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Old February 7th, 2007, 07:46 PM   #1
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$1500 to burn for recording equipment?

I have a Senn ME66 and a sony vx1000. I just placed a doc in a small film festival and convinced my better half to let me invest another six into equipment. Assuming I get the V1 and some extra batteries and HD tapes, etc for 4500--no need for a tripod-- that leaves 1500 for recording equipment. I do all my own music soundtracks on a variety of instruments. Flute, guitar, banjo, mandolin, drums and a Kora which is just a big harp strung with fishing line. Ninety percent of the background music I do is on a 100 year old clunker rosewood acoustic guitar. My sound room is a 4 by 7 closet lined with egg crate foam. I have a line 6 toneport for a preamp but I think I'd like a different one. Also, should I think about a better voiceover mic than the ME66? It seemed to work okay but I'm sure it could be better. My question for the audio savvy. If you had 1500 for audio equipment and were in my shoes how would you spend it? My priorities would be in this order:
1 Mic for acoustic guitar
2 Mic for voiceover
3 Mic for various and sundry instruments
4 Preamp and anything else I might need for producing documentaries and shorts for film festivals.

I would also like to say thank you to all the fine people who have so patiently answered my questions in the past. I feel very lucky to be apart of this board.
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Old February 7th, 2007, 08:40 PM   #2
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Your priorities pretty much narrow it down to a hypercardioid condenser mic. The ME66 is omnidirectional and not suited for close-up indoors voiceover work, which is why you're describing it at marginal at best. Getting a new mic will solve a lot of your problems. and really round out your audio kit. A lot of people don't realize they can't use their shotgun mic indoors. It picks up too much reverb, so what you need instead is something that's more sensitive only at closer distances.

A high-quality, clean preamp is also very important. I'd get something like a Focusrite, those are of very high quality (as well as M-audio), something like this.

As far as mics go, I would get two; I for one can highly recommend the Rode NT3 for instrumental and voiceover work. This is a phantom-powered condenser hypercardioid that performs fantastically with a pop filter for voiceover work. Not only that, mount it on a boompole and you've got an amazing indoor boom mic.

The ADK SC-2 also sounds SO natural and clean on any acoustic stringed guitar.

Now these are both small-diaphragm microphones. For the best in voiceover work and some larger instruments, a larger diaphragm like the Rode NTK is absolutely awesome. Plus it comes with it's own preamp assembly and the sound is really unbeatable. (Well ok maybe the Sennheiser MKH 800 for instance but that's a little out of your budget, lol)

Anyway I hope you find this helpful. $1500 can go very far if you use it right. Also if you're looking for a portable field mixer a Beachtek DXA-6 is great, as is the Rolls 4-channel, I have both and they are really fantastic performers.
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Old February 7th, 2007, 09:23 PM   #3
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Another alternative is to get a MIDI keyboard, a good sequencer and some sample libs or virtual instruments. That opens things up beyond piano, guitar, flute and the like. You can get tons of ethnic percussion or a whole orchestra, if you'd like. Layering a few live tracks on top of sampled instruments can really sell it.

Take Jeff Beal's scores for Ugly Betty as an example. Jeff hires a live solo violinist and a handful of other live players, but everything else is from samples.

Sampled percussion can sound excellent. Ensemble brass and strings aren't too bad, if you get the nicer instruments. Solo sustain instruments (sax, violin, flute) are tough. You need the best instruments and a lot of talent and patience - and it will still sound a bit clunky compared to live. Of course, you can use the sampled stuff to compose, and replace the "hero parts" with live players...

It all depends on your style and intended instrumentation though.

Ben gives some solid suggestions for live recording. If you have money left and want an orchestra or big band, check out http://garritan.com . Gary's stuff is really affordable and complete. It's been used by many pros. It's a great place to start. Alternatively, you could buy GVI or GS3 from http://tascamgiga.com as an open sampler that comes with a number of samples to get you started. The other option is Kontakt 2 from Native Instruments. If you want to see where sample addiction can lead, check out http://vsl.co.at . Oh yeah there's also East West's stuff at soundsonline.com . http://sonivoxmi.com has some other great stuff, including the most realistic big band samples on the planet. And after you win the lottery, Google Audio Impressions - their mega lib should be out by then.

