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Old June 20th, 2006, 08:02 PM   #1
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Best Sound for the 100HD

I get e-mails all the time and many times I like to share the answers with everyone. I'm not, as you all know, a true expert on any one part of production but I do know alot about alot of production necessities. I have to, as a producer and the one who's responsible for the product and the bills so I select the equipment I think best for the productions. And I surround myself with alot of very smart people. And I put this in the ProHD area because it's an important part of the HD100's overall results.

The writer wrote:
Hi Jonathan,
I just had a call from someone asking if I knew of any good radio systems for shooting events. I thought I'd ask you what that system we used in Tunica was and if you have an idea what a 4-radio set might cost.
Thanks man,

To this I would respond, and I invite comment on this from all on the board, that I use two different systems. The one I've used for a long time is the Sennheiser EW100 or rather its predecessor, the steel-cased EW series. I don't know about the new ones but the older ones like we use have been stalwart perfromers and, despite their bad rap as an entry-level system, it's a good, dependable system that's anything but entry level. The problem is that there's a huge difference between the cost of the Senns and their next level up. As the writer said, (and I'm respectfully omitting his name but urge him to confirm what I'm saying because he's a professional in every sense of the word) we used Senns in the dirt and dust and heat of Tunica, MS in April on horseback from hand-held units and they never failed once.

The Senns carry a good starting price of about $600 which make it a good, affordable partner for the 100HD. There are plenty of true "entry-level" systems out there for less than the EW series but the difference between them and their lesser priced contenders is night and day; as much as the difference between the Sennheiser and our new system, the Lectrosonics which run about $3500. For my money and results, you don't want to go lower than the Senns. If anything, you what to go up to the Lectros. Now before you discount the Lectrosonics because of price, if you can afford them, they're the way to go and you need to know that more and more independents will be able to afford them very soon because Lectro has a new all-digital system coming out which means that the prices of the used and new analogs now in use are going to be shrinking faster than you can imagine.

While the Senns are a great partner for the 100HD, the camera is a pro and your work will benefit greatly when you match a pro with a pro like the Lectros, especially in crowded (as in electronically) atmospheres where bleedover and interference are devastating to productions. Also, the Lectros are balanced and the EWs are not. Also, remember that there are 2-parts to any system; the unit and the mic. I'm not really a fan of the mics that typically come with the Senns and always use Countrymans (Countrymen???) or better with them. But no matter what your choice is, the mics are better purchased separately from the systems to get exactly what you want and everyone has their favorites. Mine happens to be the Countryman. The downside is that the mics, typically $300-400, can double the price of the system but if you need wireless, these two are your best choice. That said, know that your best bet is wired and if you can find a way to hide the wire, I always do it.

The reason I write this in the 100HD section is because those using the ProHDs are going for professional results and sometimes we don't accord enough importance to sound in our productions. We strive to get color and shutter and speed settings just right and worry about drop-outs and the difference in tapes and filters and the like but don't really think too much about sound. It's so important to a complete production that I wanted to share this response with all of you. Sound is so tricky in fact, for me anyways, that I don't go anywhere without a competent sound man like Tim McPartland I had on Saturday. We were providing our own sound equipment for him but he's used to his and ended up mixing his with ours to get just the right sound I liked. And I'll tell you, I didn't have to have too much input. He knew what I wanted and nailed it the first time out both wireless and wired. But the point is he had an array of good stuff (see "Equipment" on www.2nd-Unit.tv) and knew how to use it. Sound isn't like video. There's no auto-anything so you better know what you're doing because nothing can detract more from an otherwise good shoot than bad sound.

So that's my 2-cents. I'm sure there are others out there who have opinions and that the writer will appreciate hearing them.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 08:19 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Ames
So that's my 2-cents. I'm sure there are others out there who have opinions and that the writer will appreciate hearing them.

Nope, that pretty well sums it up.

We have two of the Senn G2 kits, and although they are solid little units, I'm not super happy with the sub-par lav's included. It makes me want to run a shotgun near and wired instead each time, at least until I throw down another $600 on good lav's. It's a shame that the G2 kits don't cost a little more and come with better mics.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 08:26 PM   #3
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You know, this baord is really good at coming up with work-arounds, necessity being the mother of invention and all and indies having to look at saving a buck on everything. Like the Fujinon lens. No, it's not the best there is but with knowledge, a basic understanding of the mechanics of optics and imageing and carefull lighting and setup, it is a good, serviceable lens covering most instances well. Could it be better, yes, but it's serviceable. But there's simply no work-arounds available for sound; it either works well or it's useless and ufortunately the Senn mics simply don't get the job done. I wish I had a better answer for everyone.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 08:45 PM   #4
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Amen!

