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Old May 23rd, 2006, 01:04 PM   #1
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Suggestions for basic field recording setup

Hello, my name is Bernardo Ortiz, first time on these forums and Iím glad to find such a great resource on field recording. :)
I come from the music studio background, wich Iíve been fading away for audio post for commercials, film and radio production. Now I want to expand my services towards field recording for the same markets.
Iíve been saving for a field recording setup and I need some pointers. Obviously I donít have an unlimited budget, but I donít want to skimp on solid audio gear either.
Iím looking for a flexible setup. This is what I have so far.

Boom mic & accesories:
Iím looking at a flexible setup that will allow me to work well in indoor/outdoors. Iím leaning towards the Sennheiser k6 module (battery/phantom) with 64, 66 and 67 capsules. 64 for indoors, 66 and 67 for outdoors. I already own some other small diaphragm condensers from my studio that could work well indoors too. Somewhere else I read the hypercardiod capsule works very well for indoors, would this be a better pick than the cardioid? I know it depends on the particular site, degree of isolation provided from the polar pattern, but wich one could be more usefull in general?
For this one Iím going to pick one of the packs at B&H with K6 and ME66, boom pole, rycote softie, rode sm3 shock mount, hand grip etc, and then get the capsules separately.
Iím also gettin the Rolls personal monitor for the boom op.

Field mixer: Sound Devices 302 seems like a no brainer. 3 inputs for 2 lavs, boom mic, nice preís, nice limiters, nice meters, tape return monitor, 2 pair of outputs, good for sending to recorder with backup to camera. Separate preamp gain/fader trim. Price is reasonable.

Field recorder: Iím debating between the sound devices 702T or the Tascam HD-P2. The SD is of course very nice, but maybe overkill regarding price, because I will be getting the 302 mixeras front end. Price is very attractive on the HD unit. Functionality seems the same on both give or take. Tascamís can sync to SMPTE and video, wich is very handy. The thing Iím not still sure is if the HD can be fed line level signal trough the balanced XLR connectors. It is stated in the manual that the XLR inputs can accept mic or line level signals, so does the silk screen legend above the XLR inputs on the unit itself. However, I read on this same forum that a user switched to the SD because the XLR inputs couldnít take line level. Iím clueless. Also I read somewhere SD is working on making their units write to external fw hard disks. Tascam should definitely look into this as well I hope.

Wireless/lavs: Iím debating between the sennheiser EW 100 or 500 series, or the Audio Technica ATW units. I know Lectro is the shizznit, but its price is out of my range and maybe overkill for my uses.
Iíve had very good experiences as references from sennheiser wireless units for stage use. Those were diversity units though. However, Iíve read mixed comments here and there from the EW 100 and. The AT is balanced XLR, but I donít know a thing about AT, only that they make terrific mics for studio use (40xx large diaphragm series beign very familiar with). Iíve read good comments on them, but they chew 2 12 volt batteries.
The sennheiser is unbalanced on 3.5 mm, wich may be ok, since the receivers will be most of the time always near. The price is right on the 100 series.
I want 2 sets of trans/belt pack receiver and prolly a plugin. Hereís a questionÖI was looking into a pair of lavs. I was thinking either Tram 50 (due to its nice variety of mounting accessories), or the country man stuff. B&H has them wired for 3.5mm. My question is, whatís the deal with power supply for lavís. Do they need phantom, like a regular mic? I bet if theyíre condensers, but maybe they are electrect, so their capsules are kept polarized. Neither on the EW 100 or 500 series manual, not on the ATW, regarding the beltpack transmitters, thereís no mention that lavís require phantom, so can I assume the transmitter already supplyís some sort of power already?

Regarding battery usage. On the long run, what would be the best way to power at least the recorder and mixer and recievers, without having to chew normal batteries?

Is there anything Iím missing in this basic kit.

Any comments are appreciated, thanks in advance :)
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 02:49 PM   #2
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Hello Bernardo, and welcome.

