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Old August 4th, 2003, 03:09 PM   #1
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Outdoor audio when there's a group

Hi guys,
If I'm shooting a group a kids outdoors, and they're clustered around talking (to each other, the camera, etc.), I'm curious as to how you would approach getting the best sound. Power is an issue as it'll be outdoors in the Sierra's. As far as the camera, I'll be shooting with my DVX. Am now thinking I'll keep my ME66 onboard with the Lightwave furry (for backup audio purposes only), but that I should be shopping for a boom and a more powerful mic which I should feed directly into a Marantz PMD670. Given the relatively poor pickup I just got with my ME66 going straight into my camera (first time out with it live, so maybe it was just me) at the wedding I just did (picked up the birds in the backgroung in the gardens, and the traffic on the highway in the distance just great, unfortuantely), I'm kind of "back to the drawing board" in what I'd envisioned as my approach for my upcoming documentary. I had been thinking I'd use the ME66 on a boom, and as I said, feed it into the Marantz. However, I've been working on some else's doc in post (it was shot all over the world) and they managed to get a great deal of bad audio, even with boom mics going into field DAT's, when they were interviewing villagers, etc. I'm assuming it's got to be a combination of power AND proximity, so what kind of specs in that regard would you guys recommend, regarding juice and distance? Would omni directional be better or worse for picking up a group? Is the ME66 perfectly capable of handling a group situation if: a) I was more adept, and; b) it did in fact go into the Marantz (as yet still on my "to buy" list)?

Sorry for all the questions, but I really don't have anyone else to ask, and you all are so incredibly knowledgeable about all this.
Marcia
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Old August 7th, 2003, 09:20 AM   #2
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Part of this equation depends on how you will be booming. Do you have someone that can actively operate the boom mic?
The DVX-100 is capable of very good audio on its own, so I would only add the Marantz if you want to stay physically separate (like for Steadicam shots) or you want to get lots of wild ambience and full-length tracks independent of camera starts/stops.
The ME-66 is a very hot mic, so it should have enough signal. The key is to use its directional pattern to best advantage and to recognize when ambient noise requires that you keep the mic as close to the source as possible and pointed correctly. This has to be balanced with the fact that the mic can overdrive the input when used close and in really loud situations the mic itself can be overdriven. For indoor use the ME-66 has a fair amount of off-axis coloration as well, but outdoors for dialogue it's a very good mic if you have someone to actively operate the boom.
If you want to add a good mic to your arsenal that has lots of good capabilities, doesnt cost much and would give a wider pickup for a group of kids outdoors, then I'd recommend the AudioTechnica AT873r. Street price about $180. It's a small, phantom-powered, high-output, hypercardioid mic that can be used on a boom, on a stand or handheld. It's easy to add wind protection to it because of its small head and since you have phantom power built in to the camera that's taken care of too.
Aluminum boom poles from Gitzo are fairly inexpensive and very serviceable even if they are a little heavier than carbon-fiber.
Shockmounts like the AT8415 or a model from PSC run about $50.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 11:15 PM   #3
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jay Massengill : Part of this equation depends on how you will be booming. Do you have someone that can actively operate the boom mic?>>>


Jay, basically this is unknown at the moment. I would love to have someone helping me, but given that I'll be up there somewhere in the neighborhood of a month (very rustic) it's doubtful. At least, not the entire time. I feel like I need to plan on being alone, and if I can swing help, it'll be a pleasant surprise.


<<<The DVX-100 is capable of very good audio on its own, so I would only add the Marantz if you want to stay physically separate (like for Steadicam shots) or you want to get lots of wild ambience and full-length tracks independent of camera starts/stops.>>>


Hmmm, interesting point. Have to think about that as well.


