How to Record The Best Audio Possible Every Wedding!

 

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    First things first...

    It seems like every wedding filmmaker goes through the same phases of development with audio. In the beginning stages, you focus on the visuals and starting to develop your editing style. In this infancy of your wedding videography business, you are probably putting together what is known as a "music video styled" wedding film, which is simply a montage of events from the day usually set to a song with lyrics but with no true audio captured from the day. (And as a sidenote, if you are entering the world of wedding videography, you need to know that you can't just use any song you want in your edit. You need to take steps to legally license the songs you use. The two licensing companies I use the most are Soundstripe and MusicBed).
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    But as you have noticed in wedding films, the most powerful and engaging ones are those that feature true audio captured from the day, whether in the form of couples reading letters, friends giving toasts, or the officiant giving a moving message. The reason for this is that audio plays such a strong role in visual storytelling. It is the sounds and words that are the backbone for the emotion in a wedding film, and the visuals are the cherry on top. I know that when I started to take steps to capture clean audio, I was met with roadblocks and problems. I would think that I had purchased the perfect piece of gear, or had the perfect setting only to be met with disappointment when I reviewed the audio in post. Simply because I didn't know what I didn't know. But now, after dozens of weddings, I have developed my system that ensures I get the best audio possible. So take some notes, check out the gear I recommend, and dramatically boost the value of your films with good audio.

    Here are the 5 things I do every wedding to ensure I capture the best audio possible throughout the day.
     

    #1 USE A LAVALIER FOR LETTER READING

    For the longest time, I had captured the audio from letter reading using the Rode Videomic Pro on-camera microphone. Which would usually result in decent audio, but there would be occasional times where ambient noise would come in too strong, or the bridal party chatting in the next room over would start to creep in to the recording. To remedy this, now I always put my Tascam DR-10L lavalier/recorder on the bride and groom as they read their letters. This gives me clean audio for such an important element of my highlight films. 
    And this next step is what really pulls this off. I then take the lav off the bride/groom and I then compose a shot with them reading their letter again and I have them read the first two sentences and last two sentences. I then have the visuals of them reading their letters without the lav, and it is surprisingly simple to sync up the lav audio with their lips from the composed shots. 


    Watch This Video Explaining How I Film Letter Readings



     

    #2 USE 2 LAVALIERS DURING THE CEREMONY

    I place one Tascam DR-10L on the groom and set it to High Level Recording, and one Tascam DR-10L and set it to Medium Level Recording. What is so amazing about these recorders is they have locking mic inputs so you don't need to worry about it disconnecting and they also record a safety backup channel at a lower db level in the event of peaking. I have found that Medium Levels are great for the officiant who is typically used to projecting their voice and that High Levels are great for the groom as the vows typically end up on the quieter side. The High levels on the groom also allow for capturing the bride's vows as well.

     

    #3 :PUT A MIC ON THE LECTERN*

    In the event that I am able to connect to the soundboard I will do that, but in most situations there is not a dedicated sound tech during the ceremony to allow for that. So to help capture clean audio of any special readings/music pieces, I will place a third Tascam DR-10L on High Level Recording on the lectern microphone and also place a Zoom H2n near any musicians. I will test the levels of the Zoom near the musicians to make sure what I am recording will be in a safe range (around -12 to -6 db).

     

    #4 GO "XLR OUT" FROM A SPEAKER DURING THE RECEPTION

    This is honestly the step that took the most trial and error to perfect. To simplify things, there are two levels of audio you'll run into: line level and mic level. Line Level is the most common for what you will record from a DJ's equipment. MOST RECORDERS CANNOT HANDLE LINE LEVEL AUDIO. This is so important to understand, you could have a perfectly good audio source from a DJ but if you connect a mic level recorder to a line level output, you will either get no audio or super distorted, awful audio, which in reality is like having no audio. Some videographers recommend just using an attenuator with your mic level recorder which drops the line level down to a level that your mic level recorder should handle. I tried that at a few weddings, but I prefer to have the proper equipment to natively handle what it needs to do without adding an extra component. Enter the Tascam-DR40, this recorder handles both line level and mic level audio, has XLR and 1/4" inputs, and like the Tascam-DR10L it can record a backup safety track at lower db. This is THE RECORDER for wedding videographers.
    My preference when recording from the DJ’s setup is to go XLR out from one of their speakers because when you record from a speaker, you know that whatever audio is coming out the speaker is also going into your recorder. You always want to test levels prior to toasts, as DJs can have pretty dramatic differences in the levels they are sending from their boards.


    Watch This Video Explaining How I Film Reception Speeches


    And Here Are My Exact Settings For My DR-40


    #5 HAVE BACKUP AUDIO OF THE TOASTS

    After you are connected to the speaker, it is time to ensure you have a solid backup audio source for toasts in the event that something goes wrong with your recorder or the DJ's feed. My first choice for doing this is to have a Tascam DR-10L attached to a mic stand as the friends and family deliver their toasts. This is the best route for backup audio as it is not dependent at all on the DJ, their wireless mics could cut in and out all they want, but you can rest assured knowing you have your own audio source right by the folks delivering their toasts.
    Sidenote, I bring my own mic stand to weddings for the DJ to place their wireless mic in. It is key not only for allowing to capture clean backup audio but also for creating a specific area for toasts that you can light well. I love my mic stand as you can raise and lower it using only one hand, making it simple for people to do. Make sure you grab a universal mic holder as well. 

    In the event that the couple decides to not use a mic stand, then I will simply set the mic stand up in front of one of the DJ's speakers with the Tascam DR-10L attached and record a backup recording of the audio coming through the speaker. 

    That's it, if you do these 5 things at your next wedding, you are going to walk away from the wedding feeling confident that you have good, clean audio for crafting your edit.

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