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Old May 4th, 2019, 02:43 AM   #1
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Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

I was told by a couple of others in the audio business that instead of using one boom mic to record all of the dialogue that I should have multiple mics around the scene, to create a surround sound mix, live while shooting, cause it's better to spend the extra money on mics to do it while shooting then to create surround sound in post, which won't sound as natural.

They also say that if I want to record sound effects, such as a car driving by for example, that I should record it with multiple mics to get different parts of the car simultaneously, rather than trying to record all the parts separately, cause it won't match if I do that they said, cause the car will be driving by with different sounds, if I try to record all the different sounds, one at a time, on different takes.

Things like that. What do you think, do you think it's worth it, to mic a whole scene for surround sound, during shooting, in order to save time doing it in post? And does doing it during shooting sound more natural, than trying synthesize reverb and sound direction in post, by comparison?
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Old May 4th, 2019, 09:20 AM   #2
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

For dialog... ONE mic (on a boom for instance) on ONE MONO track. I will not elaborate on ISO tracks.
S/FX are typically recorded at a different time (and place) with one or more mics/tracks depending on the source and situation. A 'drive-by' would typically be recorded with a stereo mic or stereo pair on two tracks.
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Old May 4th, 2019, 10:48 AM   #3
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

As Rick said: Dialog is *never* surround. Dialog is center and mono. If dialog *can* be captured with a single mic on a stick, that’s almost always the straightest path to the best sound.

I hate to use words like “never” in an online forum, because there’s always some example to the contrary. What I’m talking about are the conventions of micing and mixing for cinema and television, with an occasional exception for off-screen dialog that is implied to be outside the scene.

There may be some confusion of terminology - 4 or 6 independent lavs to independent recording channels is not “surround”. In those instances where multiple lavs come out, they are recorded to independent (ISO) channels whenever possible, preserving mix choices to post. In post, they will be mixed to the center speaker of a surround mix, or, to the center of a stereo mix. Likewise, as Rick also wrote, a stereo mic/array can be a good tool for SFX to reflect the geography of a source, or moving source.

Surround mixing is about SFX. I can’t comment on your car question, because the answer is usually: “It depends what you want.” If the perspective is from inside the car you record SFX inside the car. If outside, etc. Surround micing of SFX, in the rare situations that it is done, is usually recorded with a mic array designed for surround or ambisonic capture.

If you want the sounds of tire noise, dashboard blinkers and dings and dongs, windows ups and downs, and use multiple mics to capture it, it is not a surround capture, it’s multiple channels of mono for you to mix in post, and, maybe, to mix to various surround speakers for playback.
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Old May 4th, 2019, 12:51 PM   #4
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

Oh okay, I've been recording dialogue to just singular mono tracks for a few a years now. It's just these other guys I meet in the community who are more experienced than I am, or so I think, say I should be doing the actual surround sound mix in production and not in post, cause then it's just more post work.

So far I've been doing it in post with mono tracks though.

But they say I should record 4-6 tracks with all the mics placed in the room in a surround sound capturing fashion.

If an actor walks from left to write while talking to the other actors in a scene, than the mics should be placed left to right, so he can walk past each mic and it will give a left to right surround sound mix in production, so I don't have to do that in post for example.

They said I should of course have a boom on the actor that is moving with the actor the whole time, as back up, but I should do the left to right mic placement.

Or if an actor is talking while sitting on the floor and then getting up, while talking, I shouldn't just boom along with the actor, I should have mics placed going from the floor, to the ceiling to capture the surround, as he goes from floor to ceiling, they said.

But this would be a lot more money in mics I would think. I have two boom mics which cost me 800 dollars each about, for example, which is very cheap of course, but they say I could but several mics for 100 dollars each which will sound just as good and will match, if I know where to buy them from. If that's true?
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Old May 4th, 2019, 01:56 PM   #5
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

I hope they get all they’re looking for out of their productions, but I wouldn’t employ them for my sound.

