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Old July 26th, 2005, 06:59 PM   #1
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Recording levels strategy in noisy crowd

Until recently, we would use an Audio Technica ATR-25 stereo mic when conducting interviews for an entertainment report. I would set the level manually for each speaker and the results were great. Even with a loud band in the background the voices came through clear.

We recently switched to a mono wireless system made by Samson (sp?). The trouble we're having is that if we manually set the levels for the interviewer (who has a great radio voice and knows how to hold the mic), the interviewee is always way too low. If, on the fly, I increase the level for the interviewee, the interviewer is then too hot and we get clipping.

Several people in our group are insisting that the answer is to use a boom. Although I could see the benefit of having an extra couple of people on the crew, one of whom is solely concerned with riding the levels, this wouldn't solve the problem of wildly varying levels and the need to manually adjust.

Other than putting a separate mic on the interviewee (not financially possible right now), I'm wondering if the options are:

1. Go back to a wired stereo mic set manually, since that worked just fine before.

2. Keep the wireless mono setup, but set the audio to Automatic and rely on it to adjust the levels more quickly than I can spin that little wheel.

Does this make sense?

Leigh Hanlon
Chicago, USA
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Old July 26th, 2005, 07:50 PM   #2
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Dear Leigh,

I would suggest that the quality of the microphones; Audio Technica vs. Samson may at least PART OF the problem. Could you research the specs and see how they compare? You may also have the sensitivity set too high on the wireless. Did ya read the manual? he he.. I wouldn't suggest a shotgun as they are held further away from the subject than a lav and therefore much more subject to picking up the band.

I think you may have to bite the bullet, (for the sake of your future with this gig), and invest in another wired lav or at the very least double check your settings on the Samson.

I'm sure more informative advice is on the way.

Much success to you,

Stephanie
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Old July 26th, 2005, 08:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for the input, Stephanie. You might be on to something regarding the relative differences of the mics. I'll check the specs when I get home. It could be something as simple as the pickup pattern.

I'm pretty sure the Samson's sensitivity is not too high. In a rare departure for me, I did RTFM this time! :-) And the settings are in line with what the manual suggests.

More than anything else, the problem could just be that subjects are moving their heads side to side when speaking and not keeping their mouths a consistent distance from the mic.

I'm going to run a test using the mix in Auto mode to see what happens. I've seldom used it in Auto, but maybe this is a situation in which it's needed.

Leigh
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Old July 27th, 2005, 05:25 AM   #4
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Stereo mics would have directional pattern (typically cardoid at 90 degrees from each other) for each channel, which allows the independent control for each speaker if they are appropriately positioned relative to the mic, and can reduce pickup of ambient sound that is outside the pickup pattern, such as the band.

The lav is likely to be omnidirectional (although some are directional), and the closest source will usually be the loudest. When using a lav, for best quality each person should have their own mic.

If you prefer one mic, consider getting an interview mic (many are cardoid) and have the interviewer point the mic at the perosn speaking to keep levels roughly constnt. A shotgun mic on a boom works well if the boom person aims the shotgun at the person speaking, and offes good suppression of unwanted ambient sound.

If you cannot provide with a sound person to deal with levels, consider setting the levels low enough not to clip, and then refining the levels in post.

The ATR-25 is a modest priced stereo mic. If looking for a better stereo mic, check the AT-822 (or AT-825 if you need balanced output).
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Old July 27th, 2005, 05:33 AM   #5
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I'm juat guessing here but I'd bet that you issue is due to the difference in distance between the microphone and the speaker's mouths. The interviewer is holding the mic, right? Unless he's right up in the face of the person being interviewed you're going to be switching from a few inches from the interviewer's mouth to perhaps a couple of feet from the subject's. Sound obeys the inverse square law just like light. Double the distance from the source and the intensity will drop to 1/4. So Mother Nature is working against you here and the choice of mic brands etc isn't going to do much to overcome her. Technique is going to be more important than sensitivity per se and however you go about it the basic solution is to get the mic picking up the subject close to their mouth and keep it at a consistent distance throughout the conversation. Your options are to boom it, put a mic on the subject, or have the interviewer get closer to the subject and concentrate on holding the mic in closer proximity to him. You may need to fall back on the ENG technique of concentrating on getting the audio from the subject in the actual interview and letting the interviewer's voice go onto a scratch track to be replaced in post with reverses and cutaways shot separately later. A 2-man team, one on camera and another on sound, may turn out to be the minumum necessary to get the quality you need.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 08:30 AM   #6
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Can you tell us exactly which mic element you're using with the Samson wireless system?
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Old July 27th, 2005, 12:10 PM   #7
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I'm using whatever handheld mic comes with the Samson wireless package. I also have a lav package, as well. I've considered using both mics to send signals to different channels, but this would be unbalanced and only involve a Radio Shack Y-splitter, so am not sure it's a good idea.

The interviewer has been sticking the wireless handheld between 4-6 inches from the subject's mouth. Much of the problem is that most people do not speak up, and move their heads around. A boom wouldn't directly deal with this, since I doubt it could be repositioned faster than our interviewer currently shifts the handheld.

I'll find out the exact model number of the mic when I'm home tonight.


Leigh
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Old July 27th, 2005, 12:59 PM   #8
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If it's the standard Samson handheld element, then it's a hypercardioid with a tight pattern that's designed more for singing into while in front of a PA system or just isolating a single voice from the person that's holding it in exactly the right position.
If you can order the Samson plug-on transmitter that will be compatible with your specific system, then you could substitute any dynamic or self-powered mic that would be appropriate for the particular situation. In this case an omni or cardioid interview-type mic like the AKG D230, Sennheiser MD42 or MD46, or the AT804. There are others, but these 4 sound very good. They range from inexpensive (AT804) to probably more than you have budgeted.
You could also use the Sennheiser e835 for a middle ground approach.
If your two wireless systems are on different frequencies so you can use them simultaneously, that could work too. Put the lav on the interviewee and have the host use the hand-held exclusively. The GL2 isn't the easiest camera to control different levels between the two channels, but it is possible to do with careful adjustment of the wireless systems.
Obviously an external device like a mixer or a BeachTek-type interface would be easiest to control.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 02:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Massengill
...The GL2 isn't the easiest camera to control different levels between the two channels...
Why do you say that, Jay?
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Old July 28th, 2005, 10:09 AM   #10
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Cause I was remembering the camera's controls incorrectly? Actually I was just testing to see if you were paying attention, yeah.. that's it.
The good news is this means the OP will have an easier time with using two wireless systems hooked to the camera without having to use an external control for the time being.
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