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Old January 30th, 2010, 09:22 PM   #1
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Recording Storms - Blimps and Pads?

Hi All,

I am about to spent a couple of months on location in the Arctic recording sounds (amongst other things) of the storms and 'climate'. The end product is for a feature documentary (theatrical release).

My setup will be a

Sennheiser 416
Sound devices Mix-pre
Zoom H4n

A couple of questions:

1. I'm looking at 'Blimps' and a pad to handle the sound spikes. There seems to be three 'blimps' on the market

Rode
Rycote
Sennheiser

Are they all the same or can someone recommend the best setup??

2. Any tips on the best pad (or equivalent setup) to use?

3. Are the stereo mics on the zoom H4n appropriate for good quality stereo ambient sounds or should I also be looking at a separate stereo mic? If so any suggestions?

Any other advice for working with audio in this sub-zero environment?

Thanks

Murray
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Old January 31st, 2010, 04:12 AM   #2
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1) No the windshields are definitely *not* in any way equal. Of the three mentioned the Rycote is by far the best windshield system - for the 416 you will need the Kit-4. The 416 in a Rycote has regularly been used in Arctic and Antarctic conditions with no problems.


2) For stereo I can think of two practical options:-

a - An MS pair of MKH 30/40 in a stereo Rycote windshield (make sure you stipulate the Lyre suspension for this - this is something I invented by connecting Rycote mounts together in a different way and then told Rycote about it. It's much better than the elastic suspension, especially in Arctic conditions)

b - An XY pair of MKH 8040 remote mounted in a Rycote stereo ball windshield kit.

You need the MKH microphones because, being RF condensers, they will work well in the damp and cold
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Old January 31st, 2010, 09:22 AM   #3
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For a trip of this magnitude and under the harsh conditions you'll encounter I would be very reluctant to rely on a budget consumer recorder like the Zoom. Sound Devices recorders have been field tested by professionals in just about every environment on the planet - I'd suggest giving serious consideration to taking a 702 or 702t instead of the Zoom. If you're going to spend thousands of dollars on the trip and are traveling light so you have to have all your eggs in one basket, it oughta be a da**ed good basket.

A pad is really just a simple resistor network in a convenient package and pads by Shure or Audio Technica are readily available, inexpensive, and would work just fine.

Look at external battery power such as NP1s for the mixer and recorder that can be worn under your clothing next to your body to keep it warm. Consider chemical handwarming packets in your gear bag - battery efficiency drops dramatically in cold conditions.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 09:36 AM   #4
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There is a stereo version of the 416 called the 418. It won't fit in the exact same mount as the 416 but it should fit in the blimp. 5 pin cable

Sennheiser | MKH418S - Stereo Shotgun Microphone | MKH418S | B&H

I agree with Steve about using a better recorder + you want to have some back up so you can keep working if something has a problem.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 11:10 AM   #5
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Also make sure to get dead cats for your blimps.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 02:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Epstein View Post
There is a stereo version of the 416 called the 418. It won't fit in the exact same mount as the 416 but it should fit in the blimp. 5 pin cable

Sennheiser | MKH418S - Stereo Shotgun Microphone | MKH418S | B&H

I agree with Steve about using a better recorder + you want to have some back up so you can keep working if something has a problem.
Good advice - I was considering the sound devices as a preference anyway...and the stereo version looks like a better option (the 418).

I apologise in advance if this is a silly question, but can I leave the mixer behind and go directly from the mic to the recorder, say the the 418 to the 702?

Also, I am trying to figure out the practical differences between the sound devices702 and the 722?

Cheers

Murray
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Old January 31st, 2010, 03:38 PM   #7
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I would second the Sound Devices recorder - But I would personally go for an MS rig made up from an MKH 30/40, 30/50 or 30/60 rather than the 418-S as the quality will be much better.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 04:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray Fredericks View Post
Good advice - I was considering the sound devices as a preference anyway...and the stereo version looks like a better option (the 418).

I apologise in advance if this is a silly question, but can I leave the mixer behind and go directly from the mic to the recorder, say the the 418 to the 702?

Also, I am trying to figure out the practical differences between the sound devices702 and the 722?

Cheers

Murray
Yes, you can go directly to the recorder. You get more control with a mixer in the chain snf the levels are easier to adjust as you shoot but the preamps on the SD recorders are very good so no problem using just the recorder.

