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Old January 20th, 2007, 01:30 PM   #1
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Sound for Independent Film

I will be shooting an independent film this summer. I was wondering about the audio-end of things, as I am the least experienced here.

I will be shooting on an HVX-200. Is it a really bad idea to use the stock microphone on the camera? Why or why not?

What other sound equipment would you say is essential, and why?

I really am a newb is this area and I'd love some advice on this, to know what I really need, what can wait, etc. And also, the specific benefits/applications that a specific product would bring.

Thanks so much!
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Old January 20th, 2007, 02:25 PM   #2
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I will answer your question in general terms.

It is not that the camera mounted microphone is bad per se, it that other microphones can get much closer to the sound, which is always better.

There is no such thing as a telephoto microphone, except for parabolic reflector microphones, which are not suited for full range audio, as one would want in a film or video.

There are many ways to get closer to the sound.

If possible, for outdoor use, use a good microphone such as a Sennheiser MKH-416 or MKH-60, mounted on a boom pole so that you can get close to the speaker, but remain out of the frame.

For indoor use, a Schoeps CMC6 with a MK41 capsule is great mounted on a boom pole. This combination is sometimes referred to as a CMC641.

Also, lavaliere microphones directly attached to a person are sometimes used when possible.

All of the above are examples. There are other good or great microphones available to get good sound.

A mediocre microphone close to the sound will sound better than a great microphone some distance away.

So, unless you are in a run and gun situation, careful attention to the audio with the proper equipement will greatly improve the overall quality of your film.

As someone on this site once said: "Audio is not trivial".

To more directly answer your question:

Buy, or rent, or hire a sound person with

A Sennheiser MKH-60 or MKH-416 (if you will be recording outdoors)
A Schoeps CMC-6 and MK-41 (if you will be recording indoors)
A Rycote (industry standard) or Sennehiser Blimp setup to protect the microphone from wind and handling noises.
A boom pole with someone to use it. If you do not have someone, allow plently of time for the new person to be taught and time for practice.

A laviere microphone or a wireless microphone set with a laviere.

Optionally, a sound mixer would be a big plus. An example would be a Sound Devices 302.

And most importantly, at least one pair of good headphones, such as the Sony MDR-7506 (industry standard) or MDR-7509, and monitor the sound at all times while you are filming.

Ideally, a separate person, with the function of monitoring and/or sound is best. The boom pole operator should have a headset and be able to monitor the sound out of the camera.

While you are filming, you should be wearing a headset. A separate person can also monitor the sound, concentrating only on the sound, to catch any problems that you may miss.
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Last edited by Dan Keaton; January 21st, 2007 at 07:52 AM.
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Old January 21st, 2007, 06:52 AM   #3
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Dan has nailed it;

I would extra-highlight these two bits:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Keaton
A mediocre microphone close to the sound will sound better than a great microphone some distance away...

Ideally, a separate person, with the function of monitoring and/or sound is best. The boom pole operator should have a headset and be able to monitor the sound out of the camera.
It has been said here a few times (and elsewhere, of course) that an audience can forgive relatively poor image quality if the story is there, but they will never stand(sit) still for poor audio quality.
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Old January 21st, 2007, 11:44 AM   #4
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I'll just add this quote "sound is 60% of what you see."
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Old January 21st, 2007, 03:08 PM   #5
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My personal opinion is that sound can never, ever be "poor". You don't have to have great audio, it doesn't have to be artistic or mind-blowly clear and rich ... it just has to be good enough that the audience never ever thinks about it. It never annoys them, booms, muffles.. they never have to strain to understand what's said, never become concious of noise/hiss, or changes in room-tone or ambience, or cringe when it's too loud/grating...

Now, bigger productions have the luxury of trying to be 'excellent', but for the rest of us, the battle is for every single scrap of sound to be "good enough".

