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Old October 22nd, 2005, 02:56 PM   #1
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audio 101 for films

Hello, I'm trying to do my research for sound equipments before buying anything and i have a few questions:

- apparently for indoor dialog, people's best choice would be the schoeps cmc641 hypercardioid (I don't look at the budget for the moment, I'm trying to figure out equipment that will last forever). Am I right?

But I have a question about that, maybe stupid, but I read the differences between cardioid, hypercardioid and shotgun on wikipedia, and I am wondering why people would prefer an hypercardioid mic instead of a normal cardioid? I mean, the hypercardioid would pick-up rear sound, so I can imagine that if you are shooting in an apartment with a boom above the actor, and a plane passes by, you'll pick up more of the plane sound than if you were using a normal cardioid. Am I missing something?

- For outdoor (dialog) what would be the best choice?

Up to now, the main problems we had with sounds were:
- wind, hence the question: any advices on wind screen?
- damn planes! How would you workaround planes indoor and outdoor? That's really what slow down the most our productions. By being patient we usually get good sounds, but I'm wondering if better mic could help on this matter.

- I'm using an XL2, would you recommand to get the audio separated from the Video? Apart from not having the sound guys stucks with the DP, is there any other advantages (sound quality?)? If it makes sense, what would you use to record the audio?

And finally my last question, which is a sort of summary of the questions above is, if you had a budget around 5000$ for sound equipment (of course the less expensive the better, but I don't want to sacrifice quality too much, and I want sound equipments that will last forever), what would you buy considering I have nothing (which is not true, we have a homemade boom and a mic, I don't know the model the mic is not at my place right now, but that's _not_ the one from the XL2).

I saw a post of someone who did a buy-list for around 3000$, but he was taking a lot of different mic, not sure why, that's why I'm trying to clarify. And again the sound equipments will be used for indie filmmaking, we'll probably never do concerts or stuff like that.

Thanks in advance for any helps.
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Old October 23rd, 2005, 03:01 AM   #2
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Hey Quoc,
I think you are taking the right approach. I personally believe sound is EXTREMELY important, especially in low budget DV films. That being said, though you could spend a lot more for sound gear, I think your budget is probably very realistic and will get you the stuff you need to get very good results. There are, however, a lot of variables to consider in order to make the most out of your purchases. I started my current feature project with decent sound gear, but not really great, and when I finally upgraded to better equipment, it has made a huge difference in quality and the confidence to get good quality sound.

I am also shooting with XL2's and the sound in the camera is very good, as long as you feed it good sound and keep good levels. It would be better to know exactly what you plan on shooting, but it sounds like you are looking to make purchases that will last a long time and work on essentially any project (a wise choice), so if I had to give you a list of what I thought was the most important, it would look something like this:

#1 - Mixer - A good mixer will get you better preamps (= better sound) more inputs, more headroom, and more flexability with mic types than the camera, and MOST importantly, it will give you LIMITERS. I guarentee you that with digital audio you will want this feature. It will not only save your audio from overloading at the camera, it will raise your S/N significantly. I bought a Sound Devices mixer and have been totally blessed by it. Since you are investing in the future, at a minimum, I would get the Sound Devices 302. Price ~ $1200. You can get the MixPre which has only 2 ins for ~ $650 if you really need to save money.

#2 Either a Schoeps CMC641 or a Sennheiser MKH 50 for booming interior (and tight exterior) dialog. These mics are pretty much what you hear all the time even in the biggest budgeted films. They should last you many years and they hold their value very well. Cost, as I'm sure you know, ~ $1200 - $1300.

Ouch, so that would be half your budget, but, with a good boom op, you could do a huge amount of work with those two items alone.

#3 - If you are doing exteriors, a short shotgun. This is were things can get real interesting. Normally, you wouldn't want to use a shotgun in tight interiors because of echo etc.. but, there are some that seem to work pretty well for both. I'm thinking of the Sanken CS mics. The CS-1 is around $700. The CS-3e is about double that though. You could get just one CS-3e and forget about the hypercardiod, and use the Sanken in and out, but you will most likely run into situations where you need two mics. If you just get a nice shotgun, you can get a used Sennheiser 416 for around $600.

#4 - Wind protection for exterior mics. You can get a Rycote modular blimp system for ~ $600 that will fit pretty much anything. They really work great are pretty much necessary outdoors.

