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Old June 14th, 2008, 08:45 AM   #1
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Tips for Better Sound

In another thread Bill Davis posted:



And just because this thread represents something so very common - to wit, people wanting a piece of gear to solve problems by virtue of the simple fact of ownership - my advice is to think of all audio equipment as the equivalent of owning various musical instruments.

Doesn't matter how fine a quality violin, or trumpet you purchase and own - if you can't actually play it.

Good audio recording is 90 percent experience and technique and 10 percent tools.

Always has been, always will be.

Don't believe me? Give a qualified recordist $1000 and a B&H catalog and let them loose on a movie set. Then give a newbie TEN GRAND and the same catalog and set them loose.

Wanna bet on which one comes back with the better recordings?

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I agree with Bill's comments.

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It takes experience and practice to get good sound.

The proper techniques for using microphones are sometimes less than obvious.

We could all help by giving tips on how to get better sound.

My goal is for anyone with a tip to post it so that all can discuss the merits of the tip and also provide their own tips.

I feel that it would be helpful if we sequentially numbered the tips so we can discuss each tip easily.

These are not ordered in terms of their importance.
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1. Position the microphone as close to the sound as possible. A shotgun mic should not be thought of as a telephoto lens for sound.

2. If you can not get close to the sound source because the microphone will be in the shot, consider using a lavaliere or hidding a mic.

3. Whenever possible use a wired microphone instead of going wireless.

4. Do not position the microphone horizontonal, pointing at the speakers mouth. Instead, position the microphone above (preferred in many cases) or below.

5. Always monitor your sound via headphones.

6. Use a separate person for sound. Let the camera operator concentrate on the camera and the other person to concentrate on sound.

7. Learn each microphone's "Polar Pattern". For example, a shotgun microphone will obtain sound from the front, the sides and the back, but at different levels, and the levels depend on the frequencies of the sound.

8. No one microphone suits all situations. For example, the worlds best studio microphone is usually not the best choice for field recording.

9. Dialog recording is usually done in mono.

10. An omni lavaliere is usually preferred over a cardioid lavaliere for most applications.

11. Setting the levels is critical. In the digital world, going over 0dB destroys your sound.

12. If at all possible, record each micrphone to a separate track. This is especially true for any wireless microphone. If you combine (mix) multiple wireless microphones into one track, interference or a dropout may destroy the entire track.

13. Remember that if you point a microphone at a sound source, you will get that sound plus the sounds on the far side of the source, plus sounds from behind the micrphone in many cases.

You may be able to reposition the microphone so as to minimize these sounds. In many cases, this involves repositioning yourself as well as the microphone.

14. Removing unwanted sounds in post, such as road noise, airplanes, and echos can be extremely hard, or impossible. In many cases, attempting to remove an objectionable noise can render your sound track useless.

This by no means is a complete (or ordered) list. I hope others will join in with their favorite tips so we can all learn from each other.
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Old June 14th, 2008, 12:32 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post

3. Whenever possible use a wired microphone instead of going wireless.
Dan:

I don't agree with this at all. Maybe a better way of saying this (because I suspect this is what you meant), would be:

3. Use a double diversity wireless, if that isn't possible, try using a wired microphone over wireless.

Maybe this isn't what you meant, but I'll certainly put my Lectro 411 and Zaxcom 900 wireless up against any wired lav.

Wayne
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Old June 14th, 2008, 02:37 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post
In another thread Bill Davis posted:

1. Position the microphone as close to the sound as possible.
Agreed as a general rule but there are exceptions - recording a full symphony orchestra with a stereo pair for example. I imagine filming aircraft taking off would be another :-)
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Old June 14th, 2008, 05:20 PM   #4
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Maybe we need to categorize the tips according to what one is recording.

For example dialogue or weddings or small or large scale musical events (as in symphonic or choral) or rock concerts or stage shows, or music videos, etc

I know it's possible to overcategorize to the point of uselessness, but at the same time there are differences in the approach and setup - such as how to pick up good sound from a PA board.
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Old June 14th, 2008, 06:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton View Post

3. Whenever possible use a wired microphone instead of going wireless.

4. Do not position the microphone horizontonal, pointing at the speakers mouth. Instead, position the microphone above (preferred in many cases) or below.

10. An omni lavaliere is usually preferred over a cardioid lavaliere for most applications.
Why, why and why?
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Old June 14th, 2008, 08:23 PM   #6
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3. Wireless signals are subject to: radio interference due to other radio sources; and signal degradation based on companding circuitry. The quality of the electronics may help to alleviate these issues. My OPINION is that all things being equal, a hard wire will always give less opportunity for dropouts or degradation.