Of course there are a lot of ways to spend more money, but I understand where you're coming from. Perhaps after you're making some money, you could upgrade - I think the first thing on your list to upgrade would be the K6 system. You'd probably be using the 302 for a long time...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Berns Ortiz
...debating between the sound devices 702T or the Tascam HD-P2. The SD is of course very nice, but maybe overkill... The thing Iím not still sure is if the HD can be fed line level signal trough the balanced XLR connectors. It is stated in the manual that the XLR inputs can accept mic or line level signals, so does the silk screen legend above the XLR inputs on the unit itself. However, I read on this same forum that a user switched to the SD because the XLR inputs couldnít take line level...
If your line level is too hot, you can always use one or two inline xlr attenuators, available from 10-50db of loss. AT makes one that is switchable from 10 to 30db of loss. A true line-to-mike att. would be about 50db. The only instance I've had trouble with this is the (line) output of some Sony VTRs, which are hot, hot hot. (no, I don't have the HD-P2 or 702T, but have used the 744 which is great.)

Quote:
Wireless/lavs: ...The sennheiser is unbalanced on 3.5 mm, wich may be ok, since the receivers will be most of the time always near. The price is right on the 100 series.

ÖI was looking into a pair of lavs. I was thinking either Tram 50 (due to its nice variety of mounting accessories), or the country man stuff. B&H has them wired for 3.5mm. My question is, whatís the deal with power supply for lavís. Do they need phantom, like a regular mic? I bet if theyíre condensers, but maybe they are electrect, so their capsules are kept polarized.
Actually, they are balanced on a 3.5mm stereo plug. Sort of a mini TRS.

When you buy a lav for a beltpack trans. you need to buy the version that is set up for your transmitter, yes, the trans. supplies power to the cap. and all the pinouts are different. If B&H doesn't spec this, try the manufacturer's web site. I like Trams a lot, Countryman has a great rep but I've not used them other than the E6 earset which sounds great.

Quote:
Regarding battery usage. On the long run, what would be the best way to power at least the recorder and mixer and recievers, without having to chew normal batteries?

Is there anything Iím missing in this basic kit.
To really set up for field use, you'd want a portabrace or petrol bag that holds mixer, recorder, receivers, a battery system, and other accessories.

Typically a battery system is going to be 3-4 NP1-style batteries, a 2-4 bay charger, a custom "battery cup" to attach to the batt., a little distro box, and power cables to each device. Check out Remote Audio for bits and pieces, IDX for Lithium or NiMH batteries and chargers.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 05:07 PM   #3
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Seth, thanks a lot for replying

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
Hello Bernardo, and welcome.

Of course there are a lot of ways to spend more money, but I understand where you're coming from. Perhaps after you're making some money, you could upgrade - I think the first thing on your list to upgrade would be the K6 system. You'd probably be using the 302 for a long time...
Is would you consider that there are better options than the k6 system for the price? Or is this last in the line between decent and seriously good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
If your line level is too hot, you can always use one or two inline xlr attenuators, available from 10-50db of loss. AT makes one that is switchable from 10 to 30db of loss. A true line-to-mike att. would be about 50db. The only instance I've had trouble with this is the (line) output of some Sony VTRs, which are hot, hot hot. (no, I don't have the HD-P2 or 702T, but have used the 744 which is great.)
Sounds like a good idea, but that would mean using the HD-P2's preamps to raise the gain to line level again....hmm haven't read much about the quality of the HD-P2's preamps. I tought the 302's output level could be adjusted down to mic level?
Now that you mention this..u got me thinking. I was planning on using the XLR outs on the 302 to feed the HD-P2, and the tape out in the 302 for camera, as a backup. I guess some cameras only have mic inputs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
Actually, they are balanced on a 3.5mm stereo plug. Sort of a mini TRS.

When you buy a lav for a beltpack trans. you need to buy the version that is set up for your transmitter, yes, the trans. supplies power to the cap. and all the pinouts are different. If B&H doesn't spec this, try the manufacturer's web site. I like Trams a lot, Countryman has a great rep but I've not used them other than the E6 earset which sounds great.
Okie, good to know. B&H does have them wired specifically for the EW100 series.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
To really set up for field use, you'd want a portabrace or petrol bag that holds mixer, recorder, receivers, a battery system, and other accessories.
Yup, I've tought that too. Any good suggestions? I was checking out one from SD made for the 302 mixer and 702 recorder wich I think could work well with the HD-P2 as well...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
Typically a battery system is going to be 3-4 NP1-style batteries, a 2-4 bay charger, a custom "battery cup" to attach to the batt., a little distro box, and power cables to each device. Check out Remote Audio for bits and pieces, IDX for Lithium or NiMH batteries and chargers.
Ok, wrote that down too thanks a lot.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 06:53 AM   #4
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Re : field RecordingSetup

