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Old May 27th, 2008, 07:36 AM   #1
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Best sound set-up for DV self-shooter

Any recommendations for sound equipment that I can use when filming drama videos with actors? I'm a self-shooter and so a boom's not going to be appropriate.

Radio mics seem to be the best option but I'm new to using them and so don't want to buy if they're not right.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 08:56 AM   #2
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There really is no way around having a boom-op for dramatic material. ENG, event videography, maybe, but for dramatic stuff -- no way. To go entirely wireless would require handfuls of transmitters and receivers, not mention a very expensive multitrack recorder, and since you couldn't mix and shoot at the same time, you'd still be screwed. I have to say this again: you need a boom op. It can't be done without one. Well, it can be done, but the results will be embarrassing.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 09:28 AM   #3
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You don't necessarily need a boom operator if you have static shots and can set up a stand with the mic. However, if people move a lot a radio mic might be your best bet. I assume you're not shooting hand held for a drama.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:13 AM   #4
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Philip,

Don't use wireless systems unless there is no way to run cables. Wired audio sounds much better, for a small fraction of the cost.

Wired lavalier microphones may work for you, but I really second Marco's statement. Find a friend who can take care of the sound recording for you, and use a mic on a boom pole.

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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:16 AM   #5
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If you're shooting dramatic action with dialog, you have to have a soundman.

There is one way around it but it's a nightmare. That is to post-dub everything. Shoot with a camera-mounted mic for reference audio. Then take all the actors into a studio, after the film is edited, playing it back so they can watch, and record all the dialog. This is expensive, time consuming, and requires sound people who know what they're doing, as well as experienced actors who can match sync with themselves.

Even if you got wireless mics for all your actors, as the above post says, you'd need a mixer with enough channels to handle everything and a soundman do do the live mixing. Or record to separate channels on a decent multi-track recorder. And, to do double system sound like that requires a soundman, plus you'll always have problems with mic noise from buried lavs.

One more thing you can do is shoot with a camera-mounted mic, then always reshoot every scene with closeups or 2-shots where the camera is in very close, within 3-5 feet of the person talking, and always do these shots so the actor is talking as directly into the mic as possible. For example...say you have a master shot with 3 people talking. Shoot the long shot for the visual and for reference audio, then get an over the shoulder close 2-shot with actor 1 talking, reverse the angle for actor 2, get actor 3 talking on a closeup or 3-shot with 1 and 2 framing him...things like that. Obviously you have to have experienced actors who can repeat action exactly every time. An experienced continuity person also is a good idea.

If you're just interested in doing home movie type things with kids, maybe we're getting too complicated for you here. Just be aware that if you don't have a soundman, you will have crappy sound. If you're doing home movies, Youtube stuff, you may not care, and that's fine too.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #6
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Phillip,

Maybe you can tell us what you are trying to accomplish. I am a single shooter and video my daughter's plays at school, wife's choir stuff, etc. I also sell DVD's at times to some of the parents/members who can't be there.
(This is just a hobby for me)

I have just recently gone from a camera mounted shotgun to a recorder using mics around front of the stage. (Huge upgrade in sound) (No longer do I get the "echoy" type of sound.)

Now I know my video is not ever going to be seen in a movie theater, but the sound upgrade is tremendous by just my standards. I think it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I would love to take some of the suggestions that other members have about getting a mixer, soundman and so forth, but for what I do, it just doesn't make sense.

I say try upgrading a little at a time to see if there is a difference. I can say that going from camera mounted mics to close range mics is a big difference for indoor material.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 01:46 PM   #7
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Depending on budget and the amount of movement, maybe a small recorder like the Zoom H2/H4 to get an "ambient" mix - should be better than on cam mic at least... can be hidden in a scene if not too much movement and might save "looping" the dialog later. Really need more info on the nature of the scene...
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Old May 27th, 2008, 05:28 PM   #8
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If you have 3 wireless you will get by but it is tricky. Is this some sort of semi pro affair?

Buy good gear and it will be easier. You are going to struggle with using all 3 if you are the camera man though. Especially if the wireless are less than very good and quiet. These radios need to be set up well too which is not possible if you have camera and maybe lighting to take care of. The gain structures need to be right and then there is clothing russle issues which can drive the most experienced folks bonkers when the god of sound is not happy. You may well end up getting on his goat.

If you try and do everything you may end up being bad at everything too. Even pro's don't ditch the sound man for drama. They would if they could to save a few beans.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 04:26 AM   #9
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Thanks for all your input.

I'll explore the wired lavalier microphones but it seems like a boom is the best way forward. I've used sound men in the passed and the quality has been excellent so I reckon I'll just have to pay that extra.

What sound set-up would be right for a simple interview that's static? A boom would seem unnecessary, even though it's static. Would the camera's built-in mic be acceptable?
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Old May 28th, 2008, 07:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Jones View Post
Thanks for all your input.

I'll explore the wired lavalier microphones but it seems like a boom is the best way forward. I've used sound men in the passed and the quality has been excellent so I reckon I'll just have to pay that extra.

