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Old May 2nd, 2008, 09:11 PM   #1
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What's best for field audio?

I'm about to shoot a documentary for one month. I wll be travelling consistently within that month and have a crew coming along to assist in all aspects of production.

My key worry right now is audio. I have just purchased two shotgun mics, i got this from looking over the logistics of the amount of movement we will be doing, and we will not be sitting in one place for more than 2 hours.

I also have a field mixer.

But what does everyone think about the lavalier? When are the best situations for them to be used?

I've heard comparisons and personally i prefer the quality of the shotguns, but i still want to better understand what are all the positive aspects and negative of both the shotgun and lavalier systems.

Thank You!
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 09:31 PM   #2
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Late in the Game

Kevin... your question is a good one, but to tell us you are on the cusp of a month long documentary shoot and be asking this level of audio question rather suggests you waiting until a little late in the game to think about audio.

However, that said, I think it is fair to say three basics for your question come to mind to start. 1. A good shotgun properly done with a good mic properly handled and placed will more than likely produce better sound for your production than a lav will.

2. Lav's can certainly have their place however. Lav placement and visibility can be an issue, as can clothing noise if your talent is moving. Wired is best, but if you can do a wired lav you can probably do a shotgun. (Suggestion: "When able use cable".)

3. Wireless lavs can be a lifesaver. You'll need good ones and ones you can legally and safely (interference wise) use wherever it is you are shooting. Same issues about placement and noise apply.

This site has a ton of good info... Ty Ford has a nice little useful book on Location Audio... he has a website under his name.com and you can learn a lot there.

Catchup time for you methinks. Lots of good and experienced folks here who might better assist you. Good luck.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 10:34 PM   #3
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If you'll be indoors, especially in small rooms, then a shotgun (with interference tube design- the long tubes with slits along the barrel) can pick up unpleasant amounts of reflected sound, which you will find difficult to impossible to remove later. You'd be better off, in those situations, using a microphone with a hypercardioid pickup pattern. Search this site for recommendations, then go and try them before purchase/rental if you're able.

Also, practice. Booming is not as simple as it looks, and is a combination of several skills. Different mics with respond differently to placement. Using the lav as well, if you have recording channels to spare, might be a good idea since you might be more likely to make mistakes. Practice is in your case particularly vital, as it seems as though you will not get a chance to try again before you have moved on- also, you're recording real people, and you don't want them to have to repeat themselves, as you won't get the same results.

I don't know what I'm talking about, mind you.

And good luck!

And practice!
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 11:32 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Ta View Post
I'm about to shoot a documentary for one month. I wll be travelling consistently within that month and have a crew coming along to assist in all aspects of production.

My key worry right now is audio. I have just purchased two shotgun mics, i got this from looking over the logistics of the amount of movement we will be doing, and we will not be sitting in one place for more than 2 hours.

I also have a field mixer.

But what does everyone think about the lavalier? When are the best situations for them to be used?

I've heard comparisons and personally i prefer the quality of the shotguns, but i still want to better understand what are all the positive aspects and negative of both the shotgun and lavalier systems.

Thank You!
Hi Kevin:

Not trying to be negative at all, but I agree with Chris, it's pretty late in the game to learn a new profession and craft right before you begin your shoot. There is a distinct reason why good location sound mixers earn between $500.00 to $1,200.00 per day, it's an art and a science.

It's not clear from your post who will be recording your audio? You? A camera operator? A PA? If you have access to a professional sound mixer, you will not need to worry about this, most sound mixers own their own gear or can rent what you will need. My suggestion would be to beg, borrow or ask for a sound mixer, sound is more important to the success of your project than almost anything else.

To answer your question, you did not post the type of doc you plan to shoot, but assuming it's a doc, it will be interview driven most likely. In this type of situation, Audio 101 would be to always shoot with both a lavalier and a shotgun or cardioid variant mic. You must give your editor choice. A shotgun or cardioid variant will usually sound better but there may be ambient noise issues that will preclude you from using the shotgun or cardioid variant mic in certain situations. In which case, you will be really glad you brought a lavalier, because then you will still be able to record usable audio.

Regardless of if you are recording or you are hiring a sound mixer, I would suggest some reading to get up to speed.

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage...ion_sound.html
http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage..._brockett.html
http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/lavs_brockett.html

These three will at least give you some education about how location sound works, why you need certain mics, mixers, mic support and a million other details. The best advice is to hire a pro and let them give you great audio. Trying to do it yourself has a slim chance to success frankly.

Best,

Dan
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 12:29 AM   #5
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Kevin... I had hoped someone like Dan would chime in. Trust me you are hearing from the pros at this point.

Apropos of little of anything.... I have a friend who has been teaching kindergarten for 30 years. A friend of hers, who is a nurse, decided to home school her kindergartener. In a conversation with my 30 year veteran teacher, she asked if she might garner a couple hours of her time to learn how to teach a kindergartener. To her credit, my friend countered - "why not make it 4 hours, so in a couple hours you can teach me to be a nurse too."

