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Old March 6th, 2016, 01:49 PM   #1
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8+ people at a conference table

I have a shoot I just finsihed where there were 6 people at a conference room, one at the head, 2 on one side and 3 on the other and they were doing a mock meeting. I used two cameras one static wide at the other end of the table and I shot over the shoulder stuff as they talked to one another. The boom mic was close enough to the "talent" and showed in the wide shot but I just masked it out in post. I used a sony ecm-ms2 on a boom and placed it pointing at the middle of the 4 while they did their dialog and then switched sides and shot the two people with the mic pointed at them etc. It worked fine and they were happy with the end product which was an internal corporate training video. I prepped the room with blankets and took out a little room echo and normalized the audio in post and it wasn't bad at all, it wasn't hollywood but it didn't need to be.
I am doing another similar shoot but they are adding people, up to 9 now and I know that stereo mic won't cover more than 3 people on a side of a table so here is my plan and I was hoping a few might chime in and tell me if they see a problem.
I have a set of matched pair rode nt5 mics, and I know they are designed musical instruments but I have michael jolly heads on them and they sound really good for interviews. My thought was to just use both of them on booms and possibly pick up one more and just record all three channels pointing at everyone. I could monitor two and let the third one go into the stationary wide camera. I am one man banding this, nothing new there, and they are just not wiling to pay a audio guy for this level of work, and it will be fine for what they want. But I want to get it as good as I can given the circumstance so I will have it for my reel, piece of mind, pride, etc.
Thanks
scott
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Old March 6th, 2016, 02:04 PM   #2
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Sounds like a solid plan. I like the simplicity of it and since you have all the tracks separated it gives you lots of options in post. The alternative would be to lav everyone and use an auto mixer but that is beyond the scope of what you have available
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Old March 6th, 2016, 03:42 PM   #3
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Might be too simplistic, but have you thought about a decent pzm mic in the middle of the table? That is the sort of work that they were meant for.


Roger
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Old March 6th, 2016, 05:21 PM   #4
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Sounds like a situation made for the MixAssist feature on a Sound Devices 688.
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Old March 6th, 2016, 07:35 PM   #5
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Geez, sounds like one of my nightmares. If the client has enough for a decent video, but isn't willing to pony up for decent audio, I don't know that I'd want to repeat business with them. I always try to find out what the plan is for audio capture, and if it was a conference where I was expected to cover more than 2 sources, I would quote an audio guru. If they don't have the funds, I can understand...but I wouldn't try to play audio technician with 3+ microphones while trying to frame shots, ride the zoom, iris, and all the other issues that come up.
FWIW, I do own a portable 6 channel mix board and have at least 6 mics I can run, but that gets used only when I'm called on for audio production.
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Old March 7th, 2016, 08:09 AM   #6
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Roger, Thanks for the reply. I like the idea of a boundary layer mic, I could hide it with papers and stuff. I have zero experience with one and would one be enough? Is the sound quality good enough to be the choice over two boomed mics? If both is yes could you recommend a brand to look for?
I would do the lav set up and put it in a separate recorder but I would never do that with out someone monitoring it, and I don't think I could monitor it correctly and move around with that second camera effectivly. And it would have to have someone that knows what to listen for not just an assistant doing the monitoring. So for this type of work it just isn't the way to go. And I don't own 9 lavs anyway so rentals, people etc. etc.
Some times these types of shoots you just can't do full production on. It is easy to blame the client for not having or be willing to budget for it, but this is accuatly a really good client with some of my biggest budgets throughout the year. So when they have these smaller jobs I am going to do what they need and make it work. So when you have to be the jack of all trades, on a shoot I feel like you just have to make it the best you can.
Thanks again for the thoughts, it helps.

Scott
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Old March 7th, 2016, 03:28 PM   #7
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Hepler View Post
I like the idea of a boundary layer mic, I could hide it with papers and stuff.
Uh, I really wouldn't recommend that -- covering up the mic (or blocking the path from any of the speakers to the microphone) will almost certainly muffle the audio.

