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Old July 8th, 2009, 01:48 PM   #1
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Getting good Audio when Shooting Alone in a verite situation.

A contradiction in terms? Ok, then lets say getting acceptable audio. The things I normally do when shooting alone are mostly not going to be possbile with whats coming up.

I知 following 3-5 people on a trip. where they will be meeting with others, hard to say exactly how many, except that I知 sure that will vary from 1 to a small group. This might be indoors or outdoors with all of the usual issues of getting good sound in an uncontrolled situation.

So I will go wireless when feasible though I知 guessing that won稚 be often. I値l use a mike stand, if and when possible.. I値l get in as close as possible with a camera mounted mike which is likely the way it値l be most of the time.

I知 using an XH A1 and also have a Sony D50. This is the setup I知 thinking of right now, so using up to 4 mikes at any one time could happen though there is that 斗ittle problem of monitoring them all while shooting. I want to be ready to go with all my options as I知 guessing things will change fast, so no tme to start mounting receivers etc when I need them.

1. The 2 wireless mikes going into the D50. Using the limiter and setting its gain on the low side to prevent overmodulation. From what I understand recording to 24 bit is more forgiving if you have to boost levels in post. Am I correct on this? How low is too low?

Two things I don稚 like about the Sony are the need for a beach tek or some such device to accept xlr (I actually have the sony one thats made for the D50. Bulky, not good. Its inability to control individual channel levels, also not good. I知 thinking of getting the Zoom H4n as that would address both issues though if I知 not mistaken its individual gain control is menu driven. Perhaps controlling gain via the receiver痴 output is a better option?

2. Mounting 2 mikes to the camera. With my present gear that would mean an me 64 and an me 66. The former to address echo when we池e inside, and better pick up those who are off axis, at least to some degree. The latter to minimize BG noise when outside. Using the auto gain on the camera. Did I say that? Never done it before but from some posts I致e been reading lately it sounds like its not as bad an idea as I thought. I値l be testing that one for sure.

In post I値l use the tracks that are most appropirate. Yes, I know matching the tracks will be an issue but i see this more as making a choice of one track or another and only resorting to a second track when I really need to. I値l get an ambient track when I can.

I知 considering the purchase of an me 67 to further eliminate BG noise when outside though from what I致e read its all too easy to be off axis with that mike. Your input on this would be great.

I知 also thinking of taking a hard gulp and getting an MKH 416. Aside from the obvious step up in quality what would you say about how it would perform in the above the scenarios given that it will be camera mounted.

So tell me I知 crazy/doomed if you must, but throw in your constructive input as well.

Thanks
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Old July 8th, 2009, 03:26 PM   #2
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Five years ago I shot a feature using nothing but a ME66 mounted atop a Canon XL1.

Here is the result:
Crooked Features - trailer (cleaned)
(listen with headphones for the full SNR assessment).

Whilst there is an "unnacceptable" amount of background noise I'm fairly sure the dialogue is intelligible which is a step ahead of Dogme95 and Mumblecore.

Nowadays I'm experimenting with M/S stereo verite style.
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Old July 8th, 2009, 04:31 PM   #3
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This is like saying, I will be shooting on a crab boat, using one camera and a on camera mike and expect it to look and sound like the "Deadliest Catch" very very difficult.

Using a on camera mic (it won't matter how good a shotgun you buy) will give you minimal sounding video at best.

With the XHA1 you have only 2 inputs that will limit you to 2 mics at a time. If had to do the shot I would run one wireless and one as a on camera shotgun.

This is why everyone uses a sound guy with numerous channel inputs and a boomed mike over the talent.
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Old July 8th, 2009, 05:04 PM   #4
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Hi Jase,

Sounds like an interesting gig. As the Sony D50 already has two XLR inputs, I'm assuming
that the receivers for your two wireless microphones don't & therefore you need to use the
beachteck unit. I know that with all your you know that you need an experienced sound man on the shoot, but the budget isn't there, so you have to do the best you can under the circumstances. However trying to juggle 4 microphones, a double system sound recording setup while being camera operator/director seems a recipe for disaster. I would suggest going with the standard setup of using the ME66 & wireless on camera & just going with the
2 condenser microphones built in to the D50 as a wild recorder placed wherever possible on the location. I know with your past experience working with 16mm syncing this stuff up in post will be a piece of cake.

Hope you have a great time.
Dave
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Old July 8th, 2009, 06:18 PM   #5
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When they shot the classic Cinema Verite film, "Battle of Algiers," they used a full crew, though the film had a limited budget.

Sometimes making scripted narrative to look unscripted realism can be more difficult than shooting straight narrative in standard production style.

