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Old May 9th, 2010, 10:33 AM   #1
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In search of hotter audio

Need better / hotter audio for single person sit down interviews. Shoot both inside and out - currently using a Oktava MK012A with a BBG. Nice sound to my newbie ears BUT... it is a constant struggle to get it close enough to the talent (two feet away) to get a hot enough audio track.

Question - should I buy a different boom mountable mic that runs hotter or add lavs to my audio kit?

ps - as far as budget - on one hand I must deliver good results to my corporate clients, on the other hand - good audio is the target, not exceptional audio where diminishing returns really kick in.

thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions :)
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Old May 9th, 2010, 10:45 AM   #2
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Not that familiar with the Octava other than I know they're well thought of. It's not a shotgun though and that could be part of your problem.

I use a Rode NTG-3 with a Sound Devices MM-1. Just for grins I have plugged in some of my studio mics (AKG 414 TLII and Neumann TLM-103) The TLII is notorious for needing a bit higher gain than most other high end mics. I had plenty of gain adjustment left and it's clean as a whistle.
Two other nice things with the MM-1...it's got a built in limiter which is very transparent. And the headphone out is really nice to have.
I'm sure you could get good levels with it.
I played boom op on a shoot a couple of months ago and fed the MM-1 into a Sennheiser G2 transmitter so I could be completely wireless. Worked like a charm!
Mic didn't need to be closer than 3 feet from talent and got a full, present sound.
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Old May 9th, 2010, 11:27 AM   #3
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WHY do you think you need a hotter audio track? Perhaps that should be clarified in order to take the proper path towards a solution.

Presumably when you boost the gain on your recorded track you hear something you don't like. But we don't know what that is? Are you hearing hiss or self-noise from the microphone (or the preamp, etc.)? Or are you hearing too much ambient noise or "room tone"? If you could be more explicit about WHAT you are trying to fix, you may get better response.

How quiet are the places where you are trying this? If you are using an Oktava 012 hyper at 24 inches, do you have realistic expectations about its ability to get a clean pickup of the voice and reject the ambient?
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Old May 9th, 2010, 12:08 PM   #4
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Greg:

Simple question. Tell us where your peaks and nominal levels are hitting and we can tell you if you need hotter levels. Generally, in digital, most newbies and video oriented people use too high levels anyway. because they think digital audio responds in the same way that analog audio does. In analog, the hotter the signal before clipping, the better. In the digital world, not so much.

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Old May 9th, 2010, 02:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Kiger View Post
BUT... it is a constant struggle to get it close enough to the talent (two feet away) to get a hot enough audio track.
So...is it the mic you are struggling with, or getting it close enough to the talent? And I presume it is audio for video you are talking about...
If it is mic distance that is the issue, I picked up a Samson stand the other day (I think it is this one Samson Audio - SB100 ) which is quite heavy but enables the mic to be boomed in overhead wherever you want, but still keeping it out of sight of the shot. I really like it...
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Old May 9th, 2010, 06:48 PM   #6
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In general, when you want a hotter mic it's because you have a noisy preamp or a preamp that doesn't offer enough gain. With a solid preamp, the remaining problem can be if the self-noise of the mic is high. At some point the signal is too low and the mic noise starts to dominate.

So, what are you plugging the mic into?
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Old May 10th, 2010, 04:26 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Kiger View Post
Need better / hotter audio for single person sit down interviews. Shoot both inside and out - currently using a Oktava MK012A with a BBG. Nice sound to my newbie ears BUT... it is a constant struggle to get it close enough to the talent (two feet away) to get a hot enough audio track.

Question - should I buy a different boom mountable mic that runs hotter or add lavs to my audio kit?

ps - as far as budget - on one hand I must deliver good results to my corporate clients, on the other hand - good audio is the target, not exceptional audio where diminishing returns really kick in.

thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions :)
18 to 24 inches is the normal working distance for a hypercardioid mic like the Oktava. Even a top-shelf mic like the Schoeps needs to be at about that distance for optimum performance and going with a hotter mic won't change that. You need to examine your setup and technique to figure out what you could do differently so you can use the mic at its optimum distance. Perhaps you're not aiming properly when you set up - it should point directly at the subject's throat, firing down from above-front, and its aiming tolerance is a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Perhaps you need to hire a sound assist / boom op to help out. Having a couple of good qired lavs in your kit to use instead of the boom can also help but a boom mic is generally preferred to lavs when you have the option.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 08:28 AM   #8
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Hot is bad.

If you are recording 24-bit you set the 0VU point as -18dB (-20dB in the USA) and peak about 10dB above this.

Similar to setting your BBC PPM meter to 4 = 0VU and peaking at 6.

Anything more you do in post.
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Old May 10th, 2010, 10:58 AM   #9
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Very much appreciate your responses.

Per Dan's post - I was told to aim for nominal levels up toward -10 with peaks up near 0 but this has been hard to achieve. Averages around -20 and peaks near -10 have often been the best I can do. Additionally, my editor tells me he needs to boost my audio a bit in post. Are these target levels correct? Is boosting audio levels in post the norm or does it cause significant problems?

Another and maybe more on target question might be; if the levels I am getting are normal for most mics at aprox 24" working distance, 45 degree down angle from a boom above then on the occasions when one can't get in that tight and the appearance of Lavs are not a problem... what would be a good but not exceptional Lav set up be that you might recommend?

Again, thank you guys for your thoughts on this - super helpful :)
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Old May 10th, 2010, 12:05 PM   #10
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Peaking around -10dBFS (16 bit) is 'a little low' but certainly usable, especially if your working w/o a limiter.. you must leave some headroom for unexpected peaks.
It is normal and expected that the video editor adjust audio levels if needed, even for the producer or client's reference, prior to audio post, if that's an option.
That said, if the location audio is low AND noisy, or just plain doesn't sound good, one should look into different microphones and/or pre-amplification. (or hire someone with proper equipment and skills)
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Old May 11th, 2010, 08:49 AM   #11
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As you build up your audio tool kit you'll want to add several items, including lavs, a good preamp or mixer with good preamps that's compatible with your current and future cameras, as well as a boom mic that has greater sensitivity and very low self noise.

There are a number of good lavs that are small and cost $210 or less street price. Search the threads here on this board.

Most good preamps or mixers, especially that run on battery power are expensive but are one of the most critical components of your audio chain.

There are also boom mics that perform better than their price point would indicate. You already have one in the Oktava, but there are others with higher sensitivity like the Audio-Technica AT875r, and the Rode NTG-1 or NTG-2. At higher prices are the older AT4073a and new version BP4073, as well as the Rode NTG-3.

What camera and preamp (if any) are you currently using?
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Old May 11th, 2010, 09:54 AM   #12
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Thanks Jay, very helpful. I am currently using my Oktava plugged directly into my EX1 or with my 5dM2 plugged into my Zoom.

Sounds like Lavs and a preamp / mixer are maybe my next two kit building steps. I will do more searching for good lavs but if you have any fave threads on lavs or just want to blurt out the right answer I will promptly whip out my credit card and go buy um :)

Thanks
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