Berns
The Senn G2 Rad setup would be good for your app and budget but transmitter and receiver req 2 x AA batteriries so if left on chew thru the juice. As far as mixer goes the 302 should sufice . Lavs ... well the G2's come with them but if Budget warrants get Sanken Cos 11 s obviously don't need power as they are remote but are suprior mics . Will work well in MOST situations.
NTG 1 Rode Cardoic shotie with mount and windsock ( Koala ,also Aussie) should suffice for outdoor loc
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Old May 24th, 2006, 10:50 AM   #5
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Thanks a lot Mark. Have you tried the rode shotgun mics?
I own some of their studio mics, and like em, but don't know how the shotguns are working
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Old May 24th, 2006, 12:21 PM   #6
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I'll second that as long as you're getting a 302, you might as well get better mics than the K6 system. Lots of choices in the same price range. The K6 is a nice system, but it's really designed for people who don't have access to a mixer.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 01:30 PM   #7
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Berns...

"Wireless/lavs: Iím debating between the sennheiser EW 100 or 500 series, or the Audio Technica ATW units."

I've been using a pair of ATW-101 diversity wireless units since December and hadn't had a single dropout at ranges of 50 yards or less. Hadn't had to shoot anything further than that. Tests seem to indicate a working range up to 100 yards, line of sight. They're equipped with Countryman B3's.

Regarding the Tascam P2, a friend who is a recording engineer and composer had the chance to work with a pair of them recently. He said the performance was impressive. For background, he's recorded one of the world's best classical guitarists (who said it was among the best recordings ever done for him), as well as a number of other artists and, of course, his own works. So he's got a very discerning ear.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 09:26 PM   #8
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Dean Sensui: Thanks for the good nfo. How long a run do u get with batteries on the ATW series. I wonder Why would they need more power, (2 9 volts against 2 AA on the sennheiser's...Its nice to have a monitor out directly on the reciever and true diversity tough...I wish I could try before buying :S decisions...decisions...
About the HD-P2, I guess that's a very trusty point...

Marco, could you elaborate on other options for shotgun mics?

Mark, have u used the EW100 G2 Series personally...I would like to know your comments about them..

Sorry for all the questions fellas, but beign here, its hard for me to try this any of this stuff before I buy. Its even hard to find most of this gear here.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 09:43 PM   #9
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Berns...

I run the two receivers off a single 12-volt pack made up of 10 AA NiMH batteries, and they're good for at least 5 hours. The transmitters are now being run on rechargeable 9v Li polymer batteries that seem good for 5.5 hours. Maybe 6. Swapping batteries is a fast procedure. Maybe 30 seconds each.

The diversity receivers have two receiver circuits in them, which is probably the reason for the additional power draw.

As for other wireless mics, I know of someone who uses a wireless system that has 1/8" TRS connectors, like the type you find commonly used for headphone plugs, and he has bad connection problems every single time. I keep reminding him to get those units serviced or replaced. But he insists he wants to keep them because they have a long battery life. For me, I don't care if a wireless unit runs for three days -- if it keeps having dropouts and connector crackles, I'd rather use something else.

Prior to the AT's, I had pair of Lectrosonic 185's. Good fidelity. But prone to interference and dropouts. It was a rare day that I didn't get at least one static burst along the way.

With the AT's the only better signal I got was through a wire... until someone tripped over it. :-)
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Old May 25th, 2006, 01:10 PM   #10
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Here's a good review of three inexpensive shotguns (Azden, Audio-Technical, Sennheiser.) http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage...tgun_mics.html

I've used the AT815b (longer brother of the AT835b reviewed above). My application was recording dialog during an end-user interview and product evaluation. We put the mic just our of the peripheral vision of the subject, so they wouldn't feel "under the microscope". Distance was 3-4 feet. The big problem was that the HVAC system in our interview room was absolutely screaming.

The above article notes that the AT mic had a HF peak and was thin at the low end. This was true in spades. We ran without a windscreen. You want some HF peak to compensate for windscreens, but this was a bit much. Note that the LF cutoff starts at 180 Hz, so if you're trying to cut rumble with it, your subjects will sound thinner still.

I would have liked more directivity with the mic, as well as a hotter signal.

Judging from the review above, the Senn would have been the better choice for us, giving a clean hot signal without as much HF emphasis.

Of course, in post I could apply a noise canceller, EQ it to death and ride the mix syllable by syllable. We did record it, but we were also sending a live feed to a nearby observation room, and over a video conference link overseas.

