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Old March 16th, 2007, 05:26 PM   #1
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Advice For New Filmmaker

I need some advice regarding the audio part of the movie making equation. First off, I determined the sound with the on-board mic for the GL2 is completely unacceptable. Now I need to decide what to do about it. The production is a short and a feature in a couple months. It's a basic drama so a lot of medium and close-up shots. I don't think a wireless set-up will be necessary yet and if we need dialogue audio on a wide shot I can do the blocking so we can get away with ADR later. In general, we are aiming for entry-level "professional" equipment. I am hoping to shoot the feature for about $5000-6000. I spent $2400 on a GL2 kit. We are going to spend around $1500 or so on lighting. I'm hoping to get audio squared away for around $1500 as well.

I'll start with a recorder. After looking around this site and a couple others, the Zoom H4 seems to be the best choice for us. I've also been looking at the Edirol R-09. I've also seem a couple people that use MiniDV cams as a recorder. What are some experiences using these on feature productions? The mics that have been recommended for my kind of use have been The Sennheiser ME66, Audio-Technica AT897, and the Audio-Technica AT4073a. Any other good mics in the $100-600 price range?

A lot of people have also suggested getting a pre-amp, like the BeachTek DXA-10 or the Sound Devices MP1 or MM1. I'm not sure we'll be using more than two mics at any given point during these productions so do I really need a mixer? Can I use the pre-amp to level the signal then patch that into the recorder? And last, what about audio software? Audition, Sonar, Pro Tools, Acid, and Cubase have been the main programs I've come across for PC. I would prefer a program that is a strong DAW as well, and if there is support for Reason that is a plus as well since I program music in that. Anything I'm not taking into consideration?

Last edited by Michael Grilo; March 17th, 2007 at 07:32 AM.
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Old March 16th, 2007, 05:56 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Grilo View Post
I need some advice regarding the audio part of the movie making equation. First off, I determined the sound with the on-board mic for the GL2 is completely unacceptable.
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Grilo View Post
Now I need to decide what to do about it. The production is a short and a feature in a couple months. It's a basic drama so a lot of medium and close-up shots. I don't think a wireless set-up will be necessary yet and if we need dialogue audio on a wide shot I can do the blocking so we can get away with ADR later.
So you don't expect to see their lips at all? How many shots in movies have you seen this in? ADR is not a cinch. It's used only to solve unsolvable problems. You "problem" can be solved with two wireless lavs and a mixer.

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Originally Posted by Michael Grilo View Post
In general, we are aiming for entry-level "professional" equipment. I am hoping to shoot the feature for about $5000-6000. I spent $2400 on a GL2 kit. We are going to spend around $1500 or so on lighting. I'm hoping to get audio squared away for around $1500 as well.

I'll start with a recorder. After looking around this site and a couple others, the Zoom H4 seems to be the best choice for us. I've also been looking at the Edirol R-09. I've also seem a couple people that use MiniDV cams as a recorder. What are some experiences using these on feature productions? The mics that have been recommended for my kind of use have been The Sennheiser ME66, Audio-Technica AT897, and the Audio-Technica AT4073a. Any other good mics in the $100-600 price range?
At this point, why use a recorder? Why not use a mixer (a sound devices 302) and go right to the camera with a good cable that has two conductors to go from the camera and a headphone return so you can monitor the camera from the mixer.

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Originally Posted by Michael Grilo View Post
A lot of people have also suggested getting a pre-amp, like the BeachTek DXA-10 or the Sound Devices MP1 or MM1. I'm not sure we'll be using more than two mics at any given point during these productions so do I really need a mixer?
Yes. You really need a mixer to make good audio.

Mixers are more than knobs that let you vary the volume.

1. They let you vary volumes without shaking the camera or getting in the way of the camera op.
2. You may need to do that a lot with some people. I ride gain even if one person is talking if their voice fades on the end of each line. You can only do this in a relatively quiet environment, otherwise you bring up the ambient noise.
3. Mixer preamps (good ones) sound better than camera preamps.
4. Good mixers have input transformers that scrape off RF before it get into your audio.
5. Good mixers have limiters that allow you to record hotter, keeping your audio further above the noise floor without distorting.
6. Good limtiers have EQ that lets you roll of LF HVAC noise before it gets into your audio.
7. Good mixers have mulitple outputs so you can feed more than one camera, or separate recorder simultaneously.
8. Good mixers make your sound better. If they didn't pros wouldn't use them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Grilo View Post
Can I use the pre-amp to level the signal then patch that into the recorder?
Again, I'd go with a mixer to your camera. I would NOT use a beachtek. You can grow into the Sound Devices 302 for years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Grilo View Post
And lately, what about audio software? Audition, Sonar, Pro Tools, Acid, and Cubase have been the main programs I've come across for PC. I would prefer a program that is a strong DAW as well, and if there is support for Reason that is a plus as well since I program music in that. Anything I'm not taking into consideration?
Do what works for you. I use ProTools,

Regards,

Ty
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Old March 16th, 2007, 10:21 PM   #3
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Ty said most of it already, just adding a further note regarding the DAW software you mentioned. Sonar, Cubase, Acid, Reason etc are all excellent music programs and sequencers but less adaptable to film/video sound design. Audition, Vegas, Nuendo and Wavelab, or the aformentioned ProTools, coupled with a selection of appropriate plugins, would probably serve you better for dialog and FX editing to picture and mastering.
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Old March 17th, 2007, 03:05 AM   #4
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I use Sonar for sequencing MIDI, but that's it. I typically mix/edit in Vegas.

ACID has the advantages of including MIDI functions (limited), and supports tempo changes (also limited) and loops (very strong), but only plays back pre-rendered video, unlike Vegas, which is a full NLE.

