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Old April 28th, 2008, 02:36 AM   #1
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Audio setup for workshop reality show

Looks like we'll be shooting a pilot for a reality show that takes place in a workshop in a few weeks (similar to American Chopper, though not with motorcycles). It will be shot with either two Sony Z1's or two Sony EX1's over the course of 2-3 days. Camera and lighting-wise, I've got things figured out. The audio is a little bit complicated.

When you enter the shop, there's a room to your right, a room straight ahead, another room past that, a room to its right and a staircase leading back toward the front door with another room on the second level (above the first room). The boss is one of the main characters but there are 4-5 other staff who will be working with equipment and moving around from room to room. Ideally, I'd like to have a wireless lav on everyone.

I can rent a Sound Devices 442 and 744t to give me 4 audio tracks. I have two sets of Sennheiser G2 500 wireless and can rent enough sets for everyone on the show. I can also rent a Schoeps MK41.

There are a few issues in putting lavs on everyone: I don't think there's a point in the shop where the sound guy could get good reception of all the lavs. Only having 4 channels on the 744t poses an obvious problem when I'd like to have 5-6 mics. The guys will sometimes be cutting/routing wood, which would probably clip the lav's transmitter if it's set for voice levels.

Right now, I'm considering putting a lav on everyone but only running 4 receivers into the mixer. The sound guy would stay near me and tune receivers to whichever lavs I want. I'd put a shotgun on each camera (I'm not going to lie, I'll probably go cheap on this - maybe Audio-Technica AT897) which I think would be good enough for how often it's actually used.

If having the sound guy retune when I move around doesn't work then I suppose I could put one receiver on each camera to give me 6 wireless channels. This is something I would only consider if I use EX1's because I don't want to deal with the Z1's preamps and compressed audio. Would the preamp and 16/24-bit difference between the EX1 and 442/744t be noticeable to the average viewer?

I really don't know who of the staff we'll be shooting the most because none of them have been hired yet. The boss has been working for 8 years and is finally hiring staff, so we'll be shooting from the beginning of the new phase. It could realistically work to retune the receivers from time to time, but I'd hate to get burnt by that if something happened quickly. Should I be putting more thought into using the Shoeps?

Well, that's my situation. Any thoughts or suggestions? I can describe things in more detail if any of that didn't make sense.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old April 28th, 2008, 04:47 PM   #2
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5 to 6 people is always a bit of a problem. Wendt X5 can be linked to the smaller X3 and you can have your 5 to 6 mics with a boom being mixed as you like to 2 channels. The new Fostex PD606 could be the recording answer you want. You can also record multiple Sound Devices together using timecode. Usually the sound guys I know who do this like to work off a cart.
Retuning is commonly done when you have more transmitters than receivers but I have only done it on the fly with Lectrosonics. Of course my feeling is you can go with 2 or three radio mics on principals on one channel and boom every one else on the other channel. It is a pilot so you don't have to come up with the series solution right off the bat. Hth
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Old April 28th, 2008, 05:22 PM   #3
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If you're in a fixed location, why not get a PC/Mac laptop and a multi-input soundcard and record as many channels as you need straight to a RAID-1 drive? When you leave the shop, use the portable stuff and record two or four channels as needed.

The downside is that it's hard to keep the mixer out of the shot, if they aren't mobile. A lightweight, nicely packaged cart or pack could solve that.

Intuition tells me that if you have to switch mics, you risk gaps in audio coverage.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 12:01 AM   #4
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Thanks for the suggestions, guys. Switching receiver frequencies would, as you said, leave high risk for audio gaps. I'll rule that out right now.

I completely forgot to mention that I own a Sound Devices 302, which could be fed into the 442 to give me 6 channels.

I know a soundguy who could do a multi-track recording to his computer. I should really head over to the shop and run some wireless tests to make sure I can get reception from any point in the building (since his rig would be static).

The last option would be 4 channels in the 744t and 2 in the cameras (1 in each camera). Would the quality difference be acceptable or should I scrap the idea?