Shooting cinema verite without a proper sound person is going to be very difficult I believe. I think it's almost necessasry to use a boom. You might try lavs with small transmitters or body recorders, but there will be a lot of post production to get the background to sound natural.

A mic on the camera is going to sound like a mic on the camera, and it well definitely detract from the desired sense of immediacy and realism required in good cinema verite.

Perhaps the first step would be to at have an experienced sound person go over your script in exchange for some "snacks," and then go from there.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 06:33 AM   #6
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I've never yet heard a one-man band play Beethoven and sound as good as the London Philharmoinic. You just can't juggle a string instrument, a wind instrument, and some drums and have it all come out right. So why people think it's possible to do it with a camera and recording gear amazes me. You don't have to have a huge crew but there is a certain critical mass you just can't go below. Camera requires the 100% attention of its operator, without any distractions. Sound requires 100% attention of ITS operator, without any distractions. Neither process is "set and forget" running on autopilot. No single person can do both and get top-quality results.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 08:44 AM   #7
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I知 well aware of how this should be done, and the limits of doing this alone. I致e considered the one wireless and one shotgun set up. But this will really only work well for one person. And my suggestion that I might be crazy was because of considering using the multiple mic approach. Too much for one person. Simply trying to make the most of the situation as it is and looking for what I might be missing.

Dave, good to hear from you. Using the D50 as you suggest will be helpful.

Mike, great trailer. Made me want to watch the movie. I could hear the sound issues but I still enjoyed it and yes the dialogue was intelligible.

I壇 like to know more about your experiments.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 12:56 PM   #8
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If it were me, I'd want an omni wireless mic on each person. I'd set the levels conservatively and forget them. I'd want headphones, simply to make sure that everything is turned on and working.

I'd choose omni because you'd be able to boost the volume and get other important sounds (like dialog from an unexpected 3rd party) to come through when needed.

Another interesting approach would be to give each person a Zoom H4n with two omnis. Turn the gain high on one and low on the other. Now you have a normal track, and a safety track if things get too loud. You could even mount them in different positions - hopefully only one would get handling noise at any given time. In fact, mount the low gain one near their collars for their dialog and the high gain one on their belt to pick up the general sound.

If you do that, bring lots of batteries and memory. Let each actor know that this is their baby and ensure that they are all turned on and locked with fresh power at the beginning of the shoot. Just let them roll across takes. They're walking audio recorders.

Now you don't have to worry about audio at all when you shoot. And you have all the options that you could ever want in post. You'd never have to worry about wireless noise or dropouts.

You could get away with using pretty cheap lavs too. In cinema verite, we don't necessarily want pristine audio, we want a feeling of reality. With a wired recorder and well positioned mics at two levels, you'd have little hiss and no clipping, so the dialog should end up clear. If the frequency response is a bit consumery and you get some background sounds, so be it. That will only add to the verite feel - but it won't have the annoying hiss, buzz, clipping, and distant/muffled dialog that would make it hard to listen to.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 04:13 PM   #9
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Jon

Thanks. Great idea. I do expect a certain grittiness to the audio. I know for some that means bad sound, but not in my books. Sure I'd rather have it pristine but thats not what this is going to be about.

I've got a couple of ECM 44B's. What would you recommend as an acceptable, yet cost effective (aka cheap) lav?

BTW, this isn't a narrative, so there are no actors.

Thanks again
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Old July 9th, 2009, 05:07 PM   #10
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The ECM 44Bs are decent, if you can live with the size.
I have read on this forum the AT-831(?) is $ cheap and sounds OK.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 05:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jase Tanner View Post
I've got a couple of ECM 44B's. What would you recommend as an acceptable, yet cost effective (aka cheap) lav?
Those would be more than acceptable - especially if you need a bunch of mics for multiple, simultaneous people.

One consideration is stealth. Small mics are hard to make with good quality. Countryman mics are expensive for exactly this reason. The good news is that, if you're willing to accept a bigger element, you can get pretty good sound without the high cost.

Here's an example:
Free Tutorials on Audio: Lavaliere Microphones

As long as you don't use a lav with a strong deficiency (noisy, resonant, no high or low end), the results should be appropriate for your project. If you're willing to EQ and ride levels in post, you should be able to get the sound that you want.

Quote:
BTW, this isn't a narrative, so there are no actors.
Understood. I used the term loosely. Would "subjects" be the better term?

It's an interesting role. Though not actors, they are aware of the situation to the point of "wearing a wire."

Personally, I like the idea of them being walking audio recorders. It could change their mindset from "being recorded" to "recording the world around them." Personally, I think that I would be less self-conscious and more into experiencing the world around me by being the recorder, rather than the recordee.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 05:41 PM   #12
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Another technique used by some to eliminate the sound person and stay a crew of one is to hold the camera in one hand and hold the microphone in the other.

