I mix the dry and wet signals it cleans it up"...

If you run a sign sweep in an anechoic chamber you will only get the "colour" of the speaker playing back the sweep as there are no reflections in the room to deconvolve...so if you are replaying on the same speaker then you may hear a difference but...bad theory dude

Brent_in_Sydney

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 562

3wow! the disregard for science and what reverbs actually do in that one makes my head hurt. – Shaun Farley – 2011-07-18T22:16:13.013

1wow. I once had a client dupe a mono recording and put it on a stereo track in protools because he thought that made it sound "wider" :) – Rene – 2011-07-18T22:20:49.283

you should hear what some so called "pros" here in Greece say about such things... Not only your head but your whole body is in pain when you hear these things... And the worst part is that you might have to listen to this crap cause you are they pay you! – Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis – 2011-07-20T17:34:57.490

1@Rene he forgot to nudge one side a few frames left or right!!! – Utopia – 2011-07-26T17:17:16.920

LOL at Rene's comment, and +1 to Utopia ;) – Stavrosound – 2011-08-10T09:50:21.887

This thread is alternately boggling my mind and cracking me up. Great contributions! :) – Tyler – 2011-09-03T01:22:05.350

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Having really nice speakers makes everything sound good.

g.a.harry

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 4 260

1True, there is quite a lot of content I avoid listening to on my Genelecs. I have an old Sony micro system which "smears" the content very nicely. – None – 2011-09-07T18:17:38.563

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Alright, no one has mentioned this one yet so I'll throw it out there:

If you're going to be doing a lot of processing to a sound, you should convert 16 bit files to 24 bit before doing so.

I'm not referring to recording in higher bit rates (that you should do), but working with existing 16-bit files. Most of the programs we use (Pro Tools, Nuendo, etc.) work natively with 64 bit mix engines. [There may still be some that are only 32 bit, but I don't know for sure.] When you bring a file into a session, the DAW automatically pads the audio file anytime it does processing...including something as simple as volume automation. That means that a 16 bit file in a 64 bit DAW gets an additional 48 bits (added on as zeros after the existing word) to allow for more accurate math. If you were to convert the file to 24 bits first...yes, it would get 8 extra bits, but they would be all zeros. Bring that newly converted file into your 64 bit DAW, and it gets another 40 extra bits (all zeros again) anytime the DAW does any processing. You're still totaling 48 bits of padding zeros prior to processing. There's absolutely no difference.

The only time it matters is when you're actually exporting or bouncing your audio from your session. [I suppose that I should admit that if you're rendering within a session, i.e. audiosuite, it may matter. This one I'm a bit fuzzy on.] If you're doing any kind of processing to an audio file other than simple cuts (volume, pan, fade, plug-in, etc.), you'll actually get better quality final files by outputting at 24 bits than at 16 bit...even if the original files are 16 bit.

That's the biggest reason you're supposed to dither anytime you're outputting to 16 bit, even from a "16 bit" session...because the DAW actually does all it's calculations at much higher bit rates.

Shaun Farley

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 14 704

Pro Tools is still 32bit I think. Can't be much longer till they do a 64bit version. Guessing once they iron out the Lion bugs! – Andy Lewis – 2011-07-22T13:22:45.487

@Andy - whoops, i was referring to the mix engine...not the computer processing ability...though the different levels of pro tools do use different scale mix engines i think...and then there are differences for plug-in dsp as well. thanks for pointing that out though. i've edited my text. – Shaun Farley – 2011-07-22T14:42:27.057

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More from the music side : "louder sounds better".

Markus

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 289

Loud music stresses me, I will for sure walk out of places if the music is to loud. Said that, it is also true that our frequency perception becomes more even at louder levels. – Eric Baca – 2011-12-01T23:39:18.670

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The classic - "You need to use all the bits when recording digitally." O RLY?

Another related myth - "Analog gear has more headroom."

A favorite of mine - "It's better to record at 88.2kHz instead of 96kHz because the math is simpler." Seriously, when was the last time you needed to put ANY effort into calculations BY YOUR COMPUTER. :D

Last one - "What's the point of recording at higher sample rates if it's just going to be played back as an mp3 through a 1" ceramic speaker?"

AGZFX

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 273

re: the 88.2 thing - I'm no expert, but I think most resampling algorithms move into the mHz range to do their thing, rendering math arguments dead on the spot. :) – Rene – 2011-07-19T01:57:04.030

re: mp3.. if you're writing hip-hop songs, i can see how this could be understandable.. you're writing ring-tones! – VCProd – 2011-07-20T02:47:04.880

1I personally hate when I mix an album knowing that 98% of the people out there will hear it through those little white Apple headphones which roll off at like 14K or something. – Utopia – 2011-07-26T17:01:02.630

same here but I also know an engineer that can get great mixes primarily working on those stupid earbuds. – AGZFX – 2011-07-27T00:31:22.190

3

This is a great video about more technical myths of audio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYTlN6wjcvQ

Sound1844

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 207

I think I actually sat in this session! – Shaun Farley – 2011-09-04T13:24:11.073

Nice link! Some interesting stuff there. Know of any other similar seminar links? – Andy Lewis – 2011-09-04T14:45:41.127

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Making it louder makes it more exciting.

user80

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation:

2

My favourites,

"Nothing changed during the online." "We changed/moved picture but it won't affect sound." "I just have a few notes" "I'm sure our (picture) editor knows how to export an OMF."

AdamAxbey

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 560

I've experienced #2 trainwreck an entire reel. True story, more than once ;) – Stavrosound – 2012-03-02T20:06:27.287

1

ok one basic...

in foley and sound design equipment does NOT play a huge part

o'rly?

Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 971

6i don't know man. tools are just that...tools. sure, the better ones make your life and job easier, but that's really only talking about speed and efficiency. the stuff ben burtt used on star wars all those years ago didn't have anywhere near the capabilities that we have now at a fraction of the cost. – Shaun Farley – 2011-07-18T21:08:01.730

1I'm going to disagree with this and agree with @Shaun. A talented sound designer can work with very basic tools to create a very nice mix. I'd always like the most plugins, the best source audio, and the finest machine to work on, but really... if you have some baseline quality (as in, not using a cell phone to record your foley), you can do a lot with a little. DAWs like Reaper and recorders like Zoom H4Ns really blow the equipment myth out of the water. – VCProd – 2011-07-20T02:50:31.783

I agree with both of you. It is true though that in Sound you need to spend way more money than the other fine arts. Sound is so much "material dependent" in terms of equipment and the quality of your equipment is based on the materials used to make it (check mics for example). A graphic artist need a PC/MAC + Tablet + software at the most! A sound guys need many many more things to work... – Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis – 2011-07-20T17:32:06.360

I have to disagree. Regardless what kind of art or design you do, in most cases the costs are about the same. A graphic artist needs much omre than just a PC; think of all the paper, pencils (which can be really expensive) and of course you have to calibrate your monitor from time to time. Unless you run a big mixing stage...I think all those art/design jobs will be at a simular cost level. – Michael Manzke – 2011-07-22T10:08:23.507

0

What about talking of volume when referring to SPL? I have heard the only thing you can measure in volume when working with sound is tea or the room. This is because volume is not a measure of intencitiy.

Eric Baca

Posted 2011-07-18T12:00:10.063

Reputation: 141