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Old January 27th, 2008, 04:26 AM   #1
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Just starting to record good sound. What should I buy?

Hey guys. I have been spending much time concentrating on picture-quality, but I will not negate audio-quality. I have a budget of about 3-5 grand to spend on a full audio-recording system. What would be the best setup for feature films? Obviously, you try to get the best production sound you can, but will also A.D.R. What is the best method for gathering great sound? For on-set audio, I assume having a good shotgun-mic with a windscreen, boom etc, a digital recording medium that doesn't compress the audio data, and most of all...a competent sound-guy listening attentively to his headphones. For sound created in the studio, I assume an acoustically-treated room and good condenser mic with a quality pre-amp. I may be wrong. I have never even attempted to record sound good enough for a feature film before. What do the pros use? Their gear is probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. Any help appreciated.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 05:32 AM   #2
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Dear Spencer,

I recommend that you consider the following:

Schoeps CMC-641 microphone with the Cut-1 filter.
Full Rycote setup for the above.
A good mixer - Sound Devices 302 or 442 (optional)
Sound Devices 7 Series Record (choose one of the "t" models with timecode"), personally, I would purchase the 744t.
K-Tek graphite boom pole.
Sony 7506 Headphones

Depending on your shoots, you may need some wired or wireless lavaliere microphones. A better lavalier such as a Sanken, Countman, or Tram will dramatically improve your sound over what comes with many wireless setups.

Or you can hire a sound man with the necessary experience and equipment. The above equipment will cost more than $3,000 to $5,000.

The mixer is optional, you could get by without it, especially if you are only going to record one channel directly into the Sound Devices recorder. However, as you add wireless or wired lavalieres or other microphones, the mixer will be nice to have.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 06:27 AM   #3
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Wow...that's a great reply man. So comprehensive! How much WOULD it cost?
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Old January 27th, 2008, 06:41 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Spencer Dickson View Post
Wow...that's a great reply man. So comprehensive! How much WOULD it cost?
Rough guess round numbers ($CDN) ...

CMC641 with Cut1: $2250 - $2500
Mixer: SD442 ... $2750 or SD302 ... $1250
Recorder: SD702T ... $2750 or SD744T ... $4250
Carbon fibre boom with Rycote suspension and full windkit: $1250 - $1500
Rechargeable battery kit and charger: $800
Phones, cases, misc cables, bag, etc: ~$750 - $1500

add lavs, wireless, other boom mics, etc on top of that.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 06:59 AM   #5
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The prices on Schoeps gear goes up February 1st.

The B&H Photo website is a great place to learn about gear and get prices.

Schoeps CMC-641 = $1592

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...phone_Set.html

Schoeps Cut-1 = $556

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...1_Colette.html

Schoeps B5d = $58

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...arch&Q=*&bhs=t

K-Tek Boom Pole (12' 8") $689

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ite_Fiber.html

or you could get the longer 202CCR for more money, ($805)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ite_Fiber.html

Sound Devices 302 $1295

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...3_Channel.html


Sound Devices 744t $ 4095

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._Portable.html

Sony MDR-7506 $99

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Headphone.html

(My preference is the Sony MDR-7509, but these are not the industry standard.)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Headphone.html

I have not yet located the prices for the full Rycote setup for the Schoeps, but it is probably in the $600 range.


Note: You will want a "Betacam Breakaway Cable" at some time for approximately $200.

And you will need good XLR cables.

You could get the Sound Devices 702T, but I feel that the 744t is a better long term investment and you can record four channels. The 744t has only two microphone preamplifiers, but together with the 302 you can record four microphones on separate channels.


(Note: Both Steve and I were composing our answers at the same time.)
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Last edited by Dan Keaton; January 27th, 2008 at 05:10 PM.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 12:49 PM   #6
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You might want to read through the Frequently Asked Questions threads pinned at the top of the page. As you can see this is not an inexpensive endeavor; the recorder alone will exhaust most of your budget.

You might consider buying a couple of key items and renting the rest as you need it. Finally, leave some money for a book or two on how to capture quality audio.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 06:37 PM   #7
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All of the advice here is wonderful. I didn't expect such generous and well-considered comments. Thank you guys. It is invaluable.

I can quickly see that judicious allocation of funds is paramount and that I will not be able to get top of the line audio equipment just yet. That's fine, considering my first few features will be more like glorified experimental films. I assume that, like all other electronic equipment, audio gear adheres to a bell-curve as well as the law of diminishing returns. The key now is hitting the sweet spot. These first few films will not be released in any theatrical fashion, but be tailor-made for home video. Not that that is any reason to skimp on quality; some of the home-theatre systems out there are astounding. The question is now; how much will I have to spend to get results on a level where people aren't going to watch the movie and say: "That movie had crappy sound"?
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Old January 27th, 2008, 07:30 PM   #8
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I think good quality mics, and knowing how to use them, and a mixer will get you started. There's no need to buy everything at once in your situation unless you have a pile of cash lying around!

