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Old February 4th, 2013, 10:00 PM   #1
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Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Hello,

I'm preparing to shoot a live band on the 22nd of this month and I've been doing some research on how to get the best audio. First, here's what I'll be using:

1.) Canon 60D
2.) Canon XL2
3.) Rode Videomic (not sure if I will connect this to my 60D or my XL2)

The band does a lot of Beatles, Stones and CCR covers and the venue is outdoors.

So, since I don't want to use audio from my camera's as my primary track I looked for other options. I'm looking to get exceptional audio- clear and clean. The Zoom H4n's really caught my eye because I can use it for multiple other applications such as recording some of my own music. I really like the guitar effects built in. I read on this forum many good things regarding the Eidoral R-09 (though it doesn't seem to be in production anymore), Marantz PMD620 and the Sony PCM D-50.

I also briefly looked at the Roland R-26 and Tascam DR-40 as options. My budget is flexible but I would really like to stay within the $500 range if possible.

As for my question- will ANY of these devices give me syncing issues? I read in one of the posts (back in '09) that many of these portable recorders have issues with "Double System Work." I've read conflicting thoughts on this. Some say that sync is perfect so long as you don't record longer than 5 minutes at a time, others say they really haven't had issues.

I plan on setting one of these up in the center of the speakers towards the back but I don't want to have to constantly start and stop- that will be hell in post! They normally do 3 sets (each roughly about 20 minutes) so i'd really like to sync it and forget it.

Are there any other recommendations you guys have? I'm I going down the right path or completely lost?

I'm not looking for a 10k+ sound...just something significantly better than on-camera audio that constantly shifts (phases) in tone as I move around.
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Old February 5th, 2013, 09:47 AM   #2
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Perfect sync depends on the camera and recorder both having perfectly stable clocks at exactly the same frame rate. With two different devices in the real world, "perfectly" and "exactly" don't exist. Thus there will always be some finite amount of slippage between the two. Different people have reported different amounts of slippage with different sets of gear. No two cameras and no two recorders are exactly identical.

The question is: how much slippage?

When people say there's "no problem unless the clip exceeds 5 minutes," what they mean is that the slippage is not noticeable until the clip length gets past (roughly) five minutes. At six minutes, you might very closely discern that there's an error of a frame (or whatever). At ten minutes, it might be more noticeable. At 20 minutes it might be very obvious, etc.

So no, you don't need to start and stop recording/filming to produce a lot of five minute clips. You just need to be aware that with one long continuous shot, you'll be somewhat out of sync by the end. You can correct this either by stretching/squeezing the audio track to perfectly fit the video, or else by shifting the video by a frame when needed at edit points.

If you are shooting a long continuous take, be sure to slate the head and tail; that will make it much easier to sync it up in post.

As to what technique and equipment you need to capture "exceptional audio"... I personally think that one mic in the middle of the hall is going to be exceptionally disappointing. I'll leave that topic to someone else.
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Old February 5th, 2013, 10:21 AM   #3
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Thanks Greg. You know, now that I think about it, I've done similar work while editing music videos and even though I sync up the audio between the master track (studio recording) and various camera tracks at some point I need to re-sync. It could be due to what you mentioned about the clocks within the cameras.

Well, I appreciate your feedback and thanks for letting me know that how I was going to record the audio was going to produce "exceptionally disappointing" results! I don't want that! Does anyone else have some tips for my scenario? I've searched the forums before posting I couldn't find anything that really fit what my conditions. I found some where people are recording classical or something vastly different from good 'ol rock 'n' roll. So, any tips in this regard so I can capture the best sound possible without spending an over the top amount (1,000+)?
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Old February 6th, 2013, 10:09 AM   #4
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Get a feed from the house/band sound board, (search this and the DVX audio forum for IMPORTANT level matching info) .. and hope for an experienced mixer/operator.. even then, you will likely get a vocal and/or drum heavy 'house mix', so a static.. 'NOT mounted to the camera', stereo room mic or array would be wanted as well. Allow plenty of time for set-up and sound checks.
I have no comment on your $1000. budget
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Old February 6th, 2013, 06:20 PM   #5
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Thanks for the feedback Rick.

Part of the problem is that there is no sound mixer/operator or a feed from the band's sound board because they have none. It's a small venue (It's actually a burger place) and it's a small relatively small stage. Each member is outputting through their own independent setups with no main connection to a sound board. It's basically the guitarist with his amp, the bassist/vocalist with his P.A. setup and bass amp and the drummer isn't going to mic his set. I've seen them play before at this exact location and they manage to get a great loud and clean sound without a sound engineer. So yeah, that's part of the tricky situation is that there is no main soundboard to get a feed from.

So, as it stands, A static mic seems to be my best and most affordable option at the moment. It's definitely better than a roving mic (camera). I most likely will do an array of mic's to get a more balanced sound for me to mix in post. Thanks again Rick.

