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Old December 2nd, 2007, 12:43 AM   #1
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A Budget Marathon of an Indie Shoot Needs your Audio Advice

I will start off with the disclaimer that a few weeks ago, I knew almost nothing about audio production when I started reading this forum. This is an amazing site and cannot thank everyone who contributes enough.

Our situation:
Right now we are trying to build out our equipment for an upcoming indie production and have run into a lot of challenges with our selection of audio gear. Our situation is as follows: we have a field team that consists of three relatively inexperienced people to handle audio and video for a cast of five. The content could most accurately be described as a sort of indie reality travel show.

We’ll be shooting with a pair of Z1Us, but are trying to identify a robust audio system to work with them. The real challenge here is that we will be in a series of foreign countries, with locations changing every 30-90 days, and all content being shipped back to a studio in New York for post production. We need a way to capture audio both indoors and outdoors, with a lot of the shots being conversation between 2-5 people.

To make things even more interesting, we’re on a budget and would prefer to spend less then 3k on our audio equipment.
Our research so far has seemed to indicate we need to shoot single system, which I know is not preferred but we have to ship all of our footage internationally on a weekly basis to a second team and really need to keep complexity to a minimum. And that we also need to accept we will not be able to field an array of audio capture devices, and need to focus on finding a (or pair) of good boomed pickup devices. Right now the best option I have seen from reading posts here is to go with a MKH-416 or CS-3e due to their ability to work in a range of situations.

I would welcome any and all feedback. Faced with these challenges what would you do?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 08:34 AM   #2
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I'd hire a professional sound man and camera man or accept the job will probably go very wrong. Sorry but I work in the professional industry where these things matter.

Maybe you are in situation where you have no budget ... then why are you making the program? Is it for a student campus channel?

Sorry to be narky, it just sounds like a massive expedition with no budget. There is no short answer to your dilemma. The budget needs to be there to produce good work. So does the experience. Making quality TV is not easy and the skills took some people years to learn. Without that experience you will not create high quality footage easily.

Good luck though - sounds like you need it.

Oh and in answer to your question you will need a mixer feeding both cameras. Maybe a couple of the cheap Senheiser G2 radio mics and two second hand 416's or 415's from ebay. The T power models will be cheaper but then you will be forced to go via the mixer as the cameras will only do 48 volt phantom.

If your cameras split up then you wont have a man for the boom anyway as you only have one sound person.

Howabout 4 G2 kits and one 416 with boom and windshield kit and a cheap mixer.

$3000 aint much really.

I give up...

Maybe someone else can help.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 09:39 AM   #3
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I'll echo Jimmy's comments regarding your budget...time for a re-think on it. You need to at least double the amount you've mentioned and perhaps even triple it. I'd say you'll definitely need a mixer, and not just a bargain basement model. To simultaneously feed two cameras you should be looking at something like an SD442 - that's more than 2/3 your original budget right there. Add a 416 or CS3 with boom, shockmount, windscreen plus several lav's and wireless setups, perhaps a stick mic, as well as the required collection of cables, adapters, etc and you're north of 6 kilobucks and still climbing. The 416 is not the end-all and be-all and will likely leave something to be desired for interiors (the CS3 is more forgiving) so you may need to be looking at additional mics as well.

Adding a thought ... you said you'll need to ship your footage internationally once a week. That implies that you're not the one responsible for postproduction. If that's true, you really need to sit down with your editor and sound editor and coordinate with them the exact workflow that will be used and the delivery format that they'll need your originals to be in before making decisions such as single or double system recording, etc.

Wayne's comments following mine should also be given serious attention.
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Last edited by Steve House; December 2nd, 2007 at 12:34 PM.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 10:55 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jimmy Tuffrey View Post
Oh and in answer to your question you will need a mixer feeding both cameras. Maybe a couple of the cheap Senheiser G2 radio mics and two second hand 416's or 415's from ebay. The T power models will be cheaper but then you will be forced to go via the mixer as the cameras will only do 48 volt phantom.
I don't know if people are aware, but PSC (and others) make a T-Power adapter that converts 48v to 12-T power.

