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Old May 25th, 2008, 04:19 PM   #1
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Audio help on documentary

I'm shooting a short documentary with a GL2, MA300 XLR adapter, and Azden SMG1X mic, and edited on iMovie. The on-camera dialogue limited to a few head shots (due to limited audio gear). I want to tell the story with pictures but some narration neccessary. Forget the computer mic. Any suggestions on what I need to produce good audio in post?

Thanks, Ed Space
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:09 AM   #2
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Ed,

Are you asking about how to create good narration (voice over), how to improve the dialog you've already recorded, or both? Couldn't quite tell from your post what specifically you were looking for.

- Martin
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Old May 27th, 2008, 06:33 PM   #3
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VO audio help

Thanks for the reply, Martin.

I'm asking how to record good VO audio on my Mac 10.5 computer. The computer mic audio is very poor. What kind of mic do I need? Am I asking to much of iMovie to handle? Final Cut is down the road.

Ed
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Old May 27th, 2008, 06:41 PM   #4
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What you need is experience. Nothing will substitute. Good luck.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 07:09 PM   #5
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Hi Ed.

The order of importance is as follows.

1. The script
2. The voice talent.
3. The recording environment
4. The audio recording chain
5. The microphone

Another way to say this is that if start with a good script and have a qualified VO Talent, you can typically put them in a clothes closet with a 20 year old analog tape recorder and hand them a $100 microphone and end up with something that NOBODY will question when they hear it on a narration track.

On the other hand, you can spend endless amounts of money on numbers 3 thru 5 - and never get beyond mediocre results because all you're doing is making better and better recordings of poor quality scripts and/or performances.

The REASON for the rigid order is easy to understand if you think about it a bit.

A bad script plus a good performance is just that - a good performance of a BAD script. End result: Poor

And a good script can certainly be ruined by a bad performance.

But given a good script and a good performance, the quality differences made by the RECORDING differences will typically be minor.

Want proof? Watch David Letterman. Watch the great moments in Presidential speeches gag he does about Bush. You'll hear recordings that by today's standards are CRAPPY - recordings of Franklin Roosevelt, or JFK, or the like, done decades ago on gear we'd laugh at today - but we are still mesmerized by the incredibly powerful communications they represent.

A great read of a good script even if it's plagued by a little hiss, or a lackluster level, or some other problem STILL communicates well!

Sure we want to record things well. But the fact is that a great script, read well - generally will not be greatly affected by the recording gear - simply because today's modest priced microphones and recording equipment are typically WAY good enough to record things just fine, thank you.

So the answer to recording "good VO audio" on your Mac 10.5 computer is to start with a good script and a good reader.

While I don't generally recommend using your camcorder mic directly, the truth of the matter is that if you took your camcorder into a quiet coat closet and read directly onto a rolling tape with the on-camera mic using narrator quality voice level, tone and diction - you'd probably end up with a usable track. Yeah, you'd have some minor camcorder transport noise, but if the read was good, that stuff should be WAY below the recording noise floor and listeners could ignore that pretty easily.

So, yes, it's better to use an exterior plug in mic to separate it from the camera noise. But that's not absolutely critical.

So don't worry so much about what you record ON. Worry more about WHAT you record.

Hope that helps.

Good luck.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 06:45 PM   #6
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Now there is a great example of a very useful reply, and above it, unfortunately a more or less completely useless one yet from a very knowledgeable user. I like helpful folks on this board, like Bill in this particular case.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 10:24 PM   #7
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Hey Ed, lots of options. It sounds like you want advice on a mic and other gear and possibly advice on production. To talk about that, we need to know how much you can spend. I'm a big believer that good audio doesn't have to cost a lot, but it will cost something. What you really want for the mic is a large diaphragm condenser (good ones start at about $400), a way to power it and something to record to. First off, I wouldn't record to the computer. The preamps aren't likely to be that great, and computers are noisy (fans, hard drives whirring, etc.). You're better off recording to the camera in a quiet, acoustically dead environment, like a closet with lots of coats or something hanging in it. I'm unfamiliar with the mic you mention (and Azden in general), but the brand doesn't seem well regarded. Still, if you can get the mic close and record in a quiet, dead environment, humble gear can sound surprisingly good. A better mic is always a good investment though, and decent phantom power units can be had for about $120. Then you'll want other stuff, like a dedicated recorder, mixer, etc. Only you can decide if all that's worth the expense, but there's no question you'll get better results.
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Old May 30th, 2008, 06:12 AM   #8
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While I support 98% of Bill's comment, saying that what you record it on isn't important is erroneous. The on-camera mic is very likely to pick up transport noise, especially if it is one of the cheap "built in" models instead of a removable XLR connected hyper cardioid, ESPECIALLY if used in a quiet room or closet.

