Monday, May 17, 2010

Six degrees of natural sound

Most of my new clients have a similar problem; lack of natural sound in their packages. So I'll get some new packages with some nat sound changes, but very often they are the wrong kind of changes.

It occurred to me that most of you probably don't know there are different degrees of natural sound. Just throwing in a two or three second break doesn't cut it if you're using nat sound in the wrong way. So lets look at all the different types of natural sound.

-Nat sound underneath: Okay, this is the most basic. When you lay down your b-roll, you need to have the sound at a level that the viewer can hear it. Very often rookie reporters have the sound turned off when laying b-roll, and the result is a voiced-over segment that's just way too quiet. Even if the natural sound is the sound of nothing happening, we need that white noise.

-Nat sound / sound bite: If you think natural sound has to be stuff like birds chirping or a contractor hammering, well, guess again. Words can be natural sound. Let's say you're shooting a baseball game and a fan yells, "Let's go Mets." While technically that can be a sound bite, you are going to use it as nat sound, like this:

nat sound / "Lets Go Mets"
Voiceover: "That hasn't been heard very much at Mets games lately, as the team is in the middle of a losing streak."

You can also use something like a few words from a political speech as a nat break, and then "write out of" the break, like this:

nat sound / "We must protect the environment..."
Voiceover: "That's a popular sentiment with both Democrats and Republicans, in light of the Gulf oil spill."

nat sound / ambient sounds: Anything you can hear if you just stop talking. Cars roaring by, train whistles, a dog barking, cashier swiping a credit card, etc. These are great for short nat sound "pops" which is another term for very short natural sound breaks. And you can use a ton of these in a package and not eat up a whole lot of time.

nat sound / used to answer a question: Let's say you have a community that is being kept up at night by train whistles. You might use nat sound this way.

Voiceover: "All you have to do to find out why people in this neighborhood are sleep deprived, is listen..."
nat sound / train whistle

nat sound in lieu of a sound bite: Where is it written that a package needs to have a sound bite? Ever see a photo essay? It's a collection of great video and natural sound.

Remember, you don't need to stick a microphone in someone's face to get a sound bite. You might get an angry comment at a political rally, or during a city council meeting. Though it is natural sound, it can work just as well as a sound bite.

nat sound fade before the video: This is something very subtle, but shows you really know how to edit.

Many nat sound breaks are very abrupt, and simply edited in a simple cut that is butted up against a sound bite. The result can be jarring. Why not start your nat sound before the sound bite ends, fading it up slowly, then fading it up quickly when you actually take the matching video. Let's go back to our train whistle example:

Sound bite / resident: "Every night that train roars through town at four in the morning, (start fading nat sound up here) blaring that whistle. It takes me an hour to get back to sleep.
nat sound / train whistle, faded up full

As you can see, you can do all sorts of wonderfully creative things with natural sound; you're not just limited to quick little breaks. Once you learn to think of natural sound being just as important as your video, your packages will rise to the next level.

No comments: