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Old July 25th, 2008, 09:42 AM   #1
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Any tips on this situation?

Alone, I recently shot a day at a kids' summer sports camp. Indoor basketball, w/80+ kids, 160+ stomping feet, 40+ balls hitting the floor or backboard, whistles being blown, coaches speaking louder and louder to be heard above the noise, squeaking sneakers, campers talking or yelling, doors opening and banging shut, all with the echo from being in a large gym. And I had to do interviews of the camp director and the coach with all that going on.

Picture that: 85 kids playing/practicing/running basketball drills all at once, while I'm trying to get decent audio from an interview. It was the toughest audio situation I've faced yet. (To top it off, I got the distinct sense that some of the campers were purposely making bad passes, or missing passes, in hope of a ball hitting me/my tripod & cam, as if it were a game a few of them made up on the spur of the moment). Keeping track of all that was a new challenge for me.

I used one wireless lav for the actual interview, and one cam-mounted shotgun w/dead-cat for ambient. (I was hoping the directionality of the shotgun might weed out unwanted ambient, but that often echoed off the walls right back to the shotgun). The ambient is certainly more usable and controllable in post, but the lav was often (maybe 1/2 of the time) overloaded as the speaker spoke louder and louder to be heard above the noise. (I know that's a natural tendency I think everyone shares, and even pro, on-cam talent often struggles with).

For some interview parts, the speaker was off-camera, but the overall noise level was high, so the speaker kept speaking louder and louder to be heard above it. That wasn't necessary, as the lav was working fine, but the tendency to do it remained strong and was actually never overcome. (My number of takes was rather limited, as these guys had an expensive sports camp to run and 85 kids to attend to, so I had to take what time of theirs I could get).

In spite of the client finding it acceptable, I don't think the audio for the interviews is anything to be proud of, even given all the problems.

For future situations, I'm considering using extra headphones on the off-camera speaker so they have a sense of how their voice is coming through, but other suggestions for dealing with this in future shoots in the same environment would be welcome.

Might taping-over some of the slots in the shotgun help? I'm thinking that taping over one side to further reduce unwanted ambient and echo might help. (Or is that a silly idea that just shows my inexperience)?
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Old July 25th, 2008, 11:40 AM   #2
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For future situations, I'm considering using extra headphones on the off-camera speaker so they have a sense of how their voice is coming through, but other suggestions for dealing with this in future shoots in the same environment would be welcome.

>>Don't do it. It'll look weird and they'll be distracted.

Might taping-over some of the slots in the shotgun help? I'm thinking that taping over one side to further reduce unwanted ambient and echo might help. (Or is that a silly idea that just shows my inexperience)?

>> 1. Try it and see.

2. NO!

3. Consider the Countryman e6 ear-worn mic.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old July 25th, 2008, 07:06 PM   #3
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as Ty sez, amatuer talent will mess up hearing their own voice, especially running thru a camera which will induce up to 4 or 6 frames of delay. they will start talking slower.

its you who need to wear the headphones ( or the sound person ) and listen to whats going on. this is where a pair of Senn HD280 or similar headphones can really shine because they have 30db of isolation. feeding from the mixpre will give you plenty of volume.

another mic that works really well is a ECM-44 with its lower sensitivity then a lot of other mics. if you get it close ( higher then normal position closer to mouth ) you can get some really clean sound with it. I've done this on some walk & talks on manhattan streets and gotten very good results - sirens and gun shots excepted of course ! it was almost weird to hear the ambient so low - thats because you are turning the gain down because the voice has been made louder overall, and in relation to the BG. its all about s/n ratio - good sound level vs bad sound level.

last is that you do need to direct them a little and exert a little control. ask them to stay at a constant level. if they don't believe you, play back a take so they can hear its really ok. then they will relax and trust you.
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Old July 25th, 2008, 08:44 PM   #4
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The E6 is a great suggestion. I have one here at work for live, corporate events. Our CEO is notoriously hard to mic, as his voice is gravelly, and hard to pic up, requiring lots of gain, which creates feedback, requiring EQ, etc. The E6 doesn't work magic, and it sounds a bit on the thin side, but at least it's consistently placed.

