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Old September 18th, 2007, 11:23 PM   #1
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Best approach to recording interviews

Hi,

I'm about to start working on a video project that will involve mostly interviewing subjects who will be sitting down, with the camera placed on a nearby tripod.

What is the best set-up for sound given a fairly minimal budget. I've explored a bunch of threads on this forum but haven't come across a definitive answer for this style of recording.

Some of the options I'm thinking about (these should give some idea of budget) and the pros and cons as I see them follow. If anyone can provide advice on these lines of thinking that'd be great.

I'm a beginner, so whatever advice you've got would be most appreciated, even if it's simply more general about the best type of mic to use in this situation. This is what I've been thinking about:

--- Using a Rode Videomic (Stereo?) attached directly to the camera.
Pros: No sync issues. Easy solution without any fussing around.
Cons: Not sure whether this is the right type of mic for interview situations. Is a lapel mic preferable? Do you have better suggestions?

--- Using an H2 recorder (with the built-in mics) sitting on a tripod or table just out of shot.
Pros: Seems like an easy/elegant solution.
Cons: Again, not sure whether it would be better to use a lapel mic. Also, have read about syncing problems with the H2.

--- Using an H2 hooked up to a lapel mic
Pros: Again, seems like an elegant solution.
Cons: Syncing. Higher cost than just buying the H2.

--- Using an iRiver Series 700 or 800 hooked up to Flying Squid mic.
Pros: Cheap. Some good reports on the forum for use at weddings etc.
Cons: Seems like the audio quality mightn't be as good since it's recording in MP3 and has to be resampled going into the video project. Also, you can't monitor the levels. Also seems like a lot of fiddling around.

I should add that I haven't bought any hardware at this stage. I don't even have a camera as yet. This means that if I go with one of the options that doesn't involve plugging a mic directly into the camera, I don't necessarily have to worry about buying a camera with a mic port, which limits the options budget wise.

Thanks for any advice you can provide.

Matt
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Old September 19th, 2007, 12:45 AM   #2
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I think you may be overthinking this. The most common way I've seen it done, having worked on a number of these shoots, is to simply put a lav on the subject, which records directly to the camera.

A slightly more elaborate way is to use a lav on the subject and a have a shotgun attached to a boompole and held by a C-stand over the subject's head (and slightly in front) about a foot or so. You put the lav on channel 1 of your camera and the shotgun on channel 2, so you have two different audio sources for an editor to choose from (also good in case one has a glitch).

A slightly more elaborate setup than that would be to do the same thing as above, but run the mics to a mixer, and the mixer's outputs to a camera. This will allow you to get a line level signal to the camera, and possibly give you more head room.

I'm not familiar with the gear you mentioned -- but I own and like the Sennheiser G2/EW100 lav system, which ran me $430 when I bought it. For another $250 you can get a much more directional countryman mic (the sennheiser system comes with an omindirectional mic, which can be problematic).

The Sennheiser ME66/K6 was for a time a very common and loved shotgun mic that runs around $450, and now everyone seems to hate it and love the Audio Technica AT4073 which is around $530 and said to be much better.

There are of course cheaper options for both types of mics, with compromises in quality.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 01:24 AM   #3
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My budget

Thanks for those ideas Josh.

Perhaps I should have made it clearer that I'm not really looking for a pro set-up. This is for a personal project, though I would like the quality to be more like 'prosumer' than 'home video', if that makes sense.

I'd love to use a wireless lav but from what I can tell that would be in the region of at the very least $800 (Australian, where I am), which is outside my budget. The options I talked about above are kinda more in the $250-$350 sort of range (I think).

Perhaps I'm just dreaming that I can get good quality at that price??
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Old September 19th, 2007, 01:28 AM   #4
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try and WIRED lav. that's actually a safer choice than a wireless. No one ever seems to use them though.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 01:38 AM   #5
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Wired lav

Thanks Brian. Any suggestions on brand or model?

