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Old December 1st, 2004, 03:39 PM   #1
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Microphone for VO AND Music

Hi,

Right now I have an XL1 and a minidisc recorder. In the short films that I will be making, I will be doing a lot of voice-over work.

In addition to that, for most of the music of the short films, I will be finding local musicians or myself to play the music and be recording either directly into the camera or into the MD recorder.

On a side note, I also have the M-Audio 2496 sound card... Is it possible for me to record voice-over work directly into the computer?

My question now is, if I'm on a budget, what's a good microphone to get that could be good for recording instruments (esp. piano, guitar, violin), AND be good for voice-over (and also interviews in very controlled environments)? Just to note, this is NOT a microphone I will be using during shoots, it is purely for recording things in post production.

Thank you,
Dennis
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Old December 1st, 2004, 04:29 PM   #2
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Since you don't currently have a source for phantom power, and your M-Audio card needs a line-level input, I think you should also consider getting either a mixer or a preamp. This will give you a much greater choice of microphones that will be suitable for these situations and will let you also record into your computer cleanly.
You can get either a mixer or a preamp in either AC-powered or field configurations. I'd think ahead and decide which of those 4 categories will work the best with your future plans and your current budget.
If you don't go that route, then you'll need battery-powered mics. I'd say getting a pair of Rode NT3 mics would work for this wide variety of situations. I know you said one mic, but hey, do you really want to record your music in mono?
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Old December 1st, 2004, 04:48 PM   #3
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Hi Jay,

Thanks for the response. I think I better start researching with mixers and preamps.

Question (I'm a complete newbie when it comes to audio):

Would it be wiser to get a mixer in a field configuration because that would mean that I could use it to record audio into my camera AND use it to record audio into my computer, whereas if I get an AC-powered one I am stuck with using it somewhere near a power plug. Is that right?

I'm just not sure what I can do right now (with audio). I've been reading a lot of posts that talk about all these really highly priced shotgun mics and preamps and mixers, which all seems really desirable, but right now I'm on a pretty limited budget.

Apart from the microphone that is usually attached to the XL1 (that came with the camera), and a really cheap microphone that came with my minidisc recorder, I have no audio gear.

Let's say I have around $500 US to spend on audio gear. About 90% of the work I will be doing WILL be with a very small crew, we're primarily focussed on making drama based digital short films, and I have next to no experience in audio. These couple of months I'm really trying to up my level of knowledge by reading a lot of the useful websites on sound and reading books, but right now I just don't know what is the best combination of gear I can get with what I have. Has anyone been in this kind of situation before?

Thanks helping out,
Dennis
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Old December 1st, 2004, 05:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
I know you said one mic, but hey, do you really want to record your music in mono?
The majority of television sets in people's households effectively only get mono anyways so stereo may not be a big deal depending on your target audience.

I listen to music on headphones so stereo effects are actually detrimental to my enjoyment of music (since some stereo effects like panning L<-->R back and forth are designed for speakers and are really annoying on headphones).

Stereo can give you a nice sound stage (where you can head the placements of each instrument).
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Old December 1st, 2004, 05:52 PM   #5
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Hi Glenn,

Thanks for the response. Um... I'm wondering, so basically at this price-range, the Rode NT3 is the most versatile battery powered microphone?

I'm wondering, since two NT3's add up to the price of one NT4, would it be more useful and versatile having one stereo microphone or two mono microphones?

I have the MA-100 adapter, can I assume that I could plug these kinds of microphones straight into the XL1? Also, are there other similarly priced microphones that would be a better choice for me given my circumstances?

Dennis
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Old December 1st, 2004, 09:30 PM   #6
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Hey Dennis,

It may be helpful to let us know

(1) what your budget is, and
(2) what context will you be recording music?

Expanding on (2),

(a) will you be mic'ing a soloist (guitar, vocals, acoustic bass, cellist, trumpet, sax, etc.), or will you be recording a band (full power rock band, acoustic folk, big band jazz, etc.)

(a1) will you be close mic'ing if you're micing a soloist?
(a2) otherwise, will you be trying to capture music with one mic from far away (not advised if you can help it).

By venturing into the area of music recording, you gotta consider what you're recording it for (intended audience), what you're trying to achieve (are you planning to eventually charge for this service?), and what resources do you have at your disposal.

You've asked a very broad question that potentially has bookfuls of answers. Without more detail, I doubt there is anyone here at this forum that can give you a "one-size-fits-all" answer, since it doesn't exist... but then again, that depends on what you're trying to achieve.