If you got all that (say the CS-1 or the 416), you'd be up to about $3600.

#5 - Boom pole and shock mount - There are so many choices, but these too can last for years if you buy good quality stuff. The Rycote system obviously comes with a shockmount, so you could get away with using it alone, without the blimp to save a little. I would estimate ~ $400 for a good boom and mount.


#6 - A wireless setup. Unfortunately, the better wireless systems cost well over $1000, but many people seem to be getting by with the Sennheiser G2's. I had a G1 setup, but I recently sold it because it really didn't have enough range. Wireless really depends upon what kind of shoot your doing as well. Frankly, with the troubles they can give and the hassles of clothing noise, I would recommend not using them unless you really need to. If that's only once in a great while, consider renting them when you need them. You can get really high end systems pretty cheap for short periods.

#7 - A Sanken COS-11 lavalier - makes a great plant mic and sounds fantastic for such a little mic. Really mixes well with boom mics. ~ $350 - You can get it wired to work with your wireless as well.

#8 - A good set of headphones. $100

#9 - An Iriver or Nomad Jukebox that records line-in wave format. I picked up a Nomad JB3 for $200. It takes line-in and records 48KHz Wave onto a built in 20GB hard drive. This is a very nice and inexpensive way to get backup sound or add some isolated channels, or use to record away from camera if need be. There are much more expensive ways of doing it (e.g. Fostex FR-2) but you really need to evaluate your need for separate sound capture.

That's about $4700, which should leave you room for stuff like cables and batteries and misc. Plus, keep in mind that some of these items can be had for much less in the used market. I recently picked up an MKH 50 in excellent condition for $800. You could probably look around and save a few bucks on a Schoeps ( I actually have a CMC541 I am selling) and a Rycote, so you could most likely get all you need for less than your $5k.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. Hope that helps. This place is full of helpful folks with lots of experience , so I'm sure that there are others that will give you many good suggestions. All in all, I think you are realistic in your approach and, unlike camreas, sound equipment is pretty darn mature, so what you spend today will be top quality years from now and still be worth close to what you have invested, and in the mean time you'll be getting great audio.

regards,
Matt
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Old October 23rd, 2005, 01:18 PM   #3
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- apparently for indoor dialog, people's best choice would be the schoeps cmc641 hypercardioid (I don't look at the budget for the moment, I'm trying to figure out equipment that will last forever). Am I right?

**Yes

But I have a question about that, maybe stupid, but I read the differences between cardioid, hypercardioid and shotgun on wikipedia, and I am wondering why people would prefer an hypercardioid mic instead of a normal cardioid? I mean, the hypercardioid would pick-up rear sound, so I can imagine that if you are shooting in an apartment with a boom above the actor, and a plane passes by, you'll pick up more of the plane sound than if you were using a normal cardioid. Am I missing something?

**Yes, if you're inside and a plane passes, its sound is EVERYWHERE.

- For outdoor (dialog) what would be the best choice?

**Depends on setup. How much headroom the shot requires. If it can be boomed at all.

Up to now, the main problems we had with sounds were:
- wind, hence the question: any advices on wind screen?

** Yes, get one.

- damn planes! How would you workaround planes indoor and outdoor? That's really what slow down the most our productions. By being patient we usually get good sounds, but I'm wondering if better mic could help on this matter.

**Choose a location without planes.

- I'm using an XL2, would you recommand to get the audio separated from the Video? Apart from not having the sound guys stucks with the DP, is there any other advantages (sound quality?)? If it makes sense, what would you use to record the audio?

**Depends on what you want to do. Camera sound is OK, but good external recorder can be better. The you have to make sure you record the right frame rates so when you marry the audio with the video it all syncs up.

Sound guy stuck with the DP?? What do you mean?

And finally my last question, which is a sort of summary of the questions above is, if you had a budget around 5000$ for sound equipment (of course the less expensive the better, but I don't want to sacrifice quality too much, and I want sound equipments that will last forever), what would you buy considering I have nothing (which is not true, we have a homemade boom and a mic, I don't know the model the mic is not at my place right now, but that's _not_ the one from the XL2)

**Good because the XL2 mic is a. not great and b. stereo. (which means NOT GOOD for dialog. Try a Rode NTG-1 or NTG-2 for a shotgun. There's nothing better than a Schoeps cmc641 with the teardrop pop filter. You HAVE to have this filter. Get the more expensive one. It's ABSOLUTELY worth it.

