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Old April 25th, 2010, 11:36 PM   #1
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What audio equipment for a feature shot on an EX1?

Hey guys,

So in a few months I'm going to be making my first feature. Its a car movie with lots of driving with engines revving, gun shots and a chainsaw. The movie will be mostly outdoor, but some indoor too.

It's going to be shot on an EX1 (and two JVC HM100's for car mounts and stuff). The entire budget of the movie is AUS$50,000. The sound budget is $1500-$3000 depending on what is needed.

What I want to know is what audio equipment will be needed for the shoot.
For microphones, I'm looking at the RODE NTG-3 and the NT-3, is it wise to buy both? From what I've read they seem to be good quality and quite affordable.

I've been trying to figure out the whole field recorder and mixer thing. Is a field recorder necessary for the EX1, or is the audio in the camera good enough already?
In my price range is the only real benefit of a field recorder/mixer so the person doing sound will be separate from the camera?
Do people recommend a mixer to EX1, mixer to field recorder, or something like the Edirol R-44 that also has level controls? Or just mic to EX1?

Do I need 24bit recording, or is this kind of overkill?

Do people recommend the use of wireless lavs on narrative features?

Oh yeah, there isn't going to be an experienced sound guy on the shoot and I doubt we would ever be shooting with more than two channels.

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Old April 26th, 2010, 01:36 AM   #2
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Hi Sam.............

Short answer: Don't.

Long answer: Don't do it.

Your audio budget is pathetically thin, think of another way around this.

Borrow or steal a sound guy from the ABC or Channel 6 or one of the others and get them to "moonlight" their (company) gear and do it for you.

Buying gear for one production is a total waste of time and money, better to hire someone in who know's what they're doing and have the gear to do it.

You're budget of $1500 - $ 3000 is a drop in the bucket and the poor sound that resullts will kill the entire production.

Heck, I'm a one man band who doesn't do anything particularly special with sound but likes to get it right - sound equipment budget - $15K and that was 3 years ago. I spent the lot and then some.

Sounds great, but you can't mic if you're shooting, I always need an assistant if shooting sound "off cam".

I really can't stress how important this is, most people believe that their primary sensory input is via the eyes, and indeed, some of the important stuff is.

However, the bang for buck comes with the sound, screw that and you're toast.

I strongly suggest you re - think your prorities and do a bit of lateral thinking to resolve this, however you can.

There is one guy in Hobart who may have names for you (sorry, can't help for anywhere else).

Jan Dallas, has taught photography in town for donkeys years and knows everybody that's worth knowing in the creative business, tho' whether he's dipped his toes into film/ video is a complete unknown, but he'll know someone who does know.

Just tell him CS sent you, he'll be blown away (we went to school together from age 6, haven't spoken to him for nearly 15 years - hope he's still there, was last thing I heard).

Best I can do for the moment.

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Old April 26th, 2010, 04:06 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
Short answer: Don't.

Long answer: Don't do it.

Chris - the perfect answer.

With a budget that pathetically small it would hardly be enough to hire the equipment, let alone buy it.
John Willett - Sound-Link ProAudio and Circle Sound Services
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Old April 26th, 2010, 06:00 AM   #4
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IMHO, you will be throwing away $50K by not having a sound mixer/boom op.
What's the point? I mean in all honesty why are you making this movie, and who will watch it?
David W. Jones
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Old April 26th, 2010, 08:46 AM   #5
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I'm a gear geek, almost fetishist. My first reaction is the same as others - you can get the basics of an audio kit for $3k but in the hands of a monkey it wont be good enough for feature audio.

There is a guy here in chch (I believe he frequents dvinfo too) who runs gorilla pictures. He embodies the kiwi "#8 wire" attitude when it comes to filming. Where I buy gear he just finds ways to "make things happen". Frustrated with the time delays and shortcomings of field audio, he invested in a decent studio mic, some acoustic foam and he has developed a reasonably fast ADR workflow.