They do make a hell of a tie clip, but that has done nothing for my audio just the same. I would prefer a little warmer, richer sound, but the kit mic is what it is. Keep us posted if you find a way to improve the performance... like maybe loaning it to a friend who loses it, forcing you to buy a better one.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 09:09 PM   #5
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As always, trust is what this board is built upon. If you have a gig coming up and you need a couple of lavs, just let me know. I'll send them over to you to use. Just send them back as soon as you're finished. My wife and I travel the US in our Motor Coach with the horses for 10-14 days at a time and still find little towns with no locks on the doors. We just pull up in their yards, say we're driving through and inevitably they cook us dinner, breakfast and wish us well the next morning. It's all about trust and honor and we return the investment in others. So if you need a couple of Countrymans, just ask. We'll Fed Ex them to you if you promise to send them back immediately when you're through. We need them for our work here in LA. We have six with some as back up but there are times when we have 6-camera shoots going like in Tunica.
Jonathan
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Old June 20th, 2006, 09:45 PM   #6
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By the way, I've been meaning to compliment you on your caption for a while now. To many, it may sound like an off-handed i-ching thing but it truly is the essence of waht we do; filmmaking. My favorite is

THE CREATIVE works sublime success,
Furthering through perseverance.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 09:59 PM   #7
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I'm really pleased with the g2 performance and the lav's pickup and dynamic range. Using the using the SKP100 plugon transmitter (to a Senn e835 or Shure SM58) for podium work has been really good as well. None of the wireless solutions I've ever used come close to a wired XLR mic, however, for the money and ultra convenience of wireless, the senn evolution g2 series is well worth the bread.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 10:19 PM   #8
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All false modesty aside, my friend Stephen's The Man. He's forgotten more than I'll ever know but then again it all goes back to personal preferance. The EWs I got with the Senns pick up too much ambiance room noise and if they came with direcionals, they might be better but it goes back to the old , "the beauty is in the eye of the beholder" addage. For me, I like the C-mans but you can always rent and make your own decision. That's what I did when wsitching from SD to HD and settled on the JVC and bought 6 of them. Again, just my 2-cents.

BTW, Stephen, are you flying in for CineGear? Love to se you.
Jonsthan.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 10:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Ames
BTW, Stephen, are you flying in for CineGear? Love to se you.
Jonsthan.
I wish I could but we are in full swing here. I tell you what though, at our next production meeting I'll raise a Red Stripe in your honor amigo!
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Old June 20th, 2006, 10:39 PM   #10
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So if you need a couple of Countrymans, just ask. We'll Fed Ex them to you if you promise to send them back immediately when you're through.
That's more than a gracious offer Jonathan, it's downright big hearted. Thank you. I will more than likely just break down and order a couple better lav's than the ones they provided with the kit, as we should have done 6 months ago. Too many toys to buy and try, too little time and money, as always. ;) I will check out the Countrymans while shopping however, thanks for the reference.

Jonathan, I agree, Stephen you got it going on. And although I love the SKP100's that came with the kit, I don't share your appreciation for the lav's. I also found them to pick up too much room noise, no matter how we set them. They are also just a bit sharp, I spend too much time fixing the audio in post just to stand it.

Stephen, do you locate them low on the sternum as they suggest or closer to the talents neck with the range lower? It might be your method that is working for you and mine not for me.
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Old June 20th, 2006, 11:23 PM   #11
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Well, what lavs do you like. Let me know and I'll buy a couple, try them out and see what I think. If I don't like them, I'll send them off to you free of charge...ASAP. Now you can't beat that offer!
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Old June 20th, 2006, 11:28 PM   #12
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Wait a minute. I thought you didn't like the Countrymans. I agree, the lavs on the Senns, IMO, suck but I do think they're serviceable compared to the other "entry-level" wireless mic sets' mics. Almost made yourself a few franklins, there!!! What are your preferences for lavs?
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Old June 20th, 2006, 11:44 PM   #13
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Stephen, do you locate them low on the sternum as they suggest or closer to the talents neck with the range lower? It might be your method that is working for you and mine not for me.
Yes, you must adjust the db level down to get the result you would expect from a senn product. When the e2 setup comes out of the box the wireless mics are way to hot. Try going into the menu and under the "Sensit" item and change the default sensitivity to -30 and then move the bug up to the lapel if needed and if you can conceal it.

Of course there is no way the mic can pull off that buttery sound you get from a condenser VO mic but if you pull the levels down you'll be surprised because the RMS comes in around -16 or -20 instead of -6 to -9 (from the mic itself). @ -9 RMS there is a good chance the waveform will clip. If you don't adjust it your "sensit" the audio will be hot as hell and the audio will clip. Don't look at the levels in camera or in your DAW, instead, look at the levels that are indicated on the e2 reciever first, and get it right. Then set the levels in camera or in your DAW. If you're already setting levels correctly and it still sounds like crap then you must have got a lemon mic IMO.

have fun guys..
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Old June 20th, 2006, 11:56 PM   #14
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Sorry Jonathan, that comment was meant for Stephen and was regarding the Senn Lav's. My sentance structure was poor there. As slang goes, "my bad".

I have no experience with the Countryman products, so I may just start there when looking for another set. We don't have any talking head stuff on the schedule for a couple months that I know of, I'm sure we have some I'm not aware of however, but no idea exactly when just the same.

I might take you up on the offer to see how they compare to our current set, when the times comes of course. Better audio from the get go with less time spent in post should convince our CEO to spring for a set, he's good that way.
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Old June 21st, 2006, 12:13 AM   #15
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Stephen,

They do come hot don't they?! I have never been able to zero them out with any mic kit, buggers ARE hot. And yes, we have been setting them just as mentioned. Kit first, then camera, and using a good closed head set to monitor levels, etc.. But being that we have been clipping them on the talent lower on the chest, we average around -20 on the sensit. I'll play around with it a little higher up on the talent and at -30 next time around.

I don't think we have a bad set, I'm just looking for that "buttery" sound you mentioned, and likely expecting too much from a low $ kit lav. They do work okay, but when I'm not pressing my nose to the LCD reviewing HD footage, I'm listening too close for audio that could be improved. Audio is not my bag, but I find that I'm not just looking but listening to details more than ever before.
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