<<<The ME-66 is a very hot mic, so it should have enough signal. The key is to use its directional pattern to best advantage and to recognize when ambient noise requires that you keep the mic as close to the source as possible and pointed correctly. This has to be balanced with the fact that the mic can overdrive the input when used close and in really loud situations the mic itself can be overdriven. For indoor use the ME-66 has a fair amount of off-axis coloration as well, but outdoors for dialogue it's a very good mic if you have someone to actively operate the boom.>>>


Okay, couple of questions... what do you mean by "overdrive," by being "overdriven?" Also, what does "off-axis coloration" mean? I apologize for my ignorance. :-(


<<<If you want to add a good mic to your arsenal that has lots of good capabilities, doesnt cost much and would give a wider pickup for a group of kids outdoors, then I'd recommend the AudioTechnica AT873r. Street price about $180. It's a small, phantom-powered, high-output, hypercardioid mic that can be used on a boom, on a stand or handheld. It's easy to add wind protection to it because of its small head and since you have phantom power built in to the camera that's taken care of too.
Aluminum boom poles from Gitzo are fairly inexpensive and very serviceable even if they are a little heavier than carbon-fiber.
Shockmounts like the AT8415 or a model from PSC run about $50. -->>>


Thanks for the heads up on the mic. I do in fact want to get another, so I'll check it out. I've had my eye on Gitzo poles. My thinking has been that I'd go with the Gitzo w/o the internal, and buy two. Is it not worth the savings, to have to hassle with the cables? Also, if I am alone, am I totally kiding myself to think I can set the boom (two booms?) up, above the kids, maybe feeding into a router, and focus on the visuals? I'm working on someone else's documentary in post at the moment, and it's practically giving me nightmares over what to do with my own audio, as their doc's audio is such a mess. Shot all over the world, guys with booms doing their best (visible in a gazillion shots) but the audio is more often than not painful to listen to. Really sad. The boom guys had headphones on, too, so I'm not sure why it's such a mess. I guess I just want to avoid as many of their mistakes as I can.

Sorry to be so long winded. And for the loooong list of questions.
Marcia
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Old August 8th, 2003, 01:29 AM   #4
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If the kids are in a controlled area- like sitting in a circle and you are a one person crew you could always put two mics up on boom stands over head the group kinda like you were overhead micing a drum set. Not sure if the ME66 would be the ideal mic in this situation though.
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Old August 8th, 2003, 02:12 AM   #5
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Matt,
You nearly took the words right out of my fingers. If the kids are going to be relatively stationary and the weather conditions permit I, too, would be inclined to use a stationary boom mic or two.

If my mental image of the scene is accurate I think that ME66 might have a bit too tight of a pattern to do this well. Pointed straight down its hottest spot will be in the ground. Angled it will only catch a few kids on the opposite side of the circle.

I would consider using an Audio-Technica AT825 stereo mic for the job. If you use just one you should hang/boom it over the midddle of the circle pointed straight down. Using two you would angle them at opposing positions on the circle's radius. Each of the AT825's mics (2) has a cardiod pattern and should be able to do a pretty good job covering the circle.

I just used an AT825 today to passively record a script run-through. Eight people were seated in chairs and sofas around a square table. I simply set the mic on a piece of foam at the center of the table and it did a very good job.

Good luck, Marcia!
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Old August 8th, 2003, 09:41 AM   #6
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Yes, I think you should maintain the ME-66 on the camera with a good shockmount as your backup and run-and-gun mic while using a wider pattern mic or mics overhead for group pickup.
You can always move the ME-66 to the boom when you want greater isolation or you have a boom operator.
I also have an AT-825 and it is very good at picking up a wide stereo field. A couple of things to keep in mind with it though. Often this field is just simply too wide for good clarity of your central subject when used outdoors. You can however turn the mic on its side and just use one of the capsules. Even then it's still a pretty wide cardioid pattern. The windscreen that comes with the mic is insufficient for outdoor use. Because of the size and shape of the head it's difficult to find an improvement without going to the expense of a full zeppelin. The mic also costs about $380 street price, which makes it the least expensive of the good, full-XLR stereo mics.

Personally I prefer uncabled boompoles, but I rarely work alone or in run-and-gun. You might find it beneficial to have an internally cabled one for your situation.

For setting up your overhead mics, regular mic stands with boom arms would be less expensive and easier to deal with but might not give you enough physical reach if it's a large group. I often use a larger lighting stand, a regular boompole, a clamp and two sandbags (one small, one larger) when I set up a static situation.
Obviously that's a lot of gear to deal with if you're working alone, but would allow you to cover any size group.