It puts a MASSIVE weight on post production to replace all your audio. But in truth, especially with a road movie, if you don't go the full 9 yards and get the field audio "right" then you'll end up having to replace the audio anyways. It flies in the face of what I'd consider best practice... But this guy just goes for it and blows off audio when shooting. He just focuses on getting the visual performance right - which means he can blast through an amazing amount of script in a day.

I did a "road movie" this past weekend for a 48 hour film contest on a 7d with audio on a roland r-09. I hung a pair of cos-11 lavaliers from the sun visors of the hero car on a trailer with wireless transmitters to a sound guy in the towing vehicle. It ended up sounding quite good. (i'll post a link when i'm allowed by the competition). Now, this was with the car not running with the windows up and towed on a trailer. Had the car been running, or even had its own tires touching the ground, I'm skeptical it would have been good enough. For a documentary, yes. For a feature? It depends on the feature...

So back to my mate. He plans for ADR when he shoots. The cast know they have more work after the rough cut and he knows that he has long yards after the camera shuts off. I used to think it was insane, but I've seen it work and am starting to come around for indy-feature work. If you are willing to do the hard and long adr and foley... what you end up with is closer to a big budget hollywood feature than even the full $50k in sound gear can provide.

If you aren't willing to spend more than $3k on gear and plan to hand it to a monkey... then I'd seriously consider the commando-adr solution. If you do it right, you can save DAYS of shooting that you can then spend on the days of ADR (or MDR, more likely) that you'll need. If you plan to do lots of trailer and chase car work, i'd invest in a cheap wireless kit like a sennheiser g2. Stick the transmitter in the talent car and the receiver right on the ex3 and this will give you guide audio to edit from. If you do not give your editor guide audio, then you can kiss another 2 months of editing goodbye and the piece will likely never get finished.

Thats still not what you wanted to hear, but "shortcut the audio and do it later" is probably closer than "you need another $15k and a professional". Just be aware that ADR isnt fast or magic and the time you "save" on set is really just postponed, not saved.

But that said, my mate did an entire feature zombie flick with only guide audio, including plane and car action scenes. He ADR'd and foleyed the whole thing and I was forced to rethink what I thought I knew. In the end he just had 2 hours of audio to recreate... vs. rigging mics and recorders in dozens of locations in endless hours of hostile audio environments. In this particular case, he did end up saving time overall (lots of it) and I have to reluctantly admit his final product is superior to what me and my $15k audio kit would have been able to provide.

Just some stuff to chew on and think about. This is not a recommendation to "shoot now and think about it later" so much as "if you are smart about it and plan ahead, it might be the better option".

Frankly, I'd shoot on a dslr. I dig the ex3 but i just love the way the 7d handles natural light. Plus, the body is tiny and gives you way more options for shooting inside a car. Heck, you could buy and rig several 550d and get whole dialog scenes in single takes. hmmmm.

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Old April 27th, 2010, 06:34 AM   #6
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How about renting the equipment?

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Old April 27th, 2010, 07:38 AM   #7
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Having done a car movie with extremely limited sound kit, I'd say the first thing you need is some one in your crew who really wants to be a sound recordist. When I did my film I'd done BBC training (which included sound for radio and TV) but we had two engineering students who were doing sound. They need to be insistent and demanding to push you for best sound quality.

The rest is just the gear, depending on the scenes you mightn't need a vast amount, but you need some one who will know where to put the mics and keep an ear out for the faults.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 11:03 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
Buying gear for one production is a total waste of time and money, better to hire someone in who know's what they're doing and have the gear to do it.
Your advice overall is excellent, especially hiring the professional sound man. I'd like to add that buying used gear on eBay allows for resale value of approximately the same amount. The major problems are 1) waiting for the gear you need 2) lack of familiarity with the gear you buy.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 12:11 PM   #9
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Yes, go for the professional sound recordist, everything else is second best. The audience will forgive many things, but one of isn't the sound. Or as George Lucas put it: "it's half of the movie".
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