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Chris Young
Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:30:57 pm

When I first started filming, I believed that good sound quality came from wishing really hard. Sometimes that worked out, but sometimes it didn't. A couple of years back, I discovered that a $40 lavalier mic upped my odds considerably. It introduced a low-level hissing, but it made the speaker markedly louder; when I dropped the volume to an appropriate speaking level, the hiss wasn't noticeable. This kept me happy since about '07.

I'm sure you audiophiles are cringing already. I'm not proud, but this is how I've been doing sound. It's not a strong suit of mine, I admit.


Suddenly I have a job where the client actually knows something about audio. We'll be filming a number of interviews outdoors. Most will be with a single interviewee, but I can't guarantee there won't be group interviews. He wants the sound quality to be "excellent, at least."

Honestly, I'm lost and scared. And cold. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated; although I'd like to mention that my understanding of audio in general is weak. I may or may not be able to follow technical details.


I have four problems, as I see it.

1> I'm pretty sure I'll need a better lavalier, one that doesn't introduce hiss. When comparing them, most of the descriptions make a little bit of sense, but the only thing I really fully understand is price. That's why I have $40 mics.

2> I'm worried that if more than one person is speaking, any lavalier will be worthless and I'm back to square one. I have two shotgun mics for this type of situation; but, to be honest, they're terrible. They're not good for much beyond grade school plays.

3> I've heard that sound quality is best when it's recorded to something other than the same tape that holds the video. When I suggested this to a friend in radio, he strongly suggested I look at the Zoom H4n. I looked at it, but didn't understand why I might want one or what exactly it would do for me. It was embarrassing.

4> I'm going to be outside. As a general rule, I only film B-roll outside because I can never get any sound to work properly. This may be a function of my cheap-o mics, or maybe I'm doing something wrong. Either way, I've got to learn to get good vocal quality soon.


If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on any of these four problems, I'd appreciate it a lot. I need to move past wishing for good sound, and the options available are bewildering and confusing to me.

edit: Money is tight enough that I don't want to throw it around, but I imagine I could probably come up with something in the vicinity of 2k if I shuffled some budget around -- provided that whatever I got would be useful to me in the future, as well. Much more than that would be pretty difficult at this point. Such are the times.

---
Novamation Studios
http://www.NovamationStudios.com


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edward  chick
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 28, 2009 at 11:32:10 pm

Do yourself and your client a favor...hire your local friendly Location Sound Recordist. Yes, he or she will cost you money, but your ass will be saved and you will keep your client:)
Ed
"skilled labor isn't cheap, cheap labor is not skilled"


edward chick


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Jordan Wolf
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 28, 2009 at 11:55:28 pm

I have to agree with Edward on this one - you need to get outside help.
You are about to get WAY over your head - your nondescript explanations of the audio gear you have proves it to me further. You may get to the point of providing for a client in a similar manner down the road, but for now the best course of action is to get someone who knows what they are doing.

Saying, "I'm sorry, I can't help you but I know someone who can," is never easy, but it shows maturity and good business ethic.


On the plus side, see if you can take more of a supervisory role in this matter, rather than the hands-on/gear provider and operator. Then you can add that to your list of skills.

*side note* - For me, I don't care who you are - if you come to me asking for help and I can't help you but know someone who can, I'll refer you to them. Maybe that doesn't make business "sense", but I think it's the right way to go since it gets the client the best service possible.

Wolf
<><


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Ty Ford
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:21:38 am

Hello Chris, and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

I'm make it three out of three. Where are you?

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Chris Young
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:03:36 am

Thanks for responding, guys.

I'm in Bemidji, MN -- we're more into mittens than media. I don't know exactly what the clients did to find people for this project; but I was given the impression that I was the only one who was even interested.

Basically, it's six weeks living out of a car, getting multiple interviews every day in almost two dozen states, for not really much money. They've even asked my help to find another cameraman, but I haven't been able to find anyone amongst my contacts who's able to drop everything else for a month and a half, leaving behind their work and families.

Like I said, I'm not sure where they looked, but I think I'm the only one who answered.


I'm really excited about this job; but then again I'm not a family man and I can safely close the business doors since I'm the only employee. I think my situation is somewhat unique in that regard -- and it's unquestionably unique among the people I know and trust to do good work.


Wolf: I certainly agree with you. It seems to me that if you send someone away with a recommendation, you don't get their business. However, they appreciate it and are more likely to spread good word-of-mouth about you. Alternately, if you do it and do a crummy job, they'll never cross your door again -- nor will any of their friends.