Ironically, when I read this initially I was going to recommend you hire somebody, but then I seem to be doing that a lot, so I didn't in this case. However, since others have also recommended it, I'll second it. It's not that I don't want you to try to do audio, but really only people on set are truly required to have their own gear, the stead-cam operator and the sound mixer. In both cases to really do it properly, you need somebody experienced with the equipment. As much as I've worked with the Zaxcom Deva recorder, I certainly couldn't just walk up to a Aaton Cantar and start a session, and that's part of the reason it's required of us to own our equipment.

I will also say that just because you hire somebody who calls them self a sound mixer or sound recordist, doesn't mean they really are. Next weekend I'm helping some people I've done commercial work with previously, as they work on a short. We met a "sound mixer" at a local film meeting, after talking with him, I found he had little experience and little equipment. I mentioned the short and offered him the opportunity to work on it. Mainly because I know I can teach him things that have been passed on to me by experienced mixers (not that I have all the answers either). Owning the best equipment in the world and having little to no experience won't beat an experienced mixer with inferior equipment.

You can purchase a lot of equipment, but with your budget you're going to be forced to cut corners on audio and then nobody will be happy with the end result. Think about the end product and what your goal is with the end product. Chances are you probably would be better served hiring a mixer with equipment for the movie, either that or look in the used market for items and see what deals you can find.

Wayne
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 02:02 PM   #5
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Indie Production? Locations changing every 30-90 days? Are you shooting every day? I don't understand the scenario.

You have enough cash to ship people to foreign countries but can't put more in the budget for gear? And I wouldn't recommend G2s for this type of gig either. Lectro's 'cause they're sturdier.

Don't forget insurance. That gear's gonna be used constantly and gonna be shipped all over the place. After you buy it, insure it. Something's bound to go wrong.

I do have to say I'm surprised that "a field team of three inexperienced people" are leading this project. Not meaning it to sound rude, it would just make me nervous. I'd hire THREE people who knew what they were doing, or at the very least ONE experienced person and pay them well to deal with the two or three who didn't know what they were doing.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 05:57 PM   #6
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Oh yeah, I've got one of those t-power adapters as well! Good point.

Ebay it is then for a 415t.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 07:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anna Harmon View Post
I'd hire THREE people who knew what they were doing, or at the very least ONE experienced person and pay them well to deal with the two or three who didn't know what they were doing.
Can I be two and three so I can make better money, but not have to think? :)

Regards,

Ty
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 07:45 PM   #8
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Thanks for the all the advice. It looks like we are going to have quite the challenge on our hands.

I should add some additional details based on these comments. We will be using interns for a lot of our work, and as such realize we are making some quality sacrifices, but we simply do not have the budget to hire industry seasoned veterans to work on the shoot.

To Anna’s question we will be shooting everyday, and in a fairly dynamic documentary style that will prohibit a lot of setup for shots. Honestly we understand that our end production quality will not be what it could be with a fully experienced team, but since this is what we have to work with we are going to plan as much as we can to ensure we have the best shot possible of a reasonable end product.

Budget is something we can readjust – if we rule out hiring the crack team that this project could really use, then as I understand it so far the suggested load out would be:

CS-3e– $1350
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...icrophone.html

SD442 – $2495
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...4_Channel.html

G2 Kit – $1249
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...00_Series.html

G2 Lavs - $998 ($499x2)
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...00_Series.html

+ Appropriate cables, batteries, boom pole, shock mount, windscreen and connectors

Is this more along the lines a reasonable solution to our situation (skilled operators aside)?
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 10:00 PM   #9
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G2 kit comes with the lavs.

I'd seriously go with the Lectros if it's an everyday thing and you're all over the place. Just 'cause they're sturdier. But if you must go with the G2s then you must.

Are you getting the 442 just so you can connect to 2 cameras?

And I must comment on this scenario. It's productions like this that really mess things up. People who have the money to have an on going project for however many days, have a post team and a production team, can fly a crew all over the place and make weekly drop offs to headquarters chincing out on production. This is a classic example.

And yes, I have to give you some shit for this because it's f'ed up.

And yes, I've passed on projects like this before because they offered a ridiculously low rate, and yes I'd do it again. But you know what, there have been many times I've been called in because the last sound person they used was an idiot and they should've hired someone who knew what the hell they were doing.

And cheers Ty, me too!

Last edited by Anna Harmon; December 2nd, 2007 at 10:18 PM. Reason: another question
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 10:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
Can I be two and three so I can make better money, but not have to think? :)

Regards,

Ty
With your resume you are more then welcome to any of the spots, just as long as you are willing to work for stock options in a startup.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 10:28 PM   #11
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G2 kit comes with the lavs.