It's really amazing what you can do with samples these days. And if you combine them with live players, it's the best thing this side of a scoring stage.
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Old February 8th, 2007, 11:38 AM   #4
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If I had $1500 for this project I would get:

1. Acoustic Microphone: AT4033 ($300 on ebay or craigslist and a studio standard in Nashville)
2. Voice Over: I would use the above microphone
3. Multipurpose Microphone: I would use the above microphone
4. Clean Preamp: FMR Audio's Really Nice Preamp ($450 through HumbuckerMusic and a great transparent preamp)
5. Mbox 2 Mini/ ProTools LE/Reason Adapted and USB powered ($300 through musiciansfriend)
6. Reason 3.0 Adapted Upgrade ($300 through musiciansfriend) for drums, bass and anything else
7. Quality Cabling and a pop filter($50) ...you could also build you pop filter with hose and a metal hanger

Total: $1500

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Old February 8th, 2007, 12:45 PM   #5
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Great suggestions Jonathan!

The FMR preamp is especially well regarded. There are other options aside from the Mbox A/D though. Take a look at some firewire solutions as well.

Regarding the mic, visit the local music stores and shop locally. Bring headphones that you know and trust. If you have a preamp that you plan to use, bring that too. Online shopping is fine for books, but not good for shoes or microphones - make sure the product fits.

I read review after review of people calling the Studio Projects C1 the greatest value mic ever. Boy was I surprised when I actually heard it. It didn't suit my tastes at all. And I've heard a number of the AT4000 series mics back to back. Each has its own character. There's no telling which you might prefer.

Apple Music Row in Portland has offered me rent-before-you-buy deals where I would rent for the weekend, and if I liked it I could buy a new mic on Monday subtracting the rental cost. You can't lose with a deal like that!

The one recommendation that I don't agree with is Reason. I'm a regular on a couple of sample library forums (with a few thousand posts to my name), and Reason gets no posts. None. The real players are Giga (Tascam), Kontakt (NI), and to some degree Halion. It's really important to get a platform that supports the libs you might like to get.

Not mentioned is the importance of a good convolution reverb and impulse responses. The right tools can turn a dead thump into a monsterous BOOM. Lots of people use Altiverb. I use GigaPulse. While you want voice and dialog mostly dry, A good score and sound effects can really benefit from some space.
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Old February 8th, 2007, 12:53 PM   #6
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One other suggestions on mics... Don't be fooled by an overly scooped EQ. (That was my personal complaint with the Studio Projects mic.) A scooped mic might give an initial "wow", but it might not work well in a mix, and it might hide some other dips and peaks.

What you really want is something fairly neutral that doesn't miss any frequencies and doesn't overemphasize frequencies in your voice or instruments that are problematic. Also look for a low noise floor and a lack of distortion at high levels. Jungle keys to stress the highs. Get close and say some "P"s to stress the lows. Speak or sing at a natural distance for mids.

Oh, and if you want a scooped sound, that's what EQs are for. :)
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Old February 8th, 2007, 03:35 PM   #7
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I second the recommendation of the Rode NT3. It's a fantastic little mic, especially when you consider its price. I used it today as an indoor boom, and I don't think words can describe how much cleaner and fuller it sounds than the 416, let alone the ME66. It's really night and day. Generally in the kits I'm given, there is an ME66/K6 or a 416. I bought one of these Rodes of a few good reviews and suggestions that hypers work better indoors. And from now on, I'll swear by it. The NT3's my new mic of choice indoors. And don't forget that a lot of the sound And for about $200, you still have a fair chunk of change left in your budget.
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Old February 9th, 2007, 06:34 AM   #8
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Gigastudio is great. I've been using it since it first came out from Nemesys. Don't have the Tascam version but I suppose its only gotten better. For sequencing, I use an older version of Cakewalk. I don't like the multitrack audio versions and I have something better I use for that anyway: for multitrack work you can't beat one of the versions of Sawstudio (www.sawstudio.com). The most expensive version even has a video track so you can sweeten the soundtrack of your DV videos. 72 stereo tracks 48 output tracks. Realtime mixing capabilities (if your soundcard and computer are powerful enough). VST or DX plugins. Very stable program. I've been using SAW products since they first debuted in early 90's.

For soundcards, I highly recommend those from RME, like the classic Hammerfall or Hammerfall DSP. Lightpipe ADAT input and output is really a clean way to go. All the better to help with not introducing ground loops and hum into your system. http://www.rme-audio.de/english/index.htm

For input and output from the computer (with the Hammerfall) I use a Behringer ADA8000 Ultragain Pro-8 A/D/A. Many will say that ALL Behringer products are bad. I disagree. This one is a great bargain. 8 AD/DA channels for input and output of digital audio into and from computer, 24 bit ADs and DAs, Mic preamps, lightpipe ADAT i/o. I have no problem with these preamps. Until recently I had a Groove Tubes VIPRE preamp and loved it but frankly for most voiceover work I do now, the VIPRE was overkill. The Behringer unit works really well for voiceovers.
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Old February 9th, 2007, 11:58 AM   #9
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Richard,

Though I don't own an RME card, they seem to be the choice of the top composers that I know. A solid recommendation.
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Old February 10th, 2007, 10:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst
Richard,

Though I don't own an RME card, they seem to be the choice of the top composers that I know. A solid recommendation.
Simply the most trouble free setup I've ever used--they really do good work on their drivers too. 24 channels of zero latency lightpipe i/o.

