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Old January 30th, 2008, 04:06 AM   #1
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Recording directly into a laptop

Hi all,

Currently I record both sound for camera, and sound only projects using the same equipment. Basically it consists of my mic (Azden SGM-2X), and pre-amp (shure FP24), and my recorder (Marantz solid state PMD670).

It all does ok. The mic is pretty noisy, but I can minimize it in post. The drawback of this workflow for my audio only projects lies in the amount of post production I have to do. I have to take careful notes about good takes, noise, stuff people want me to change later etc.

So I'm wondering if there is a way I could go from the pre-amp directly into a laptop and record in software. This would save me heaps of time since I could add markers, make edits during the recording process. Does anybody have any good/bad experience with doing this? Are there external usb sound cards that could pull in audio from xlr connections? Would they be noisier than my current solid state recorder? Any feedback on this subject appreciated. Thanks.
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Old January 30th, 2008, 10:19 AM   #2
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Hi Brian,

I use a presonus Firebox. It is a firewire interface (400) It has 2 XLR inputs and 4 more 1/4 inch. Comes with Qbase but I use Soundtrack Pro, Garageband all the time. It has it's own pres so it's really portable.

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Old January 30th, 2008, 10:49 AM   #3
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That's a good idea because there are a lot of good options on the market today including the Presonus Firepod, Mbox Pro, MOTU's units, etc. Make sure the unit is powered by USB or Firewire because this will give you a little more flexibility.

As far as editing while recording, in my experience you are really limited on what you can edit while the software is recording. You can place markers and work with changing the volume but you can't typically clean up or automate tracks while the data is being written.
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Old January 30th, 2008, 08:05 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. I'll take a look at that hardware.
You're right about not being able to do it all on location, but I still salivate at the thought of being able to do some things, like deleting bad takes on the spot, naming the files as you want them, and making minor edits in between takes.
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Old January 30th, 2008, 09:29 PM   #5
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Check out the Echo audiofire firewire line. They make an audiofire 2, audiofire4, audiofire8, and audiofire12. Any of them will serve you very well. They come with Tracktion, software which is made by MACKIE.
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Old January 30th, 2008, 10:40 PM   #6
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I just got my presonus firebox. Took an audio rookie like me about 15minutes and I was up and running decent audio for once.
To a lap top you may want a usb powered device for portablity. I wanted separate power for the pre-amp.
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Old January 31st, 2008, 07:44 PM   #7
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Just one more question, for those of you recording in quiet rooms or studios, how do you deal with laptop noise? How far away is it from the mic? Are you in another room/ the control room?

I've been using a rifle mic, on a stand and pointing in down towards the table in between the two speakers(people) until now because it's the only thing I had. I understand that condensor mics are the standard for studio recording. Are condensor mics less sensitive to noise further away from the mic than rifle mics?

Forgive my ignorance.
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Old February 1st, 2008, 03:57 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Brian Parker View Post
Just one more question, for those of you recording in quiet rooms or studios, how do you deal with laptop noise? How far away is it from the mic? Are you in another room/ the control room?

I've been using a rifle mic, on a stand and pointing in down towards the table in between the two speakers(people) until now because it's the only thing I had. I understand that condensor mics are the standard for studio recording. Are condensor mics less sensitive to noise further away from the mic than rifle mics?

Forgive my ignorance.
"Condensor mic" describes the type of transducer that converts sound to an electrical signal while "rifle" (or shotgun) describes is a type of polar or pickup pattern. Most shotguns are condensors, in fact all of them are as far as I know. So you really can't compare shotguns OR condensors because they're not mutually exclusive.

The type most often used in studio recording would probably be the cardioid condensor, though cardioid dynamics are also used, especially for voice-over and narration. Cardioids pick up well in a pattern that's a heart-shaped semicircle on one side of the mic and are relatively insensitive to sound from the backside of the mic. By placing it so your two speakers are on the same side of the mic while your laptop is behind it, you can minimize the pickup of unwanted noise.

Pay attention to the quality of the room you're in. Sound bounces around small spaces and if your subjects are seated in front of a reflective wall, sound from your laptop could end up bouncing off the wall behind them and into the mic even though the computer itself is behind the mic in the area of low sensitivity. Hanging blankets etc can help deaden the area.

Getting the computer as far from the mic as practical always helps. Putting it in a closet or another room is even better. Since it's a laptop and so is relatively small, it would be cheap and easy to make a soundproof box of foam-core board and acoustic foam that's open on one side and just put it over the computer to shield it while you're recording.
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Old February 1st, 2008, 08:46 PM   #9
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Thank you Steve. I thought I might have tripped myself up with some of the vocabulary i used in that post.

So just to summarize,
My rifle mic picks up even the smallest sounds in the room, even the ones that are off mic, or behind the mic.
A cardioid pickup type would be a little bit less sensitive in this case; picking up only sound that occurs in it's pickup area, and it's sensitivity falling off rapidly with distance?

