Welcome to our community

Be a part of something great, join today!

  • Hey all, just changed over the backend after 15 years I figured time to give it a bit of an update, its probably gonna be a bit weird for most of you and i am sure there is a few bugs to work out but it should kinda work the same as before... hopefully :)

Documentary Sound: Mono vs Stereo for Location Sound? Stereo or 5.1+ for Final Mix?

JT Thurlow

Well-known member
Feb 16, 2015
Reaction score

I'm in pre-production on my second documentary feature and am wondering if I should use a stereo setup for recording location audio, or if mono will suffice. I would like the final mix to be at least stereo, and possibly 5.1 + (looking for a "realistic" mix, without wanting to have the sound jump out and create distractions).

On my first feature, pretty much the only audio I needed was interviews (a few artificial ambiences were created in post by the dubbing mixer as needed). I used a Sennheiser MKH-50 for the interviews and still have the mic.

For this and other projects, I will need to record more audio than just interviews, such as events and the actual sound of landscapes.

I'm unsure of the best way to go about this. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Many thanks
Just mono for dialogue is fine. If there's multiple people in a scene, there is a trend (particularly from TV and documentary) to give each participant a separate wireless mic, each captured on a separate multitrack recorder. That will give you infinite flexibility in post to grab whatever dialogue you need for each specific moment.

Recording "landscapes" and other kinds of ambient sounds, is a special kind of situation. The problem is making it portable: spaced omnis or cardioid mics can work to a point, but they require a physical stand and mounts (plus windscreens and so on). Some people like M/S stereo configs, but they can be costly and a little fragile. There's so many library effects out there -- literally a million hours of this stuff if you look for it -- almost everything ever done has already been recorded. The exception would be a live performance or a once-in-a-lifetime event, and that you would have to actually record right there on the day.

I would talk to your re-recording mixer and get their recommendations, so that whatever you do will ultimately work in post.
I like to have a Stereo MS on my camera. For ITW usually boom operators use a mono one and now often also an MS. I like the MS as it gives you (in my case the CCM41, supercardio) a beautiful center and the S gives you the stereo effect. I find that stereo for voice gives you also more clarity than mono. I use the Sonosax sx-m2d2 as preamp on camera as it as a limitier compressor wich helps me when sound is with a really big DR (hammering and speaking at the same time...).

One of my docu A7s3 camera setup :

2G_Patrick_cropped.jpeg - Click image for larger version  Name:	2G_Patrick_cropped.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	72.0 KB ID:	3825323

Cinela Leo MS
Sonosax SX-M2D2
Kortwich cabling

(wich is more expensive than the camera)