The other option is a hand held mic - held by an interviewer who knows what they're doing. I try to place the mic just under the chin. It avoids most of the plosives, is still close to the mouth, and gets some chest voice for fullness. It also doesn't get between the face and the camera.

Some day an acoustics engineer will design a high school gym. They won't be able to play any sports there, but it will sound great!
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Old July 26th, 2008, 09:48 AM   #5
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Thanks for the suggestions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
For future situations, I'm considering using extra headphones on the off-camera speaker...

>>Don't do it. It'll look weird and they'll be distracted.


2. NO!

3. Consider the Countryman e6 ear-worn mic.
Ty,
Thanks for the suggestion. I'll shop around for a Countryman, and try some at-home experimentation with taping the shotgun.
I'd only use the extra phones when the speaker was off-camera, describing some activity, while I was taping the campers executing that activity. Perhaps I misunderstand your suggestion, but because the speaker would be off-cam; they wouldn't be seen, except by others in the gym. (Or is that the point of your warning)?


Jon,
most likely, I'd be doing these shoots alone, (too little $ to afford hired help), with the purpose/intent of highlighting the campers; shots of the director and coach are of secondary importance for the job, but their audio is important. Most of their audio track is matched to complementary video of the campers executing what's being described, i.e. audio effectively used as "A" material, with video to match/exemplify the audio. ( I shoot the campers "in action" with the coach purposely off-cam describing what the campers are doing). Even with the cam locked on a tripod, I have trouble picturing the use of a handheld in this situation. I'm unable to visualize using a handheld and working the cam while taping the campers simultaneously with the coach speaking off-cam, especially with no assistant.

Steve,
Phones with better isolation probably would have helped considerably. I'll shop around for the Senn's. (Though I wear glasses, which always leaves a little more open space between the cushions and my head, so I may not get full benefit of their better isolation).
I was the only one wearing phones, and I'm most likely to do these shoots alone. However, I'll admit I was probably a bit wimpy re: "taking control"...something not easily/willingly surrendered by either a former NBA draftee/player and a 20 yr veteran of running a kids' camp.

FWIW, excerpts from the 2nd (but not final) cut can be seen/heard here:
http://www.adhocvideo.com/demo/HallofFame3.shtml
(run time of approx 8 mins) as a 16:9 QT file. (Don't expect great things there. In fact, don't bother visiting unless you really want to see how bad some of the audio was; the worst audio isn't included there. Further cuts/adjustments have been made but not yet posted).

One more question:
At one point in the interview (which is not included in the web clip), the coach is on-camera describing a station, and alternately turns towards - then away from - cam and, unfortunately, both the lav and the shotgun. The audio rises noticeably as he turns towards the mics, then drops just as noticeably as he turns away. (Lav was on his left collar).
I believe I've seen stereo lav mics. Might one of those help in this "alternating" situation? (Especially if it were placed centrally, i.e. at the bottom of the "V" of a polo shirt)?

Thanks again.
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Old July 26th, 2008, 11:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denis Danatzko View Post
Ty,
Perhaps I misunderstand your suggestion, but because the speaker would be off-cam; they wouldn't be seen, except by others in the gym. (Or is that the point of your warning)?

I'll admit I was probably a bit wimpy re: "taking control"...something not easily/willingly surrendered by either a former NBA draftee/player and a 20 yr veteran of running a kids' camp.
just trust us, people who aren't used to hearing their own voices will often freak / hate their voices. there is also a delay looping thru the camera which will also cause them to read slower and slower to catch to the delay. very few people do well hearing their own voice back, and those are pro talent that do it all the time.

as for taking control, they expect you to. really. I've shot hundreds of celeb interviews including some of the biggest names in entertainment and its NOT a problem. they expect it in fact that you will let them know what is working best. they have some basic trust in you, and they want to look and sound as good as they can because its their own interest to do so. so asking them to speak a little higher or lower, or hit a certain mark is expected.

there are only a couple of real jerks I've run into over the years which includes mariah carey. most celeb interviews, some one with them will let you know in advance during an interview any topics to stay off of, or request you cover. some will ask for a list of questions in advance to be sure you aren't ambushing their client / doing something stupid. at the shoot, things are usually pretty normal. might be a little rushed with time, but they have almost all been regular people. they expect a mic check, and will often ask for a quick 10 sec view of how they look and thats about it. so ask for what you need and they will give it to you. you run the shoot.
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Old July 27th, 2008, 03:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denis Danatzko View Post
...