Get a Sound Devices 302 mixer. You'll also need lavs, more on that later.

Take a look at my book; The Audio Bootcamp Field Guide. I wrote it especially for folks like you.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old October 23rd, 2005, 11:05 PM   #4
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Thanks a lot to both of you for taking the time to answer.

A few questions though:
- Mathew, you say to take a Rycote modular blimp system that's fit pretty much everything. But When I look at their website it seems you need a different one depending on the mic you have:
http://www.rycote.com/information/do...-04-04rev2.pdf
Can you clarify what you meant when you said "fit pretty much everthing"?

- I'm wondering why people use shotgun outdoor instead of the hypercardioid. Is it because it has a narrower axis response and therefore it is easier to get dialog without too much ambience sound?

- Why someone would take a Fostex FR-2 if he can get the job done with a $200 jukebox?
I'll definitely have the need for separated audio when we will shoot with the steadicam. Ty, when I talked about the sound guy stucks with the DP I meant that if you record audio on the camera, the audio guy often has to be careful with the cables when the DP wants to change its camera setup. So being separate give a little bit more freedom to the DP and the audio guy.

- Given the prices, I guess the Sennheiser 416 is better than the Sanken CS-1? How do they compare with the suggestion from Ty (Rode NTG-1 or NTG-2)?

Ty, I'll take a look at your book.

Again, Thanks for the advices,
Quoc
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Old October 23rd, 2005, 11:25 PM   #5
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Hey Ty, I just ordered your book, I guessed 25$ couldn't hurt before buying $5000 worth of audio equipments ;)
What is the ETA for an order?

Thanks,
Quoc
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Old October 24th, 2005, 07:47 AM   #6
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- I'm wondering why people use shotgun outdoor instead of the hypercardioid. Is it because it has a narrower axis response and therefore it is easier to get dialog without too much ambience sound?

***If you're shooting outside, frequently you have more headroom in the shot. Shotguns have more reach than hypers. There is nothing wrong with using your hyper outside. In fact shotguns can be problematic outside if you're on hard surfaces like a macadam parking lot. Sound skips across that stuff like crazy and can come in from the side, rear, etc..

- Why someone would take a Fostex FR-2 if he can get the job done with a $200 jukebox?
I'll definitely have the need for separated audio when we will shoot with the steadicam. Ty, when I talked about the sound guy stucks with the DP I meant that if you record audio on the camera, the audio guy often has to be careful with the cables when the DP wants to change its camera setup. So being separate give a little bit more freedom to the DP and the audio guy.

***ABout the jukebox/FR-2...hmm try it and let us know how you do.

In the best of circumstances, the shooter and sound person work together as a team. Handling cables during setup changes is just what happens! If the Steadicam is doing a lot of whilybird stuff then yes, double record. SOmetimes you add a wireless xmiter to your mixer and send to a receiver on the camera.
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Old October 24th, 2005, 10:58 PM   #7
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Quoc,
The blimps come in several different lengths to suit different mics; however, if you get the smaller or medium small unit, you can then add an extension to it to make it longer when needed. So, one set up can be used for several mics. I've used mine to fit an AT 4073a, a Rode NT4 up to a Senn MKH70. Most short shotguns are pretty close in size. A Senn 416 is only very slightly longer than an AT4073a. They come with a variety of clip sizes to hold the mics as well, so one kit can be used for many mic diameters. For longer mics with the extension, you do need different furry windshields, but even without the fur, the zep makes a huge difference. You really need one outdoors.

As far as the difference between an FR-2 and a JB3, you do get what you pay for. The FR-2 has mic pres, it's more functional and easier to use, and can do Timecode with the option. If you are recording separate from camera, you may want to use TC. The JB3 is small and doesn't have nearly the control as the FR-2, but works well as a backup recorder, especially with a 20GB hd and at that price.

If you are only going to record sound outside the camera when using a steadicam, you might consider running wireless to the cam from the mixer and recording backup to a JB3 or? This is what I do. It works well and you can simply slate the takes in order ot sync later. That way, if your wireless works, great, if not, you've got a synced backup. For static shots, audio into camera is not really a problem. I think it's just a matter of what you prefer. It is faster in post if you've got it in camera.

