High production documentary interviews - Cardioid boom vs Lavalier - Help Appreciated at DVinfo.net

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Old February 19th, 2007, 07:48 PM   #1
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High production documentary interviews - Cardioid boom vs Lavalier - Help Appreciated

I am in pre on my first big (feature-length) project, a documentary on the social, economic and educational realities of Richmond California (a gross oversimplification of the focus, but hey). The over-whelming majority will obviously be one-person interview, so I want to get the set-up right. We are looking to give this as high production value as we can with our budget, and are purchasing either a JVC HD110U or a Cannon XLH1, and an M2 or Brevis adapter.

Basically, I am trying to decide between a simple lav setup for my interviewees and a cardioid (like the Rode NT3) on a boom.
I watched Ty Ford's excellent tutorial http://homepage.mac.com/tyreeford/.P...al%20VIdeo.mp4 and was disappointed with the vague presence of the lav mic. I am much more interested in the punchy and rich sound of the cardioid and shotgun (though I understand the latter's unsuitability indoors).

My question is, essentially, whether or not operating a RODE NT3 cardioid on a boom (or some alternative) is too difficult and full of possible complications for a crew with no previous experience with boom operation. Of course we are going to do a lot of dry-running with our equipment so we could practice if it is worth it. Is it to hard to get good at operating a boom quickly?

Basically, given the pros and cons of both setups, which would be best for our situation? Difficult question, and I'm more fishing for anything you can impart than full-on answers. Sorry for the long post. Thanks a lot in advance.

Brian
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Old February 20th, 2007, 12:32 AM   #2
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The more we know, the more questions we ask...

Hi Brian,

Wow, an audio engineer could make a full course on this topic. Yes, there's a world of difference between a skilled and novice boom operator. Of course, getting the right equipment for a given shoot (environment) is critical. And when it's all said and done, you'll find this is all an iterative process - the more you know about equipment tradeoffs, environmental conditions, types of shoots, audience perceptions and expectations, size and expertise of the team, post-production editing tradeoffs, etc, and all the interactions of the above, the easier you'll find it to pick you particular "sweet spot".

Not knowing all the particulars of your shoot, it would be hard for some to make more than an off-the-cuff response to your question. I assume you're familiar with the inverse-square law of sound propogation but if not, that's a good area to start your search on the internet.

Good luck, Michael
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Old February 20th, 2007, 02:06 AM   #3
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Michael,

Thanks for your response.

I wish an audio engineer would give me a full course on this topic. ;) As far as the inverse-square law (with which I am familiar), I assume you're asking in regards to the boom operation? If so, then yes I do understand.

What more would you need to know about my shoot to give me a more informed answer? I thought I was fairly specific. Please tell me, and I can include any info that might help.

Thanks,
Brian
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Old February 20th, 2007, 02:40 AM   #4
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I too prefer the sound of a hyper condenser mic instead of the lav for indoor shoots. I just bought the NT3 along with my new XH-A1, but haven't used either one in an interview yet.

I also bought a little preamp/ USB interface with limiter for cleaner dialogue and VO work.

I'm curious if you're doing a one-person interview why you'd need a boom op. Unless the interviewer is also on camera (which complicates your camera AND lighting setups). Otherwise, just set the NT3 on a stand below frame, or on a fixed boom above frame. If the mic can't capture the interviewer's voice (You??) with equal quality... just loop it in post.

I bought Ty Ford's book and it was very helpful for location sound.

HTH,
Brian Brown
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Old February 20th, 2007, 11:10 AM   #5
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While the NT3 is a good mic, and works well on the boom arm of a fixed mic stand, you might find it a bit heavy to hang out there at the end of a 10 or 12-foot hand-held boom pole. Take a look at the AKG blueline SE300/ck93 hyper combo or the AT4053a hyper. (The film industry standard arguably the Schoeps CMC641 but that's three times the price.) Your boom operator will thank you for it.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 12:24 PM   #6
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Why not just record both ways? Most cameras have 2 channels of audio. You don't need a stereo signal for talking. Record the lav to one side and the shotgun to the other, then you can duplicate the left or right channel depending on what sounds better in post.

I've been an audio engineer for 18 years. I have found that most of the time, when you hear "bad" audio, it's just because it was set up all wrong. There are gain settings on lavs, as well as receivers, and then again on the camera. Some people think they can just put it in Auto mode and everything will be fine, but that's not always the case. I would also suggest recording everything to an external recorder. you can get 2 and 4 track recorders that will typically give you alot more user adjustable features that may come in handy for better sound quality.

