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Nollywood Has A Sound Problem And These Stakeholders Agree
Although it might not be the same for many in Nollywood, sound really matters to me and I think it should matter more to every Nollywood practitioner. I find myself talking about it with almost everyone I meet, curiously trying to figure out the source of our many sound problems and the immediate solutions we need to be looking at.
Here, I speak with Izuchukwu Anozie, an Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award (AMVCA)-nominated Sound Recordist best known for his work on the 2014 thriller Brother’s Keeper produced by Okey Ezugwu directed by Ikechukwu Onyeka; and Innih Emah, a showrunner, actor and filmmaker, who is passionate about media and journalism.
She avoids the spotlight but you might have seen her as the host of the YouTube talk show “Speak Your Truth with Innih”, powered by ace filmmaker Moses Inwang’s Sneeze Studios.
Read the excerpts of our conversation.
How would you rate the importance of sound recording in film?
Innih: Sound is a very important aspect of production, and if there is any issue with the sound recording, it can just mess up everything.
Innih, choose between poor picture quality and poor sound.
Innih: Hmmm. I think they are both unforgivable, really, because if the picture is bad, and the sound is good, you can’t really watch anything. If the picture is good, the sound is bad, you can’t really hear anything. I think they’re both on the same level of bad, really.
Izu, how would you describe the sound issues in Nollywood?
Izu: The sound challenges we have in Nollywood are majorly, noise related. Not about equipment or technical know-how.
Filming in Nollywood can be quite a chore. Share some sound recording hitches you have observed on the set of your show or a movie set.
Innih: Yeah. Things I have observed include background noise, echo or wind. These can affect sound recording on set. For my show, it’s a bit easier because we usually record in a studio and that’s a controlled environment so we manage sound recording better.
We also have to deal with some background noise like the air conditioner. That can be solved by turning it off. For a movie set, it also depends on the location. Some locations can be really noisy. You have people coming out from nowhere, making noise or a plane can go up. There are different things that happen on a movie set. It is very difficult.
Izu: You know, sometimes when you are on set and an actor is giving his or her best, some actors or directors don't like a sound guy cutting the shot or giving them signals when the sound goes bad. They just want to get that actor's emotion.
Have you also witnessed where a sound recordist refused to call a bad sound, even when it was glaring that there was a bad sound?
Innih: I wouldn’t say the sound recordist refused to call a bad sound. It was a whole other kind of experience. That particular day our sound guy wasn’t available and we had to call someone else. So, we did our shoot and it seemed like everything was okay, but when it was taken for post-production. We just found out that the sound was really bad. Like so bad that it looks as if we might not be able to use that episode.
How can we get better?
Innih: There are some courses in Lagos but the training needs to spread across Nigeria. I think eventually, they will get there. Usually, they start out in Lagos and begin to spread out like that. The sound recordists themselves have a responsibility and that includes looking for ways to improve themselves. They can’t just wait for things to be brought to them and should actively look for ways to be better at the job.
Izu: We need to do the right things at the right time. You know, getting good locations or building sets. As a sound person, I like sets that are built far from town. Where you can shoot and have peace of mind, and good sound. The South Africans and Americans shoot mostly in studios. Everything is sound proof and there is no noise. I think Nollywood needs to start doing something like that. We do that a lot for music videos, but for film, we don't. I pray we get there someday.
Aside from the technical knowledge gap, how can we solve the environmental issues that affect sound recording?
Innih: I’ll say that the sound recordist should find creative ways to as much as possible, take control of the sound quality of the environment where the shoot is happening. To do this, he/she has to run through a checklist of things that might affect the recording.
That is, find out what location they are using, what the potential noise sources are and assess them. They need to also factor in the noise level of the neighborhood so adequate preparations can be made, plan to use mics they can isolate and plan with what the actor is wearing and the likes.
The recordist also needs to be active during rehearsals so they can get context on how the actors would move. Overall, communication and creativity is important.