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Forums Field Production Recording Dialog in a locust field?

  • Recording Dialog in a locust field?

     Bill Davis updated 9 years, 4 months ago 5 Members · 10 Posts
  • Mike Thomas

    May 27, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Hey All, my recording experience is limited and one thing I’ve encountered and can’t seem to solve is how to record good dialog outdoors in summer with those darn locust churping so loud in the trees. I had to ADR all my dialog from several scenes I shot on a past project and I’m now preparing to shoot another project which will have me in locust territory even more! I know there’s a way around them based on all the movies I’ve seen shot outside with good dialog recordings. Should I bring my shotgun and pepper the trees?

  • Andrew Rendell

    May 27, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Shotgun, yes, as in shotgun (hypercardioid) microphone, on a fishpole just outside the camera shot. It’s an underrated skill that takes quite a lot of practice to get right.

  • Mike Thomas

    May 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the mic recommendation but even I know that a shotgun mic isn’t a magical fix-all. They still pick up sound from the sides and behind. Perhaps you’re a city boy and have never really heard the sound of a dozen locust in an Ohio field in July. It’s loud! Does anybody have experience dealing with this problem??

  • Ty Ford

    May 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Mike,

    The locust and cicadas usually don’t start to sing till summer gets rolling. There’s no good way to not hear them and a shotgun or hyper may, in fact, not be the best choice over a lav on the body.

    If you don’t shoot when the sun’s down because it’s dark, don’t shoot when the bugs sing if you want it quiet.

    Finally, the bugs are part of the natural soundscape. Don’t obsess over getting rid of them. Get some nat sound of them alone so that you can cover your edits and expect to use a few extra tracks to do that.


    Ty Ford

    Want better production audio?: Ty Ford’s Audio Bootcamp Field GuideWatch Ty play guitar

  • Andrew Rendell

    May 27, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Yes and no… I’m a country lad from England (I grew up where John Constable painted the Haywain, etc), so fair enough, I don’t have much experience of the kind of insects you have over there (I know they’re a lot noisier than what we have on this side of the pond).

    I have had footage though that was recorded in the manner I described by someone very skilled and experienced and we did have to add in background atmos sound because it was too dry! (Probably worth a big emphasis on skilled and experienced.) But I defer to those with experience in your particular landscape.

  • Mike Thomas

    May 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I actually wasn’t joking when I suggested using a shotgun (firearm) to quiet them. A guy I know suggested using a M80 firecracker which are very loud firecrackers. I just wondered if anyone has tried that, using a loud explosive device to silence them. Maybe I’ll try that soon and let you know.

    This next project of mine will have me shooting in an abandoned junkyard which I just know is going to be loud with locust. Appreciate your tips!

  • Ty Ford

    May 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm


    I don’t know when you were here, but we do have the 13 year and 17 year cicada and the annual cicadas.

    The long-cycle year bugs are ridiculously loud and you just can’t fight ’em.

    The annual guys are audible, but part of the landscape (or soundscape).


    Ty Ford

    Want better production audio?: Ty Ford’s Audio Bootcamp Field GuideWatch Ty play guitar

  • Ty Ford

    May 27, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Loud noises do quiet birds momentarily, but the cicadas where I am don’t give a hoot!


    Ty Ford

    Want better production audio?: Ty Ford’s Audio Bootcamp Field GuideWatch Ty play guitar

  • Scott Sheriff

    May 27, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Ty is right. Bugs won’t care about loud noise.
    I have a ‘bird bomb’ pistol that they use in orchards and vineyards, and it will scatter pesky birds for about ten minutes or so. Very handy item.
    But for crickets and locust I read somewhere that the chirping is related to air temps. Maybe the same for cicadas. You might do some googling on that and see if its true.
    I think the problem isn’t just how loud they are, but the rhythmic/cyclical nature of the chirps will make edits stand out.

    Scott Sheriff

    I have a system, it has stuff in it, and stuff hooked to it. I have a camera, it can record stuff. I read the manuals, and know how to use this stuff and lots of other stuff too.
    You should be suitably impressed…

  • Bill Davis

    May 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Another approach is to remember the inverse square principal.

    I’d try renting a pair of headworn micro boom mics (Countryman E6 or similar) and put them on the upstage side of the talent positioned less than an inch from their mouths.

    This will provide the maximum signal to noise ratio between the locust sounds and the dialog.

    You probably can’t get RID of their sound, but if you can push it back far enough and have ample “nat sound” of the beasts recorded wild, you can likely get a usable dialog track and patch over the edits with what is essentially “outdoor room tone.”

    My 2 cents anyway.

    “Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions.”-Justice O’Conner

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