A good place to start looking for answers is the DAT-heads Microphone FAQ:

http://www.josephson.com/mic-faq.html

The FAQ is old (1993) but much of the content is still relevant to location 2-ch. recording. It'll get you thinking in the right direction in exchange for a couple of mouse clicks.

Also, your mic'ing technique will have FAR more dramatic impact on the quality of your recording than trying to pick between mic A or mic B in the budget range of things. That being said, a pair of Schoeps omni's at $2,400/pair misused will sound worse than a pair of Guitar Center Oktava MC012's (less than $200/pair) used properly.

A couple of practical books to get yourself educated in this area that could save you lots of money down the road is Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Guide or (as recently mentioned by Glenn and others) Jay Rose's book "Producing Great Sound for DV".

What you don't want to do is go on a forum, ask a broad question, pick up a mic that poster xyz says is the bee's knees, and learn that you should have gotten a whole different setup for what you're doing, but are now stuck with a shiny, new budget mic that has devalued by half by the time you opened the box.

Remember, acquiring knowledge is cheap, given time, but bad investments in the wrong kit is not.

Good luck to ya! Hope those resources help some!
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Old December 2nd, 2004, 02:15 AM   #7
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Hi Harris,

Thanks for the FAQ and book recommendations! I'm gonna check out those resources.

My budget (right now anway), is around $500-700 USD. I will NOT be charging for these recordings. Although I am a musician myself and would like to use any audio set up to potentially record myself, that is not the most important priority at the moment.

This audio set up will be used maybe 70% of the time for solo or at most VERY small set ups of instrumentalists (3-5 in chamber music set ups, classical OR a guitarist and singer set ups), and yes I will be able to control where and how far I am to the musicians, as almost 90% of the recordings will be specifically for the soundtracks of the short films I am making.

Right now I have next to no audio gear, and around $500-700 USD, however I CAN wait and keep saving. I do not know what is the best way to prioritise my purchases, the main problem is balancing between LOCATION SOUND and POST PRODUCTION SOUND - both are equally important to me. For location sound, almost 80% of the stuff I do will be involving small numbers of actors' dialogue, most of the time in controlled environments and with a very small crew.

In the mean time before I make the purchase I am going to educate myself more, it's always better to know more before a purchase than just rush into it. Once again thanks for the very helpful advice.

Dennis
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Old December 4th, 2004, 02:08 AM   #8
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Glad you find the info useful.

Recording musicians is a specialty field altogether, where I am constantly learning new things, better techniques, different approaches, etc. In order to give you a general direction, I'm going to make a few broad, sweeping assumptions, and allow your research (or someone else) to fill in the spaces in between:

A) You'll be recording in an acoustically decent room
B) The musicians you're recording can control dynamics well enough to provide a controlled, stable audio feed
C) The musicians are not inclined to grab the mike and jump all over the room
D) You'll be distributing your music on a format that can take advantage of high-quality sound recording -- like DVD as opposed to web.
E) You're in this for the long haul and are willing to invest in good equipment that will provide great results, provide a good return on resell, and build your kit a bit at a time.

} 1st: Get a good mic preamp

A decent mic pre will last you a long time while you play with different mics, learn better recording techniques, change venues and learn about acoustics.

For location recording, I'd go with a Sound Devices Mixpre ($665). You can do a search and read more about this. Excellent build quality, audio quality, flexible routing, built-in limiter, bright daylight-reading LED meter, (the list goes on and on...)

If you can't afford that and will usually have access to AC power (no need for battery-powered portable units), the FMR Really Nice Preamp (RNP) ($475-ish) is a great little 2-ch. preamp that provides solid performance quality at a budget price. There are lots of really nice sounding micpre's that marry well with certain mic's, but are all cosiderably more expensive than the RNP, esp. for 2 channels.

Both can output to an MD player, ADAT, or DAT if you're capturing sound with an outboard recording device.

} 2nd: Get a good omni microphone, or rent until you can afford one

It sounds like your focus in audio recording will be music for the most part, so I'll focus my rec's on that. (These mic's can be used for VO, too, but how well they perform depends on room and voice.) Focus on mono recordings until you get your technique down well enough to produce reasonably good sounding recordings consistently, then move on to stereo, since stereo mic'ing is a whole 'nuther playing field altogether to do well.