I'm sure you will probably get a lot of good info from Ty's book. Check his website as well, there's good info on various mics and some samples. THe 416 is a classic, well known mic. I don't think you can go wrong with it. But as I'm sure Ty would point out, technique will make a big difference as well.

Matt
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Old October 25th, 2005, 10:00 PM   #8
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Thanks again.
Going wireless seems to make sense. And the JB3 as a backup is a great tip.

I'm sorry, but what is a zep? I think I need a some explanations about wind-screens, initially I thought it was just a fur you put on the mic, but apparently this is quite more complicate than that? ;)

I asked the question about the windscreen because I was wondering if I would get better sound for outdoor close-up by using the Schoeps with the wind-screen instead of the 416 shotgun. So it would have been nice if the wind-screen I will buy can be use on both the Schoeps and the 416.

And just to make sure I understand correctly, for a car interior, I should use the schoeps and not a shotgun for the same reason you don't use a shotgun intdoor? Basically everytime you have surfaces which can bounce the sound I should use, if possible (the mic can be placed close-enough), an hypercardioic. Am I right?

Thanks,
Quoc
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Old October 25th, 2005, 11:39 PM   #9
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I think you're getting pretty good advice Quoc.

A couple of suggestions: You definitely need a hypercardiod and a shotgun. If you can't spend top dollar on both, give priority to the shotgun. The difference is huge. You can get away with spending $400 or so on the hypercardiod for now. Start saving your nickels for a better mic. The budget hypercardiod will be a good second mic to have around down the road anyway.

Also, I'd buy a mixer with a good limiter before I bought a separate recorder. Better to have both though. The recorder needs to have very good preamps and AD converter or there's no point. Best to hold out for at least an FR2 or better, SoundDevices 722 or 744t.

Zeppelins are expensive. A Rycote softie (for the shotgun) works pretty good for a lot less money. The zepplin will handle bigger gusts, but that kind of wind would probably spoil your shot anyway because people's hair is going to be blowing all over and tree branches will be swaying back and forth. You don't need wind protection indoors. A softie works very well on a shotgun, but not so well on a hypercardiod for some reason.

Don't skimp on the pole. K-Tek Avalon series is the lowest you should go. Only problem with that line is they aren't quite long enough at about only 9 feet. If you can, buy an internally cabled poll that is at least 12 feet. It will cost you more than twice as much as the Avalon, but it will be worth it.

Micing a car is tricky. Depending on how many people there are and where they are sitting, you would use either lavs, boundary mics, a cardiod, or possibly a combination of all three. If you have a driver and a passenger talking to each other, a cardiod on a clamp mount below the dash (pointed up) will usually do the trick. A hypercardiod would probably be too directional. Other techniques might involve a boundary mic on the dash or headliner, or lavs in the hair.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 01:58 AM   #10
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Hey Quoc, I would second Marco's points, though if you are shooting more interior shots, I think the Schoeps will be more useful than the shotgun, and you can use the Schoeps outside in tight shots better than the shotgun inside. I just replaced some AT4051's and 4053's with the Schoeps and am very pleased. The AT's sound really good, especially for the money, but the Schoeps does sound better, and it is lower in noise. I generally prefer the shotgun outdoors simply because of the longer reach and better rejection of unwanted noise whcih is usually a problem outside.

The zeppelin (zep, blimp) is really several parts. The shockmount usually fits on a handle and the whole thing slides into a windshield, which, when closed, looks like a blimp, and creates a separate air space between the outside and the mic. Here's some pics of one - http://www.jewsfortruth.org/images/ebay/rycote-1.jpg
http://www.jewsfortruth.org/images/ebay/rycote-2.jpg

This gives great protection and doesn't affect the sound very much. In higher wind conditions, you can put a furry windcover over the blimp, thereby giving more protection. Marco's right, a softie will work pretty good on shotguns in low wind. I prefer the blimp myself, as it just seems more fool proof and doesn't seem to affect the sound as much. As far as it working for say a Schoeps and a 416, the Schoeps is a little short, so that the tip won't quite get as far to the front fo the blimp as you would probably like if you had it setup for the 416; however, a Cut1 filter on the Schoeps will lengthen it and that will get you closer. Rycote makes smaller blimps for the shorter mics. So, one Rycote blimp may not fit all, but , that's why I think you could get the smaller one that fits the Schoeps and the extension, so that you could also use the longer shotgun. Add a softie fo rth eshotgun and you could have all the bases covered.