I'd seriously go with the Lectros if it's an everyday thing and you're all over the place. Just 'cause they're sturdier. But if you must go with the G2s then you must.

Are you getting the 442 just so you can connect to 2 cameras?
The kit does come with a couple of G2s, but I wanted to get the total count up to 4.

The Lectros look great, but just beyond what we can afford for this setup.

As far as the 442 goes, I believe it was suggested to handle the boomed mic as well as the lavs. If there is a less expensive mixer that we could sub in here for the 442, as it accounts for a huge portion of our cost, that would be fantastic. At this point I am open to any and all suggestions.

Thanks everyone for your advice so far, its great.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 11:39 PM   #12
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442 definitely. I misread the gear list. Read like you were only using 3 channels. In that case I'd get the 302. If you want the 4th channel as well as other great features get the 442.
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Old December 2nd, 2007, 11:47 PM   #13
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Hi Tom.............

Just a couple of points from a "knows zilch":

1. If you're going to be "all over the shop" in "foreign countries", I can forsee quite a challenge with Wireless mic systems being either not compatible/ straight out illegal/ open to shed loads of interference wherever your chosen set happens to be. I don't have an answer, just pointing out the problem. If you get busted at Customs in the EU with illegal frequency radio gear, that's it, game over for the wireless system!

2. Given the "Amateur Night at the London Palladium" air of this event, perhaps give the 442 the flick and go for the Sign Video ENG - 44 instead. Heck, who's going to notice soundwise? Certainly notice it in your wallet.

3. If you're shooting NTSC in PAL land, indoors, be prepared for the dreaded "rolling line" due to fluoro flicker (50 - 60Hz etc). Just threw that in there as "foreign" is a bit vague (I live in "foreign").

4. Back to the point I made in (2), given the amateur nature (well, lets call a spade a spade here - hope you don't mind, I do amateur stuff all the time) why not drop your sights on the mic(s) as well, and go for the lowest common denominator setup that the experts here will agree is "passable". I don't think anything else is really possible here - anyone want to take up this point?

What does the team think?


CS
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 12:29 AM   #14
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If you get busted at Customs in the EU with illegal frequency radio gear, that's it, game over for the wireless system!CS
Chris, never heard of this. Please school me.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 01:07 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
Just a couple of points from a "knows zilch":

1. If you're going to be "all over the shop" in "foreign countries", I can forsee quite a challenge with Wireless mic systems being either not compatible/ straight out illegal/ open to shed loads of interference wherever your chosen set happens to be. I don't have an answer, just pointing out the problem. If you get busted at Customs in the EU with illegal frequency radio gear, that's it, game over for the wireless system!

2. Given the "Amateur Night at the London Palladium" air of this event, perhaps give the 442 the flick and go for the Sign Video ENG - 44 instead. Heck, who's going to notice soundwise? Certainly notice it in your wallet.

3. If you're shooting NTSC in PAL land, indoors, be prepared for the dreaded "rolling line" due to fluoro flicker (50 - 60Hz etc). Just threw that in there as "foreign" is a bit vague (I live in "foreign").

4. Back to the point I made in (2), given the amateur nature (well, lets call a spade a spade here - hope you don't mind, I do amateur stuff all the time) why not drop your sights on the mic(s) as well, and go for the lowest common denominator setup that the experts here will agree is "passable". I don't think anything else is really possible here - anyone want to take up this point?

What does the team think?


CS
Thanks for comments, I have no problem with the amateur tag as I certainly do not get paid for this (yet!).

I would be really curious to hear more specifics about the illegal frequency issues. We do not plan on shooting much in the EU, but I would want to avoid a similar situation somewhere else.

Thanks for the Sign Video 44 suggestion, that looks like a great alternative to the 442, and it seems like people have had good experiences with it.

I apologize for the foreign comment - we will be shooting all over SE Asia to start and possibly moving on to India and eastern Europe.

Can you recommend some "passable" mics that will serve the roles of the CS-3e and G2 kits? I have not really seen anything lauded as a great all around mic lower then the 416. I am also curious if they is a favorite choice for those that cannot afford the G2 kits, as the next tier down from those might work for us as well.
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