“Usually, I use sound engineers on my projects”, reveals South African filmmaker Jacques Crafford. “However, I've always wanted to do a project where I can capture the sound myself and test my boundaries. I have been waiting for the right opportunity to do just that...until now!”
The opportunity was realised with Jacques' short film titled 'Drumbeat'. The film follows a drummer, played by the talented Jason Moser, who is obsessed with finding the source of a beat he hears as he goes about his day in the city.
"Jason is a friend of mine. We've been talking about doing a project for a long time so when the Sony ECM-B10 microphone came out, I was like, that's it – we must capture that drumming sound, especially if we can record it in a busy city. It was this moment that formed the beginning of my concept."
Every sound you can hear in the video was captured with the Sony ECM-B10 microphone, connected to the Sony Alpha 7S III, which Jacques used to film the piece. The microphone uses four different microphone capsules to change the direction that the sound is being recorded. Jacques switched between the microphone's Super-directional, Unidirectional and Omnidirectional modes, depending on what sound he wanted to capture.
“There were times when I would have expected to use the Super-Directional mode, but I needed only the Omni-Directional as it sounded more realistic and captured the ambient noise around me with ease. For me, it’s these small background sounds that add to the film's realism. When I wanted to isolate a sound, I would then simply switch to the Super-Directional mode.”
At one point in the film, you see Jason tapping the steering wheel of the car, with the tapping the dominant sound in the scene. “We pre-recorded this with the Alpha 7S III and placed the ECM-B10 microphone right next to his fingers to get a richer sound. Then, I asked Jason to keep tapping at the same beat allowing me to film the wider shots. He was so accurate at keeping the same beat and rhythm. It was impressive.”
Later in the scene, Jason is distracted as a traffic light turns from red to green and the car behind sounds its horn. “That was real”, explains Jacques. “I set the mic to Omni-directional mode so we can hear the car horn. We actually re-filmed this about five times. Jason wouldn't move when the light went to green, and we would simply wait for a car behind to sound its horn.”
The piece culminates with an epic drum solo filmed on a rooftop. As you can imagine, shooting from a rooftop located in the city of Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital, isn't ideal for recording a drum solo. However, Jacques could use the Uni-Directional mode of the ECM-B10 to capture the entire drumkit while simultaneously minimising the city's sound around it.
The main audio track for the drum solo was shot looking down from above the drumkit. “When shooting the drums straight on, it doesn't sound the same - drums project noise upwards,” Jacques comments. “The drummer had a click track in his ear to play the rhythm perfectly in time. We recorded from different angles, and everything effortlessly matched.”
The microphone also has a Noise Reduction filter, but wanting to keep some of the ambient city sounds in the film, Jacques relied more on the various microphone patterns to isolate the sounds he wanted. “I think I would use the noise reduction if I wanted to hear someone talking to the camera, but I found that using the microphones Low-Cut filter instead helped reduce a lot of the low background rumble of the city.”
Testament to the quality of the recorded audio is that Jacques did no post-processing to any of the sounds during post-production. “The only post-production we did was on the levels to raise and lower the volume on different parts,” he beams.
Perhaps the most significant selling point of the ECM-B10 microphone is its plug-and-play capabilities. It slides onto the MI shoe found on all Sony cameras, with the camera providing power to the microphone.
This is a really nifty feature,” says Jacques. “It's tiny, and you don't have to worry about batteries or cables. Plus, everything you need is on the microphone, meaning you don't have to go into the camera menu itself which is efficient and super-convenient.”
Since the first shoot with the microphone, Jacques has used it on a variety of other shoots, and it is now a permanent fixture in his camera bag. “I take it with me on every shoot because I can get incredible results with little effort. It's a must-have for anyone who does 'run and gun' or solo filming.”