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Old June 3rd, 2015, 10:37 AM   #1
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Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

I'm hoping someone can help me to up my game when filming during protests (which there have been a lot of lately here in Guatemala).

I film with Canon C100, Senn ME64 and a set of Senn lavs. During the protests I've tried to dial down audio entering the camera via camera input controls, setting them so audio peaks around -10dB. When I've filmed my own piece-to-camera I've tried to set audio to peak even lower (-15dB) and then increase in post.

However, I end up with modulated audio in both cases. My monitoring earbuds aren't the greatest, but please remember that I'm doing all the work myself (shooting, producing, reporting, etc).

You can hear the issues in my finished edit here (it's 2.30' long):

Please let me know if you have any tips!

Many thanks!!
Dave
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Old June 3rd, 2015, 12:03 PM   #2
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

What I heard is pretty typical for such news coverage. Even from the big networks with lots of gear and experienced crew. I didn't hear any "modulated audio". Not even sure what that means? Do you mean clipping? Do you mean pumping from compression or peak limiting?

It seems quite likely that the potential problems will be very different between the internal camera mics, the cardioid ME64 and the unidentified "Senn lavs" (wired? wireless?) It seems quite possible that in high sound level situations you must start considering whether the mics themselves are capable of handling that kind of SPL. In high SPL, the mics themselves can be driven into clipping/distortion before the signals ever reach your camera or recorder.

As for your mediocre earbuds, over in another forum, I use this "signature line"...
"Recording audio without metering and monitoring is exactly like framing and focusing without looking at the viewfinder."
Get yourself a good pair of headphones (or high-end custom-molded earpieces). Especially in high-SPL situations.
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Old June 3rd, 2015, 12:39 PM   #3
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Perhaps you should get a handheld mic, like the Electro-Voice RE50. That way you get the mic close to your subject. Also, get some proper headphones. Sony MDR-7506 is one of the industry standards.
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Old June 3rd, 2015, 01:45 PM   #4
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

The K6/ME64 has a very strong output in loud situations. Does the C100 have an attenuator you can switch on at the mic input?

Or use an inline XLR balanced switchable attenuator.

Also make sure to use either phantom power for the K6/ME64, or if running on battery power make sure the AA battery is fresh. The mic will have poor performance if running on battery and the battery is weak.

Last Fall when recording ice bucket challenges, I added an omni dynamic AT804 mic to a shoe on top of my camera. This allowed the screaming when the ice was dumped, as well as the loud cheering from the crowd behind me to be recorded cleanly. I used the AT875 short shotgun mounted in the regular mic holder to record the closeup pre-comments from the leader of the event, but that track would go into complete clipping once the real noise started. The current version of the AT804 is the AT8004. It was easy to mount because it has a short, cylindrical body and I had a small, furry windscreen for handheld mics that fits the small head. It's similar to the EV635a and either dynamic omni can be used for handheld interview work too.
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Old June 3rd, 2015, 02:17 PM   #5
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Mercer View Post
Please let me know if you have any tips!
I'm going to do this in sorta reverse order. Just the way I'm thinking today. Sorry.

First, the "modulation" thing seems to be that you're panning mono sound either hard right or hard left. Don't do that. Pan the mono feeds to center. Makes listening a whole lot nicer, especially on headphones. However you listen, you'll notice this right away, even on TV speakers.

Next, you seem to have two different needs. One is to record the sound in the background for your B-roll shots. This audio can probably come from the camera's stereo mics. Nothing wrong with that. But you also need to capture the interviews, and there you get a mono feed and you're panning it all to one side or the other. To fill the other side, you're using what seems to be a mono feed of the background noise. This is... disconcerting. Instead of doing that, again, just pan the mono to center.

Third, your interviews are being lost in the crowd noise. This is because you don't have your mic close enough to the speaker's mouth. You control signal-to-noise ratio in these situations by mic positioning. So... what to do? The classic way to deal with this is with a reporter's "stick mic" like the
EV RE50N
or the
Sennheiser MD42.
Both of these mics are omnis, and are used all over NA (the RE50Ns) and Europe (the MD 42s) by countless professional news crews. One of these mics (relatively easy to find on the used markets) and a 3m XLR cable will improve your interviews markedly. You can just hand the mic to the interviewee, show them how to hold it just under their chin (I like about 10cm distance from the mouth and below the chin to avoid blocking the face from the camera), and turn them loose. Because it's an omni, their hand motions wont give you problems with proximity effect, and it wont take their mouths out of pattern either. Same for head motions. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much this technique improves intelligibility. This is of course why the big national and international news crews do it.
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Old June 3rd, 2015, 07:03 PM   #6
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
First, the "modulation" thing seems to be that you're panning mono sound either hard right or hard left. Don't do that. Pan the mono feeds to center. Makes listening a whole lot nicer, especially on headphones. However you listen, you'll notice this right away, even on TV speakers.
When I heard that, I though either that wasn't the final mix, or maybe his network wants the actualities and nats separate from the voicer/vo so that they could re-purpose it for other language markets? Like delivering sub-mix "stems". Dunno, not enough information.

