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Old January 16th, 2003, 10:18 PM   #16
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Aaron, it's a good point about the size, but in that case you lose the benefit of being able to monitor the recording and watch the levels during the take.
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Old January 18th, 2003, 12:06 PM   #17
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Synching MD500 Sound With DV

Just a follow-up on using the MD500 with DV.

Importing audio from the HHb MD500, while certainly an extra chore, is relatively simple. Here are the dance steps I followed with Final Cut Pro and Peak DV 3.10.

1. Connect USB cable from MD500 to Mac. Power-up the MD500 (very important for the next steps).

2. Open Peak DV. From the menu, select Audio > Record Settings. Then click the Device and Sample Format from the resultant panel.

3. Click the Source tab and select the "PORTADISC" from the list of available sources. Note that this seleection will not appear if the MD500 is not powered-up or connected to the Mac properly.

4. Returning back to Peak DV's main menu you will now follow the same procedure as you would for recording a clip. That is, click the Record button to bring-up the record control panel. Press Play on the MD500 and Record on Peak DV.

5. After grabbing a clip in Peak, convert the sampling rate to 48KHz (it comes in at 44KHz) and save as an .AIF file.

6. In Final Cut Pro, capture the video clip if you've not already done so. (I kept the onboard mic on, to make step 11 simpler.)

7. Now import the .AIF file containing the MD500 audio.

8. Place the video (and its on-cam audio) clip onto the timeline.

9. Now drop the .AIF onto the timeline in a separate set of audio tracks adjacent to the video clip's onboard audio tracks.

10. Turn the Waveform Display for the sequence "on". (Sequence > Settings > Timeline Options).

11. Align the .AIF clip with the on-board audio, using your slate clap (or whatever you used for synch cue) as your landmark. You should clearly see both of the spikes from the clap on both audio clips. Alternately enable/disable each audio source as you scrub back and forth to get perfect synch. When you think you've got it, activate both audio sets and listen closely. If it sounds like there's reverberation or two "claps" you synch is off by a fraction of a frame or so.

12. Once you're reached perfect synch you can drop the clip's on-board audio and lock the MD500 audio to your video clip.

This looks like a great deal of work and complexity. Certainly it's more work than just using on-tape audio. (It looks like it would be a bit less work if you were using a camera that used standard time-code recording, since the MD500 can handle that, too.) But if you need the advantages that external audio can offer it's certainly worth the effort.
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Old January 19th, 2003, 12:52 AM   #18
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More About the HHb MD500 PORTADISC

For those following this thread and considering purchasing the HHb MD500 PORTADISC recorder, I thought I'd add just a few more remarks which might prove helpful. The Operators' Manual is complete but terse and offers few application tips. I cannot claim to have mastered this great piece of gear yet but I have learned a few tidbits. I won't attempt to recite the manual here, but rather provide a few comments that aren't noted explicitly in the manual or in the LAFCPUG review that Peter noted earlier in this thread.

RECORDING
MiniDiscs are recorded by tracks as a way of organizing the disc's contents similar to that of a cd.

The PortaDisc's out-of-the-box settings are a bit unusual with regard to its use of tracks. By default, it begins new tracks according to a dB threshold setting! That is, when it detects the mic's signal level drops below -30dB it will close the current track and start a new one. (This drove me a bit looney for a few hours, as it was unexpected.)

As a practical matter for use in audio recording for videography and filmmaking, I think most such users would prefer that the disc's tracks correspond with shots or some similar measure relating to their shooting. So, the first adjustment at-hand will be to defeat this feature by:

1. setting the Auto-Increment Function to Manual and

2. setting the Auto Start/Cut Recording to No

as documented on pages 18-19 of the manual.

With this change, you will have to start new tracks by pressing the Mark button, typically at the start of a shot.

It is possible to label each track, but that's likely to be far too cumbersome in practical use. Much more practical for the sound recordist/boom operator to manually log the tracks with pen and paper.

Playback (for capture)
By default, the MD500 operates just like a consumer MiniDisc player during playback. That is, it will begin playing from its current position and will continue playing each subsequent track until it reaches the end of the disc's contents.

For videographers who have marked their tracks carefully according to shots and scenes it will be most practical to playback individual tracks when capturing the sound to their computer for editing.

So, to disable continuous play you'll have to set Auto-Pause Mode to Yes according to the directions on page 20 of the manual.

BATTERIES
The HHb MD500 PORTADISC can use a/c power and/or 8 AA alkaline or NiMH rechargable batteries. Its power adapter can also recharge a NiMH cartridge in-place. (Make sure the "charge" switch in the battery compartment is set to "On" for this feature). It is also supplied with a spare battery cartridge, which you'll probably use if you plan to record in the field for extended periods. The MD500 drinks power like an ex-Enron exec. I recommend getting the highest capacity NiMH batteries you can find (I use 1700 mAh Energizers) and make certain they are at full capacity before setting off on a shoot.

SCHLEPPING
The carrying case supplied with the HHb MD500 PORTADISC is basically functional but very spartan and not very weather resistant. If your budget allows, I recommend upgrading to the PortaBrace case specifically designed for this recorder. It's well-designed and meticulously detailed to provide easy access to all controls and cable ports. It also offers the comfort of PB's highly-padded adjustable strap. As with other PB cases it's also constructed of weatherproof, nearly indestructible heavy Cordura nylon fabric.

This may be more than most of you wanted to know about this unit. But I discovered a relative paucity of videography application information about it on the Web and, since there's increasing interest in it, I thought I'd add a bit more first-hand knowledge for y'all.
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Old January 19th, 2003, 04:01 PM   #19
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Thanks for the in-depth review, Ken! I'm wondering if this is a product I might find useful. I'm shooting a MiniDV feature this summer with a Panny DVX100, and I know very little about sound recording on location. Is this MD500 Portadisc appropriate if I'm planning to transfer this project to film later on? Or should I just stick with the on-board XLR's of the DVX100? Do you know if there's a big difference in the sound quality between the two? I'm not worried about the extra time and labor of synching the audio to the picture, but the sound quality and ease of use while recording is very important to me. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Old January 19th, 2003, 05:06 PM   #20
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Jaime,
I've never used the DVX100. I know that Jay Rose, a sound recordist frequently writing for trade mags, remarked in a recent article that it has very good sound compared to its peers.

Location sound is a whole cult onto itself, as you've probably begun to learn. (I'm not a 'sound guy' either.) Professionals will argue about mic and recording arcanities to the death. I never thought that the sound through my XL1s/MA-200 was bad at all.

Personally, I got into this by searching for a way to break the physical link between the camera and the mic while still providing the boom operator with headphone monitoring abilities. (I've since found a more economical way.)

But I still think that the MD500 is a valuable tool to have. I've not tested it extensively yet but I did do a head-to-head test with two Sony ECM55B lav mics, one wired to the MD500, the other wired to my XL1s/MA-200. They were at least equivalent in quality with the MD500 perhaps being a bit smoother.

So off-hand, looking at your project and the early reviews of the DVX100's sound, knowing nothing else I guess I'd recommend you consider the wireless boom technique in the thread above. The MM-1 preamp costs 1/3 the price of the MD-500. You can get a very good wireless system for $500 or less. Much easier of the budget.
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