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Old September 15th, 2010, 01:32 PM   #1
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What is the industry standard?

In January Iím starting a 90 min. film. Like so many of the guys who have posted here, my focus has been primarily on capturing the image. Now itís time to get a handle on the sound. I have a sound guy who really knows his stuff when it comes to the engendering of sound in a studio. As this is a learning experience for both of us, we want to make sure we are going in the right direction.
So, what is the industry standard? Should the main focus be on capturing live sound in the field or plan on doing voice overs for the whole film? Determining the focus will change our planning and our direction for the whole project. I have some ideas of what I think but I want to hear from you guys.
Here are some of the main tools we have to work with:
Camera =Cannon XHA1s, Boom Mic = Azden SGM-1x, Studio Mic = Generis GC-1, NLE = Vegas 9
No money and lots of coffee
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Old September 15th, 2010, 02:59 PM   #2
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Hi Jack,

A lot of it will depend on what type of film your doing. Is it a documentary or a narrative story? I have used both field recordings as well as ADR and a mix of both. A lot of it depends on how clean you can get the sound in the field. If you're sound guy is good he should know a lot of good standard practices to getting very usable field recordings.

My first preference is to use sound captured in the field but often I've needed to do some ADR due to one problem or another. Just remember to get room tone for just about everything you shoot. Sometimes you have to get tone through the shoot at a single location because so many things keep changing. One particular problem I always seem to run into are shoes. I've had to modify shots so you wouldn't see someones fee so we could have the actors take their shoes off. This of course was an extreme situation where the director insisted we use location sound and dialogue and we were in large wooden floor open space. There was a lot of waking around so we compromised an used the dialogue captured in the field and added the footsteps later. But, our entire crew shot the whole scene without shoes on.

For time and cost reasons I like to try to use location sound as much as possible but I know there will be a few shots that need to have ADR.

-Garrett
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Old September 15th, 2010, 03:03 PM   #3
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You're probably gonna have to give a little more detail on your film if you realistically want some advice as to how the sound should be handled. Outdoors? Indoors? Doc? Action? Wide-angles or tight? Wardrobe? These all affect the choice of mics and audio techniques.

A few years ago I went from a mostly studio production background to a film job. While my audio experience definitely made the transition much easier, it is a different world in a lot of ways. The equipment's different, the mics are different, and the challenges are different.

I would suggest adding a mixer (like the SD-302) to your equipment list if you're serious about sound (and you don't decide to do everything in post). We use the Cannon's as well, and the difference in pre-amps between the Cannon pre-amps and the Sound Devices pre-amps will absolutely make a huge difference in the sound of the final product. This is true both because the SD's preamps are cleaner and more powerful, and because the off-camera metering and limiters allow the sound person to record at a much higher input gain, thus improving the SNR. It'll also make post easier because your sound will be a lot more likely to have been recorded at even levels if the sound person can actually monitor the levels and adjust as necessary.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 04:18 PM   #4
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I kind of blanked on the equipment side. I usually rely on my sound guys to worry about the sound equipment but in general I would run dual systems. The XH-A1s' audio is one of the weaker points to that camera IMO. Andrew's suggestion of getting a separate mixer is very good and I would also get a separate field recorder to go along with it. Record to both the recorder and camera. I usually have a location sound engineer and a separate person (or two) on boom. Both need to have cans to monitor what's going on with the sound.

Depending on your locations you will most likely need a few other mics too. The SGM is a decent mic but you will probably find that it is not going to do if you have any indoor shots. Remember that sound is at least 50% of the experience for anyone watching your film (and that's coming from someone who is primarily a camera op/DP) so you are taking the wright steps in thinking it through ahead of time. I would take your equipment and sound guy out to some of the locations you're planning to shoot and do some tests. Much in the same way you'd do some test shots with your camera. That will tell you a lot about what type of sound you'll be able to get.

-Garrett
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Old September 15th, 2010, 05:23 PM   #5
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Thanks for the quick response guys. It sound like the direction is focus on getting the best field sound possible and do the voice over only as a backup plan. That is what I thought, but is that the way the BIG BOYS do it or do the redub all of the dialog?

As far as more details, this is an action kids film that will shot 40% outside, 30% inside (different locations) and 30% in my garage (a.k.a the green screen studio). Costumes will be modern military. Our camera angles will run the full spectrum but most of the dialog will be full, mid and close.
We are planning to use a mixer board and have a few options, We also have a few Audiotechnica condenser mics, and a junk wireless.
Garrett, you had said ďThe SGM is a decent mic but you will probably find that it is not going to do if you have any indoor shots.Ē
Do you think using the Generis would work better in doors then the SGM?
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Old September 15th, 2010, 05:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jack Duggan View Post
...Garrett, you had said “The SGM is a decent mic but you will probably find that it is not going to do if you have any indoor shots.” Do you think using the Generis would work better in doors then the SGM?
Not familiar with the Generis but looking at it on the web it doesn't appear to be very practical for dialog recording. The normal mic for interiors dialog is a hypercardioid "pencil" mic such as the AT4053b, AKG Blueline SE300B/CK93 combo, Oktava 012 or similar mics, mounted on a fishpole boom positioned close over the talent just out of frame. The Generis looks like it would be more at home in a music studio on a stand a few inches from a vocalist's mouth, not hanging out on the end of a boom The SGM would work for exteriors but truth be told, Azden doesnt have the most sterling of reputations for quality. It might be okay but I'd do some sound tests before committing to using it in the production.