Might taping-over some of the slots in the shotgun help? I'm thinking that taping over one side to further reduce unwanted ambient and echo might help. (Or is that a silly idea that just shows my inexperience)?
As Ty said, it can't hurt to try (as long as you can get the tape off later without leaving goo behind in the mic's screens - use real gaffer's tape, not masking tape, electrical tape, or duct tape.) But what I'd expect you're going to find happen is that the echo and ambience will increase, not decrease. Those vents are there to make the mic directional and blocking them will make it less so, sounds coming from the sides and rear no longer being supressed as much as they are with the vents open. I know it contravenes common sense but the way shotguns work is that sounds hitting the mic from all directions enter the tube both through the side vents and through the front. For sounds coming from the sides and rear the portion coming through the vents interferes inside the tube with the portion of the same sound that comes in through the front and get cancelled out while sound arriving from along the axis passes down the tube without interference. Block the tube vents and the sounds from off axis should get louder than they were before because now there'll be no cancellation while those on axis will be unchanged.

Quote:
One more question:
At one point in the interview (which is not included in the web clip), the coach is on-camera describing a station, and alternately turns towards - then away from - cam and, unfortunately, both the lav and the shotgun. The audio rises noticeably as he turns towards the mics, then drops just as noticeably as he turns away. (Lav was on his left collar).
I believe I've seen stereo lav mics. Might one of those help in this "alternating" situation? (Especially if it were placed centrally, i.e. at the bottom of the "V" of a polo shirt)?
I don't say they don't exist but I've never heard of a stereo lav - you're probably thinking of those dual mics you see news anchors wearing. That's two identical mono mics worn as a primary and backup mic so that if one mic develops a problem during a live broadcast, the other mic can take over without having to physically replace the faulty one on the air. The collar is a bit high to position a mic - close to the mid-line of the chest slightly about the nipple line, about the width of your fist below the throat, is a good starting spot. Insure you're using an omni lav - cardioid capsules made for sound reinforcement applications are very susceptible to level changes with head movement.
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Old July 27th, 2008, 08:35 AM   #8
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Low tech solution.

Explain to the camp director and coach that if you do the interview in the gym the audio will be bad. Take the camp director and the coach to another quiet location and do the interview there, maybe even use the gym when everyone has left.

If the want action of kids in the gym, then shoot that and edit into their interviews later.

You absolutely have to at least try and take control of the situation when the quality of the product matters and is at risk, that's what they've hired you to do. You do it in a polite and informed way.

This is more a production planning issue than a technical one.

Last edited by Peter Wiley; July 27th, 2008 at 03:43 PM.
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Old July 27th, 2008, 06:42 PM   #9
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Thanks again.

Steve,
your description of the "inner workings" of a shotgun were clear. Thanks; it provided more insight into why the tape might cause more problems than help. (It's also something I can "picture in my head" pretty easily).
Right, again, about the "stereo lav"; except for some low-cost electret uni-directionals, a quick surf found none. You prove the old adage that "There's no substitute for experience".

Peter,
I realized 2/3 of your advice after the initial session. I reviewed what I had and didn't like it. Rather than spending hours or days trying to fix something that was basically unfixable in post, or making excuses and embarrassing myself with the client, I ended up going back the next day to repeat the coach's interview. That was in the lobby of the gym, doors closed, and levels were much better. That solved some of the problem, but I was still stuck with other parts with bad audio that no one had time to repeat, i.e the coach describing drills while the drills were being practiced. That was when & where much of the excess noise was and when he was speaking so loudly that he was overpowerd the mic.

After lots of cutting, leveling-adjustments, and filling channels, I ended up doing what you suggest about mixing footage with different audio, and the client was satisfied we had a sellable product.
Now I gotta' work on being "politely assertive"...that's PC for "taking charge".