It works great with all my software too: Vegas, Sawstudio, Gigastudio, Cool Edit (yes I still use that too), Sound Forge, etc. Lightpipe is such a great way to go if you can afford it. RME has some super options for preamp/AD/DA units too although they are very pricey.

I have both the Hammerfall and the Hammerfall DSP (in two different machines of course) and even though the Hammerfall is 7 years old now its still a great card and you can even do live headphone monitoring with it when using Sawstudio and Vegas.
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Old February 11th, 2007, 10:31 PM   #11
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Thanks for answering my questions. Problem is, I received more answers than my limited mental capacity combined with utter lack of experience can digest properly. Iíve spent the last few days trying to answer my own questions but Iím hoping someone out there wouldnít mind holding my hand to get me across the street.

1. I assumed I didnít need a preamp because the ME 66 didnít need one when I corrected in post with adobe premier. But that assumption seems wrong now. So if I buy the Rode NTK, what preamp should I get? And this is going to sound really stupid but I just assumed I could plug the NTK or NT3 into my vx1000. Wrong again, right? Do I need to use my laptop or computer to record the music through the aforementioned preamps? Or do I need a dedicated computer with an RME card for this?

2.Would a Beachtek be good enough? Next year, I hope to buy some wireless lavís for more doc work. Is there a preamp that will be good for wireless lavís and recording music or should I keep them separated? If I buy the V1 do I even need the beachtek?

3.What a great idea to create your own music. Is there a program out there that would let me, a la Ennio Morricone, set Vivaldiís four seasons, say, to a harmonica?
And the copyrights are confusing, when I contacted East West about composing my own music they said if I composed something to be sure if it was protected or not I had to clear it with them. This worries me a little, if I what a create is original and not a feedback loop should I still be worried about getting bit in the back if something were to ever make money (more of a pipedream, than a worry).

4.My local store has pop filters. I was going to buy one pronto. Are there any that I should avoid or are they all about the same.

5.Very sorry for the long, involved questions but the recent answers have created more questions for me. Even if a person could answer one question that'd be great.
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Old February 11th, 2007, 11:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Buys
1. I assumed I didn’t need a preamp because the ME 66 didn’t need one when I corrected in post with adobe premier. But that assumption seems wrong now. So if I buy the Rode NTK, what preamp should I get? And this is going to sound really stupid but I just assumed I could plug the NTK or NT3 into my vx1000. Wrong again, right? Do I need to use my laptop or computer to record the music through the aforementioned preamps? Or do I need a dedicated computer with an RME card for this?
Yes I would use a preamp or a mixer (which of course has preamps in it and may be your best solution for now). You have a signal problem trying to plug a balanced signal from a mic like an NT3 or NTK directly into your camcorder (if nothing else you have the physical problem of the connectors -- XLR vs 1/8" mini plug). I use my computer to record everything. If you want to do that you need a sound card thats decent and RME is one solution. You need an external AD / DA unit and preamp (or one with both integrated) and lightpipe I/O to go to the RME card (this is a standard optical interface that was made popular with the ADAT line of multitrack recorders).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Buys
2.Would a Beachtek be good enough? Next year, I hope to buy some wireless lav’s for more doc work. Is there a preamp that will be good for wireless lav’s and recording music or should I keep them separated? If I buy the V1 do I even need the beachtek?
Yes a Beachtek could serve this conversion function also. A good preamp is a good preamp and one kind will work for all types of mics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Buys
3.What a great idea to create your own music. Is there a program out there that would let me, a la Ennio Morricone, set Vivaldi’s four seasons, say, to a harmonica?
And the copyrights are confusing, when I contacted East West about composing my own music they said if I composed something to be sure if it was protected or not I had to clear it with them. This worries me a little, if I what a create is original and not a feedback loop should I still be worried about getting bit in the back if something were to ever make money (more of a pipedream, than a worry).
This is what Midi sequencers do so well. As long as you have the midi sequence for whatever song you like, you can experiment with changing the instrument voices for each track until you have what you like. Yes--even harmonica instead of violin for instance. I'm not sure what East West is saying other than maybe if you are using samples or someone else's Midi sequences that would need to be cleared. Your own music is your own music and you need to copyright that for yourself. Where it gets sticky is if you're using someone elses loop as part of yours--did you buy a license and did that license give you unlimited or limited rights to use in your own compositions? Usually YES is the answer. You need to look at the licensing for each of your samples, synth patches, loops, etc. to know for sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Buys
4.My local store has pop filters. I was going to buy one pronto. Are there any that I should avoid or are they all about the same.
Most of them are pretty okay. I started out with a wire hanger and a panty hose stretched around it. Many start out like that but we all eventually graduate to a real pop filter...
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Old February 12th, 2007, 12:50 AM   #13
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Something to make a little clearer. I think I see one point you may be stuck on.

