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Documentary Techniques
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Old April 4th, 2006, 10:42 AM   #31
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Audio Gear For Documentary

I have a question for all the audio experts on this forum. I've learned a ton from all of you by lurking (I'm primarily a video guy) and now have a specific situation that I'd like some advice on. I run Shack Productions, a production company in Chicago, IL. I am in the process of putting together audio gear to be used for a documentary that we'll be filming in Poland and Israel for two weeks later this Spring. My production company has done primarily narrative work in the past and used a shotgun. However, I am putting together a couple wireless lav rigs for this doc. The doc will be fairly "run and gun" and has a pretty limited budget so we have to do things on the cheap.

I'm wondering if I could get some advice about my gear purchases, any set up gotchas to watch out for, and general advice about my approach. FYI, we will need to mic guides who will be leading groups of teens through Poland and Israel for two weeks. We will be putting the mics on different guides everyday and shooting a lot of exterior "walk and talks".

Here's the relevant gear that I'm considering for the doc:

Already own:
- Camera: Sony PD150
- Shotgun Mic: Sennheiser ME66
- Mixer: Samson Mixpad 4 (Just purchased off of ebay based on Douglas Spotted Eagle's high praise)

Considering purchasing:
- 2 Cheap MiniDV cameras (Used for participant's video diaries)
- 2 Wireless Receivers: Audio-Technica Pro 88W - Camera Mountable VHF Lavalier System
- 2 Lav Microphones: Either Giant Squid or Audio-Technica 830mW Omnidirectional

Note: I understand that a well placed cardoid mic could get better sound than an omnidirectional, but I think our shooting circumstances may require more latitude for incorrect (or accidentally bumped) mic placement. I also understand that there are much better wireless receivers out there than the AT Pro88W, but for our budget, they seem to be the best alternative. We will not be shooting at great distances from the talent since we know the potential limitations of these receivers.

Currently, here is my plan:

Run the ME66 shotgun into the Mixpad 4 with a hard left pan and put the two lavs into the Mixpad 4 with hard right pans. Then, run the left and right Mixpad outputs into the PD150 so that they are separated for the edit. I am anticipating using the lav channel for guide dialogue and the shotgun for ambient noise, participant reactions etc.

Here are my questions:

1. Does the general approach of panning the shotgun left and lavs right and separating them when feeding into the PD150 make sense?

2. Am I going to need an attenuator before going into the PD150? I assume I will go into the PD150 as line rather than mic, but I can't quite wrap my brain around how to calculate whether or not I'll need an attenuator between the mixer and the camera.

3. What are the steps that I should take to make sure my levels are set correctly? I assume I should set the PD150 levels to a fixed point and make adjustments on the mixer. What should the PD150 fixed level be? And, are there good steps to setting up the levels correctly on the mixer for each new person (or location) that we'll be shooting? Along these lines, should I monitor with headphones in the Mixpad or the PD150? I know some higher end mixers allow you to switch back and forth...

4. The Audio-Technica Pro 88W wireless receivers output 1/8" Mini unbalanced. Is there a way I can get this back to balanced to feed into the mixer? Do I need to?

5. Any thoughts about whether I should purchase the Audio-Technica 830mW Omnidirectional or the Giant Squid equivalent instead?

6. Any recommendations on cheap single chip mini dv cameras that get decent audio? I'm planning on buying a few off of ebay. They will be used for video diaries. I'm fine (in fact want) the video to look different than the PD150, but know that good audio will be critical.

If you're not familiar with the Mixpad or Wireless rigs, here are links to specs:

Mixpad:
http://www.samsontech.com/products/r...cs/m4_spec.pdf

Pro 88w:
http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/wl...ec4/index.html

Giant Squid (not sure which mic I'd use specifically):
http://www.giant-squid-audio-lab.com...-micline1.html

Sorry for the long post, but wanted to be organized to help you answer my questions effectively. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help.

Matt
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Old April 5th, 2006, 03:08 PM   #32
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Anyone willing to take a crack at it?

I know it's a long post with a bunch of questions. I'll focus it up a bit...

Other than wondering if my general approach makes sense, the question I'm most curious about is how to properly set levels on the PD150 and the Mixpad mixer?

I assume I should set the PD150 levels to a fixed point and make adjustments on the Mixpad mixer. What should the PD150 fixed level be? Are there good steps to setting up the levels correctly on the mixer for each new person (or location) that we'll be shooting?

Thanks...
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Old April 5th, 2006, 04:52 PM   #33
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Reference materials

I'm not dodging the questions per se, but it might be worth your while to check out two excellent books on audio for video: Ty Ford's 'Audio Bootcamp Field Guide' ( www.tyford.com ), and Jay Rose's marvelous book: 'Producing great sound for digital video' ( www.dplay.com ). there's a ton of really useful information in both of these..
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Old April 5th, 2006, 05:21 PM   #34
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Thanks for the input

I actually own Jay Rose's book and read it about a year ago. Unfortunately, I let someone borrow it and haven't had much success getting it back. I didn't have many opportunities to apply the lessons from Jay Rose's book over the past year so a lot of the details have slipped into the foggy areas of my brain...

I'll just go out and buy it again and will definitely look into Ty Ford's book. From reading his posts on this forum I know he's quite knowledgeable.