This could be done with a mic such as the AT835B, which can held by hand on the barrel, or a Rycote or K-Tek pistol grip could be used to hold a regular short shotgun.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 05:56 PM   #13
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Jon, that's quite a wild (and wildly non-working) set-up you're proposing.

One chooses an omni lav because one gets more consistent audio with talent head turns and such. Putting a lav on the belt is absolutely useless for anything - maybe clean cloth rustling....is one wants that....?

If all you want is getting two tracks with different level setting one really doesn't need two lavs, just one split into two inputs set differently would do.

The idea to (during edit) switch between two lavs (one at the collar the other at the belt (?) to get rid of cloth rustling isnt' well thought out either. First, as mentioned before a lav at the belt won't get anything except weird noises - certainly not 'athmosphere' and also with this kind of placement both lavs would sound very very different - not something that cuts at all!

Why do folks try so hard to re-invent them wheels with 'ingenuity' that has been proven non working. Two mikes on a camera - one for interior one for exterior??? Please ;-)

Then there's this notion that by using a cheap lav one gets 'truer' because 'grittier' audio. Where does that come from?

If anything, your first approach is one if one has to go minimal would work, that is:

[QUOTE=Jon Fairhurst;1169399]If it were me, I'd want an omni wireless mic on each person. I'd set the levels conservatively and forget them. I'd want headphones, simply to make sure that everything is turned on and working.


That's it. All the rest is.....uhm, not so good.

What does help: quality lavs, quality wireless systems (of course one can always use the Sennheiser evolution series for that 'gritty verite' sound - that's a joke here !!!), CORRECT placement of the lav microphone (under the collar it goes only for very specific situations and is generally not recommended - just think of talent turning head talking now into the other direction...). Placing and mounting a lavalier microphone IS an art one develops through experience by doing it and slowly getting better at it. But it makes all the difference. What also helps is choosing shooting locations that don't work against what you're trying to achieve - in other words, less traffic is better, etc etc.

I really like Steve's idea of the one man philharmonic orchestra.....or you could find (hire) somebody who knows what he or she is doing and in return you get footage that are actually worth the effort....
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Old July 9th, 2009, 06:44 PM   #14
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I'm a one-man band and just started using a double-system sound setup to give me more channels of discrete audio.

An Edirol R-44 is connected to a pair of two-channel Audio Technica ATW-1800 wireless receivers. And there are four wireless mics. For my purposes that will cover the boat captain and three anglers. The whole package is in a small Pelican case with a battery that will run it for four hours. The recorder runs constantly all day long. I set for average levels and turn the limiter on. Of course I do a sound check at the start and occasionally throughout the day.

It's set to record time-of-day timecode and so is the camera. In post I use software to correlate the hundreds of video clips to the long audio track, and can fine-tune sync as needed.

Then there's an AT-4051a cardioid mic on the camera, plus the camera's built-in mic.

If I had another wireless system, I could add another ATW-1800 to the camera and two more wireless mics for six discrete channels of audio.

The ATW-1800 has proven to be a pretty reliable system with almost no dropouts at normal operating ranges. I have encountered a few problems including a mic wire that got cut when the wire got loose near an angler's belt and was cut by the butt of a jigging rod that was being heavily worked.

If I get comfortable enough with this setup I might see if I can send the audio back to me via another wireless unit so I can monitor the recorder remotely.

I wish I had the resources to get a soundman as any production really should have one present. But the budget is limited and so is the space on some of these boats.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 07:09 PM   #15
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Karl,

You're right. The "belt" idea was dumb. I was thinking of wanting to get audio from non-wired speakers without being drowned out by the wired person.

Regarding hi/lo gain recording, splitting is easier, cheaper, and lets you mix the two seamlessly with no phase problems. That's certainly the way to go.

The reason I recommended a recorder on the person, rather than wireless setup is cost driven. I recently did some tests with a Zoom H4n and a Sennheiser ew100 G2 system with a rackmount receiver, and noise from the wireless system swamped the noise in the recorders that I used. To get really low noise wireless systems costs real money - especially if you want two channels per person. No wireless system can beat a good cable. Add up the mixer and/or multi-channel recorder and you're into real money.

Anyway, a hi/lo recorder with a single mic has some risk, but lets the shooter focus on shooting. Again, it's a budget thing. One would definitely want to check the meters and monitor with headphones before locking the recorders and turning the subjects loose.

Total cost of equipment per subject would be under $600 including the H4n, an inexpensive lav and splitter. The H4n has a true analog gain control, so you don't need a pad for the low channel.
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