Recording to tape and then importing into the NLE is not a bad way of doing VO on a budget; however, I strongly recommend using a separate mic connected via balanced audio cable with the camera some 20+ feet away where possible.

In terms of mics, one can get a reasonable quality mic from a pawn shop for very little money or spend many thousands of dollars. I used to use Shure SM58 mics back when I had no budget, then "invested" $100 in an Apex medium diaphragm condenser on a boom stand with a pop filter (very important). Now I have an AKG C2000 I'm quite fond of.

Bill is right that the most important things are the script and the performance but the wrong mic or the wrong mic-ing technique can ruin an otherwise brilliant read.
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Old May 30th, 2008, 10:37 AM   #9
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You guys seem to be overlooking the fact that it is perfectly possible to record great audio directly into the computer, just not very often using the usually somewhat marginal stock soundcard and its iffy analog inputs, etc. Removing the OEM soundcard or disabling the on-board audio and replacing it with a good quality external firewire or USB audio interface, coupled with a pro-quality mic and perhaps a compact mixing desk for convenience in level control and monitoring, plus software such as Soundforge, Audition, etc, or even freeware Audacity, can give fully professional results. After all, a good interface is also needed for monitoring during the rest of the postproduction sound editing and mixing tasks, so why not use it to record your VO too? Roger McGuinn released a video a couple of years ago showing how he put together some the songs on his recent CDs using a laptop running Audition as the recording device, worth taking a look at.
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Old May 30th, 2008, 11:02 AM   #10
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Actually, my old Mac G3 blue and white 450 is running pro tools LE with the digi 001 breakout for exactly that sort of thing. I can fly program audio to talent in my closet soundbooth as well as send them "wet" or "dry" mixes of their v/o track in "real"time (a couple of millisecond delay due to cables and processing - no one seems to mind).
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 11:49 PM   #11
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Audio help on documentary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Tuffrey View Post
What you need is experience. Nothing will substitute. Good luck.
Hi Jimmy,

"The longest journey begins with but one step" I need to know what I need to add "some" post narration to my project. My on tape audio was recorded with camera mounted XLR condenser mike. What kind of mic do I need for narration and do I record on computer or on camera tape? Thanks for reply.

Ed
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 12:03 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
You guys seem to be overlooking the fact that it is perfectly possible to record great audio directly into the computer, just not very often using the usually somewhat marginal stock soundcard and its iffy analog inputs, etc. Removing the OEM soundcard or disabling the on-board audio and replacing it with a good quality external firewire or USB audio interface, coupled with a pro-quality mic and perhaps a compact mixing desk for convenience in level control and monitoring, plus software such as Soundforge, Audition, etc, or even freeware Audacity, can give fully professional results. After all, a good interface is also needed for monitoring during the rest of the postproduction sound editing and mixing tasks, so why not use it to record your VO too? Roger McGuinn released a video a couple of years ago showing how he put together some the songs on his recent CDs using a laptop running Audition as the recording device, worth taking a look at.
Thanks for reply, Steve. Your method of using the computer to record VO is beyond my pay grade. Need a more basic system. Ed
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 01:59 AM   #13
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I have a similar set up, a Canon XM2, a MA300 XLR adaptor using a Senni M66 mic and for the V/O:

1] Put tape in camera

2] Point your Mic at mouth of V/O person

3] Record.