4. Cardioid dynamic vocal mics like the Shure SM58 are designed to be pointed at a singer's/speaker's mouth. Hyper cardioid condensers are prone to exaggerated plosive effects based on the force of the expelled air acting directly on the mic plates.

A $150 wireless is FAR more likely to exhibit interference issues than a fully pro $3k+ solution, as Wayne suggests but there can be NO argument that wired eliminates the radio interference concern (although creating an "antenna" concern in it's place, which is usually adequately offset by the balance nature of XLR cables, assuming you are using all three connections all the way to your recorder ie. no adaptors to 1/8" TS)
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Old June 14th, 2008, 08:51 PM   #7
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It all depends on the application. Sometimes (often), the lack of tethering obtained through the use of wireless is more important than quality.
Also if you are working out of a bag then all that extra XLR cable is a problem to carry. Wireless does not need that.

Good quality radio systems sound fine (sometimes great) for most applications, doco, ENG, L.E.
In fact the cheap ones sound O.K. for doco and ENG.
Very good quality systems sound great.

We've all had inexplicable radio issues such as one I had the other day when a True Diversity Micron system worked amazingly well one day with great range and then on the same guy the next day - different location - it was dead, couldn't get anything from it. Then it worked perfectly when I got home. That's part of the fun of being in the field. The answer to that is to have more than one system or a boom usually before going wired. My wired lav's don't come out too often. Used one on a cello the other day though. MKE2 - sounded very good. It was light entertainment not studio recording so purists don't worry.

Sound recording is not all about quality. Sometimes being out of the way and allowing the subject to relax is just as important as the recording. After all it has always been what you record that matters more than the quality of the recording.

Obviously for music recordings wireless are inappropriate. But this is Dialogue/Interview we are discussing.
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Old June 14th, 2008, 09:30 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Pietro Impagliazzo View Post
Why, why and why?
Dear Pietro,

For Number 3, I recommend that one use a wired microphone when you are able, to completely eliminate the possibility of interference or dropouts.

Of course, there are many cases where it is not feasible or even possible to use a cable. In these cases a good wireless is the right answer.

For those without really high end wireless, the possibility of interference and dropouts is very real.

My point was just because one needs to use a lavaliere, it does not mean that one must go wireless. For those without high end wireless gear there is added assurance that you will get interference free and dropout free sound, if you use a cable.

For Number 4, if you point the microphone directly at the speaker's mouth, the plosive sounds, such as a strong "B", will go directly into the microphone causing problems. If the microphone is overhead one has less problem with these "plosive" sounds.

Also, if you point towards the speaker's mouth, you will also pick up sounds from behind the speaker and from behind the micrphone (depending on the microphone). If you boom from overhead there should not be a lot of sounds from above or below.

For Number 10, an omni lavaliere is less sensitive to the speaker moving his head. If one uses a cardioid lavaliere, then the sound may drop off as the speaker moves his or her head.

In cases where quality sound is not all that important, such as when recording sound that will be replaced later, or for some ENG, then more options are open to the user.

Just to be clear, I find myself needing wireless most times when I use a lavaliere. In fact, there is a danger of using a cable and then having the actor walk away while still cabled.

When I use a boom mic, I usually use a cable. In these cases, I could go wireless, but I prefer to use a cable to eliminate any wireless problems. At this time I do not own any Zaxcom wireless systems.
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Old June 15th, 2008, 03:09 AM   #9
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Something I have learned is to have whatever is necessary to go from wireless to wired.

I have a couple of wireless systems that work well in just about all situations for what I'm doing.

However, for the tram mic I use wireless, I also have a power supply, so I can switch to wired if there is interference, dead batteries, or whatever.

I also have a couple of wired lavaliers that I rarely use, just as a backup or for an extra person.

In the same spirit, if doing one or 2 person crew documentary type stuff on locations, I think it's a good idea to have a high quality dynamic handheld, omni or caridoid, stuck in a bag somewhere to use as a last resort backup if everything else fails for one reason or another. These mics can also work well in situations and rooms where other mics just won't work, because of noise, reflections, weather or whatever.
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Old June 15th, 2008, 07:26 AM   #10
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Dear Wayne,

In my original post I said:

3. Whenever possible use a wired microphone instead of going wireless.

After careful consideration I think that I worded this poorly.

Maybe the following would have been better:

Use a cable or a wireless system as approrpriate for the circumstances. Having just one or the other in your kit is limiting.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 09:10 AM   #11
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Use a cable or a wireless system as approrpriate for the circumstances. Having just one or the other in your kit is limiting.
AMEN! A greater truth has never been told.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 09:31 AM   #12
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Shaun,

Thank you for the kind words.

Thank you, Thank you very much! Elvis
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