If anyone else has any other suggestions please do share.
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Old February 6th, 2013, 09:53 PM   #6
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

I think the biggest problems you will have to overcome is the large amount of reflected sound, plus resonance due to standing waves, in the small, hard-surfaced room. A typical burger joint with a low ceiling will be especially problematic. It will be very difficult to find the perfect spot for one stereo mic.

Your ears & brain are a good combination for sorting out all the reflected sound and producing the impression of good sound, when you are actually listening in the room. And, if you record with one stereo mic (or with a proper binaural mic, which is more esoteric), and then listen exclusively on headphones, your brain will be able to ignore the reflected sound, just as if you were standing in the room during the performance.

But record all that reflected sound with a stereo mic, then play it back on two loudspeakers, so that it bounces around in the listening room, picking up lots more reflections and indirect sound from the walls of the listening room, and your brain will get confused. The result will likely sound indistinct, and you'll be very aware of the boominess of the room.

So with the band you describe, when there's no mixing board, you would ideally close mic each player's individual amplifier (or even take a tap off that amp/speaker if that's an option), and mic the drum set yourself, then mix all that together. That will allow you to get a reasonably clean recording of the instruments, without all the reflections and resonance of the burger joint. That calls for a lot of equipment, and a dedicated sound person to take care of the mix. That's a long way from your starting point.

The other option would be to cover all the walls, windows, and floor of the venue with blankets or quilts, to minimize all the reflected sound insofar as possible. You're probably not going to do that, either.

Those are the two ideal approaches to your shoot. Better yet, do both of the above!

Now I don't expect that you can reasonably do these things, but perhaps visualizing those suggestions will help you understand what you're up against with all the reflected sound, and perhaps you can come up with something creative that's better than just placing one mic on one stand.

Also, because your ears/brain are so good at ignoring the reflections, they will trick you into placing the mic in the wrong location. Typically it will "sound good to your ears" at a spot that is too far back to get clean pickup with a mic. If all else fails, during the sound check, walk around the room with your thumb in your ear! Block one ear, so you are listening in mono. That way, your brain can't discard the reflections and "focus in on the band," which would fool you into thinking you're in the right place, when you're really too far back. When the band/mix sounds good with one ear put the stereo mic there, and hope for the best. Sounds a bit crazy, I know, but I've done this when I was in a bind, and it does help.
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Old February 6th, 2013, 11:12 PM   #7
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Great feedback, thanks Greg.

The stage is actually set outdoors so there shouldn't be too much of sound waves bouncing around. Does that fact make a significant difference (for better or for worse) in my initial approach? I talked to the drummer and the plan is to have them arrive an hourly early so we can get the audio set-up properly. Putting a mic on each amplifier sounds reasonable- it's the drums that worry me. As it stands, it's 5 mics for each instrument (not including drums)

2 Guitars
Bass
Keyboard
Vocals

I can very likely get access to at least 7 mics and my idea now is to place 2 of them behind the drummer to capture him without much interference with the other instruments. Now, the question is what would be the best piece of equipment for me to connect all mics? My best guess is to purchase a mixing board with enough inputs. The H4n only has the capability to connect 2 external mics (if I can remember that correctly).

Thanks again for all the help- it's really helping me figure this all out and giving me a better idea as to what I'm dealing with.
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Old February 6th, 2013, 11:55 PM   #8
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Yes, you will need a mixing board. Any good mixer will have gain trim adjustments, ahead of the main sliders, to prevent clipping if the mic input is too hot. And the pan pots will enable you to position each mic approximately where that instrument is located on the stage, in order to get a reasonable stereo spread that matches your images.

Also, be sure you have mics that can handle the SPL from the amplifiers without the mic itself distorting.

You'll definitely need at least a pair of mics on the drum kit. You should be able to find a lot of info online about micing drums. If the drummer is set up behind the rest of the band, I'd suggest putting the drum mics in front of the drum kit (not behind) and position them to try to minimize bleed from the other instruments... although that will be next to impossible.

Be sure the mixer has an output level that's compatible with the recorder's input level; otherwise even if you have a clean signal from the mixer, the recorder itself can distort.

The above won't give you a "studio" recording; but if you follow all the recommendations, it should be able to give you a decent sounding "live" recording. In other words, if the musicians are driving their amps into distortion (in order to get adequate loudness), then you will have a good recording of distortion.

Oh... if you're recording outside, be sure to have adequate wind protection for all the mics, in case the weather gets blowy. You don't want to go to all this trouble, only to get a good recording of wind noise!
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Old February 7th, 2013, 08:46 PM   #9
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Re: Zoom H4n & Double System Work - Sync Issues?

Thanks for all the info Greg! Really appreciate it!
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