Thanks for the feedback.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 04:13 AM   #5
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...
I completely forgot to mention that I own a Sound Devices 302, which could be fed into the 442 to give me 6 channels.

...
Actually 7 channels. The Mix Input on the 442 goes straight to the bus and doesn't tie up any of the regular inputs.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 12:11 PM   #6
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Consider ProTools

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Originally Posted by Mark Utley View Post
Thanks for the suggestions, guys. Switching receiver frequencies would, as you said, leave high risk for audio gaps. I'll rule that out right now.

I completely forgot to mention that I own a Sound Devices 302, which could be fed into the 442 to give me 6 channels.

I know a soundguy who could do a multi-track recording to his computer. I should really head over to the shop and run some wireless tests to make sure I can get reception from any point in the building (since his rig would be static).

The last option would be 4 channels in the 744t and 2 in the cameras (1 in each camera). Would the quality difference be acceptable or should I scrap the idea?

Thanks for the feedback.
Mark:

In my experience, any time I need over four channels of sound, I just hire a sound mixer and we use a ProTools portable rig. The sound mixer still supplies me with a rough two channel output to the cams so that we have to edit with. He then conforms the audio from the ProTools rig to the finished show. I have done this process with a TC slate and with just hand claps and either way worked fine.

Few location sound mixers are talented enough to effectively ride gain on more than 4-5 channels at once in an unrehearsed show, the beauty of the ProTools approach is that it doesn't matter if the mics are all left open (not that you would want to do that all of the time) but if they are all left open, the sound mixer can pick and choose who to use at any given point in the show without worrying about crosstalk and picking up the other talent on the other talent's mic. We have used wired lavs each time and it really works well. Another benefit of being able to leave all of the mics hit is that when the talent interrupts each other or talks over each other, you have it, there is no potting up and potting down and missing part of it.

I have done this for three different cast reunions from TV show casts with either three or four cameras. We are not rehearsed and we have no idea who will speak when so it's really been the only way to do it efficiently. Works like a charm and it is so much easier than the pressure of having to ride gain, open and close mics "live" without a rehearsal. After doing it this way, I would never go back to live mixing it for camera as you shoot, there are too many opportunities for screw ups.

The only tricky part is finding location sound mixers who are comfortable running ProTools and having a portable laptop based small and light ProTools system. You may have to hire a ProTools person AND a location sound mixer. The Sound mixer to run the mics and cable and the ProTools person to run the ProTools rig. I am lucky in that I have a location sound mixer who also does audio post so he can do both jobs but it's rare. Most location sound mixers don't know ProTools because it's a post tool.

Good luck with your show.

Dan

Last edited by Dan Brockett; April 30th, 2008 at 06:52 PM.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 01:26 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Mark Utley View Post
I don't think there's a point in the shop where the sound guy could get good reception of all the lavs.
A possible brute force solution to this problem would be to give each guy two wireless mics tuned to different frequencies. Then have the receivers located in different rooms/positions, so that at any given time at least one of them will pick up a good signal.

Of course, that will double the number of channels, but it sounds like you may be headed down the multitrack route anyway. Alesis makes a very nice 24-channel recorder (HD24); if you can rent something like that for a few days...

- Martin
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Old April 30th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #8
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ProTools is the de facto standard, and a good way to go, but there are many, many options for multitracking software. These include Final Cut, Logic, Digital Performer, Nuendo, Cubase, Sonar, Vegas, ACID and countless others. As long as the system is solid, you have good preamps and A/Ds and the operator knows his stuff, you should be golden. I wouldn't get hung up about it *having* to be Pro Tools, if you go the multi-track route.

More important than the software behind it would be redundancy. Recording a mixdown to your cameras is a good idea. Using a RAID 1 or 5 for storage is also smart. Don't work without a net...
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Old April 30th, 2008, 06:53 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
ProTools is the de facto standard, and a good way to go, but there are many, many options for multitracking software. These include Final Cut, Logic, Digital Performer, Nuendo, Cubase, Sonar, Vegas, ACID and countless others. As long as the system is solid, you have good preamps and A/Ds and the operator knows his stuff, you should be golden. I wouldn't get hung up about it *having* to be Pro Tools, if you go the multi-track route.