Thanks to everyone for commenting on this. I work by myself, and so I dont have the benefit of a superior to teach me this stuff. This community is a wealth of knowledge.
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Old February 2nd, 2008, 04:44 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brian Parker View Post
Thank you Steve. I thought I might have tripped myself up with some of the vocabulary i used in that post.

So just to summarize,
My rifle mic picks up even the smallest sounds in the room, even the ones that are off mic, or behind the mic.
A cardioid pickup type would be a little bit less sensitive in this case; picking up only sound that occurs in it's pickup area, and it's sensitivity falling off rapidly with distance?

Thanks to everyone for commenting on this. I work by myself, and so I dont have the benefit of a superior to teach me this stuff. This community is a wealth of knowledge.
What brand/model of mic is it you're using? If what you're calling a "rifle mic" (not a commonly used term) is a shotgun, the cardioid is likely to pickup MORE, not less, ambient noise than your present mic does because 'gun mics are the most directional of all, rejecting sound coming from directions other than directly in front of the mic right along its axis. If you're already using a directional mic and are still getting too much ambience, the problem is your room, not your mic.
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Old February 4th, 2008, 09:12 AM   #11
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I see.

My shotgun mic is a cheap Azden (model number in the top post of this thread). It has been working fine for recording 2 person narration in a semi-soundproof room, but if someone else in the room moves or starts writing something, the mic picks it up.

Having never used a cardiod mic, I wasnt sure how sensitive the mic was to distance. I thought it's sensitivity might fall off faster than a shotgun mic with distance.
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Old February 4th, 2008, 09:25 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Brian Parker View Post
I see.

My shotgun mic is a cheap Azden (model number in the top post of this thread). It has been working fine for recording 2 person narration in a semi-soundproof room, but if someone else in the room moves or starts writing something, the mic picks it up.

Having never used a cardiod mic, I wasnt sure how sensitive the mic was to distance. I thought it's sensitivity might fall off faster than a shotgun mic with distance.
Sorry, missed seeing the model info earlier. Cardioids don't really fall off any faster with distance but their pickup pattern is wider. Shotguns get their extra 'reach' by virtue of the fact that their lower pickup of surrounding noise means you can increase the recording gain a bit more. Are you using the extension tube with your Azden? According to the Azden website, without the extension tube in place the SGM-2X has an omni pickup pattern and you have to put the tube on to get it to function as a shotgun. From what you describe in terms of how it doesn't seem to matter where in the room the interfering sound originates, that sounds like omni behaviour to me.
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Old February 5th, 2008, 12:12 AM   #13
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I am using the tube, but I guess because I am adding so much gain, I am hearing even the tiniest of sounds.

I am working ina "studio", but it seems they forgot/neglected/decided not to soundproof the ceiling, and the sounds of womens high heels comes through and disturbs our recording all the time.

Thanks for all the explanations anyway.
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Old February 5th, 2008, 01:48 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Brian Parker View Post
I am using the tube, but I guess because I am adding so much gain, I am hearing even the tiniest of sounds.

I am working ina "studio", but it seems they forgot/neglected/decided not to soundproof the ceiling, and the sounds of womens high heels comes through and disturbs our recording all the time.

Thanks for all the explanations anyway.
Why do you have to crank up the gain so far? Get the mic closer to the talent and aim it directly at the speaker - even a shotgun should be within 3 to 4 feet of spoken dialog and aimed directly at their mouth or upper chin. Draw an imaginary circle maybe 8" in diameter centered on the base of the speaker's throat - if the axis of your mic is pointed is pointed outside that circle you're off-mic and your levels will drop dramatically. You mentioned you were aiming at a table between two speakers - that sounds like a recipe for trouble with neither subject actually in the mic's pickup pattern at all.

Can you hang some sound blankets on stands outside of your frame to deaden room reverb? How about flying one out of shot overhead of the subjects, perhaps fastened by the corners to hooks or other fasteners screwed into the ceiling?

In general shotguns are not the best choice for work in a reflective environment such as you describe that you're in while a cardioid lacks the 'reach' you need - cards are generally used 8 to 12 inches from the mouth when recording speech. The mic of choice would likely be a hypercardiod boomed from about 24 inches from the subjects but even this would only be able to pickup one person at a time very well, That option would require a boom operator to shift the aim of the mic with the give and take of the dialog. Why not put a couple of wired lavs (no need for wireless) on them - two people, two mics - and send each mic to its own track in the camera or recorder? I think that would be my first choice for two people seated at a table in a conversation or interview situation such as it sounds like you're shooting.
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Old February 5th, 2008, 05:26 PM   #15
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FYI, a lot of sound mixers seem to use a product called "Boom Recorder" which is designed specifically for production audio recording...

http://www.vosgames.nl/products/BoomRecorder/

You'll want some kind of interface, as the 1/8" mini jacks and built-in A/D on most laptops leave a lot to be desired, and are 16 bit, which limits the amount of overhead you can leave...
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