People underestimate how important sound is. We just got a call this morning to do a re-shoot of a project, and although the client had issues on their side, not the audio, it gives us a chance to change some things we could have done differently. With shotgun's (or most condenser mics for that matter), you have to be very careful of your audio surroundings. Noise from cameras, people shuffling, fans, dimmers, even people talking outside will be picked up in your audio. Just take that into consideration.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 01:24 PM   #7
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I'm no pro, but I do have an interest in sound and have helped run sound for several 1 person interview shoots. This is assuming that the lav and booms are positioned correctly and gains are set correctly: Do both. Personally I think a boom almost always sounds more natural, but for 1 person interviews, the slightly in-your-face sound of a lav can work better.

Regardless of this issue, sometimes the lav works better, sometimes the boom works better. Maybe the boom is picking up some background sound too much. Maybe the lav is picking up clothes rustling, etc. If you have both, you can take your pick.

For most seated interviews, I've had no problem stringing up a hyper on a stationary boom.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 05:25 PM   #8
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Round 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Orser
Michael,
<clip>
What more would you need to know about my shoot to give me a more informed answer? <clip>
Thanks,
Brian
I know you're not trying to play 20 questions, but without a lot more specifics posting back and forth on this forum isn't particularly efficient. Heck, we don't even know if it's inside/outside, ambient noise including acoustics/wind/business/vehicles, if talent is man on the street/hired talent, stationary/walking interviews, whether it's one-time shots or talent will do retakes, post-production editing environment, amplitude variances in talent, etc. I see others have made some assumptions in some of these areas but all to often the story unfolds after 10 posts.

Regardless - good luck and congratuations on your big shoot.

Michael
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Old February 20th, 2007, 07:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Nistler
I know you're not trying to play 20 questions, but without a lot more specifics posting back and forth on this forum isn't particularly efficient. Heck, we don't even know if it's inside/outside, ambient noise including acoustics/wind/business/vehicles, if talent is man on the street/hired talent, stationary/walking interviews, whether it's one-time shots or talent will do retakes, post-production editing environment, amplitude variances in talent, etc. I see others have made some assumptions in some of these areas but all to often the story unfolds after 10 posts.

Regardless - good luck and congratuations on your big shoot.

Michael
Yeah, but what else is he going to use regardless of where he is filming? If he is filming outside versus inside, do you think there is some other magic technique other than using a lav or boom to get the sound? Doubtful, other than smacking some windscreens on.

He did make this statement: "I am much more interested in the punchy and rich sound of the cardioid and shotgun (though I understand the latter's unsuitability indoors)." This leads us to believe that he is in fact doing some shooting indoors, and probably where original "assumptions" are coming from.

Last edited by Douglas Spotted Eagle; February 20th, 2007 at 07:47 PM. Reason: meta
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Old February 20th, 2007, 07:56 PM   #10
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Thank you all. Very good info here. I had (stupidly) never considered the coverage of micing both ways. It seems an excellent idea and I will certainly propose that to my crew.

Brian: Thank you. I was under the impression that, due to sound propagation laws, one must stay with the interviewer when using a boom. i.e. you have to follow their head even if they just move a few inches, as sound intensity drops so quickly with distance change. Is this true? I'll also check out Ty Ford's book.

Steve: Good point, especially considering the fact that whoever is going to operate it won't be an expert. I'll check those out. Thank you.

Kit: Once again, thank you for the excellent idea of using both techniques. I keep hearing that about the importance of sound, and am newly sensitized to it while watching/working. I was already planning on recording to an external, but also sending to my camera (xlr) so as to be able to easily sync, and as a backup. Is that a good idea?

Tim: Thank you too, for the idea of using both methods. I am planning on adopting it. As far as using a fixed boom, I repeat an earlier question: I was under the impression that, due to sound propagation laws, one must stay with the interviewer when using a boom. i.e. you have to follow their head even if they just move a few inches, as sound intensity drops so quickly with distance change. Is this true?

Michael: I apologize for not making some of that clear. I will be mainly indoors (thus the hypercardioid over shotgun choice), with almost all one-time interviews. In post, I have access to any software I might need, and some access to hardware.