More important than the software behind it would be redundancy. Recording a mixdown to your cameras is a good idea. Using a RAID 1 or 5 for storage is also smart. Don't work without a net...

Good point Jon, I agree with all of them. We just used ProTools because the prodco I was shooting these had a portable PT rig. Could be any reliable DAW.

Dan
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Old April 30th, 2008, 07:17 PM   #10
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What is the name of the multi track laptop recording software used by some recording engineers on movie sets? I've read an article about it, but I don't remember the name. I believe it has a lot of features specific to film making.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 08:42 PM   #11
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What is the name of the multi track laptop recording software used by some recording engineers on movie sets? I've read an article about it, but I don't remember the name. I believe it has a lot of features specific to film making.
That would be Boom Recorder by Vosgames of the Netherlands http://www.vosgames.nl/

I have not tried it, but it looks quite intriguing.

Dan
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Old April 30th, 2008, 09:07 PM   #12
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That would be Boom Recorder by Vosgames of the Netherlands http://www.vosgames.nl/

I have not tried it, but it looks quite intriguing.

Dan
Yes, that's it. There's a 30 day trial and full price of the pro version is $260, so I would think it's worth looking into for an ongoing production if recording into a computer were an option. With 63 channels plus timecode all synched, with preroll, metadata and all the other features, it could be good for a reality type show with many mics.

In addition to wireless and wired lavs, you might be able to hang/mount supercardiods/cardiods over certain work areas or work benches if things are set up that way.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 11:46 AM   #13
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Yes, that's it. There's a 30 day trial and full price of the pro version is $260, so I would think it's worth looking into for an ongoing production if recording into a computer were an option. With 63 channels plus timecode all synched, with preroll, metadata and all the other features, it could be good for a reality type show with many mics.

In addition to wireless and wired lavs, you might be able to hang/mount supercardiods/cardiods over certain work areas or work benches if things are set up that way.
It's also important to check their list of approved audio interfaces on the website. A high quality interface with good pre-amps is not cheap but it worth it if you care about sound quality.

Dan
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Old May 1st, 2008, 09:10 PM   #14
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It's also important to check their list of approved audio interfaces on the website. A high quality interface with good pre-amps is not cheap but it worth it if you care about sound quality.

Dan
Yes, recording into a computer is not the simplest thing to set up to get it right. It helps to get help from someone with experience and who knows the hardware options as well as computer requirements and software options.

About 5 years ago or so I first investigated computer recording, midi, sequencers, multitrack software recorders, etc. Knowing how to make a web page wasn't any help.

I found the first secret is to clearly define your purpose/goal. Then put things together step by step to get the best result with your resources for your purpose.

A note about preamps on the audio interface. Some audio interfaces have very good preamps. However, there are usually many more inputs than preamps. The preamps can be on a mixer or other outboard equipment then just fed into the computer through the interface at line level. It is important to get an interface with an excellent A/D converter.

For $500 there are some good interfaces that should work for recording dialog for a reality show, I believe. But there is also the computer and all the audio equipment.

However, once things are working, such a setup should be quite slick for an ongoing reality show. The Vosgames program seems very attractive if dealing with hours and hours of audio from half a dozen mics that must all be synched.... especially with ongoing shooting, week after week.

The whole editing process has to be part of the planning, but anything to streamline and simplify getting quality audio into the editing system all synched and ready to go has got to be worth looking into.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 02:40 AM   #15
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Thanks for all the replies. My friend/sound guy who I work with a lot just informed me that he's about to upgrade to ProTools, so this will work very nicely. His setup will be in a 15 foot hallway that leads to a fire exit, fairly central in the shop (should be okay for wireless). His sound guy friend has bought a lot of audio gear (Earthworks mics, really nice preamps, etc) over the past year so I imagine we'll be renting from him.

I'll let you know how things go.

Thanks!
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