The pit people fall into, at least from my perspective here, is they think one set up will suffice for all situations, and it won't. So the task at hand is to identify your conditions (indoors or out, single speaker or many etc) and build your kit from there.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 07:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spencer Dickson View Post
All of the advice here is wonderful. I didn't expect such generous and well-considered comments. Thank you guys. It is invaluable.

I can quickly see that judicious allocation of funds is paramount and that I will not be able to get top of the line audio equipment just yet. That's fine, considering my first few features will be more like glorified experimental films. I assume that, like all other electronic equipment, audio gear adheres to a bell-curve as well as the law of diminishing returns. The key now is hitting the sweet spot. These first few films will not be released in any theatrical fashion, but be tailor-made for home video. Not that that is any reason to skimp on quality; some of the home-theatre systems out there are astounding. The question is now; how much will I have to spend to get results on a level where people aren't going to watch the movie and say: "That movie had crappy sound"?
Spencer:

You might want to take a gander at this. It's an old article but still conceptually valid http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage...ion_sound.html
It's not going to recommend a bunch of specific gear but others here have already done that.

Dan
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Old January 28th, 2008, 09:30 AM   #10
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Dear Spencer,

I do not know what camera you are using.

If you camera has XLR input with Phantom Power, then to get started, I recommend the following.


Schoeps CMC641 with Cut 1
Sennheiser G2 Wireless set (A or B Frequence Range)
Sanken Cos-11 or Tram TR50 Lavalier
XLR Cables
Sony MDR-7506 Headphones

You will need a suspension for the Schoeps or you can get the full Rycote setup. You will also need a boom pole.

The Schoeps can be used indoors or outdoors and produces great sound (in the proper hands).

This will get you started, and all of the above will be long term investments that will far outlast any camera that you have.

If you have an HDV camera, then the audio quality will be generally acceptable in many cases, but will never be as good as recording directly into a Sound Devices 744t or other high quality recorder.

But, all of the above will cost subtantially less than your $5,000 figure and can be augmented with more equipment when you ready.

If you camera does not have "Phantom Power" and manual audio gain controls, then you really need a separate audio recorder.
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Old January 28th, 2008, 09:43 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
If you camera does not have "Phantom Power" and manual audio gain controls, then you really need a separate audio recorder.
Dan,

I am sure you meant "a separate field mixer", such as the SD302, which would provide phantom power, manual gain controls, and of course good pre-amps.

- Martin
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Old January 28th, 2008, 10:05 AM   #12
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Dear Martin,

I was trying to recommend top-quality gear that would last for many years and give him great quality sound now and in the future, and also come in within his budget of $3,000 to $5,000.

Thus, I eliminated the Sound Devices 302 Mixer and the Sound Devices 7-series recorder (at this time). If he can afford the 302 at this time, I recommend that he purchase one.

So, if his camera can record decent audio, then he can either use the Schoeps (if it can be close enough and still be out of the shot) or he can use one channel of wireless with a good quality lavaliere.

When he has more money, he may want to add another lavalier, another wireless, a mixer and a great sound recorder.

Ideally, he should have a mixer, such as a Sound Devices 302 or 442. But one could get by, with some tradeoffs, by going directly into his camera. Yes, it will be hard or impossible to control the levels while shooting, but I am considering his $3,000 to $5,000 as a hard limit at this time.

I would rather recommend top-notch equipment, that he could augment later, than for him to spend money now on equipment that will have to be replaced later and will not give him the sound he wants.

If his camera can record uncompressed 48k 16 bit audio, he can get very nice audio. If he has the 7-Series or other great audio recorder, then he can record 24 bit audio which is better.

But, in any case, the Schoeps equipment will provide great sound now, indoors or outside (but not in the highest of humidty situations).

I fully agree that the Sound Devices 302 has better preamps than many cameras. If he wants to spend the full $5,000 then he can include the Sound Devices 302 and his sound will be better. The limiters on the 302 will be very helpful.

If his camera does not have manual audio gain controls, then it will be very difficult to obtain great sound as the camera will be varying the sound levels inappropriately, increasing the noise level at times. This is why I felt that he would need a separate recorder, if he did not have manual gain controls.
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Old January 28th, 2008, 11:14 AM   #13
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Dan,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
This is why I felt that he would need a separate recorder, if he did not have manual gain controls.
OK, this time I got it. I confused "manual" with "easily accessible" gain controls. I guess I must have taken for granted that someone in the market to buy pro gear will not hook it up to a camera with auto gain control, but you are right, if that were the case, a separate recorder would be the cure.

Sorry I misunderstood this the first time around, and I agree with everything else you wrote.

- Martin
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Old January 28th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #14
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Dear Martin,

Thanks, no problem at all.

I think this dicussed may have made it cleared for Spencer.

And I fully agree that the Sound Devices 302 (or the 442) would be a great addition to his setup.
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Old January 28th, 2008, 12:10 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
And I fully agree that the Sound Devices 302 (or the 442) would be a great addition to his setup.
Anything in front of the Sound Devices 7xx series is almost required for video. The adjustments from the unit itself is pretty hard to deal with especially for over the shoulder work.

Wayne
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