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What about a host and up to three guests?

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Ty Ford
What about a host and up to three guests?
on Sep 26, 2007 at 12:49:24 pm


After responding to a personal post today, I thought I'd pass along the info.

In his email he asks about audio for interview suiituations and how to get the best sound.

He adds that."I will be taping 1 party, 2 party and 3 party interviews for starts anyway. Eventually i will jump to audience reactions but need to learn video production and lighting before i jump to that level."

"I've learned thus far that I do not want omni and getting to the point of avoiding lavs too. I do not believe the sound waves on a shotgum will serve my purpose as I am trying to avoid rear sound. The interviewees will be approx 5-6' apart. I am looking at the cardioid boom mics. But confused as to whether i should find a mic that provides slight side sound versus all front. I say this because the boom will be positioned above the speakers and the interviewees may move or sway slightly. Perhaps one boom mic would be sufficient for my current needs?"

---My answer......(thanks to a really good cup of coffee)

If I may, you won't be able to cover interviewees who are 5-6 apart with one boom unless their responses are very calculated and everyone knows who is going to do what next. Multiple booms might work if you split track the booms and then clean up the off axis sound in post. If you are shooting with one camera, unless you're shooting film style, given the way video works, having interviewees 5-6 feet apart will look like they are miles apart.

Cardioid boom mics CAN be used, but seldom are unless the acoustical environment is very controlled. They just pickup too much side to side.

A great deal depends on the acoustical environment. If you're in a normal house or office, the nearby wall and ceiling surfaces will combine to create a very roomy (not good) sound. If you can do it on the stage of a theater, the larger open space will be your friend.

Yes, good boom mics usually do sound better than lavs, but unless you have the acoustical environment and multiple boom, mic, boom operators and someone to mix them on the fly, you're better off with lavs. Unless you can record each lav to a separate track and combine them by removing the off-axis audio on each track in post production, you still need someone to mix the audio while you are recording. That's not an entry level position.

An automixer can help, but my experience is that automixers all need a little help (someone tweeking the levels) because people's voice levels usually change during shooting.

"Id prefer to budget under a grand however, willing to spend 1500.00 on mics. I am using a dvx100 and not sure whether the xlr inputs will be good enough for Vegas or if id be better off with a mixer. If a mixer is necessary to get overall quality sound i would have to budget under 1000.00 for 2 mic inputs for the mixer. It is with hopes you have time to help. Or at least provide me with a consultation fee and what that includes."

---OK, hang on, here we go...

A good mixer is always a good idea. It has better preamps and really good limiters that prevent overs and let you record at a higher level.

So, with the above information, (at least two guests and and on-camera host and one camera), how much post do you want to do?

If you want to capture the audio as a finished track, you need a more sophisticated front end.

If a high degree of portability isn't needed, a Shure FP410 automixer (which can also be operated in non auto mode) would work. It's a 4 channel mono mixer with two identical mono outputs that can go right to your camera. Someone would still need to actively mix the show. While the FP410 has a good limiter, the FP410 has limited EQ. You will find that people's voices are VERY different and usually require some EQ to sound right. To make that happen, you need a mixer with EQ and someone who knows how to use it.

If you see a real video studio console, you'll notice that each channel has some sophisticated EQ. That EQ is not there as an afterthought. But I digress.

Some cart-based location audio mixers have EQ, but they are very expensive. The Sound Devices bag mixers have low cut, but sometimes that's not enough. The expectation is that audio recorded in the field will be tweeked in post production using a console in a video studio or in software such as Final Cut Pro that supports individual audio tracks. That's great, but it also means that each voice has to go on a separate track so it can be processed and mixed. Your camera only has two tracks so that means you can only have two sources unless you record the audio to a separate multitrack recorder. (more time spent, but better final results.)

You might get by with a Sound Devices 302 mixer to feed a mix to the camera. That would be OK for a host and up to two guests. For any more guests, you would probably want a Shure FP410 automixer (feeding one of the SD 302 inputs) for guests, so you can control their volume somewhat automatically and the host mic going into one of the other SD302 inputs. You would mix that in two track mono directly to the camera.

Another option would be the Sound Devices 442 four channel mixer. Great but expensive and no auto features. More attention to keeping good levels would be needed by a good operator.

If you're near AC power, the simplest solution may be something like a small Mackie mixer with a limiter inserted across its stereo output buss. The Mackie has some EQ, perhaps enough. I don't like the sound of the Mackie as much as the Sound Devices mixers and the Mackie doesn't have a limiter (which you would need). Some sort of dbx limiter would do. A dbx 160 comes to mind.

Still with me?

Lavs.....A lot of good ones out there. Two types; end address and side address. Examples of end address are Sony ECM 77 or Countryman B6. End address mics are usually oriented so they point toward the mouth. Even though they are omni mics, they are directional at mid and high frequencies. Because they point to the mouth, you get a bit more direct sound. Side address lavs, like the Countryman EMW sometimes called "paddle mics" because they look like little paddles (or squashed lozenges). Their diaphragms normally point outward from the body instead of directly at the mouth. This makes them sound less direct, more natural and they pick up a bit more of the room and they also can pickup more of another person who is standing immediately in front of the person wearing the mic.

Hope this helps,


Ty Ford

Ty Ford's "Audio Bootcamp Field Guide" was written for video people who want better audio. More at:

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