Audio is the bastard stepchild of modern film production, yet makes up more than half of the typical listeners experience. Film-makers often treat it as if you can pick it up in a couple of hours. (Or easily "fix it in post")

Folks like Dan are golden (and he is one of maybe a half a dozen seasoned experienced pros on this board audio-wise). They all are well worth a listen and offer advice you cannot buy.
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 01:18 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Chris Swanberg View Post
Kevin... I had hoped someone like Dan would chime in. Trust me you are hearing from the pros at this point.

Apropos of little of anything.... I have a friend who has been teaching kindergarten for 30 years. A friend of hers, who is a nurse, decided to home school her kindergartener. In a conversation with my 30 year veteran teacher, she asked if she might garner a couple hours of her time to learn how to teach a kindergartener. To her credit, my friend countered - "why not make it 4 hours, so in a couple hours you can teach me to be a nurse too."

Audio is the bastard stepchild of modern film production, yet makes up more than half of the typical listeners experience. Film-makers often treat it as if you can pick it up in a couple of hours. (Or easily "fix it in post")

Folks like Dan are golden (and he is one of maybe a half a dozen seasoned experienced pros on this board audio-wise). They all are well worth a listen and offer advice you cannot buy.
Jeez Chris, I am bright red, thanks! I am not a working sound mixer though or a trained engineer, I just like audio. But I do spend a lot of time on movie and tv sets, and I always hang with and have a good relationship with the sound mixers. I shoot a lot of EPK and DVD BTS work and I usually get a tap from the sound mixer to record to my camera so I actually get to hear how great these people are at what they do. Working guys like Ty are the real deal. But I did own an audio post house for a few years, I write a lot about sound and I grew up in a recording studio in my teens so I do know enough to be dangerous.

Hiring a good sound mixer is the best investment you can make into any project with location sound. You are so right on in that audio is the neglected stepchild, it really is and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. Low budget people will hire a DP, but will try to do audio themselves or hand it off to a PA. Makes no sense.

All my best,

Dan
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 02:00 AM   #7
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Thank You all so much for you advice, I'm taking it all into heart, and looking at every little detail. I really admire you all for taking the time to write all these pointers and provide the links as well from the professional standpoint.

To explain what kind of documentary i am doing. It's actually a series of short documentaries. They will be about 10-15 minutes each in length.
Our website is www.icanucan.org

The subject is a non-profit organization that i work with called the International Children Assistance Network (ICAN) www.ican2.org. They are based in the Vietnamese American community, and work to fund other organizations or programs back in Vietnam to help children and their families in the rural areas to acquire better education, healthcare, and life opportunities.

Each short documentary will be on each of the programs that ICAN funds.

As for audio equipment, i have experience working with a shotgun mic a few times, and a lavalier. Though this is my first real big project, and so i'm just stressing over every little detail and making sure that i have the knowledge and experierence to make it all happen, because there is not going back to fix anything, i MUST capture everything in camera.

Though i do i have a crew, seven people to be exact. I have a 2nd unit camera man, i have 2 sound guys, interviewers, and field producers. Though non of them have experience in field video. I am the only one who comes from a film background (actually i am still in school studying film). I myself am the director, and the 1st unit cameraman.

Out of my two sound guys, one actually has a lot of experience with sound, but not field audio. More studio work.

The layout for the trip is beginning from the north of Vietnam to the south, for an entire month. For each program, we have 2-3 days at each location to capture everything.

It is very much interview driven, though in the end there will be a lot of B-footage laid over to make things more interesting and bearable to watch instead of just talking heads.

Since we are moving so much, i decided to rely primarily on shotgun mics (sennheiser me66, audio technica at897), because those people we interview might take us to places where certain functions of the programs are at, and we can capture that. I do have a lavalier microphone too. But now i am considering getting an extra one, i just realized this as i typed it that if their moving, and talking it might be wise to have them hooked up and the lav wired to the 2nd unit camera.

As you can see i am inexperienced, and am taking on a huge feat, this is my first big project, and there are many things that i know i have overlooked, but desperately need to become aware of as the project is coming very close. I wish i would have more time to work with the audio equipment, but our funds have just come in last weekend so that we can buy all the extra necessary equipment for field production.

Please keep all the advice coming, i need everything i can get, i really appreciate it all!


- Kevin
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 02:01 AM   #8
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Thank You all so much for you advice, I'm taking it all into heart, and looking at every little detail. I really admire you all for taking the time to write all these pointers and provide the links as well from the professional standpoint.

To explain what kind of documentary i am doing. It's actually a series of short documentaries. They will be about 10-15 minutes each in length.
Our website is www.icanucan.org

The subject is a non-profit organization that i work with called the International Children Assistance Network (ICAN) www.ican2.org. They are based in the Vietnamese American community, and work to fund other organizations or programs back in Vietnam to help children and their families in the rural areas to acquire better education, healthcare, and life opportunities.

Each short documentary will be on each of the programs that ICAN funds.

As for audio equipment, i have experience working with a shotgun mic a few times, and a lavalier. Though this is my first real big project, and so i'm just stressing over every little detail and making sure that i have the knowledge and experierence to make it all happen, because there is not going back to fix anything, i MUST capture everything in camera.