Within your budget are the Sound-Room's RTT/Oktava MC012's ($200 a piece) with the omni capsules. I've heard some very nice recordings done with them. Scour the web and you'll find lots of great comments. Are they Neumann's or Schoeps? No. Do they do a lot for the price? Yes!

If you're renting (it's pretty cheap to rent mic's for a day and you can learn the diff's between the high-end mics by doing this), try renting a Schoeps omni (CMC6/MK2). Properly used, these are beautiful sounding mics. Other well respected omni's can be found with Neumann (KM184) and Josephson (I haven't seen these available for rent, but maybe in your area).

I have heard good things about T.H.E. Audio's mic's, but I have no direct experience with them. The pricing is a bit more reasonable for purchase than the Schoeps, Neumann, etc. Maybe someone else can chime in on these.

Okay, that should be plenty to get you started. Remember a pop-shield and shock-mount for VO, and a shock-mount and windshield (softie) for outdoor use. Otherwise, all those other resources should do you more good than this little blurb here.

BTW, a decent book for getting your hands dirty with mic'ing techniques is "Practical Recording Techniques", 3rd ed., by Bruce Bartlett. It touches the essentials enough to keep you from making disastrous mistakes.

Best of luck!
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Old December 4th, 2004, 02:28 AM   #9
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Hi Harry,

Thanks for the recommendations! I've been browsing around audio forums these few days and it does seem that the MixPre and the Octavas are highly recommended for those on a budget.

First thing I am going to do is get myself more educated and read more books/internet sites to understand recording techniques and acoustics a bit more.

Second thing I am going to do is save up a bit more before I invest in this gear.

One question: I live in NZ, thus I have to buy the Octavas/microphones from overseas. I've checked out the offers from the Soundroom, and it seems like a good deal. However, if I'm getting a matched stereo pair, are they reliable? I've heard that Octavas can be hit and miss, can I assume that the Sound Room is a reputable retailer?

Dennis
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Old December 4th, 2004, 03:40 PM   #10
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vo mic

To have an appreciable difference in quality over an NT3 going straight into your XL1, you will need $500 US

RØDE NT1-A or Studio Projects C1 ($200)
into
ART Pro Channel ($300)
into your 2496.

This will be an enormous, audible jump. The next really doesn't come until $1,200, which opens up some options but seems to be beyond your budget.

The RØDE NT4 is a fantastic stereo mic, I have one, but definitely NOT for vocals/VO. It is also too extremely sensitive to handling noise for most field recording, unless you have a pretty controlled environment with a mic stand + shockmount.

You can do stereo recordings with a mono microphone by overdubbing and panning in a DAW of your choice, also adding stereo reverb and delays to widen the sound.

Ignore at your own risk ;)
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Old December 4th, 2004, 03:48 PM   #11
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oktavas

Oktavas from the Sound Room are 100% reliable, but expensive, and unless your focus will be stereo recording, not the route I would take. The whole point of ordering from them is to get a perfect pair, which runs about $500.

Their M1 mod is incredible, and highly recommended, but not cheap, and kind of a specialty, boutique item. It's a mic that can be very flattering in some cases, but not a "realistic" mic. Kind of the opposite of a "reference" microphone.

Also remember, getting a perfect pair means also investing in a two-channel preamp strip, which as you might imagine, is more expensive than a one-channel preamp strip.
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Old December 4th, 2004, 06:06 PM   #12
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Hi Scott,

Thanks a lot for the advice and recommendations. I find myself lacking in this kind of knowledge, so what I'm gonna do is not purchase ANYTHING for now, and actually learn more about audio recording, then deciding for myself what I need the most in my situation. This will also give me a chance to save up more and hopefully jump in at a higher level to begin with. With that in mind I will probably eventually check out the Rode offerings and perhaps AT microphones. I'm trying to find the balance between music and location recording (as in my current situation I have to do both myself).

Dennis
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Old December 4th, 2004, 06:38 PM   #13
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mics

sounds wise. fact is, there's no one mic that will do everything for you, so you're probably looking at having several mics (sorry to break it to ya).
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Old December 5th, 2004, 01:07 AM   #14
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Hey Dennis,

Good plan of attack you've got for yourself. Glad to hear it!