. .and just let the tape roll and roll and roll. Mistakes included.

What I have also done is to have the visuals run on a VCR VHS tape on a TV, sound off, and use a remote/zapper for the V/O to review again and again. It works and it is very easy=budget to attain. Once you have the "camera" V/O audio tape done capture that to your NLE and just align what you want to where you want it.

Oh, the one I did exactly like this won a competition for a Central London Public authority where the spoken word was essential for the video.

Grazie

ps: my "boom-pole" consisted of several bamboo canes gaffered together. I have subsequently traded up to a Rode Boom pole with internal wiring - such is progress!

Last edited by Graham Bernard; June 3rd, 2008 at 02:01 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 02:34 AM   #14
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Kind of a wild off the wall thought, but I've been very pleasantly surprised by the little Sony PCM-D50. Generally I'm not too impressed by these little all in one mic - recorder setups, but for the price it's really quite good. After recording it's really simple to upload the recording over USB and it doesn't have the complexity, bulk, cabling, etc associated with recording into a PC. You'll probably get handling noise when hitting the record button, but what the heck, easy enough to cut off the noisy sections in post, or add the little remote control.

It has a standard 1/4 - 20 camera tripod socket and sits on a little table top tripod just fine

I think it sounds reasonably good and I give it really high marks for simplicity.

Just a thought, for what it's worth.
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 07:43 AM   #15
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Audio help on documentary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Hi Ed.

The order of importance is as follows.

1. The script
2. The voice talent.
3. The recording environment
4. The audio recording chain
5. The microphone

Another way to say this is that if start with a good script and have a qualified VO Talent, you can typically put them in a clothes closet with a 20 year old analog tape recorder and hand them a $100 microphone and end up with something that NOBODY will question when they hear it on a narration track.

On the other hand, you can spend endless amounts of money on numbers 3 thru 5 - and never get beyond mediocre results because all you're doing is making better and better recordings of poor quality scripts and/or performances.

The REASON for the rigid order is easy to understand if you think about it a bit.

A bad script plus a good performance is just that - a good performance of a BAD script. End result: Poor

And a good script can certainly be ruined by a bad performance.

But given a good script and a good performance, the quality differences made by the RECORDING differences will typically be minor.

Want proof? Watch David Letterman. Watch the great moments in Presidential speeches gag he does about Bush. You'll hear recordings that by today's standards are CRAPPY - recordings of Franklin Roosevelt, or JFK, or the like, done decades ago on gear we'd laugh at today - but we are still mesmerized by the incredibly powerful communications they represent.

A great read of a good script even if it's plagued by a little hiss, or a lackluster level, or some other problem STILL communicates well!

Sure we want to record things well. But the fact is that a great script, read well - generally will not be greatly affected by the recording gear - simply because today's modest priced microphones and recording equipment are typically WAY good enough to record things just fine, thank you.

So the answer to recording "good VO audio" on your Mac 10.5 computer is to start with a good script and a good reader.

While I don't generally recommend using your camcorder mic directly, the truth of the matter is that if you took your camcorder into a quiet coat closet and read directly onto a rolling tape with the on-camera mic using narrator quality voice level, tone and diction - you'd probably end up with a usable track. Yeah, you'd have some minor camcorder transport noise, but if the read was good, that stuff should be WAY below the recording noise floor and listeners could ignore that pretty easily.

So, yes, it's better to use an exterior plug in mic to separate it from the camera noise. But that's not absolutely critical.

So don't worry so much about what you record ON. Worry more about WHAT you record.

Hope that helps.

Good luck.
Thanks Bill for some good advice. I continue to be amazed at the unselfish help offered on this forum. Years of writing copy and making presentations will help W/items 1 & 2. The on camera audio was recorded with an XLR condenser mic mounted on a MA300 XLR adapter. I can detach the mic. Are you saying I can rewind the tape, step into a closet and record VO on my recorded tape using my detached mic? Patience Bill, audio is new territory to this old photographer. Ed
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