The rule of thumb for boom mics for dialog is a hypercardioid for reflective environments such as normal home or office interiors, short shotguns for non-reflective environments such as most exteriors or soundstages. Note that an exterior can still be highly reflective - shoot on a paved schoolyard close by the brick wall of the school building and you might as well be indoors as far as acoustic reflections hitting the mic are concerned so a hyper'[ instead of a 'gun might be a better choice for that sort of scene.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 06:03 PM   #7
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Any feature film sound recordists I know want to get the maximum percentage of the actual shooting dialogue into the film's final mix. Most actors don't like looping lines (ADR) either, although there are times when it's needed.
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Old September 15th, 2010, 07:49 PM   #8
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I have not really had much experience with the Generis mics either but in the few times I've been around them they were being used for music/vocal pickup.

As I mentioned, I don't primarily concentrate on sound. I know enough to know when I'm getting myself in trouble which is when I run to the sound experts such as Steve. The Azden will get you sound but I would opt for a different selection for shotgun. On a budget, the Rode NTG-3 is a very good shotgun mic. I use a Senn ME66 in battle situations. It has been banged around a lot and can take a lot of abuse. For those situations where sound is more critical I use a Sanken CS-3e which is one shotgun that does a very decent job indoors.

I've used the Senn ME64 for indoor also and that seemed to do a good job.

-Garrett
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Old September 16th, 2010, 10:10 AM   #9
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In addition you will need proper accessories for any mic, such as a good shock mount and windscreen. That said, even top shelf equipment without the proper skills won't help much. You may be better off just hiring someone if decent sound is required,
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Old September 16th, 2010, 01:05 PM   #10
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Thanks guys, we do have some of the mic accessories and as far as Mics, there is a lot of stuff I would like to buy or up grade to. It's just that whole money thing. For now I am trying to do the best I can with what I have, and if some funding comes in great.
I mainly wanted to make sure that getting the best field recording was the first priority and voice over only when needed.
I would love to hear any other suggestion or options you guys want to throw out there though.
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Old September 16th, 2010, 05:56 PM   #11
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If you're not going to be able to use a field mixer--and we can never afford to buy everything we need, can we?--please avoid auto-levels on the camera at almost all costs.

One useful trick, especially if you're filming something like an action movie with punctuated, loud sounds, is to split the signal going into the camera and set one input gain relatively low while setting the other input at a normal level. This only works if you're recording 1 channel of audio, say from a shotgun, but what it will allow you to do is have one channel recorded relatively hot and another channel as a backup in case you have accidental "overs" which might otherwise ruin a take.

Also, if your sound guy is not used to film, he may not be in the habit of recording room tone (or presence). This will become really important in the editing stage, and will be especially important if you're recording straight into the camera as your noise floor will be relatively high.
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Old September 16th, 2010, 09:17 PM   #12
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Thanks Andrew, we are planning on using a 12 channel sound board as our field mixer and won't be using any auto settings.
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Old September 17th, 2010, 05:32 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jack Duggan View Post
Thanks guys, we do have some of the mic accessories and as far as Mics, there is a lot of stuff I would like to buy or up grade to. It's just that whole money thing. For now I am trying to do the best I can with what I have, and if some funding comes in great.
I mainly wanted to make sure that getting the best field recording was the first priority and voice over only when needed.
I would love to hear any other suggestion or options you guys want to throw out there though.
First a minor semantic quibble ... "voice-over" refers to narration or direct-to audience commentary ("It was raining hard in Los Angeles that day she first walked into my office...") Those elements would virtually always be recorded separately in studio.

The dialog recording technique you are talking about is called ADR, Automated Dialog Replacement, though there's nothing very automatic about it. It's often done in major productions when necessary but the trend these days is to avoid it if possible and focus on getting the best production right up front. The reason is that it can be very expensive and very time-consuming to do much ADR ... requiring a lot of studio time, a lot of the actor's time after principle photography is complete, and a lot of work in post to meld the studio recording into the location sound without it being obvious that it was recorded at another place and time. Doing it properly requires looping the picture in studio for the actor to see while recording his lines in sync to his original lip movements and with all the dramatic delivery and inflections of the original scene. Hard to do even for experienced talent, very difficult for tyro actors to get right.

You can only go so far with saving money by only using what you have. It all depends on whether or not you have the right tools to begin with. If you need to drive nails and all you have on-hand is a screwdriver, you're going to have tough going until you bite the bullet and spring for a hammer. If you had a Rode NTG-1 (shotgun) and people were saying "Use a Senn MKH416" (also a shotgun) then responding you need to use what you have in order to stay on budget would make perfect sense - they both will work just fine. But for interior dialog, the studio mic is going to be difficult to get a quality result from, as I would expect it needs to be too close to the talent (in most cases) for it to be out of the shot, while the Azden gun is going to exhibit the bad behaviours from interior reflections that all interference tube shotguns are subject to. The reason folks are suggesting you look into alternative 'guns is that some mics, like the aforementioned Rode, are high-quality, budget-priced microphones while the Azden gear is simply budget-priced. It works, but how well it works for your application - if it meets your quality requirements or not - is a judgment call only you can make after field testing it yourself.
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Old September 17th, 2010, 12:51 PM   #14
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Thanks Andrew, we are planning on using a 12 channel sound board as our field mixer and won't be using any auto settings.
Sounds like you're sorted, then. Best of luck and have fun.
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Old September 17th, 2010, 02:18 PM   #15
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Hey Steve, thanks for clearing those things up for me, and thanks for giving me some things to really think about. I wish I had this knowledge before I bought the Azden. The Rode NTG-1 looks like a great mic at a low price and now it the next thing on my wish list.
Let me ask this question, if you had to choose and good mic specifically for in doors for under $300 would it be the Rode or something else?
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