About the Sound Room Oktava's... I'd disagree here with Scott. The Sound Room RTT/Oktava's aren't just for stereo pair matching. They're for solid quality control and predictable response even if you buy one now, but decide to get another later. They won't be "matched" per se, but they'll be close enough for most applications. E-mail Sound Room and ask some questions. They're very customer friendly. The Oktava's you get at Guitar Center here in the States are the ones that have the reputation of being unreliable with wide variance between mics. People have opened the casing to find globs of flux still remaining, wide variance in resistor and capacitor values, cold solder joints, and a host of other manufacturing issues. The RTT/Oktava's get more closely scrutinized and screened before getting to your hands.

About the NT3's... a great mic for its purpose... easy coincident XY stereo recording... period. Quick to setup without much fuss, but VERY restrictive in versatility. It wouldn't be my first choice in mics to get as anyone's first mic, since you REALLY should be mastering MONO recording techniques before going to stereo (esp. for your applications)... believe me when I say they are fairly different recording techniques to do properly. If you absolutely must have stereo recording off the bat, go for a pair of Rode NT4's or RTT/Oktava's. They both do a reasonable job for the price they're at. Be forewarned that both these mics have very distinctively different sound characteristics, so TRY THEM OUT before you buy them (if you get the chance). The capsules used in the NT3's and NT4's (identical in design) gradually roll off above 10k, so if you ever need to, say, capture the delicate nuances of a fine classical guitar... you're SOL with the NT4's. Also, with the NT3's/4's, you're fixed with a cardioid polar pattern, while you're able to get omni's or hyper's with the RTT/Oktava's. Don't get me wrong, I have a pair of NT4's, so don't think I think they're bad mics. They are useful as long as you understand their limitations.

Either of these mics, properly setup can POTENTIALLY work well for VO *with the right voice*. You'll find as you get into this more, that matching the right mic to the voice is a skill learned through lots of trial and error. There's no set rule here. The ever popular Neumann TLM103's used in pop vocal recordings work great on some voices, while other vocalists have had horrible luck with them. In the end, you'll find (should you choose to delve so deeply) that it's matching the right components up and down the chain combined with the acoustic recording space and technique that yields the best quality -- the most important component being the talent and material. A good story to illustrate this is some of Joe Pass' early cafe recordings in Berkeley. Any jazz guitarist will be able to listen to those recordings and immediately recognize it's him and get into his performance, despite the recordings being mediocre at best.

Also, as with any studio mic, you'll need a good pop-filter, stand and shock-mount to keep them isolated while you try to keep people off your mics (they shouldn't have to be handled while you're recording... if they do, you need a whole different type of mic altogether).

As far as picking the right mic goes, while I realize that you're in NZ, you might try posting on rec.audio.pro or here to see if there are any other New Zealander's near you who are willing to do a mic shootout with you over a weekend. It should be fun and an enlightening learning experience.

As for preamps, now, I'm not a fan of ART equipment, but maybe that's 'cuz I've never been exposed to their higher quality stuff, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt... but I'm of the mind that if you're going to spend $300 on a preamp, you might as well go for the RNP, which is killer in build and output quality, while it will last you a LONG time. It's really the minimum I'd spend on a AC-powered preamp. Remember the Mixpre is a battery-powered field mixer.

You DO have the good fortune of starting out with a lot of right ideas and attitude before you spend a penny on equipment. You've got the right mindset about saving to purchase equipment that will stand the test of time. You'll find keeping those ideals in mind will do you well in the long-run.

Best of luck to ya, and drop us a line when you've sorted some of this out!
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Old December 5th, 2004, 09:57 AM   #15
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oktava + art

If I had $650 to spend, I might consider an MK012 with both hypercardioid and omni capsule, and add an M1 or M3 head.

http://sound-room.com/customer/product.php?productid=15&cat=2&page=1

Then you have an interesting microphone that I can use in diverse situations. In many, I personally feel the coloration would be too noticeable (piano and certain voice types come to mind). But it would be fun.

If I had $400 to spend on a small diaphragm mic, for strings and drum overheads, I'd definitely get the MK012 from the Sound Room. In fact, I did get an MK012, and tested and returned it myself until I found the best one, all for $99. But not everyone has the experience or patience to do that, so I can see paying a little more ($100 though?) for that. Moving on...

If I had $200 to get a mic for a one-mic studio, I would get the Studio Projects C1, or possibly the RØDE NT1-A. It wouldn't "flatter"in a few applications, but then again, it wouldn't mess with them. And they would be much more usable with a variety of voices (male, female, etc.).

If someone was telling me to get an MK012 for VO work... well, to each his or her own, I guess.
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