1). Record video and audio with camcorder.

So when you are recording sound during video, you will probably want to just let the camcorder do its job to sync sound (most often dialog) with video. Take your Rode mic into a Beachtek and then that goes into camcorder mic input. The Beachtek becomes a preamp of sorts and also takes care of physical adaptation between different kinds of connectors involved in the Rode mic and what your camcorder expects. Original sound and/or dialog is recorded in this way.

2). Import video/audio to computer

Next you import sound and video into computer through Firewire. Or perhaps you just recorded directly into the computer with something like DV Rack to skip the import step but still the effect and setup is the same. You still would have taken sound thru the camcorder for a DV Rack setup.

Video and audio are in computer now as an AVI file probably. Ready for directly editing. You may do a rough edit or even most of the editing at this point and render out again. This new file is the one you'll use from now on. Put the old one away--you won't need it much anymore unless you need to change the editing.

3). Add music/sound effects/other audio sweetening to edited version.

Here's where the sound card, midi interface, sound recording software, midi software, etc. come in. You haven't used this stuff for anything yet until now. Well, you may have heard the original audio through your sound card during editing but thats about it.

a). Music options.

You will for the most part probably make a midi composition and then do other adjustments to it when you sync it to your audio/video setup. You would record this music mixed down to a stereo WAV file (preferrably 48KHZ 16 bit). So you start out in something like Cakewalk and record your midi part with whatever synths you like. Work all that out and record the stereo result.

For music, you may also just lay down a royalty free music track you bought somewhere and skip your own composition. Whatever.

Or you can just record music direcly into Sawstudio or Vegas audio tracks in perfect sync with video (and its original recorded sound too on another track).

b). Voiceovers, sound effects, etc.

You can record extra dialog, voiceover, add sound effects, and whatever else is appropriate as new tracks that go along with the music. You've got 72 stereo (or 144 mono) tracks with something like Sawstudio and quite a few tracks with Vegas--not sure what the limit is there but its a lot. There's no need to do the stereo mixdown for your music composition with a Sawstudio type solution. You can just have the multiple tracks of music and instruments as tracks along with voiceover and sound effects. The stereo mixdown is only necessary when your limited by tracks or your setup.

You can do all of this step with anything which has the concept of reliable multitrack audio. Any program which will let you do multiple tracks of audio in perfect sync with video will do here. I'm not aware of many other solutions other than Vegas or Sawstudio that let you do that with a video track involved other than using a SMPTE sync solution--which is another piece of hardware to consider then (SMPTE capable midi interface).

So you finish all your audio, master it out to a stereo track--16 bit and preferably 48KHZ sampling rate and you have a new stereo track for your video to replace the original one you recorded with the video.

Then you drop the new audio track in sync with the video on your video editor, mute the original track, finish any other editing, special effects, titles, etc. and render all that out to a new AVI or MPEG2 (to go to DVD) and your done for the most part.

So your sound card helped you with inputting multitrack audio and monitoring the result of not only the currently recording track and what's going onto it but also previously recorded tracks. Not every sound card will let you do this!

RME cards have the monitoring capability for example. If you have a mixer, that's another way to do it. The combo of Sawstudio and something like a RME Hammerfall sound card IS a mixer inside of a PC so that's all you need along with a multiple input / output AD DA unit and preamp(s). I haven't used a mixer in years since Sawstudio (and computer hardware speed) became more sophisticated in the last four years. Sawstudio and other multitrack software also lets you add effects to tracks like reverb, eq, compression, etc. Compression and EQ may be the biggest single help in making your audio sound more professional and not so MUDDY!!!

Your midi interface lets you input midi data from a several octave keyboard midi interface and also lets you drive multiple outboard synths if you like. Gigastudio replaces outboard synths with something inside a computer but would optimally run on its own computer and is best separate from this other stuff. There are, of course, other software solutions than Gigastudio but that's the one I use and am most familiar with. Some are synth generators and some are samplers like Gigastudio.

Does this scenario make clearer the differences of where you need what tool for recording, music, etc.?

Its really a lot to think about and it takes a while to understand where all the parts go and what they do and when they do it.
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