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Old June 7th, 2007, 03:43 PM   #1
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Need Advice for Audio on TV Production

Hi all,

In about two months my partner and I are going into production on a television show. It's shot as a 'faux-documentary' (think along the lines of The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development - yeah, yeah, I know - but this one is different! Honest!). We have a small production crew and a little money to spend if necessary and I'm wondering what would be the best way to record sound on the production.

We've considered using a boom mic & operator as we have on other projects, but with the 'off the cuff' style of the show, we're concerned that a boom operator might get in the way. (It's of paramount importance that the actors have the freedom to move and act spontaneously during the shoot).

My other thought is that since it's set up to be a documentary, it would be perfectly okay for the talent to have lav mics attached to them. It seems like this would be the way to go, but if so - a few questons:

Since I'll often have more than two mics recording at the same time, what do I record into? (My camera, the Canon XH-A1 only has two audio inputs). Any affordable options here?

Are there any good quality, affordable wireless lavs that will work for this sort of option?

Does anyone have any other recommendations? I'm sure there are plenty of things I haven't though of. Any input would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Luke
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Old June 7th, 2007, 03:59 PM   #2
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Luke,

sounds like a fun project! One of the first things you'll need to decide is if it's OK to mix all mics to two channels, which you can then record directly with your camera. Then it's just a matter of mixing whatever number of lavs you have to the two channels. I would direct each mic either completely to the left channel or completely to the right channel, and assign them such that the odds of having two people talk at the same time on one of the two recording channels are minimized. How many mics are we talking about, by the way?

The alternative would be to use a recording device that records multiple channels simultaneously (such as a FireWire soundcard or mixer connected to a computer). This is a more elaborate setup; the advantage is that it gives you a lot of flexibility by controlling the volume and panning of each mic individually in post production, when you can afford to experiment. Since you said that the actors will do things spontaneously, a sound guy with a field mixer doesn't have much of a chance to adjust the recording levels on the fly, because he/she cannot anticipate what's going to happen. With this setup, you would still want to get a stereo mix from the mixer into your camera to make synchronization easier.

- Martin
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Old June 7th, 2007, 04:13 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply, Martin. It is going to be a fun project, I think! Just to make sure I'm clear on what you're saying, I could either buy an external mixing board which would allow me to mix all the audio down to two channels (with more or less fixed levels on each mic) or get some sort of portable multi-track recorder w/ a number of inputs, which would be more work, but would allow me to mix individual mic levels in post. Yes?

Thanks,
-Luke
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Old June 8th, 2007, 09:51 AM   #4
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That's right, Luke. Obviously, which way you go determines what equipment you'll need and how you should set up for the recording. There will still be a ton of options and choices once you make this decision, of course, but I think this is the first question you need to answer.

If you tell us which way you want to go (mix with a field mixer at the time of recording and feed stereo into the camera, vs. record each mic indivisually and do all mixing later) and how many mics you need to be able to handle at once, we can point you more clearly to specific solutions.

- Martin
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Old June 8th, 2007, 01:23 PM   #5
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Thanks again for your time, Martin. After researching some equipment costs, etc. based on the solutions you mentioned previously, I've realized that it's just going to be too expensive to individually mic each actor with a wireless lav (I didn't realize they were quite so expensive) so it looks like that's not going to be an option. I talked to my partner about this yesterday and we're going to try some creative set ups depending on the individual scene. Things like hiding mics in props, camera or boom mounted boom mics, an occasional lav.... basically we're hoping that with a couple of good shotgun mics and a couple of other misc. mics strategically placed, we can get the sound we're looking for w/out having to have a boom operator on location. Is this feasible or a pretty tall order? At the end of the day the number one concern is that we have good quality audio - and if having a boom operator is the only way it's going to sound right, then that's what we'll have to do.

-Luke
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Old June 8th, 2007, 02:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke Hill View Post
Hi all,

...We've considered using a boom mic & operator as we have on other projects, but with the 'off the cuff' style of the show, we're concerned that a boom operator might get in the way. (It's of paramount importance that the actors have the freedom to move and act spontaneously during the shoot)....
Boom guys get in the way? How is that possible? :-)

If you get a good boom operator...he will stay out of the way. Right behind the cameraman is often a good spot. My problem has been that the director or producer gets in my way (as a boom operator). If you want really good audio you've got to get that mic in the right position.

Give the boom guy a chance. Just make sure you communicate to everyone your concerns about movement and plot it out so the boom guy can know right where to be at all times.

By the way, what shotgun mic are you planning on using?
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Old June 8th, 2007, 03:14 PM   #7
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Thanks for the advice, Jim. I've worked with boom operators before, but never on one of my own projects, so I'm glad to hear from you. Is it your opinion that using a boom operator (with a good shotgun mic) would give me better quality audio than strategically placing mics in the scene?

Also, the mic that I've been using is a Sennheiser ME-80 Shotgun mic w/ the k3-U Power Module. Would this be suitable for operating on a boom?

Thanks!
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