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Old May 10th, 2005, 11:12 AM   #1
Regular Crew
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 40
Shotgun or what?

I'm sure this question has been dozen times, so I appologize ahead of time for the inconvenience.

We are preparing to shoot a feature this summer, and I need to know what kind of microphone to buy. We'll use this mic to pick up on-set dialog - the majority being with only two people at a time.

Most of the locations are indoors, in a contolled inviroment, and the exteriors are not noisy.

there is one scene that takes place at a resturant with four actors sitting together at a table.

My question would be this:

Do I buy a shotgun mic and just stick it overhead, facing straight down between the characters. Or should i buy and omni-directional mic and do the same thing?

Please help!
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Old May 10th, 2005, 11:47 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 4,750
1- What's your budget? (approximately)

2- What gear do you already have?
What camera do you have?
Do you own any audio recorders?

3- Generally for narrative, a boom mic is ideal. If you can get it within 2 feet of the actor's mouth(s), it will give the best sound.

What you have to watch out for is that voices don't hit the microphone too far off-axis or they will sound different (off-axis coloration) and be lower in volume (how much a microphone does this is called rejection).

If the talent is close enough, you can just point the microphone between them and they'll both be reasonably on-axis enough that they are picked up well and sound fine.
If they're a little further apart, then your boom op needs to position the microphone in place (aimed at their mouth) before they say their line. In some soap operas, they always have huge pauses between their lines (probably to make live switching easier). Shooting that way would make your boom op's job really easy. That may not work for your script though, or you can storyboard things to make the audio work.

If there is overlapping dialogue then things get tricky. Blocking the actors closer would be a reasonable workaround. Other ways to do it would be to get a second boom op. If there are more than two actors, then you could get wireless/wired lavs for every single actor and record multitrack.

4- Indoors, hypercardioids sound much better than cheap shotguns. High-end shotguns sound a lot better than cheap shotguns. Indoors, high-end shotguns sound very comparable to a hypercardioid if you get it close enough (in my opinion).

Outdoors, a shotgun is better than a hypercardioid because of the better rejection.

5- If you had a very low budget, I would try to grab all sound with the boom. If there are particualr scenes with three people (and you need to grab their dialogue), then you could lav the third person.
Do a quick storyboard and check that you can grab all the dialogue. You might be able to change things around with the storyboard, the blocking, and the delivery of the dialogue so that you can pick up everything with a boom. Remember, the boom needs to be close (2ft or less) and pointed reasonably close to the talent's mouth.

The location also needs to be reasonably quiet.

6- In addition to a boom, you may need accessories like:
boom (~$200-300 for something light)
headphones + headphone feed for boom op (a must have if the boom op is inexperienced)
Outdoors, you need a windscreen. The foam stuff isn't very good.
Field mixer + carrying case is nice to have.
Depending on camera, you may need a XLR adapter.
Carrying case.
Stuff that doesn't cost too much: gaffer tape (you can make cable ties with em), carabiner or those velcro strap things to hold cables (although I suppose you could use gaffer tape here too?). You can also make your own snake with a return feed from the camera (to monitor what the camera is recording). Again, gaffer tape to the rescue? On the snake you might want to copy the sound devices stuff... have a headphone splitter off the camera's headphone feed.
Gaffer tape doesn't leave residue everywhere like duct tape does. Dan's overstock on ebay is where I get mine (new, sealed gaffer tape; it's brown not black). $5/roll + shipping. You need gaffer tape to tape cables down anyways.

7- If you can find a dedicated sound person, you might be able to keep your costs down or get better quality sound (if you pay em). A lot of them have thier own gear.

If you don't have money though, people may not be all that reliable.

8- Jay Rose's book Great Sound for Digital Video also has lots of useful advice for audio stuff.
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