If you're doing an interview with a guy sat on a chair and a mic 1 foot above him, then hitting the mark is actually very easy (so long as the room isn't super reflective).... but when you throw all of the variables of a narrative production into the frey, you'll find that you need an ever-increasing list of equipment (AND skills) in order to avoid coming home with disappointing audio. This is why people hire pros- 97% of your film could sound great, but then you might be out on location in difficult circumstances where the only solution is thousands of £/$s worth of carefully hidden lavs and some skilled on-set mixing. You can't afford for 3% of your dialogue to sound crap. Or boomy and weird... audiences will squirm, your perceived production value will plummet.

realistically, your choices are:-

1) a sound guy with serious kit, and experience of how to use it

2) rent/buy kit, to be used by someone experienced

3) rent/buy kit, and spend a lot of serious time/effort learning how to use it properly. This is not trivial, but it's possible with some effort-- having a saw and a hammer doesn't make you a carpenter, but with research and effort you can get the job done. Consider that it's better to make your mistakes in test runs/shoots, rather than to make them on a serious production.


The other factor is something that I alluded to earlier-- that some scenarios are significantly easier than others to record. I think that pros really justify themselves by being able to adapt and get good results time after time, in difficult and changing circumstances... but if you follow that logic, you can get just as good results as a pro by strictly controlling what you need to shoot. If you buy/rent a good mic or two (hyper for indoors, shotgun for outdoors), a boom, possibly a mixer, some C-stands (or heavy duty light stands) to hang sound blankets, AND write your scenes with sound very much in mind ... then you can create low-reverb spaces and keep the boom mic close enough that there isn't THAT much to go wrong. For interior dialogue with relatively static actors, it can be as easy as hanging mics 1 foot above the actors (slightly infront, angled into the chest) using tall mic stands ... if they're moving, then obviously you need to boom....

but just something to think about.
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Old January 21st, 2007, 05:36 PM   #6
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And don't forget about good mixing in post:

* Use noise reduction as needed - but don't overdo it.

* Hand tweak your mix - even to the syllable level - so everything can be well understood

* Use great music - it can cover up a lot of audio flaws and can help even a bad video editing job to flow smoothly...
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Old February 27th, 2007, 11:38 PM   #7
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is there a good general mic that works well for indoors as well as outdoors?
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Old February 28th, 2007, 02:09 AM   #8
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What about the AT897?
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Old February 28th, 2007, 04:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amos Kim View Post
is there a good general mic that works well for indoors as well as outdoors?
A hypercardioid mic.

Best wishes,
Peter
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Old February 28th, 2007, 05:59 AM   #10
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.

As a boom op I always find it a little difficult to answer these questions as it feels very little time is given to think about the job I am paid to do for a living or indeed that of a mixer, hell I'm not sure the basic sound assistant job is even taught properly now, but anyhoo to the subject in hand.

First off, audio that is 'just good enough' is NOT good enough to aim for, in fact you aim for the best and nothing else and the lower the budget the more important that becomes, a boom op does not have to wear headphones if you have a mixer, that's his job, yours is to know your mic and to place it correctly, I know it's not the done thing in the States and it seems to be a dying art everywhere else but I was taught the old school boom op way and it was to NOT wear headphones, it is of far more use to learn your lens sizes or to learn the art of watching a zoom lens being used than monitoring a mic when someone else is already doing that and that after all is what rehearsals are for.

Mic wise will always be personal taste of the mixer and to the job in hand, what kind of movie is this anyways ? there could be a multitude of in car shots, huge wides with no close up's etc etc so you'd need to know before a equipment suggestion could be made.

Now really the suggestion here is that you hire a mixer and a boom op, it's that or find a mixer and a friend and offer his services for free to the mixer as soon as possible to learn as much as he can as a mixer is only as good as his boom op,it's a team, we are talking the same team as an operator and a focus puller, lately it seems people don't understand that which is why a huge proportion of TV and film could be better.

