How to Choose Dialog Recordings

2 minute read

If the dialog in your project was recorded with multiple microphones, the first step of the dialog edit is choosing which microphone recording to use. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when choosing:

  • Which recording has the better “tone”? – Choose the microphone that offers the most realistic and full tone. When possible, it’s good to avoid recordings that sound “tinny” (lacking low frequencies) or “muffled” (lacking high frequencies). Recordings can be enhanced after the fact by using an equalizer or other similar processing, but it’s good to use the recording with the best tone to begin with.
  • Is one recording noisier than the other? – Sometimes, one of the microphones will have picked up a lot more of the ambient background noise than the other. Some microphones (like lav mics) can also pick up clothing rustles if the speaker was moving around during the recording. In general, the recording with less noise is preferable.
  • How “echoey” is the recording? – Depending on the microphones that were used and their placement, some recordings may sound more “roomy” than others. In general, using the closer sounding recording with less echo is desirable (especially for “talking head” style interviews). There are cases where the more roomy sounding dialog could be appropriate (for instance, a narrative film where you want to recreate the natural sound of the space the dialog was recorded). You have to ask yourself if the dialog should sound “clean” or “natural” for your needs. A roomy sound is also less noticeable when the speaker is on screen. Voice-overs are typically as dry and clean sounding as possible.

There are times when no one microphone is superior in every measure. Use your best judgement for which recording provides the best quality for your particular project. This is also why it’s helpful to send all available recordings to a sound studio. They may find it’s easier to improve another mic than the one that was initially chosen.

In general, you want to use the same microphone recording for the entirety of a scene. That said, there may be times where one recording is superior to the other with the exception of one small bite (perhaps the lav mic had a big rustle over a particular line). Sometimes it’s best to swap in a different recording for that one line, rather than commit to an overall less desirable recording because of one hiccup in the better recording.

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