Though i do i have a crew, seven people to be exact. I have a 2nd unit camera man, i have 2 sound guys, interviewers, and field producers. Though non of them have experience in field video. I am the only one who comes from a film background (actually i am still in school studying film). I myself am the director, and the 1st unit cameraman.

Out of my two sound guys, one actually has a lot of experience with sound, but not field audio. More studio work.

The layout for the trip is beginning from the north of Vietnam to the south, for an entire month. For each program, we have 2-3 days at each location to capture everything.

It is very much interview driven, though in the end there will be a lot of B-footage laid over to make things more interesting and bearable to watch instead of just talking heads.

Since we are moving so much, i decided to rely primarily on shotgun mics (sennheiser me66, audio technica at897), because those people we interview might take us to places where certain functions of the programs are at, and we can capture that. I do have a lavalier microphone too. But now i am considering getting an extra one, i just realized this as i typed it that if their moving, and talking it might be wise to have them hooked up and the lav wired to the 2nd unit camera.

As you can see i am inexperienced, and am taking on a huge feat, this is my first big project, and there are many things that i know i have overlooked, but desperately need to become aware of as the project is coming very close. I wish i would have more time to work with the audio equipment, but our funds have just come in last weekend so that we can buy all the extra necessary equipment for field production.

Please keep all the advice coming, i need everything i can get, i really appreciate it all!


- Kevin
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Old May 4th, 2008, 02:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Phil Bambridge View Post
If you'll be indoors, especially in small rooms, then a shotgun (with interference tube design- the long tubes with slits along the barrel) can pick up unpleasant amounts of reflected sound, which you will find difficult to impossible to remove later. You'd be better off, in those situations, using a microphone with a hypercardioid pickup pattern. Search this site for recommendations, then go and try them before purchase/rental if you're able.
I would like to second this suggestion. A hypercardioid will work in situations where shotguns are problematic. Some are outstanding at rejecting off-axis sound and they are also very good for capturing very natural sounding human voices in interviews.

Good luck.

Peter
www.parkfilms.com
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Old May 4th, 2008, 02:51 PM   #10
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Include a handheld dynamic mic that can be used when all else fails.

Some kind of watertight, moisture proof storage protection for the mics would seem to be in order.
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Old May 4th, 2008, 05:42 PM   #11
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Hello Kevin,

Send the shotguns back and get a couple of Sanken CS-3e mics. They look like shotguns but aren't.

BTW, I proved again this past week that shotguns are not that great outside either on a shoot for Apple COomputer in Ft. Belvoir, VA. We had lots of background noise from mowers, helicopters, fixed-wing planes, trucks, etc..

The hardwired lav (Countryman B6) I used tucked under the army officer's collar frequently sounded best because interference tube mics are more omni at mid and low frequencies. The omni won because it was closer to the officer's mouth and his body blocked some of the ambi.

Good luck.

Regards,

Ty Ford

PS: Chris, thanks for the hat tip.

Last edited by Ty Ford; November 18th, 2008 at 08:18 AM.
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Old May 4th, 2008, 06:33 PM   #12
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Hello Kevin,

Send the shotguns back and get a couple of Sanken CS-3e mics. They look like shotguns but aren't.
Regards,
Ty Ford
PS: Chris, thanks for the hat tip.
That's a good idea, and it will only cost an extra $2110 for the pair.

Good advice that lives by the law of diminishing returns.

Or get a couple of AT875rs. an at4051a with the additonal 4053a capsule, and a couple of waterproof small lavs. And all for less than the two Sankens, that I think may be of dubious value while traveling fast through the jungle, down the rivers and under the rain.

Oh, and get a good handheld dynamic mic you can use huddled under a tarp in a torrential downpour.
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Old May 4th, 2008, 09:10 PM   #13
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That's a good idea, and it will only cost an extra $2110 for the pair.

Good advice that lives by the law of diminishing returns.

Or get a couple of AT875rs. an at4051a with the additonal 4053a capsule, and a couple of waterproof small lavs. And all for less than the two Sankens, that I think may be of dubious value while traveling fast through the jungle, down the rivers and under the rain.

Oh, and get a good handheld dynamic mic you can use huddled under a tarp in a torrential downpour.
Hey Jack,

Who peed in your Wheaties this morning?

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old May 4th, 2008, 09:12 PM   #14
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I understand both Ty's response and the response to that.

BUT... what I took away from Ty's short message was something I had not thought of before.... inside you may get reflected sound with a shotgun.... and so since we logically assume that outdoors that will be absent we are home free.... NOT.

Ty reminded (and for me at least this time around... taught me) that background ambient outdoors CAN be an issue with a shotgun .... something we forget. That the back lobe can be more omni than we think is good to know.

Me? I still believe in doing an outdoor shoot requiring a wireless Lav with the Lav panned to one channel and a shotgun panned to the other. Seems like that idea has found some (new for me) support....

I keep playing and experimenting with what I learn and so far it has proven out every time.

Ty... try not to get allergies from the flowers. (wink).

Chris
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Old May 4th, 2008, 09:24 PM   #15
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Chris,

Works for me. :)

Regards,

Ty Ford
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