You asked about "overdriving" the mic input with an ME-66. The ME-66 has a very hot output. Mic inputs have to be designed to work with the broad range of mics from very low output to high output. The ME-66 is at the very hot end of the scale so it can overpower some mic inputs. Your DVX-100 has a -60db/-50db sensitivity setting, plus a wide adjustment range and a limiter. So you should be able to deal with this if you have time to make adjustments. The problem comes when there are very wide swings in the volume level which can definitely occur with a group of kids around. If the group of kids all cheered loudly at once, you can even overpower the mic itself. There's nothing you can do about this distortion except use a mic with a higher maximum sound pressure level.
You also asked about "off-axis-coloration". Directional mics are used to reduce the pick-up of sound coming from the sides and rear. Unfortunately, the mechanics of how this rejection is achieved often create very noticeable changes in the sound that does manage to leak through from the sides and rear. This is called off-axis-coloration. This is most noticeable in the ME-66 when used indoors. Outside at a camp setting it probably wouldnt be a problem unless the kids are broken up into several groups and you're working with one group while a group to your side or rear makes alot of noise.
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Old August 8th, 2003, 12:37 PM   #7
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I too have a AT 825 stereo mic and have made some great recordings as well. I think it would do an excellent job in this situation but Jay hit it on the head about the mic outdoors. The supplied foam windscreen does nothing even the slightest breeze will pick up.
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Old August 8th, 2003, 05:44 PM   #8
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Rycote makes a Mini-Windjammer (approx. $40) for the AT325. I have one and it works a darn sight better than the supplied foam screen.
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Old August 8th, 2003, 06:37 PM   #9
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You guys are great. Thanks for all the info. The AT825 sounds perfect, complete with the mini Windjammer, of course Ken. :-)

Someone else threw a mixer into the equation... suggested the analog (optional battery operated) Behringer MXB1002 to mix two mics down for the DVX in the field, or to the Marantz PMD670 if I go that route instead. Man, my head's hurting with all this info overload... course, in my case that doesn't take much sometimes. ;-)

Should check and see if the DVX can, in effect, gen lock. May need a higher quality mixer if it can't...
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Old August 8th, 2003, 09:29 PM   #10
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Hey thanks Ken I had no idea Rycote made a windscreen for the 825. I will have to invest in one of those. MArcia Samson makes a 4 channel battery operated mixer as well called the mixpad 4. i've seen go for around $50-$75($150+ new) or so on ebay.
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Old August 8th, 2003, 09:52 PM   #11
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Thank you Matt. I had no idea Samson made such a mixer. I'll have to invest in one of those!
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Old August 8th, 2003, 10:30 PM   #12
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Yeah Ken Ive never used the mixpad 4 but i would buy it over the Behringer in a heartbeat when it comes to battery operated mixing on a budget. Never was a big fan of Behringer products plus I've read some bad investigative type reports about Behringer. Wether they are true or not is not for me to say but i steer clear of them though I've also read where many people are happy with their gear.Its for sure affordable over some other brands with similar products.
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Old August 9th, 2003, 04:41 PM   #13
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Matt,
Thanks for the tip. Will look into the Mixpad 9 and compare it to the Behringer. The Mixpad 4 only has one stereo channel, and as per the feedback on this thread, I'm thinking of going with two AT825's set up on stationary booms over the kids heads so that the two stereo mics will (hopefully) cover the entire circle/gathering of kids sitting around on the ground.

In the end, what I'm going to go with is still very much up in the air. More research to do. At this point I'm even thinking that it might be a good idea to make a master list of all the equipment I'm considering buying/renting for the scenarios I'll be encountering, and looking up a retired film location sound guy I know. I don't have the bucks to spend OR rent the equipment he's used to having at his disposal, but I think it'd be interesting to get his feedback just the same. Last I talked to him he was having a blast teaching his tricks of the trade at USC, so he should understand the whole "very little money to spend, but want it to sound great" quandry we DV filmmakers are in. :-)

All the best,
Marcia
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