But with either ACID or Vegas, it's nice to also have Sound Forge to bend fold and mutilate a specific sound. After you've turned the lion's roar into a monster sound with SF, then bring it into ACID/Vegas to combine with other stuff. You don't always need Sound Forge - plug ins can do a lot, but it's a bit like adding a microscope to your science lab. You don't always need it, but sometimes you really wish you had it.
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Old March 17th, 2007, 10:44 AM   #5
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I shot several shorts on a GL-2, although I am not a professional (certainly not in the sound area). I'll share my experience.

I used the Sennheiser ME66 and ME64. IF you are going to buy a Sennheiser (one of the other brands might be a better choice) definitely get the ME64. It produces much less off axis coloration thant the 66. The 66 is basically useless indoors because of this. I still use the ME64 as my primary boom mic. If you run this mic directly into your GL-2 you will definitely need an adapter with an attenuator. These mics have very hot outputs that will overload the input on the camera.

I eventual bought a PSC DV PROMIX 3 mixer and have been very happy with it. Pros will not recommend it because it has built in limiters that cannot be turned off. But that little feature has saved my butt a couple of times.

Even with one channel of audio a mixer is really valuable with a camera like the GL-2 because it provides phantom power, level adjustment, and balanced audio. The PSC also provides a tone generator for the camera levels, line and dynamic mic inputs, headphone return/monitoring, adjustable bass roll off, and adjustable attenuations. All very handy.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 01:50 AM   #6
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Dude. Get a Sennheiser 416 and a phantom power supply and call it a day. Don't buy a mixer that costs the same price as the camera and record a 300 dollar mic. Diggity don't dual system record, this is Video. Save some dough for some nice headphones. Chuck says WORD.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 04:55 AM   #7
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Dude. Get a Sennheiser 416 and a phantom power supply and call it a day. Don't buy a mixer that costs the same price as the camera and record a 300 dollar mic. Diggity don't dual system record, this is Video. Save some dough for some nice headphones. Chuck says WORD.
Dude, how's he supposed to get that 416 to feed the camera since it is a balanced mic and he's using a Canon GL2 that does not have XLR mic inputs, dude? (OMG, how I like, hate, like teeny-bopper slang.) The 416 is a great mic, not bad advice there, but since he's going to have to lay out for a phantom power supply AND for an XLR/mini adapter such as a Beach if he goes that route, he might as well do the job right and make the long term investment in a real field mixer. See Ty's earlier post, the man knows whereof he speaks.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 07:35 AM   #8
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You could just hire a sound guy for your shoot (be cheaper and will come with more expertise and equipment)
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Old March 18th, 2007, 05:50 PM   #9
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As nice as it would be, a Sound Devices 302 is just not an option. Nor is a Sennheiser 416. The best route would probably be hiring a sound guy, but the whole point is to learn how to do everything.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 07:06 PM   #10
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And a sunny hello to Vienna, VA fom Baltimore.

Sometimes the best approach is to know what approach to use. In this case that might be hiring a good sound person, letting him get good audio and learning from him.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old March 19th, 2007, 01:53 PM   #11
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So now I'm thinking of getting the AT4053A first since I'm doing a lot of interior sound in these earlier productions. Then when I can, get an AT4073A for my outdoor audio. A lot of people seem to love these two mics, especially when a $1000+ mic cannot be bought. I think I might hold off on an independent recorder for now and just use either the GL2 or a friend's miniDV consumer camera to capture sound. Again, since we are doing mostly interior, I don't think having the mixer going into the camera will be much of a problem as far as movement around the camera is concerned. I still have no solid idea of what mixer I'd want. The PSC DV PROMIX 3, Sign Video ENG-44, and the Sound Devices Mixpre have been the only affordable mixers I've found that also have a decent amount of features. The SD Mixpre seems to be preferred out of those three.
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Old March 19th, 2007, 02:50 PM   #12
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The MixPre only has balanced line oute, not mic level outs. Check me on this, but I think the GL2 only has mic level ins.

Were I you, I'd go with the Sound Devices 302.

Regards,

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Old March 19th, 2007, 03:26 PM   #13
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Also, don't forget that renting this gear is a perfectly viable option. Even if you want to do-it-yourself, you can get a simple sound package for $75-$80 a day. Most places only charge 3-4 days for an entire week's rental, so depending on your shoot schedule, you could work with decent audio equipment for just a few hundred dollars.

I'm a little concerned because you listed your filming budget as $5-6K and my simple math shows all of that going into equipment purchases. What about budget for props, set decoration, wardrobe, etc. and most important of all, money to feed all the poor folks that will be working for free on this?
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Old March 19th, 2007, 04:31 PM   #14
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Check me on this, but I think the GL2 only has mic level ins.

Confirmed....and oh what a headache it can be when all you have is line level coming from the board. On the plus side, I can also testify to the ruggedness of the audio input in that I did not fry my GL-2s by having them hooked to line level stuff.

Randy
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Old March 19th, 2007, 05:03 PM   #15
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Confirmed....and oh what a headache it can be when all you have is line level coming from the board. On the plus side, I can also testify to the ruggedness of the audio input in that I did not fry my GL-2s by having them hooked to line level stuff.

Randy
You may not fry the electronics but you're likely to fry the sound as the incoming signal overloads the input and clips before it ever gets to the recording level controls. This is a classic scenario for the occurance of horribly distorted and clipped audio even though the camera's recording level meters looked fine when shooting. If you're getting line level sent to you, insert some pads in the line before it gets to the camera to bring it down to mic level - a Beachtek can help with this situation - or inserting your own mxer to take the signal from the house board and adjust the levels properly, especially one that also provides a limiter to handle the strong hits, is even better. If the dulcett tones of a female vocal end up sounding like frying bacon, that's a good place to start looking for the cause.
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