And I agree with what others have said about microphone selection. The mics you seem to be using seem rather sensitive and "delicate" for "run-n-gun" style news reporting. That is why you typically see more rugged, less sensitive mics like omni dynamics etc. (like the EV RE-50 and Senn MD-42)
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Old June 3rd, 2015, 07:45 PM   #7
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Have you considered running a separate recorder? This was done with a DR-40 and Sanken COS-11
- very portable. You can record a separate safety track at lower level to avoid clipping when it gets loud.
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Old June 4th, 2015, 10:50 AM   #8
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Hey guys thanks for all the feedback.

At some point I need a wireless module and a decent handheld mic for situations like this. I imagine that'll improve the interviews by leaps and bounds.

I also need to dive into the camera settings and have a play with attenuation, etc. It's unknown territory for me so I'll need to do a but more reading ... but you've opened my eyes to the necessity.

As a self shooter/reporter I'm not going to go down the road of separate audio, though it'd be a good idea if I had a few helper (my helper usually drags around the tripod and perhaps my camera backpack through the throngs).

As per the video I've linked to, I didn't change the settings since I uploaded it to my editors, who require split audio (voicetrack panned left, natsound and interviews panned right). Sorry I should have explained that.

All your input greatly appreciated!
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Old June 4th, 2015, 11:40 AM   #9
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Pretty much most news operations can get by on an RE50 or radio mic plugged into ch1 and a camera mic on ch2 for generic effects.

A lot of our BBC units have a short shotgun rather than the RE50 option as it gives more flexibility for the presenter but you end up with rycote sofites in shot all the time.

Sennheiser do an ENG kit for their G3 radio mics which includes a lav radio mic with the option of a plug in transmitter for RE50 or shotgun use.

I personally run a panasonic HPX371 for ENG so have four audio tracks. I have two radio mic's on Ch 1 + 2 that can either be lav or RE50 / AT875R and have the camera mic always on tracks 3+4.

Getting the gain right is crucial and that starts at the transmitter end as it is all too easy to get overload at that point.
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Old June 4th, 2015, 05:13 PM   #10
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Mercer View Post
At some point I need a wireless module and a decent handheld mic for situations like this.
No, you need a 3m XLR cable. Wireless is a last resort. And I mean last. For what you're doing, use a cable. Seriously.

No wireless radios are ever going to sound as good as an XLR cable, no matter how much you spend on the wireless set. That's just the laws of physics. And do you really want to take the time in a breaking news situation to scan for an open frequency and fight with all the other radio mics being used in the crowd, and by the cops, and the army, and whomever? An XLR cable and it's "click, click" and go. Not only is that cable cheaper, but it gives better sound, much better reliability, and much faster setup.

So think very carefully about whether or not you want to go wireless.
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Old June 4th, 2015, 06:28 PM   #11
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
No, you need a 3m XLR cable. Wireless is a last resort. And I mean last. For what you're doing, use a cable. Seriously.

No wireless radios are ever going to sound as good as an XLR cable, no matter how much you spend on the wireless set. That's just the laws of physics. And do you really want to take the time in a breaking news situation to scan for an open frequency and fight with all the other radio mics being used in the crowd, and by the cops, and the army, and whomever? An XLR cable and it's "click, click" and go. Not only is that cable cheaper, but it gives better sound, much better reliability, and much faster setup.

So think very carefully about whether or not you want to go wireless.
Totally agree with the sound aspects but news is all about safety and not quality so please do train your presenter to drop the mic and forget it if it all kicks off as a cable tethered to a camera can be a real hinderance in a riot situation.

During an industrial dispute 30 years ago I was once on ENG with a hi band u-matic recorder round my neck tethered to an in-expereienced cameraman and he jumped on a bus and the driver did not see me behind and closed the doors.
I ran alongside a speeding bus and had to thrown myself back on board when he finally saw me and opened the doors.
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Old June 10th, 2015, 01:36 AM   #12
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Wow. Running with a U-Matic would have to be dangerous enough! :-P

Andrew
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Old June 10th, 2015, 11:08 AM   #13
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Re: Tips for Audio Recording during Protests

Whether you choose to run it wired, or wireless, a dynamic mic is called for on interview subjects and for your own on camera reporting. They are insensitive to audio that is more than a few feet away. The RE50 is a standard and I second the notion of running it wired if possible.
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