Both 702 and 722 are two track stereo recorders. The 722 records to an internal hard drive with an option of simultaneously recording to a CF card while the 702 uses just the CF card and lacks the internal hard drive. The 702T adds timecode.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 09:25 AM   #9
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Yet another plus-infinity vote for the SD 702 and an MKH M-S stereo rig with Rycote suspension, zeppelin, windjammer. It's a pretty typical pro nature recording package and, if used with proper technique, sounds pretty killer. (FWIW I favor the 702 for non-sync ambience and effects gathering for three reasons: Less heat due to no hard drive, less weight (and possible RF spray) for the same reason, and you can still record to two CF's cards simultaneously if you plug in an external firewire card reader...oh, and without TC, it's cheaper!)
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Old February 7th, 2010, 05:41 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
Yes, you can go directly to the recorder. You get more control with a mixer in the chain snf the levels are easier to adjust as you shoot but the preamps on the SD recorders are very good so no problem using just the recorder.

Both 702 and 722 are two track stereo recorders. The 722 records to an internal hard drive with an option of simultaneously recording to a CF card while the 702 uses just the CF card and lacks the internal hard drive. The 702T adds timecode.
I am trying to keep the amount of gear to a minimum on this shoot as the conditions will be potentially severe and I have transport issues also. I am out there alone so will be operating camera and sound and stills...

In order to simplify the audio path but NOT sacrifice quality, could I go a sound devices mixer then into a camera as the recording device only? (Obviously easier for the dialogue sections...)

Or

Should I go Mic to sound devices 702? Can I then send a line from the 702 to the camera to for dialogue?

SD mixer and recorder is overkill for this shoot...

Thanks

Murray
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Old February 7th, 2010, 08:29 AM   #11
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Mixer and H4n were okay but mixer and 702 is overkill?? I don't see it. But be that as it may, you can route the inouts of the 702 directly to its output bus and send it to the camera if you wish. Note though that the recorder by itself does not give you anywhere near as much control over your audio as a combination of the recorder and a mixer such as the SD302.
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Old February 7th, 2010, 03:45 PM   #12
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Thanks Steve,

By 'overkill' I mean weight, extra cables, more gear to setup maintain and operate and more batteries to charge. All a consideration working alone in this environment.

Let me re-phrase the question,

To simplify, can I forget a separate recorder all together and use a top notch mixer then send the line directly to the camera for recording? Will there be a quality sacrifice?

What will I lose by doing this - other than having to drag the camera around for ambient sounds?

Cheers

Murray
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Old February 7th, 2010, 11:18 PM   #13
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I think the general consensus is that something like the SD 702 will capture vastly better sound than your camera. But then again the general consensus is based on recording dialogue or so called music - or even real (classical) music. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek, although people who listen to classical music usually have pretty high end sound systems to listen on and are really sensitive to the sound quality)

How relevant is any of this for recording storms - damned if I know!

Disclosure - I record brass band and classical music pretty exclusively so I'm biased as all get out on the side of high bit depth/ high sample rate.
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Old February 9th, 2010, 10:08 AM   #14
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To Jim's statement: I use my Sound Devices 702 for effects gathering and production sound stereo-mix backup (I mostly shoot around HDSLR's, so I'm mostly in a no-TC double-system world), and so my recommendation is based on that usage - including the recording of rain and storms. When mixing effects, I usually never use a mixer unless I'm recording multiple perspectives (like two lav's and a shotgun for recording motorcycles).

If you're collecting ambiences of storms and weather, go stereo, no question. If you can afford it, go MS and not XY, but XY will totally suffice for most needs. Buy a see-through poncho like those available from Petrol and a Rainman windscreen hood to prevent water from both hitting and seeping into the windscreen.

As for your camera question, if you're a one-man band, sure, eliminating a piece of gear is great, but most camera preamps are garbage compared to dedicated recorders, so it's a tradeoff. If you're out there with a cameraperson, you can either go double-system with just a recorder or you can add a mixer and record simultaneously to both the recorder and the camera. Just depends on what you want to accomplish, what your crew looks like (even if "crew"=you), and whether the weather footage and sound need to be in sync. (Note: Sound Devices' 552 mixer has great limiters and acts as a stereo recorder onto SD cards, that might be the best bet for a combo mixer-recorder even if you do take audio out to a mixer)

In your case, carry at LEAST a backup of everything, maybe more: Extra cables, batteries, extra fuzzy windscreen in case one gets wet, etc. Be sure to store your batteries next to your body, as the cold will sap the charge out of them in no time.

I've never needed a pad to record outdoor ambiences, even in storms, if I'm smart about setting my levels. For spikes in the audio, like thunder, it's better to use limiters on your recorder (another reason to either use a dedicated recorder or to feed the camera with a right proper mixer) rather than a pad, which attenuates all signal, not just the peaks.

Hope that helps!
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Old February 9th, 2010, 01:23 PM   #15
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Hi Nathan,

Thanks for the reply - all extremely relevant!

So for the mic setup are you suggesting a 2 mic setup as above or given the 'one man band' reality slightly simpler setup with something like the Sennheiser 418s?

Cheers

Murray
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