One of the other very cool things about the Schoeps is that the capsule can be used as a small plant mic. Schoeps makes a cable that can go between the body and the capsule (collette active cable). The mic cap end is then very small and easy to hide and can work great for a car interior. I agree with Marco though that in a car, depending upon your setup, the cardiod cap is probably the better choice.

Matt
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Old October 26th, 2005, 08:47 AM   #11
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The reason I say spend the big money on the shotgun is because you have to get something that will retain some functionality indoors, and the sub-$1,000 shotguns apparently donít cut it. We canít use our beautiful Schoeps nearly as often as weíd like because of uncontrollable noise issues. This is just a reality of ultra-low budget shoots. You canít rely on a shotgun for your only mic though, because even the expensive sound terrible in many indoor environments. If you can get a Schoeps or MKH50 and still afford an MKH416 or CS3e or MKH60 or what have you, by all means go for it. But if the shotgun blows most of your budget, at the very least you still need to get an AT4053 or an AKG CK93 (Blueline) or some other comparable hypercardiod. I know it seems counterintuitive, because most people will do the vast majority of their shooting indoors, so it would seem like you should prioritize for that environment. But a $400 hypercardiod can still sound pretty good, at least way better than a $400 shotgun. We have a CK93 and use it alongside the Schoeps all the time, and most people couldnít tell the difference. Iím not saying itís just as good, because clearly itís not. But you would have to be shooting in a tiled bathroom before it became obvious to the average listener. The Blueline by the way also features an active cable and swivel joint. This is one reason I feel it makes an ideal plant mic to have in addition to a Schoeps. Also, you can buy a cardiod or omni cap for another $200 each, adding a lot of versatility. A Schoeps cardiod cap is going to set you back over $700.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 08:51 AM   #12
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The reason I say spend the big money on the shotgun is because you have to get something that will retain some functionality indoors, and the sub-$1,000 shotguns apparently donít cut it. We canít use our beautiful Schoeps nearly as often as weíd like because of uncontrollable noise issues. This is just a reality of ultra-low budget shoots. You canít rely on a shotgun for your only mic though, because even the expensive ones sound terrible in many indoor environments. If you can get a Schoeps or MKH50 and still afford an MKH416 or CS3e or MKH60 or what have you, by all means go for it. But if the shotgun blows most of your budget, at the very least you still need to get an AT4053 or an AKG CK93 (Blueline) or some other comparable hypercardiod. I know it seems counterintuitive, because most people will do the vast majority of their shooting indoors, so it would seem like you should prioritize for that environment. But a $400 hypercardiod can still sound pretty good, at least way better than a $400 shotgun. We have a CK93 and use it alongside the Schoeps all the time, and most people couldnít tell the difference. Iím not saying itís just as good, because clearly itís not. But you would have to be shooting in a tiled bathroom before it became obvious to the average listener. The Blueline by the way also features an active cable and swivel joint. This is one reason I feel it makes an ideal plant mic to have in addition to a Schoeps. Also, you can buy a cardiod or omni cap for another $200 each, adding a lot of versatility. A Schoeps cardiod cap is going to set you back over $700.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 08:54 AM   #13
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Sorry about the double post. I don't know how I did that. Anyway one of them can be deleted (along with this one?).
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Old October 26th, 2005, 09:46 AM   #14
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I would agree with you Marco, except that I think you can get a very good shotgun for under $1K. I've used the AT4073a and got great results outdoors (and pretty good indoors as well) and it runs around $500. I didn't know the CK93 had an active cable, that's great to know. I've been finding that feature very helpful.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 10:14 AM   #15
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By all accounts the AT4073 is a great mic. I didn't mean to suggest you can't get good sound with a sub-$1,000 mic. At $287, I even think the AT897 sounds really good. The higher end shots have a reputation for dealing with interiors somewhat better though. That's all I meant. I'm certainly not dissing cheaper mics.
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