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Old July 25th, 2005, 06:39 AM   #1
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How to do audio for seated interview?

Hi there,

I recently bought a Panasonic GS400 together with a Røde Videomic and a Audio-Technica Pro 88W wireless system. I am brand new to videography so I could do with a bit of advice.

I am about to do some interview-like recordings of my grandmother where she speaks of her past and our family history etc. I plan on using either the Videomic or the wireless system when my grandmother takes us through her house and recalls old memories etc. The recordings will also include a seated interview where she will relate memories through the use of old photographs. In order to create a natural atmosphere, and aviod any camera-shyness, I thought it best if my mother sat next to her in the sofa. That way she would be sharing her memories with a relative and perhaps forget the camera.

I suppose the best way to get good audio in a situation where a dialogue might occur, is to have a wired lavalier on both my mother and grandmother. It would, however, be nice if I could use the equipment I already have. I thought of somehow placing the Videomic on a monopod just outside the picture. Perhaps someone has been in a similar situation and could give me a few tips on how this could work best? Or perhaps come with other suggestions?

To learn more I will most likely order the book "Producing Great Audio for Digital Video" by Jay Rose, as I hear it is highly recommended, also for beginners like myself. For this shot, however, I wont have much time to read or experiment, so all good advice is welcome.

Thank you,

Halfdan
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Old July 25th, 2005, 07:52 AM   #2
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I just did one of these for a 90 year old ... be discreet and you'll get great stuff. I sat across from her with a handheld shotgun wireless transmitter. Camera was behind me about 20 feet away, so it was just like a kitchen table chit chat. Perfect! Since my questions were edited out, I didn't worry about being outside of the directional pattern of the mic. In post, simply duplicate left (or right) to have the dialogue (mono) present on both left and right channels.

One key light through a diffuser is all you'll need at 40 or so degrees offset to cut out the talent from the background.

Let the conversation begin.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:20 AM   #3
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Jimmy,

Great post! Thanks for sharing real-life experience. The 40° offset was on the same side that you sat as the interviewer, right?
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:33 AM   #4
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Gee ... thanks!

Since I was the interviewer, I was situated directly across so that that talent was facing into the breathing room of the frame.

Below shows X as the subject, O as the interviewer, and the rest to show the light and the cam.



X
______=>

O


_____CAM
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:37 AM   #5
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Jimmy, setup just as I pictured. Thanks. What light did you use as a key?
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Old July 25th, 2005, 08:49 AM   #6
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The light was an 800w redhead passing through 1/2 toughspun on a separate tripod/holder.

Nice soft throw.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 11:08 AM   #7
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Thank you!

Thanks for your post Jimmy!

Your post and "drawing" are very interesting. Initially I thought of having both my grandmother and mother in the picture, but I think I get the idea of your setup. You were never in the frame yourself, were you? As the main character is my grandmother, I suppose I could get a lot more close-ups of her by using your setup, than if I were to have two people on a sofa in the frame all the time. It would also be easier to hide the microphone as the interviewer who is holding it is not in the frame. Food for thought and just the kind of helpful input that I need - thanks!

With regards to your comments on lighting I must confess that I don't know what a "readhead" or a "toughspun" are. I am aware, however, that one can soften and diffuse lights by letting them pass though some kind of filtering material. I suppose "readhead" might refer to the color of the light? I thought of bying one or two 500W tripod mounted work lights and dimm them if necessary. These halogen lights only cost about 21 USD here, and I also found an inexpensive 800W dimmer on a German site. I could also let the light pass through something which would soften it. Ups, I guess this last bit of the post belongs in the forum for "Photon Management."

Thanks again!

Halfdan
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Old July 25th, 2005, 11:40 AM   #8
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You're on the right track ... if your interviewer is part of the story and her dialogue will be in the final cut, then you will need some screen time for her also...

As for the lighting terms, these just refer to pro version of the hardware store product ... I still occasionally use the halogen Home Depot worklamps in nasty conditions for industrial videos ... but never indoors...