Thank you everyone. Keep em coming, please. This is really helping.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 08:15 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Orser
Kit: Once again, thank you for the excellent idea of using both techniques. I keep hearing that about the importance of sound, and am newly sensitized to it while watching/working. I was already planning on recording to an external, but also sending to my camera (xlr) so as to be able to easily sync, and as a backup. Is that a good idea?
YES! Please, if at all possible, record to as many sources as you can. You can always mute them in post if you won't be using them. It also helps for syncing everything up. All you have to do is match the peaks in the audio. If it's all a continuous shot without stopping the camera/other audio sources, you can line it up once and like magic...everything is synced.
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Old February 20th, 2007, 08:24 PM   #12
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Great. Thanks Kit. That's the plan. Can you recommend an external recorder? Give me different price ranges if you can. Thanks a lot. :)
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Old February 21st, 2007, 03:55 AM   #13
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There are a number of good stand-alone audio recorders you might consider, at various budget points. A file-based recorder is the norm these days, recording in WAV or BWF either to an internal hard drive, a flash card, or both. Examples of some to consider, with their prices on B&H...

Tascam HD-P2 ~$1000 (stereo, timecode)
Sound Devices 702 ~$1900 (stereo)
Sound Devices 702T ~$2500 (702 with timecode)
Sound Devices 744T ~$4100 (4-channels, timecode)

Whether you record to a separate recorder (double system) or in-camera (single system) don't forget to include a field mixer so the sound person can control levels, monitor, etc. (See Ty's post on 'Why a Mixer?' that he put up just today!)
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Last edited by Steve House; February 21st, 2007 at 05:38 AM.
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Old February 21st, 2007, 05:24 AM   #14
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The good stuff

Rehi Brian,

Okay, it sounds like your environment is "mostly" controlled (indoor) and with a fairly hefty budget, go for it. The Tascam HD-P2 recorder is rugged with time-code generation and is a step up above the Marantz PMD-670 (however another company does offer a mod on it to reduce its pre-amp noise).

For my meger needs, I get by with Countryman E6 lavalier and Octava MK012 hyper-cardiod (although it's REALLY sensitive, requiring a Rycote BBG and Windjammer even inside to do its best).

But if you'd like the good stuff, in addition to Rode NT3 consider something like the AKG CK63 hyper-cardiod and C480B ultra linear module (about $1K). If you're really feeling flush, you could splurge for the Schoeps MK41 super-cardioid and CMC6 ($1.5K). Regardless, you're still probably going to end up getting a shotgun and lavalier for some of your outside shoots, if only as a backup device. And obviously you'll need to deal with different mics and associated gear for the issues we discussed previously (seems like you know the issues). BTW, I thought Ty gave a fairly good overview of the Countryman E6 - did you have a specific concern?

However, I haven't heard you discuss mixers (with critical headphone monitoring) for the boom operator yet. A high-end portable powered mixer (to also handle your outside shoots) would be something like the Sound Devices 302 (almost $2K) but you could settle for the SD MixPre ($700). And I'm sure you won't skimp on a so-so boom pole. I'm not far from Richmond - maybe I can drop in on you and say hi sometime between your interviews. On a side-note, I highly recommend Ken Metzler's "Creative Interviewing" if you haven't already read it - great book!

Good luck, Michael
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Old February 21st, 2007, 05:47 AM   #15
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From what I have read I'm afraid the simplest advice is to just go and practice EVERYTHING, it sounds like you have a total novice who has to learn a skilled job as a boom op to total novices who have to learn how to set up EVERYTHING , there is only so much you can learn asking questions, far more is to be gained from getting some practice, then ask about what went wrong, then try again and so on.

Fair enough you need to ask what equipment people suggest but do not underestimate the learning curve you face, only time doing it will help you.


As for gear, well if the majority is inside then recorder wise save yourself some money and head for the edirol 4 channel recorder, the pro version with timecode, great little unit for static or trolley based work, boom work that involves proper swinging then get yourself the AT 835, static inside work you won't go wrong with the Blueline, gives you options and is a great way to learn what different capsules do, for personal mics well in terms of packs the lower priced sennys are great for the money, you'll not go far wrong with them, mic's, well head yaself towards some Trams or Sanken Cos-11's but also despite them not being cheap the dpa mic (4071) is nice, with the benefit of being able to easily change the plug if you change pack manufacturer etc, means you don't waste any money in the long run.
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