What sound set-up would be right for a simple interview that's static? A boom would seem unnecessary, even though it's static. Would the camera's built-in mic be acceptable?
If you otherwise own a pole, mic, etc, why not attach it to a C stand so that it can be properly positioned close to the subject. A "Boom Buddy" (otherwise known as a fishing rod holder) clamped to a sandbagged sturdy lightstand is ideal. While there are exceptions that prove the rule, it will be a rare case where the on-camera mic will give top-quality results on dialog. The physical laws of acoustics simply don't allow for it. The rule of thumb is that the mic needs to be close enough to the speaker that he is able to easily reach out and touch it.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 08:13 AM   #11
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Typically you put a boom on a fixed holder as Steve says, record that to one channel, and then put a wired or wireless lav on the second channel.
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Old June 25th, 2008, 03:11 AM   #12
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where there's a will, there's a way

hey all,
there is a way to record all your actors without a mixer or a sound guy. It's not the least frustrating or highest quality sound recording you'll ever do but you can make it work. How?

Get a minidisc and a mic for each actor.

i have a n-707 (i'd recommend newer models because poor paranoid stinking ass $ony wouldn't let you digitally download your own recordings on this model, so I have to record from the headphone out at the blazing fast speed of 1x.)

Then pair it with a mic that can use plug in power (any mic that works with less than 5 volts, i think.) i've got a giant squid mic and the mic that comes with the sennheiser g2 100 kit. Both work with the minidisc, but for some reason the giant squid sounds better (if a little too bassy) than the sennheiser when paired with the minidisc (but not when it's paired with the sennheiser kit.) There's other mics that work. I'd stay away from $ony's mics, and for that matter, i'd stay away from sony altogether. they've frustrated me too many times with their digital rights management handicapped hardware. I'm so excited to see RED camera knock sony out of the prosumer/professional camera market next year with Scarlet. That's what $ony gets for ATRAC, and withholding 24p for so long, and locking the psp and and and there's more but this is becoming a rant so back to the topic at hand.)

Using all a bunch of minidisc recorders means you have to mark your audio/video compulsively, or you'll be getting very frustrated in post trying to sync sound.

Again, it's not a perfect solution but you could probably get 6 minidisc recorders and mics for the price of one sennheiser g2 kit. And the beautiful thing about the minidisc recorder I have is it takes a single AA rechargeable battery, the original one it came with, and it lasts all day long. (there's a bit of a catch 22 {a great book by the way} cause $ony started using proprietary batteries in their later models that do allow digital downloading but replacement batteries are like forty dollars.)

Anyway, only you know how great you want your sound to, uh, sound. So here's a clip from my rehearsal. there's definitely some user error contributing to the poor sound quality. I recorded mono .wav onto minidisc. then rerecorded the audio out of the minidisc to my zoom h2's audio in as mp3 192k. then lowered the bass and added 6 db of gain in FCP. And exported 160k mp3 from compressor. So there's definitely room for improvement. But the bottom line is that for ~$55 (Giant Squid mono lav ($30) $ony n707 (~$25 used.)) per person you can record what each actor is saying without a mixer or a sound guy. And if you make great things the money men will come and buy you all the crystal clear sound equipment you could ever want or so I'm told.

(the male voice has the lav attached to his shirt.)
http://www.oldchildprojects.com/audio/vamp-_.mp3

hope this helps,
jayson
www.oldchildprojects.com
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Old June 25th, 2008, 06:00 AM   #13
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[QUOTE=Jayson Rahmlow;And if you make great things the money men will come and buy you all the crystal clear sound equipment you could ever want or so I'm told.

hope this helps,
jayson

In that dream you think you wake up only to find your audio gear has transformed itself into a dixie cup and a piece of string tied to your camera. :)

Great responses here for you Philip. Once you hear what a properly implemented boom mic sounds like, you'll probably only use your built in mic for emergencies.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old June 25th, 2008, 08:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pryor View Post
If you're shooting dramatic action with dialog, you have to have a soundman.

There is one way around it but it's a nightmare. That is to post-dub everything. Shoot with a camera-mounted mic for reference audio. Then take all the actors into a studio, after the film is edited, playing it back so they can watch, and record all the dialog. This is expensive, time consuming, and requires sound people who know what they're doing, as well as experienced actors who can match sync with themselves.
Hi Bill:

Ever see "M. Hulot's Holiday" by Jacques Tati? Entirely post dubbed, charming and fun. All of the advice here is great but it could actually be quite interesting to post dub an entire feature as some filmmakers have done (El Mariachi?).

Intriguing idea if you are doing something stylized.

Dan
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Old June 25th, 2008, 10:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Jones View Post
Any recommendations for sound equipment that I can use when filming drama videos with actors? I'm a self-shooter and so a boom's not going to be appropriate.

Radio mics seem to be the best option but I'm new to using them and so don't want to buy if they're not right.
If this is an on stage play/drama which is not professional, say college or school, you might get away with some poorer, echoic sound and it would actually give it a school play feel.

One inexpensive way to start your sound kit is to get a portable digital recorder with onboard mics. You could disguise it in the set/stage.
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