If you have an IKEA store near you or similar, try finding a chinese lantern home decor light fixture. This will have the lamp and diffusion built into one unit. The only drawback is that the light intensity is not huge, so you need to park it close to your talent. The benefit is that the heat is low and the price is cheap! Buy 2 of them and you now have a key and fill light!
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Old July 25th, 2005, 12:38 PM   #9
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Thanks for the follow-up! I will be on the lookout for China Lanterns. The highest wattage I have seen for a normal bulb is 200W. Two large China Lanterns would make 400W, and maybe that will be enough together with the ambiient light? We have a small China Lantern at home, and I agree that it produces a very nice soft light. I also have a microphone stand which might carry one of the lanterns.

I was also hoping to make an amateur lighting set out of a pair of halogen work lights on tripods. Maybe equip them with an umbrella or so, or place them behind a shower curtain as some people have suggested. Perhaps I'll experiment with that later.

Thanks! - Halfdan
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Old July 25th, 2005, 04:04 PM   #10
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Hello,

May I suggest that you have your mother sit next to you to possibly aid with the camera shyness issue.

If your wireless is a lav system might you also use it for the interview?

The Chinese lanterns were a great suggestion.

Regards,

Stephanie
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Old July 26th, 2005, 05:21 AM   #11
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Hi There Stephanie,

Yes, my mother will somehow be part of the setup for sure. Most likely she will be the interviewer and I will be operating the camera. My wireless is a lav system, but I have hardly used it yet. I do know that I could use both microphones, however as I am so new to all of this I am not sure how to connect two mics to the one mini jack on the camcorder. Perhaps with some sort of Y-cable or break-out box? And how would I control two audio channels which might need to have their record level adjusted individually? Because of my lack of experience, I think that for this shot, I will stay safe and go with the Videomic until I get more time to experiment.

Thanks for your input! This is such a nice place to exchange information and get to "meet" new people. See you around Stephanie!
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Old July 26th, 2005, 10:19 AM   #12
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I would strongly urge you to stay away from worklights. They are way too harsh for this kind of work and a real fire hazard. If you subject will be uncomfortable with a camera pointing at her just think how 1000watts of blinding light pointed at her will make her feel. Dimming them will just skew the color temp too far into the orange. Plus the shower curtain catching fire will probably distract her in the middle of the interview.

The chinese lantern is a pretty good idea although the paper ones can also catch fire if you over lamp them. If you go this route you should get some bulbs that have the correct color temperature. You want a photoflood bulb such as:
http://www.adorama.com/LMECA.html

I'd buy at least 2 bulbs as they have a very short life. 200-250 watts should be plenty to light a single subject interview.

I have some plastic china balls I made out of lamp post globes I got a Lowes. I lamp them with the 250 watt photoflood and they are real soft, not too hot to touch, and
will light a small room.

You might also benefit from Walter Graff's articles here:
http://www.bluesky-web.com/new-page6.html
His flourescent ideas are interesting and cheap but you will need something stronger for your consumer level camera. You could maybe do it with some 15 watt lights relamps with better quality tubes.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 03:25 PM   #13
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Hello Bill Ball,

Thanks for your post and good links! The interview went well and I went with a China Lantern and a standard lamp with a soft light for lighting. I also found your link to Walter Graff's article very interesting. Thanks! I did not have time to go look for small flourecents so, just to experiment, I unscrewed a pair of the flourecent lights in my workshop and took them with me. These 36W lights had a nice color, but proved to be too sharp and harsh for the situation. What worked best was the China Lantern. I put a 150W bulb in a ceramic socket and it lit up my grandmother very nicely and, unlike the 36W flourecents, it had a gentle glow that did not hurt your eyes. I fitted the standard lamp with a 100W bulb (only had one 150W) and it also worked quite well. I did not have time to get any Photoflood bulbs, but thanks for the link. So far, however, the ordinary bulbs have also worked quite well for me. Thanks for your humourous warning against worklights! :) I had already bought a pair of these when I read your post. I might keep them as I like the 2m telescopic stands that come with them - perhaps I could modify these in my workshop and use them as light stands. Thanks!

To capture audio I mounted the Røde Videomic on a monopod and my mother held it between herself and my grandmother. Both were seated and the mic was on the same level as their knees and pointed upwards toward my grandmother. It worked well and my grandmother seemed to forget all about the microphone as she got into the conversation.

To Jimmy McKenzie: I used your camera setup for the interview and it really worked well - thanks again for the tip!
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