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Old November 13th, 2003, 07:12 PM   #1
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Audio in warehouse-type spaces

I've been involved in the production of several videos (not my full-time job) that focus on defensive handgun / defensive tactic training. For indoor scenes we use the training facility which has concrete floors and walls with a very high ceiling. We've done the best we could to control echo/reverb when the scenes don't have much action, but when the fight is on - there's no way to contain the combatants.

Because of this we have used shotgun mics on camera to capture environment sounds, knowing full well that there is a great likelihood that the echo will be enhanced. Wireless lapel mics are often used on the 'host' if he isn't active, but i can't imagine doing that when people are attacking one another with fists, feet, knives, or guns (all training weapons under strict control with experienced operators).

So my curiousity is about others' experiences in large areas where the onscreen action prohibits the use of stationary or boomed mics. What has worked for you?
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Old November 13th, 2003, 08:14 PM   #2
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Jim,
The question is, are these people going to be speaking while engaged in their combat maneuvers? If not, their actions could be considered "environment" sounds and mic'd accordingly. Is the motion so broad that it is impossible to keep a boom mic out of frame? If so, you're kind of stuck shotgunning the combat audio. Fortunately, fight sounds don't have the same need to be intelligible as spoken words. Of course, I'd always stick with the wireless lav to capture the instructor/narrator/host's spoken words.

Echoey rooms like this do sound unpleasant, I know, I have done training videos in such spaces. Fortunately they didn't include fight scenes so I was able to control it by using lav mics. This facility is probably too large and impractical to apply sound deadening, but how about this? Is it important that these scenes are produced in this space? Or could you move the action to another room, with a lower ceiling (maybe even acoustical tile), softer walls and floors, etc.

Worst case, you could shoot the fight scenes as MOS (motion only sequence, meaning forget about audio) and "cheat" like Hollywood does by adding sound back in editing. That is, to record the combatants simulating fight sounds while in a quiet environment while watching the footage, then you lay this audio in as you edit. Yeah, I know, a lot of work and easy to screw up, but that's show biz.

One other alternative, do it news-style, with a voice-over narrator describing the action (acual fight audio attenuated below the voice track while he is speaking). Plus, depending on the audience, a little bit of music, like a good coat of paint, covers a multitude of sins.

BTW, this sounds like a really interesting project.
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Old November 13th, 2003, 08:22 PM   #3
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After talking to the smart people on this group, I tried using my Sennheiser wireless microphone on the teacher of a martial arts seminar. One fellow (Mike?) mentioned that he had dropped his
Sennheiser units on concrete from a height of several feet, and it still worked. My friend demonstrated Filipino stick fighting to a group in a large open room, complete with reverberation and noise from a busy road. My open mike sounded terrible when I needed to record the combatants in padded suits. However, the audio from the instructor-mounted lapel mic came out great, except for when he initially donned the suit and I forgot to move the microphone to the inside of his helmet grate. Also, I picked up quite a bit of rustling. He even fell on the transmitter during a takedown, so I suppose there is also danger of falling on a hard object during the action. Perhaps I should post a clip of that.


Another fellow on this group suggested these helmet mount cameras. You may their durable audio prudcts useful, but I've never tried them. Soon ...

http://www.helmetcamera.com/index.htm
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Old November 13th, 2003, 08:35 PM   #4
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The major problem with individual mics is that the audio doesn't follow the action. I suppose someday we'll see affordable equipment that can track the subjects and apply 3D positioning
algorithms to the sound.
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Old November 13th, 2003, 08:39 PM   #5
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It may be worth while to try and bring in some diffusers. If you could build some portable half walls and put them out of view, you may be able to tame the room a little.

Sound blankets may be another alternative.
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Old November 13th, 2003, 09:11 PM   #6
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Gints,
I usually mono out the audio anyway (change the pan to zero in FCP) and just let the music come over in stereo. But if you're really feeling ambitious I guess you could keyframe the pan setting and pan it around in the timeline as the action dictates. :-)
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Old November 13th, 2003, 10:26 PM   #7
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Wow! What a great response to my first post here. Very cool indeed.

To address some of the questions:

The instructor and others sometimes need to describe the actions as they are doing them. As such, we have built our own type of sound blankets (2x4's suspended from the ceiling with several rows of insulation horizontally spanning between them) to help control the reverb as they demonstate the technique. As long as the instructor isn't going to have someone put hand on him, or shoot at him, the lapel mic works quite well. If he's going to be a participant but it's still a demonstration or teaching point we use the shotgun mics.

Now the tricky part - when there is going to be violent contact, the subjects need to move and move dynamically. Therefore, the lapel mic is not ideal because of rustling and the very real risk of damage to the mic being hit or the transmitter being crushed. Stationary or boom mounted mics either end up being out of position for the action or end up in the shot because the guys are really going for it and sometime real life takes over! So, camera-mounted shotgun mics are our method of 'choice'.

I'm testing out the idea of something like a helmet cam, but i want to give it a 'special twist' for some unique perspectives! We'll see what happens.

While i am thrilled with the quality of what we have done, based upon what i've seen and heard here we have a long way to go. The good news is that gun videos are generally pretty bad, so by contrast we shine!
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Old November 13th, 2003, 10:44 PM   #8
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Okay,

This may be a good time to try a PZM microphone. You will pick up all the noise in the room, but it shouldn't sound echoey. Mounted on a large flat surface facing your subject, from above or horizontal. If you are trying to isolate in a noisy environment, the shotgun will probably work better, just live with the echo, but if the room is quiet, this may be worth a try.

Otherwise, I would say you need better boom operators. If the cameras can stay in position to get the shot, but a boom operator, can't keep their mic at least that close and be away from the noise of the camera...eh. But hey if what your doing now works, well.
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Old November 13th, 2003, 11:09 PM   #9
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Martin, your points are well taken... i totally forgot about PZM mics. They are now on the list. ;-)

The boom operators aren't a problem, it's the action. The scene might start with the subject 20 ft away, and in the process of 10 seconds they might have been as close as 1 foot and as far as 50 feet!

Thanks to everyone for the replies so far!
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