All I had was a compressor and a 3-channel EQ strip to work with. I really needed a real-time noise canceller and a nice parametric EQ to do the job properly.

But the Sennheier 67 would have helped a bit. With more directivity, a hotter, cleaner signal and flatter response, I would have needed less aggressive processing.

At NAB I spent some time playing with the Sennheiser MHK-70. Now *there's* a shotgun. I was able to listen in on coversations 20 and 30 feet away. Still, the NAB show floor is a noisy place, and even with a narrow lobar pattern, the mic picked up a lot of reflected noise with all that narrow-beam gain.

I've also spoken with a few independents who swear by the Senn MKH-416.

There are a few ways to go here: If your next production requires absolute top quality, rent one of the higher-end mics. If doing a number of mid-level productions, go for the 66/67, and sell it on ebay when it's time to move up.

I've owned a dynamic AT mic for more than 20 years, and I'm really happy with it. By contrast, the AT815b wasn't really what I was looking for.

I hope this is helpful.

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Old May 25th, 2006, 05:35 PM   #11
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Jon I think you hit the nail. Most of my projects are going to be low-mid budget. Even commercials here don't have budgets as in the US. Other than that, it would be indie films and corporate video stuff. I'm going for the k66 and some capsules and take my chances for a while.
Also Dean, thanks for the solid info. I'm going to start diggin more about the ATW series before I make my final decision.
Thanks a lot to all who contributed with their valuable opinions :)
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:15 PM   #12
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UPDATE: Thank God I just got a hold of an K6/ME66 capsule combo from friend to try out for the evening. This thing sucks, I don't like it at all. Everything put through it sounds like talking through a horn, very telephone like. To much mid-high bump, and a big lack in bass. This obviously makes anything sound so thin, shrinked. Rejection at off-axis is not that good either. This was the K6 module, but run with 48 phantom from a very nice & clean studio preamp. Its weird, it seems the mic is not very sensitive as I would have expected. I have my own weird theory...I think sennheiser might have bumped the mids and highs to compensate for the lack of sensitivity in this mic. It registers alright, but it registers because everything has been eq'd to hell.
And this tests were done inside my studio...I don't want to think how will it do on location. On a quick comparison, tough not the appropiate, but one of my cheapie oktava sounded way better than this, even at a distance. Maybe a tad bit noisier though, but much more better in terms of natural sound.
I need other suggestions...:S
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Old May 30th, 2006, 12:29 AM   #13
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I swear by the 416. I have a 66 mounted to the camera... and it sounds like a NAT mic... The 416 is a standard and is nothing short of awesome. If you have more, get a set of Schoeps, a cardiod and hypercardiod capsule. I've been wondering about the Sure (SM89?) shotgun. It looks pretty decent, acceptable.
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Old May 30th, 2006, 01:04 PM   #14
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Thanks for replying Daniel. Right now I'm leaning over the Audio Techinca 4073a because I'm still under a budget. I did a little more diggin and found a link with very nice comparisons of this mic VS the 416 and it faired well.
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Old May 30th, 2006, 02:21 PM   #15
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Certainly don't go for the AT815b - It's even less sensitive and thinner sounding than the ME66.

However, comparing the AT4073a to the AT815b on paper, the AT4073a looks like an interesting animal.

* Directivity
The 9" long 4073 has roughly the same directivity as the 15" 815b, but horizontally only. The 4073 has more pronounced lobes, which might sound "interesting" off axis. The low-directivty vertically may help negate a hollow sound at the expense of in-line response. If you're not happy with the ambient sound, just rotate it 90 degrees and check if it's better...

http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/re...073a_polar.jpg
http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/re...815b_polar.jpg

* Frequency response
The 4073 is *much* flatter than the 815. Add a windscreen and it might be a bit muffled. In any case, as long as the signal is clean, you can EQ to taste.

http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/re...4073a_freq.jpg
http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/re...t815b_freq.jpg

Of course, if there's any way that you can try before buying, or rent and apply the cost to your purchase, that would be ideal.

And don't underestimate the value of noise reduction. If you can sample the ambient noise, remove it, then EQ, you might get decent results - even with the ME66. Part of the hollow sound is due to the echo of the voice. The other part is due to the signature of the ambient noise. You can't get rid of the voice echo, but you can get rid of the ambience. When outdoors, this should work well.

Keep us informed. I was interested in the ME67 before. Now I'm starting to think seriously about the AT4071a...

http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/re...071a_polar.jpg
http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/re...4071a_freq.jpg
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