Combating Noise from 16mm Motion Film Cameras

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Shut Up!

No matter how advanced and quiet a 16mm motion film camera is it will still give off a varying degree of camera noise. The movable features that make up the mechanisms of the 16mm film camera work in concert to capture the image, but are also motorized and can be heard often several feet from the camera itself. Since you will often have to use external sound mixing equipment and external microphones you will notice that the camera noise itself can usually be picked up by the sound recording. This can ruin takes completely by making the final product acknowledge the video equipment that was used to capture it. It is important to then prevent this noise from seeping into the audio track as much as possible, and here are some tips to help you block the sound.

Muffle The Sound

The first place you should always go in this situation is to muffle the sound as much as you can right on the camera. This means using absorptive fabrics to surround the camera itself, that way it blocks the coming sound from the motor. There are many different “socks” or protective jackets that you can purchase to cover up your 16mm film camera, but it is also just as easy to use common things that you already have. Try wrapping several towels or blankets around the camera, even a sweatshirt can work in some situations. Often times this is all that is really needed to keep out the cranking sounds. Make sure not to let this interrupt the normal camera functions as this can damage the film stock.

Move Away

Distance is going to be your friend when working with a loud 16mm film camera so you are going to want to keep the microphones as far away from the camera as possible. This may mean sticking to mostly master shots and avoiding close ups. This can be done by limiting the number of speaking close ups and trying to only to close inserts without sync sound. It can be hard to match this during post-production, but if you use a music track and other sound effects you can smooth it out.

Sound Free

If you are dealing with a loud camera that is making itself present during closer shots you still have a couple of options. First, you can record clean audio at the end without the camera at all. Take the sound recording mixer and microphones that you do have and record all the dialogue and sound effects that you are using. Then you can use this clean audio track to fill in gaps during the video editing process. Second, you can use an ADR system to loop dialogue during a recording session after the fact. This is next to impossible to match perfectly, but it is an option.

Camera Problems

Often times loud sounds in the 16mm film camera will indicate either an overt problem with the film or a less the proper positioning for the film stock. For example, if you load the film stock either too loosely or too tightly you can end up with an offensive rattle sound. This can be simply annoying in terms of sound, or it can indicate an all out problem with the film stock that will ruin the footage.