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Old September 3rd, 2004, 08:41 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Mic for narration

Question: I am in the process of doing an educational video on the Oak Ridge Reservation in TN. Can someone recommend a good, yet not overly expencive (I just bought Vegas 5 + DVD2) mic for doing narration. This will be used indoors only and I would prefer a headset type so I don't have to hold the mic while reading the script. I was looking at the one that Sony has out for about $180.00. Bob Safay
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 01:46 PM   #2
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Location: Toronto, Canada
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What gear do you have already? (i.e. analog-digital converters, camera, sound card, mixer)

What you should get for recording VO:
1- A good room. You want a room that's mostly dead (little echo), has low background noise (this may depend on time of day and whether AC is on), and doesn't sound boomy from room modes. If you have a quiet room you can deaden it by adding sound absorption material. Jay Rose's book Audio Postproduction for Digital Video (something like that) has information on how to build your own panels. It's a very good book and only $30USD (see dplay.com for how to get it at that price). Or maybe you can use moving blankets for sound absorption.

Background noise: just pick a quiet room at the right time of day and turn off sound-producing appliances (and move your computer away with long cables if you're recording into it, or use a quiet recorder). It's really expensive to make a room block out background noise in most cases.

2- Of course you need a mic too. You should get something that's either:
A- Accurate.
B- Makes the talent's voice sound good.

The sweet spot for mics is around a few hundred dollars, but a cheap mic can be more than good enough for your needs. One mic you could get is a Shure SM58. These are very hard to break (you can use them as a hammer) so feel free to buy a used one. It's a dynamic mic so you'll need a preamp- the Behringer UB-series mixers are an excellent choice for this ($60USD? for the basic model).

THe ShureSM58 may or may not sound good on your voice- it's a subjective thing and you'd have to test it out yourself. Chances are your talent will sound fine on it.

3- You probably also need some way to get the sound into your computer. You'll need an analog-digital converter for this. You have a free one in your camera, although it may not be good if it adds too much hiss. If that's the case then buy a sound card/interface. The M-audio revolution seems to be the cheapest sound card you can get.

4- Get a mic stand to hold the mic. Also get a stand for the copy. If there's a big piece of metal that holds the copy, then it'll reflect sound into the mic. You might want to add some sound absorbing material onto it. Jay Rose's book has instructions on this.

5- Some people also find the quality from a $30USD Radio Shack lav acceptable. If you're really cheap you can go this route. Radio Shack's refund policy certainly helps I suppose.
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 02:06 PM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Stockton, UT
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Geez, Glenn, great response!

One or two adds...
The new computer clip arms work GREAT as copy stands. They can velcro to a mic stand or other easy location.

One silly trick to getting a camera mic to sound better, is to tape a pencil right in the MIDDLE of the camera mic's pickup path. You'll be surprised at how this helps not just pops, but also widens and thickens the voice a bit.
Douglas Spotted Eagle/Spot
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 08:21 PM   #4
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One of the tricks I use is that I took one of those large plastic tubs that is used for storage and lined it with acoustic foam from Markertek. I then bolted a speaker stand plate to one end so I can place it on a speaker stand at a comfortable height.

Then I punched a hole in the other end away from the tub opening and dropped a desktop microphone stand arm down inside the box.

Mount the microphone on that, put a copy stand in front of the box with a carpet square on the metal surface and away you go.

It won't kill the relatively high-frequency hiss of AC but it does a nice job in killing a lot of junk noise. And I get no reverb from the talent's voice when they are at a normal distance from the microphone.

This would even work OK with a SM58 as long as you can get up close and personal. Maybe lay the script in the 'bottom' of the tub.

I used a Beta58 (almost the same as the SM58) for my narrative work with no problems. It wasn't until I started paying for professional narrators that I started caring about my recording sounding like the person speaking.

At that point, I bought an AT4033 which, while it probably isn't the best microphone in the world, at least allows me to make a recording in which the speaker is reproduced with reasonable accuracy and little coloration.

If it is very noise in the environment, I still reach for the SM58 or the AT11 (dynamic lav).

I find a bedroom with the large masses of soft furniture to be a particularly good place for narrative work when I don't have a studio in which to operate.
Mike Rehmus
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 09:42 PM   #5
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Stockton, UT
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FWIW, there is a tutorial on how to build a small, portable V/O box on the VASST site, not terribly unlike what Mike recommends.
Go to the tutorials pages.
Douglas Spotted Eagle/Spot
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Old September 4th, 2004, 07:40 AM   #6
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Rode NT3.

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Old September 4th, 2004, 08:45 AM   #7
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I agree with the NT3, and it's useful for alot of other recording duties. Another possibility would be the ATM31a, also good for other duties but not as good for voice-over recording as the NT3. I've seen it as low as $130.
It is important to have a good mic stand and a boom arm allows more space to work in without your feet transmitting into the stand. A pop-filter also allows a more energetic performance while working in the beefy proximity zone.
I'm assuming since you said you'd be reading a script that you didn't want a headset mic because you'd be walking around narrating live, but simply because you didn't want to hold the mic.
Are we all correct on this or did you truly need a headset mic?
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Old September 4th, 2004, 11:54 AM   #8
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Location: Hollywood
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I use an Oktavia large diaphragm condensor ($99) from Musician's Friend) with a pop filter, run through a Beachtek DXA-6 (to supply phantom power) into a DV camcorder.

Add a little compression in post and voila!

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