Also, I remember reading somewhere that the sound quality from lavs isn't as good as a boom mic, thus why I was thinking about the Rode Videomic. Was I misinformed?
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Old September 19th, 2007, 01:48 AM   #6
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Yes--about booms generally being better than lavs, true. Where you got me is you mentioned mounting it DIRECTLY TO THE CAMERA. Unless your camera is about a foot away from the subject, this is not the way to go with a shotgun. You'll want some kind of way to suspend the boom mic over the subject's head, or have it in front of them a short distance away. You want the mic pretty close to the subject, but the camera doesn't have to be.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 02:00 AM   #7
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Riding shotgun

Okay, so it sounds like a shotgun mic could be a good option but it's best not to mount it on the camera. I didn't realise they still had to be so close to the subject.

So I guess this means either someone holds it just out of shot or it's on some sort of tripod/pole combination. Neither of those options strikes me as particularly workable on a tight budget and a one-person crew...

If however I went down that route, would it be okay to run a cable from the mic directly to the camera, or is it best to record to some other device?
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Old September 19th, 2007, 02:45 AM   #8
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Yes, you can take a cable from the mic right to the camera, providing your camera has the right inputs. If your camera doesn't have XLR inputs, you're going to need some kind of adapter.

For a one person crew, the typical way to suspend a boom mic is on a boom pole, on a stand.

A boom pole, shock mount, and light stand will run you several hundred (US) dollars, so you might try to improvise something instead.

Another option I got away with for years was getting a mic stand with a boom meant for holding a vocal mic, for music. You could probably find something for $35-60 (again, US) or so. The boom section won't extend as far and won't be nearly as sturdy, and will have a harder time holding tension when there's weight put upon it, but it'll work.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 02:49 PM   #9
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I use wired lavs all the time, why use radio transmitters if you can use cable?

Standard system for me for stationary interviews is wired lav (or 2) on the talent, short shotgun on stand as close as possible (or held by a helper). Lav on channel 1 and shotgun on channel 2 to camera.

No need for fancy stands and carbon fiber boom poles, just rig the shotgun mic holder from anything at hand. I have hung mics from sprinkler heads, ceiling lights etc with string, duct tape, mic cables...

I do have a Senn G2 system, but only use it if I absolutelly have to. Rather run wired lavs to a recorder if possible and camera connection is impractical.

Omni lavaliers actually give less problems than cardioids. No proximity effect (bass emphasis when close to sound source), no problems with alignment. These are the good reasons why lavaliers (and reporter mics) are 90% omnis.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 05:18 PM   #10
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I'll second the vote for omni lavs. My first lav a bought was a cardiod. It looked good on paper - directional to keep background noise out of the signal. This was a problem I had with the previous mic I used.

It was directional... too directional. After fighting with it for a while I replaced it with it's omni brethren. The omni is much easier to place, less hassles with clipping to shirts, and if you interview someone with a collar that is too close to their double chin you don't have to worry about their head movement messing with the signal (can become muffled with a cardiod).

Just my two bits...
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Old September 20th, 2007, 07:59 PM   #11
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Thanks

Thanks for all the tips folks. Sounds like I better look into wired omni lavs and see if I can find something in my price range.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 08:14 PM   #12
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Look at Giant Squid
http://www.giant-squid-audio-lab.com/
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Old September 22nd, 2007, 07:54 AM   #13
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Cheers Robert, I'll definitely be taking a close look at GS.

Do we all agree the omni mono is the best choice for general purpose interviews?
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Old September 22nd, 2007, 09:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Liddy View Post
Cheers Robert, I'll definitely be taking a close look at GS.

Do we all agree the omni mono is the best choice for general purpose interviews?
Definitely mono for the interview

Something I'm wondering about - when you record an interview, you have TWO sources to record, the intereviewer and the interviewee. It seems like the conversation has been focussed on the subject of the interview so far but what about the person asking the questions? Even if you don't plan on leaving the questions in the final cut, it's good to have them on record.

In order of preference for recording the subject's side of the interview...

1: Hypercardioid on a boom positioned just out of frame in front of and above the subject, positioned so a line along the mic axis to the subject's mouth makes a 45-60 degree angle with a line from the subject to the camera;
2: Wired omni lav;
3: Wireless omni lav

Mic stands with a boom arm are dirt cheap, BTW. You can get a perfectly servicable one for as little as $50 or even less.
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