Boundary mics, like anything else, are a compromise. They cover large groups around a table better than most other single-microphone configurations, but the sound tends to be more hollow, distant and reverberant than if you had a lav on each speaker or a boom mic swinging between them. And the microphones are low-profile and unobtrusive, but not likely to be invisible if the table top is in the shot.

And yes, one boundary mic will work, but more would be better. Depending on how the table and room are laid out, I'd want to bring between two and four of them for flexibility.

Honestly, I don't think there's any approach that will give you the sound quality you want with completely hidden microphones and without at least one audio engineer/assistant. Think about the purpose of this video and consider whether you can live with some of the audio gear appearing in the shot. If not, you need to fight for a higher budget, or turn down the job.

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Old March 7th, 2016, 06:40 PM   #8
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Yes, I have to agree with Mr. Smith. I cringed reading this question both here and also on the DVXuser forum website.

Alas, most people who want to do this don't understand how difficult it is to do it really well. Capturing this kind of dialog for "transcription grade" is one thing. But trying to get any kind of "production grade" audio from this scenario is typically beyond what most producers/directors/clients are willing to pay. Unless you have rather low quality expectations.

If this is scripted and you have enough shooting days, then you can light (and mic) each camera angle properly for optimal production value. Or if you are documenting a real (or simulated, unscripted) event, you can properly mic each participant and record each mic to a separate channel for mixing down in post-production. Or hire a couple of skilled boom operators.

But trying to do this passive with only a few mics and no sound crew is just a prescription for lousy. Sorry.
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Old March 7th, 2016, 06:45 PM   #9
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Boundary mics are awesome for table conferences! I use two AKG units and they are really tiny but have an amazing range ... they can be tiny too ..My BL300's are probably only around 1" long and 1/2" wide and look like a tiny mouse.. Don't cover them though ...they pick up the slightest rustle if papers are on top of them ... they need a clear area around them to work correctly!!
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Old March 7th, 2016, 07:02 PM   #10
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Scott, there is a very helpful description of boundary layer mic theory here https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan...s/qa0107_2.htm which explains why you get less room reflection than with conventional mics.

I used to use the old Tandy/radio shack ones for years for conferences and theatre group recording. There are quite a few different ones if you google, ranging from the really low priced LD Systems ones, which I found very good for quick work, through to AKG at just over 100 to others at 1000 upwards. Because of their wide pickup characteristics, I would probably just use two in your scenario, although one may well be enough.

The alternative as has been suggested may well need to be a wandering boom mic which would need a separate operator or multi lavaliers with accompanying monitoring requirements.

Roger
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Old March 8th, 2016, 01:41 PM   #11
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

I stand by your original idea. Three cardiod mics on booms into different channels of the cameras. If you have three matching mics and a good way to position the mics where they need to be then you should be ok. If the room isn't too reflective that will help too.
I think you'll get a fuller sound than with the boundary mics and you won't have to worry about hiding them or people fidgeting with stuff on the table and making noise.
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Old March 9th, 2016, 01:13 AM   #12
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Cardioids on booms will suffer badly from reflections from the table surface. Usually a weird hollow sound that phases with the others. Boundaries are immune from that and if you can disguise the cables are visually not an issue. Boom shadows, and keeping the mics out of shot will be far, far worse. Boundaries are excellent for this kind of thing.
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Old March 9th, 2016, 08:05 AM   #13
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Thanks for the replies and thoughts on this, it is a huge help to have people with more experience in certain situation share that knowledge. I try to take in all of the opinions and then see for my self what works for the particular situation I am in. I bought two AKG mics and I have three NT5's so I will simply set up a test in the studio and see which ones I like. When I said I could hide the boundary mic with papers and stuff I didn't mean I would put the papers on top of the mics, I meant hide them from the camera view. I was envisioning a coffee cup or computer in the view of the camera would hide them.
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Old March 11th, 2016, 06:08 AM   #14
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Let us know how you get on it will be interesting to know what you felt gave the best results.

Roger
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Old March 13th, 2016, 03:08 PM   #15
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Re: 8+ people at a conference table

Conference tables often have telephone conference devices on them anyway e.g. a Polycom. Just plonk your boundary mic in plain sight? It'd look like it belongs there.


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