Now IF you try to do the audio all yourselves then by modifying how you shoot will help, don't make the shots too complicated, static close ups will help the trainee boom op and the trainee mixer a lot, treat it like TV, establish the shot then go in straight away for the close ups, it's a huge learning curve you'll face right though the filming regardless of practicing before hand.
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Old February 28th, 2007, 03:32 PM   #11
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Get this book:

www.locationaudiosimplified.com

A good practical introduction.
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Old February 28th, 2007, 03:49 PM   #12
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an alternative

An alternative, depending on your location and budgeting, you could post some wanted kind of stuff the School of Audio Engineering boards, or Full Sail. Some of those students have practical experience, some even have their own kit. If asked nicely enough, the very same student could mix the sound it in their school facilities for you which is invaluable.
I reckon you get a team or somebody to do it. Don't try to buy the gear or record it yourself. If you're producing/directing/writing , which I guess you are, you have more than enough on your plate.
Yes sound is 69 percent. It's weird. Make a film that has bad sound, it will be very obviously "cheap.(meaning home video, not "film")" Good sound, nobody notices.

Oh last thing. Make sure you read up on the time code part. NTSC DF NTSC NDF, 24f. Yes weird sounding things, getting it right might save your life. Getting it wrong, you'd have trouble syncing.
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Old March 1st, 2007, 08:57 AM   #13
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Question for Dan

Dan:

Im an amatuer working on building my sound kit which I believe is extremely important.

My thinking is heading toward recording most sound, at least two channels, off camera tape to a CF sound recorder(s) instead. Where you need perfect AV sync, like a facial closeup during an interview, it might make sense to use on camera recording, but I will use the camera mainly as backup & general/ambient sound track. You didn't mention in your post where the sound should be going, camera tape or recorder.

The stand alone recorder(s) might use both wireless and direct connections depending on the shoot.

Where does using a mixer come into this? Can I just use my raw audio and edit & mix in post on the timeline (I use Sony Vegas 7)? I can't really afford or operate a mixer at this point.

I typically am a one man show with my wife on the B camera doing easy wide angle or static shots when needed. In the future she will help with sound but I will probably have to set levels in a lot of cases and hope for the best.

I shoot weddings (when I absolutely have to) which are obviously low profile events (no booms) and I need a minimum of three tracks, music (line level when possible), officiant (wireless) and ambient. My biggest audio failing has been in high performance marine poker runs (generally loud) where clipping and/or lack of dynamic range just kills any hint of pro audio in the video.

What are some pointers for me? Specifically, is using CF sound recorders the way to go?
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Old March 1st, 2007, 09:20 AM   #14
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Setting the levels, if you use 16 bit audio, requires some expertise in that you want to set the levels properly to avoid clipping. This is sometimes difficult for a live shoot and is especially difficult in recording high performance boats.

With 24 bit audio, you can easily set the levels lower, to allow for unexpected peaks to occur without clipping.

For this reason, no matter what you purchase for a sound recorder, be sure that it suppots 24 bit audio. It is easy in Vegas to convert to any other format, such as 16 bit audio, for your final output.

Depending on your budget, the Sound Devices 7 series of recorders are excellent. The Tascam HD-P2 is another good choice, at a lower cost. I prefer the Sound Devices units.

If desired, you can use a mixer to feed either of the above recorders.

The Sound Devices 7 series of recorders have either two channels or four channels. You do not always need a mixer.

However, in some cases, a mixer is mandatory, depending on what you are doring. An example: The Sound Devices 744T has two great microphone preamps, but can record four channels. To record two additional microphones, you will need a mixer, such as a Sound Devices 302, then feed the output (at line level) into channels 3 & 4 into the 744T
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Old March 1st, 2007, 09:38 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Savage View Post
...
First off, audio that is 'just good enough' is NOT good enough to aim for, in fact you aim for the best and nothing else and the lower the budget the more important that becomes, a boom op does not have to wear headphones if you have a mixer, that's his job, yours is to know your mic and to place it correctly, I know it's not the done thing in the States and it seems to be a dying art everywhere else but I was taught the old school boom op way and it was to NOT wear headphones, ....
Of course, if both the boom op and the mixer have cans you can both do your own parts of the team effort. The mixer listens for levels, etc, while the boom op monitors to help judge mic aiming. With a shotgun, for example, there might be some extranuous noise from a source that is sitting in a lobe of the pattern that a slight adjustment of aim could put into one of the nulls while still keeping the talent on-mic. Being able to hear that makes the boom op's job easier.
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