Misc info from the Calumet sound workshop with Richard Newman

Note that most of this is correct terminology but some is, well, my paraphrases with terms that make more sense to me.

He says that the chain Guitar Workshop has good audio equipment at good prices.  In SF and El Cerrito.

His workflow for video editing:

1-complete the editing in Final Cut – do all the cuts, etc, that you’re going to do before you move on.  [You can do this in iMovie, too.]

2-export the sound from the video to Garage Band [or other audio editing software] where you fix the sound quality,  add sound effects, etc.  [iMovie, obviously, is designed to do this.]  You can’t cut (or expand) either of these or they won’t sync any more, so it’s critical that you don’t do this until you’re completely finished with edits.

3-then re-combine the new sound and the video in Final Cut.  [If you can’t remove  the original audio track in whatever software you use, you can turn the volume down all the way and add the new audio track.]

He uses a dog clicker and keeps the click on both sound and video tracks till the very end –so that he can use it to sync the sound and video.


When recording, levels (volume) should be between -6 and -12.  (Standard metric on digital recorders.)  Zero is the maximum level recording equipment can handle, so -6 means you are not far below the max, but low enough that there’s some room for something to get a little louder without clipping.

If you hear sound distortion while you’re recording, STOP – there is no way to fix it later.

Always listen while you record – headphones etc.  Or you’ll never know when you have problems.

Record some room sound – i.e., “silence” in that room.  Can use a lot in the editing process.

Sound for dSLRs is a serious problem – the camera makers just don’t see it as important.  So overall poor quality and lots of technical problems.

Sound from small camcorders can be OK, but there’s always the problem of location of camera relative to sound sources, so use a mic.

He has had enough tech failures of various sorts that he tries to always have 2 sound recorders (e.g., on and off camera) going at once – e.g., his small digital recorder as a backup.    For his work, he also carries around a small digital recorder for opportunistic recording of sounds he can add in later.


My $300 Zoom H4n is, he says, a great recorder. His $100 TASCAM isn’t as great but is very good and much, much smaller!


Microphones differ as to how close they need to be to the speaker.  (And how far away they can be and still pick up sound.)  Yes, the mic needs to be very close, within inches – but exactly how close depends on the mic.  Again, you have to listen while you record. Or, rather, you have to test this out before you start!

The  kinds of mics we’re most interested in  (google these for details):



-lavolier or lapel

Shotgun mics pick up from a narrow range in front of them, but also from behind them (which is why they aren’t often used for interview). They actually can work well for interviews when can pick up both interviewee and interviewer (if the interviewer is directly behind the mic).   Cardioids are most used for interviews.  Lapel mics are cardioids.  There are condenser mics  that come with different capsules so that one mic can be changed from shotgun to cardioid and back, as needed.

You can get small, handheld stereo mics – for example, could put one between two people and one of them would be stereo left and one stereo right.  [This might have helped with Jennie’s recording of a group of kids – without the faces,  having some sense of location might have helped the audience know who was speaking.]

Different mics – different tech specs – vary as to how long a cord you can use before the sound degrades.  The lower the impedence, the longer the cord.  (He says a cardiod with XLR connectors can work “over a mile.”) You lose high frequencies and then start getting noise. In short, unless you know what you’re doing, don’t just keep adding extensions and connectors and expect to have good quality sound.

Also, you have to match impedences when matching equipment. This is the problem with the Canon 5D (and probably other dSLRs): first, the company doesn’t publish the impedence. And when he found out what it was, it didn’t match any available type of mic.

Dynamic mics don’t require power. Condensor mics require power – some have batteries, most get it from the recording device.  (This is what’s called “phantom power.”)  A recording device that doesn’t have this capability can’t be used with a condenser mic.


Almost all audio mixing (editing) programs work on the same principles and function similarly. For more money you get more flexibility and power.

He likes Garage Band for sound editing.  (I don’t — it’s designed for music so it’s weird for spoken word files, but works).   GB and iMovie have lots of built-in sound effects for you to add to audio as needed.  (E.g., Araba’s ants and banging spoons – in iMovie she could have added bangs at the right places using iMovie’s effects.)

There’s lots of software out there – he listed the following as currently popular (but not ones he’s used):

-Apple Logic Studio



-Soundtrack Pro

AVOID Pro Tools – hard to use.

He hasn’t seen Hindenburg, which I use and like.

I discovered the hard way that GB can’t “open” mp3 files and doesn’t have an import command – the ONLY way to open mp3s in GB is drag a file and drop into the program.   Like other audio and video software, it has to convert mp3s (etc) to its own format, then export to mp3 (etc) when finished.

In any software, be sure the check the preferences for BOTH the computer and the software to set audio input and output sources.  Changing one doesn’t change the other.  (In Garage Band, settings are sticky; if you open a track and then change preferences, the track will still have the old settings.  You have to delete it and create a new one.) When you have problems and don’t know why, he says, “reset.”  Delete and start over.

Signal Processors (also called “Effects” or “Plug-ins” in some software, including Garage Band)

Common signal processors included in software:

  • Equalizer – There are both graphic equalizers and visual equalizers.  They do the same thing, but different interfaces. A lot of problems with audio can be addressed using the equalizer but (sigh) it’s a lot of work and fixing is probably never going to give you as good results as recording good sound to begin with.  In GB, the equalizer can ‘analyze’ which helps to find the causes of problems in audio.
  • Compressor – squeezes down the whole signal – reduces the highs AND the lows.
  • Limiter – chops off the peaks only – so useful for bits where the sound level goes above the max, to chop off the highs. Aka something like Peak or High something filter.
  • Low Pass filter — The default equalizer settings in Hindenburg (and no doubt some if not all other software) is low frequency roll off, aka low pass filter, i.e., the lowest frequencies are cut off – taking out things like low bass rumbles.  Many condenser mics will also have a low freq rolloff on/off switch.  Generally it is something you want on.
  • DSS Filter — de-esses, i.e. reduces sibilance.

There are a lot of other signal processors, i.e., tools/filters, in GB for cleaning up audio.  Hindenburg (my current editing program) has a lot of the same ones – but since Hindenburg doesn’t define them, it’s useful to know that they’re in GB, for finding out what they do.  Probably true of other audio software, as well.