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Old January 26th, 2004, 09:11 PM   #1
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USBPre vs DAT (1-on-1 interviews)

I will be conducting alot of interviews, off camera and on camera, all to be used in a video/multimedia presentation.

I like the idea of capturing audio directly to my G4 Mac laptop where I can keep an eye on levels and still make meaningful eye contact with the subject.

I also like the idea of being able to set up a camera and use my laptop as a monitor. I can control the camera with my zoom commander to some degree.

Many of my subjects will not be comfortable talking in front of other people, like a cameraman.

I'm being obsessive about audio (because it's not my strong point). I'd probaby run a mic from camera as well.

Given this situation, USBpre vs DAT?

Does the USBpre have quality issues I should be aware of? Advantages of owning a DAT versus the USBpre? If I bought a DAT, what are "must have" features for quality audio?

Thanks for sharing your experiences with me

Diane
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Old January 26th, 2004, 09:26 PM   #2
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If you're dead serious about audio dropouts, buy a standalone device,. USB audio never worked well on Windows, which is why the USB speaker market hasn't materialized. I can't say for sure on the Mac, but since you mentioned you plan to use your Mac as a video monitor, you're not using your computer as a dedicated audio recorder. When you are talking about DAT, are you actually talking about a standalone DAT recorder? If you have a DAT recorder, you'll need a way to transfer the recording to the computer. A digital transfer is preferable, so you'll need an AES/EBU or SPDIF input device for your Mac.

As for DAT features, you may want to shell out more bucks for one with XLR connectors if you are running longer mic cables.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 08:57 AM   #3
 
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To further what Gints had to say, you'll do much better with a Firewire device for your Mac, and capturing to a laptop is quite common. USB is not great on either platform.
You can also get an Indigo cardbus from Echo, which allows for 2 mics in/2 channels out, but it has no pre, so you'll want/need a pre to go with that. Great little 24/96 card, I have one in my Powerbook.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 10:40 AM   #4
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Are you sure that you want to go double system?

I know that dual system recording of sound will give the absolute best results, but have you totally ruled out optimizing the sound going to tape in the camera?

I would think that for what you are talking about, paying attention to the basics (good room, good mike placement, good mike) with the addition of a mixer before going into the camera should yield very good results for dialogue for your projects. The benefit will be not having to mess with syncing everything up in post.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 11:29 AM   #5
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What camera are you planning on using?
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Old January 27th, 2004, 01:18 PM   #6
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I use a USB Duo on a windoze machine. Never had any problems with dropouts.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 01:42 PM   #7
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Thanks for the feedback.

1) I have a GL2. I understand about good mike placement, etc (I am struggling through Jay Rose's book and it was here I read about the USBpre), but what if I do not have a cameraman to monitor sound? What if I am capturing sound only to use as voiceover over B roll shots?

Should I bring the GL2 and use it as a tape recorder? Feels odd, but I guess it can work...

2) My background is as a writer, and I tend to over analyse things. A >mixer< is a good example. I feel like I am >sound dyslexic< because I know what I want to do is not difficult. But if I use a mixer, doesn't that mean I am >mixing< more than one sound? And doesn't it mean that someone has to >watch< the mixer, or operate it, or some such thing? Or does the mixer provide a different function in my case? I wouldn't be able to monitor the levels on the camera's LCD in this particular situation

3) If I have a cameraman, I feel better that someone is monitoring everything and I can relax. But if I'm alone (WITH OR WITHOUT CAMERA) I get anxious worrying about everything going okay. A double system in this case would give me piece of mind. I wouldn't nec use it all the time, or for more action-oriented shots.

4) I use a dual G4 to edit on. My laptop would be for capture only. Douglas, your advice is over my head but I know your advice is worth trying to understand. Can you babystep me a little bit?

5)What firewire devices are out there to facilitate my recording on my laptop?