The other case for ambisonic (not surround) playback of dialog is for 360/VR films. Even there, typical workflows utilize an ambisonic mic/array located with the camera, not plant mics.

That’s the term for what they’re suggesting: Plant mics. It was done more in the past, and, you’ll see mention of it in older textbooks and guides, but it fell out of use as mics became miniaturized and lavs became generally available.
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Old May 4th, 2019, 02:00 PM   #6
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

Oh okay, well with lav mics you cannot do a surround sound mix in production during shooting though, like they are suggesting, so why did lavs outphase plant mics, if you cannot get surround with them then?
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Old May 4th, 2019, 05:34 PM   #7
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Wray View Post
It's just these other guys ... say I should be doing the actual surround sound mix in production and not in post, cause then it's just more post work.
Whatever floats their boat but it is the opposite in the pro sound world.
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Old May 4th, 2019, 06:19 PM   #8
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

Oh okay, why is it the opposite though, and why to the pros prefer to do it in post?
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Old May 4th, 2019, 09:11 PM   #9
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

In idie budget film making you’re going to find lots of unusual practices to save money. The standard practice is to record dialog mono boomed and then mix it with ambient, sounds effects and music. A final step would be to adjust those tracks in a special software or plugin to make it surround. It sounds like they’re suggesting if you recorded it as “surround” you could save time and money by skipping the last step of making a surround mix in post.

Honestly I wouldn’t do it. It’s the lazy man surround sound. You should concentrate on exploring creative techniques and strategies for cinema sound rather than obsessing about surround sound.

Last edited by Pete Cofrancesco; May 5th, 2019 at 05:26 AM.
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Old May 5th, 2019, 01:29 AM   #10
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

Okay thanks. Actually I was considering their option, cause they want to do the sound with me and on a group project. They were thinking of hiding the mics around a scene so they cannot be seen. But most mics have to be within two feet of an actor to get close quality in my opinion, would I be right on that?

And it's going to be hard to hide all the mics, so an actor will be within two feet of all of them as we walks past them, while walking around in a scene, wouldn't it?
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Old May 5th, 2019, 09:43 AM   #11
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Wray View Post
Oh okay, well with lav mics you cannot do a surround sound mix in production during shooting though, like they are suggesting, so why did lavs outphase plant mics, if you cannot get surround with them then?
Because no one outside of immersive art installations or 360 video wants dialog coming from anything but the center front speaker (surround playback) or center of a stereo mix. The way to get that playback is to record dialog in mono.

Your posts imply that dialog can or should be “surround mixed” for playback. Dialog is recorded in mono, perhaps multiple channels of mono (ISO) for mixing and assignment to a specific place in a surround or stereo mix. It is not helpful at all to record dialog in surround!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan Wray View Post
Okay thanks. Actually I was considering their option, cause they want to do the sound with me and on a group project. They were thinking of hiding the mics around a scene so they cannot be seen. But most mics have to be within two feet of an actor to get close quality in my opinion, would I be right on that?

And it's going to be hard to hide all the mics, so an actor will be within two feet of all of them as we walks past them, while walking around in a scene, wouldn't it?
You are right on that. Plant mics are the worst for coverage of moving actors. Booms and lavs are better.

These “more experienced” sound people are welcome to do what they want. Like Pete wrote, there are lots of unconventional approaches employed to save money or other resources on no-to-low budget projects.

A plant mic approach might have worked great in a specific scene. It wasn’t “surround”. Surround is a specific term that refers to specific speaker placements in playback systems, it started in theaters and later showed up in homes.

It might not work at all in the next scene. Hey, we got a mic at the cash register and one at the table in a coffee shop! Works OK until there’s standing dialog in the line where there’s no place to plant.

Surround mics / mic arrays exist, and, yes, they can be used to represent certain SFX to a surround playback system. Even there, their use is uncommon, because even in the scenes that might benefit, every shot needs micing that matches the shot’s perspective. Easier in post.