I've learned even more from this shoot because of your advice.
Thanks again.

Denis
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Old July 28th, 2008, 10:40 AM   #10
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I might have suggested getting B-roll of the goings-on inside the gym and interviewing somewhere else. Some locations are just not made for good audio . . glad your client is happy though!
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Old July 28th, 2008, 10:41 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denis Danatzko View Post
Steve,
your description of the "inner workings" of a shotgun were clear. Thanks; it provided more insight into why the tape might cause more problems than help. (It's also something I can "picture in my head" pretty easily).
Right, again, about the "stereo lav"; except for some low-cost electret uni-directionals, a quick surf found none. You prove the old adage that "There's no substitute for experience".

Peter,
I realized 2/3 of your advice after the initial session. I reviewed what I had and didn't like it. Rather than spending hours or days trying to fix something that was basically unfixable in post, or making excuses and embarrassing myself with the client, I ended up going back the next day to repeat the coach's interview. That was in the lobby of the gym, doors closed, and levels were much better. That solved some of the problem, but I was still stuck with other parts with bad audio that no one had time to repeat, i.e the coach describing drills while the drills were being practiced. That was when & where much of the excess noise was and when he was speaking so loudly that he was overpowerd the mic.

After lots of cutting, leveling-adjustments, and filling channels, I ended up doing what you suggest about mixing footage with different audio, and the client was satisfied we had a sellable product.
Now I gotta' work on being "politely assertive"...that's PC for "taking charge".

I've learned even more from this shoot because of your advice.
Thanks again.

Denis
Denis,
I listened to your clip and all in all it wasn't as bad as you described. It sounds like you've learned some good lessons just doing the shoot. The coaches audio is distorted when he is talking over the drills. As you said it was likely the wireless being overdriven. To remedy this in the future, do a test before you start shooting and dial down the sensitivity of the wireless until he can speak loudly without distorting. When the coach is on camera I noticed the mic cable was not dressed very well and it looked sloppy. This is a nit picky pet peeve of mine but in my opinion it makes a video look less professional when the mic isn't put on neatly. The only other comment would be some of your ambient sound transitions and fades where not done as well as they could be. If the piece on your site is to be a demo of your work then I would take a second look at that. Again I'm being nit picky, but for a one man shoot in a tough sound environment not a bad job.
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Old July 28th, 2008, 01:16 PM   #12
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"The best-laid plans oft' go astray"...

Bernie, thanks for the critique. I hope I'm learning from every shoot I do (but from some shoots, I "learn" so much it makes me dizzy).

What's on the web is not the final cut...just haven't had time to post that yet, but hopefully within the next couple of days.

As for dressing the mic, I "had it" at the start, and even used an extra springy bobby-pin-like hair-clip or 2 at their backs to help hold the cable in place, but because it was so warm and humid, both the coach and the camp director pulled on their shirt from time-to-time, undoing my careful placement. Another lesson learned: when the only clothing worn is shorts and a T-shirt or polo shirt, there's not many places to hide a mic...consider a boom or mic stand, if possible.

Thanks, again.
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Old July 28th, 2008, 03:48 PM   #13
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I feel your pain--I was doing EXACTLY the same thing today at a basketball camp with 40+ 5-10 year old kids in a gym that has the reputation for being THE LOUDEST gym in the AAC/NAIA.

If your client wants the look/feel of the interviews being done in the gym with the stuff going on behind them, you might think about doing the interviews on a green screen and then sticking them in the gym later and using your ambient to fill in. I think your biggest concern with doing that would be lighting and color correction so that they look like they fit in the gym environment.

Otherwise, sounds like you did the best you could--wireless is about the best way you can go with that stuff.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 08:59 PM   #14
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"Misery loves company"...

Thanks, David.

Bernie,
FWIW, I posted the final version after some audio tweaking, but the overmod'ing is still apparent in some areas. (Too late to do anything about the exposed mic cable, though).
http://www.adhocvideo.com/demo/HallofFame4.shtml

Anyway, the client has had the final cut for a couple days now and I've heard no complaints. I guess that's good, huh?

Thanks to all for your feedback and input.
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