Thanks again,

Matt
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Old April 6th, 2006, 10:56 AM   #35
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my suggestion to you is not invest in garbage and hire better equip , dont know about Poland , but in Israel you can get what ever you like for your porpoises and budget , not to mention you will carry less and would have back up from renting company .
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Old April 8th, 2006, 04:07 PM   #36
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Rental Company Thoughts

Do you have recommendations for rental houses in Jerusalem? At this point we're not going to be renting gear because we've already purchased equipment, but it's always good to have a back-up.

Thanks.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 04:47 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Gabor
Do you have recommendations for rental houses in Jerusalem? At this point we're not going to be renting gear because we've already purchased equipment, but it's always good to have a back-up.

Thanks.
the 95 % of the reputeted places are in tel aviv
if you will be in trouble call me and i will trll you who s to contact
the places i deal are 90% lectrosonics only rentings , no low end wireless
email me to kaizero1@gmail.com
ill back to you with my phone number
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Old April 9th, 2006, 08:42 PM   #38
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Oleg, I just emailed you for contact info. Thanks a lot.
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Old July 7th, 2006, 08:07 PM   #39
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which sennheiser mic for documentary?

I am shooting a documentary with an XL2 that consists of multiple interviews. So far I shot one interview with an Azden SGM-X but wasn't completely satisfied. I am going to rent a mic for the rest of the interviews and was trying to decide between a Sennheiser MKH-416 and a Sennheiser ME-66. The MKH-416 is only 5 bucks more so money is not an issue. I am going to be mounting the mic on my XL2. The MKH-416 retails for about 500 more than the ME66 so that seems like the obvious choice but I'm wondering if anyone has experience with these 2 mics and could make a suggetion.

Thanks
-Jim
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Old July 7th, 2006, 08:57 PM   #40
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Mics

I've used the 416 in an interview, mounted on the camera... and it sounded pretty good, but not as good as a sennheiser lav mic fastened to the interviewee. For me at least, the audio coming from the lav mic in this situation was much deeper and richer.

As people have been saying here, I guess the 416 (shotguns in general) doesnt work well mounted on the camera unless the camera is very close to the subject.

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Old July 7th, 2006, 09:09 PM   #41
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Go for the 416 its probably the best short shotgun available, even though its the most expensive.I bought an AT879 because of the cost outlay of the 416 and now regret it.The sound quality is just not as sweet as the 416. I will now have to fork out and buy a 416 for my next doco as well as a Senn radio lav mic set up.If you don't use a boom pole with the shot gun, be sure to use a good quality isolation mount that sits the mic a couple of inches away from the camera body.If the mic sits snug against the camera body it will pick up the mechanical noises.
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Old July 8th, 2006, 11:53 PM   #42
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Normally I would use a lav but I'm doing a bunch of spur of the moment interviews along with the planned ones so it would be kind of hard to use a lav. I think I'll go with the 416. Is the Rode SM3 On Camera Shockmount
good enough to eliminate the mechanical noises from the camera?
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Old July 9th, 2006, 01:45 AM   #43
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Sennheiser 416

Years ago I was researching what mic I should buy to combine with my video camera to shoot feature-type material on video for practice.

After deciding on the 416 because it seemed to be the one mic that everyone referenced their mics by, I talked to a salesman at a local sound equipment store, and once we got into a good rapport, he told me that a Sennheiser rep had asked them NOT to sell the mic if at all possible, because once someone bought that mic, they never bought another mic!

Needless to say, I bought the mic, and have been quite happy with it.

That being said, you always need to have the mic as close as possible to the sound source to get great sound. Test it (or any mic) out from varying distances from 1 inch to 30 feet and you'll see where your best distance is. Then plan accordingly. Just because it's a shotgun mic doesn't mean it can do miracles!

It's best not to put the mic on the camera unless you're shooting very close. But if you don't have a boom op you can at least put it on a C-stand from the arm and get it at the right distance from your talent for an optimal source/background levels ratio.
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Old July 9th, 2006, 03:40 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Herman
Normally I would use a lav but I'm doing a bunch of spur of the moment interviews along with the planned ones so it would be kind of hard to use a lav. I think I'll go with the 416. Is the Rode SM3 On Camera Shockmount
good enough to eliminate the mechanical noises from the camera?
Camera noise picked up by a mic on camera comes from two sources. One would be conduction through the mounting and a good shock mount would certainly help but the other is picking up sounds through the air - motors whirring, camera operator breathing, etc and there's nothing a shock mount will do fo those.

The second problem with on-camera is that it's just not close enough to the subject for good pickup. If at all possible, work with a sound person and get the mic up closer to the interview subject either on a boom or handhelp.
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Old December 3rd, 2006, 07:14 PM   #45
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Audio for documentary

I am shooting a documentary that will incorporate mostly interviews and scenes, with some live band music recording.

I plan on using a sound guy here in Los Angeles for the brunt/majority of all the audio and wondering how well lav's versus boomed audio works with the HVX, and what would be a good microphone for the camera on some rare interviews where I may not have a sound guy...Some have mentioned the Sennheiser ME66? Any ideas?

Also, what is the best way to record a live music band situation audio-wise? From a mixing board in stereo? Probably drums, bass, striungs, piano and vocals -- just trying to figure out what is the best route?

Thanks for da help -- just in pre-production mode and seeing which way top start planning for.

Cheers,
JC
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