Use of plant mics was nearly eliminated because there are better ways to get better sound that aren’t more expensive... unless you happen to know where there’s a half-dozen small-diaphram omni condensor mics in the music dept. that no one uses. Then, plant mics start to seem more affordable. When your hammer is 6 free mics, every scene looks like the nail to hit with it.

The advice posted in this thread represents conventional best practices, arrived at across films and shows in multiple genres. These methods work reliably when properly done.

We need innovators. Innovation is great. Plant mics to make a “surround” recording? Not so much...

I work with a lot of students. My advice is to understand and gain skills with the tools and methods that are acknowledged as typical or best practices approaches before jumping in to anything else.

Here is a ranked list of expected faithfulness of a dialog recording when properly used:
1) Hypercardiod or short shotgun on a boom (which one depends on the recording environment)
2) Wired lavs
3) Wireless lavs
4) Plant mics
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Old May 5th, 2019, 10:04 AM   #12
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

The number one hallmark of quality audio is "consistent quality of sound." Consistent quality dialog requires consistent proximity of mic technique. A proper understanding of proximity is basic audio 101. Changes in proximity because an actor walks closer or farther from fixed mics does not create "surround sound dialog". It creates crap audio. Your friends do not understand the basics of audio theory.

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Old May 5th, 2019, 10:25 AM   #13
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

Okay thanks. Yeah they want to get the surround sound mix during shooting, so they don't have to do it in post. They just say during shooting it will sound more natural, rather than manipulating the surround in post.

But I do not know where to put all these plant mics without creating severe blocking limitations, as well as having an awkwardly staged set, in order to hide the plant mics.

They also say that having plant mics for surround sound will give me a natural room ambiance sound, that you just can't get in post, but when shooting in real locations, I actually like to cut down on room ambiance, cause most locations we shoot in, are not ideal for the taking full advantage ambiance, if that makes sense?

They also say it's okay if a person is further away from a mic, as they walk from left to right, cause them getting closer to the mic on the right, will match the video perspective, but do they have a point there, as far as mic distance goes, vs. the distance of the character in the video perspective?
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Old May 5th, 2019, 08:34 PM   #14
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Wray View Post
Okay thanks. Yeah they want to get the surround sound mix during shooting, so they don't have to do it in post. They just say during shooting it will sound more natural, rather than manipulating the surround in post.

But I do not know where to put all these plant mics without creating severe blocking limitations, as well as having an awkwardly staged set, in order to hide the plant mics.

They also say that having plant mics for surround sound will give me a natural room ambiance sound, that you just can't get in post, but when shooting in real locations, I actually like to cut down on room ambiance, cause most locations we shoot in, are not ideal for the taking full advantage ambiance, if that makes sense?

They also say it's okay if a person is further away from a mic, as they walk from left to right, cause them getting closer to the mic on the right, will match the video perspective, but do they have a point there, as far as mic distance goes, vs. the distance of the character in the video perspective?
Like everyone is saying your friends are wrong. They don't understand or are misusing the perspective principal.

Here's an example where might deviate from the standard micing to match the visual perspective.

You film closeup two people are having a conversation (lav/boom them). Cut to a wide shot from their perspective of a person entering the scene at a far distance and he shouts something to them. If you don't do a close up of him and he is laved the audio will not match the visual perspective. He is far away but you can hear him like he's near.

This is an example where perspective over rides the rule that the mic should be with in 3ft of the actor. But in 99% of the time dialog occurs between people that are close to each other and the goal is to get clean dialog that at the same level.
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Old May 5th, 2019, 08:59 PM   #15
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Re: Should I be using multiple mics to record dialogue and sound effects?

Okay thanks, your example is what I though was right and how I've been doing it before. But they say that if I have the mics close with no mics far away, to record simultaneously, than I will have to ambiance in the voice. Is that true though, that recording close up, cuts down on too much ambiance perhaps without further away mics to pick it up, along with the close up mic?

Also, they say that I will have no surround sound then if I do not have mics placed all over the scene, and there will be no directional change therefore, if a character walks from right to left, for example.
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