6) Please consider that I must play the empathetic interviewer in these scenarios, so I can't be behind the camera, and I can't be jumping up and checking stuff all the time....and the subject may not want another person there, so this is the circumstance to which I am trying to adapt my equipment

Thanks everyone for your ideas. It feels good to know you have people out there who are willing to help you brainstorm these problems. Hope someday to return the favor
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Old January 27th, 2004, 10:33 PM   #8
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Now that I have more time...

I just wanted to come back and say, that any problems that existed with USB audio in the windows 98/me days have been fixed. I use a USB audio interface as my d/a and a/d converter and am very happy with it. Obviously, there is a limitation to the bandwidth, but if 2 ins and 2 outs at 24bit/48K are sufficient then USB works fine and has plenty of overhead. Anytime you are recording with a laptop, you need to make sure you computer is fast enough, and your software is stable.

The device I use sounds good, works with ASIO,MME or EASI drivers and comes with clean preamps and phantom power. You can get better preamps with the Sounddevices, Focusrite or Apogee USB devices.

If multitracking is in your future, then I would look into firewire. And there are definetly benefits to stand alone units, like dat or flash recorders. But I think an inexpensive USB device will probably do what you need it to.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 10:58 PM   #9
 
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True, for two channels, USB does work well, but is still somewhat latent, and also open to more issues. Firewire boxes aren't that much more. I think M-Audio is more or less abandoning their USB cards, based on discontinuation of one product, while adding 2 more Firewire units. Presonus has added a couple more to their line, as has ESI.
Methinks Firewire is really the only way anyone just coming to the table for audio should be looking.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 11:14 PM   #10
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Yah, the cost difference is coming down too. But devices like the minime and Sounddevices USBpre are really top notch.

On the other hand, I played around with the tascam fw-1884 and it's tops. Really strong all around and it's just a hair over a grand.
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Old January 27th, 2004, 11:34 PM   #11
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The sound device USBpre is around $600.
I will check out the Tascam. Thanks Martin.

Is this all I'll need to record audio directly my G4, assuming good speed and stable software? Just a firewire cable to go with the firewire recorder??

Thanks Martin, Douglas and all

Diane
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Old January 27th, 2004, 11:51 PM   #12
 
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If you go the firewire route, you only need a cable from your firewire interface to the G4/power book...It's easy. Plus, the data rate is very low, so you'll have no issue with monitoring via laptop speaks if you need to, or laptop headphones if you need to. But...the M-audio and Echo units both allow headphone monitoring on the box itself.
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Old January 28th, 2004, 08:20 AM   #13
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Power. A couple of the units can run off power fed back from the usb or firewire cable, others can't.
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Old January 28th, 2004, 09:24 AM   #14
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Since the GL2 is capable of reasonably good audio with manual level controls, then I'd also select an interface that can give you a latency-free analog line level out that would be appropriate for the camera, as well as the digital input into the computer.
This way you can have the same signal with your good mics, good placement and good preamps recorded to both devices.
Double system recording is good, but it's also well worth any small effort in the field to also get the best audio possible into the camera. This small effort can pay huge dividends if something doesn't go as planned in post-production.
You may also want to get a unit that can operate stand-alone and doesn't require hooking to the computer all the time. In case you needed or wanted to go without the computer and just the camera for some occasions.

For the questions about "mixing" in this situation, you should think of your mixer or interface more as a "controller". You're generally going to be recording two separate tracks, there's really no mixing for these situations until post-production. You're simply using a mixer or interface to gain greater control and monitoring of the signals as you route them to your recorders.
Once you've set levels and begun recording, the changes you make will be very subtle unless the subject completely changes their character due to the emotions of the discussion.
Having a mixer or interface handy will allow you this flexibility if needed, but most of the time you should be making only the tiniest gradual adjustments so that different pieces of the interview will cut together more easily.
Study Jay Rose's book on how to match your level settings between your mixer and recorders and you can have confidence in monitoring your controls at hand without having to also keep such close check on multiple recorders.
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Old January 28th, 2004, 09:27 AM   #15
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Which leads me to my next question, what mics do you plan to use?
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