---
Novamation Studios
http://www.NovamationStudios.com


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Ty Ford
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:23:40 am

Chris,

This sounds like one of those Craig's List deals. I was going to forward your post to a list of location audio guys, but I don't think any of them would be willing to live out of their cars.

Sorry,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Jordan Wolf
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:15:48 pm

One other thing I should add (albeit a little late):

See if you can tag along with the person you hire. I bet they'd teach you some tricks/tips and could inform you of why they are doing the things they are, etc.

Always be looking or new ways to implement the knowledge you already have. Learning is a life-long process that should never end - see what you can get out of this.

Wolf
<><


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Craig Alan
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on Apr 30, 2009 at 1:40:36 pm

Some thoughts:
Since you can’t find or afford an audio tech:
Since 2K is your budget:
Since you will be shooting outdoors:
First make it clear to your client that excellent at least sound doesn’t happen with a one-man crew and a tiny budget.
For any of the pros on these forums to help you, you need to define your needs much more specifically.
What camera will these interviews be shot with?
If the cam itself has decent audio with xlr connections, then I would not use some of the budget to record audio independently.
It makes a huge difference if there will be more than one speaker at a time.
The best sound quality for the buck is wired hand held mikes … if they meet your needs.
I see no reason that the mike can’t appear in an interview shot.
Outdoors is a challenge. Will there be wind noise?

What are you shooting exactly? Can it be done with video on location and a voice over or interview shot under studio controlled conditions?

I would start with a sound devices mixer. Great long-term investment.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/292980-REG/Sound_Devices_302_302_Port...
Get the case with it or a portabrace case. Look at the other accessories. Get a ton of batteries. Mixers eat them.

Sennheiser MD46 - Cardioid Handheld Dynamic ENG Microphones http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?ci=0&shs=Sennheiser+MD46+-+...
Are good interview mikes. I’m sure at different price points the pros here can make other recommendations. Look at the accessories at this link for windscreens.
Get some good quality xlr cables of different lengths.
We are about at the $2k budget and all these things will last for years and be a good investment. Later you can invest in cordless and lavs and ask here about specific needs.
I’m not an audio guy but make do on low budget do it yourself stuff. One thing you might consider is checking out college level programs that might have some great students into audio who might come along for the experience and be happy for free food and a small salary.
It is very hard to concentrate on sound and shooting at the same time even if you know both. Tell your client that.




OSX 10.5.3; MAC PRO 2 X 2.8 GHZ (EARLY 2008); FCP Suite; Sony camcorder vx2000/pd170;Canon xl2; Pana consumer cams; write professionally for a variety of media;teach video production in L.A.


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Chris Young
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on May 1, 2009 at 5:26:25 am

Hi, Craig. Thanks for your thoughts.


There's a general consensus that I need to be as clear as possible with the client up-front, however much pride that involves swallowing. That's not... fun... but it's certainly good advice.

At the end of the day, I'm an editor. My office is set up to handle post, and I really only venture into the actual production phase tentatively and sporadically -- which is part of the reason I'm so nervous. But, as the COW tells us, "Always get in the limo," right?

I have two cameras, the Sony HDR-HC7 and HDR-HC9. They have no xlr connections, just a little mic jack and a hot shoe (which only works with Sony attachments).


"It makes a huge difference if there will be more than one speaker at a time."

It's bound to happen at some point, but I don't know how much or how often. I'm not sure anyone knows.

As I understand it, I'll be following around a group who is interested in the power of forgiveness. They'll host some seminars, hold some religious ceremonies, and talk with people across the country in a six-week whirlwind. I try to capture a representative slice, and grab interviews with people walking by. Someone will be with me, and he'll ask them what they thought of the message, what experience they've had with forgiveness, what things are too hard to forgive, etc. Meanwhile, I film everything I can.

There will almost certainly be wind noise.

There are a few interviews which will be very formalized and are already scheduled, with questions partially scripted. However, they will not be held in a studio, as we're on the road. They're more likely to be held in private homes, hospitals, or conference rooms.

Again, I'm in charge of preserving these moments. Voice-overs and studio conditions just aren't going to happen.


--

re: college students

Unfortunately, it sounds like there were some college seniors who were interested in tagging along for free food. When the schedule was finalized, however, we lost them all -- going along would have meant missing graduation. I'm not sure why they wouldn't join later, but it's not my call.

--


I've looked over the links; thanks for including those. The mixer page had another link to an explanatory video. I thought it was well done and informative.

I'm going to talk with the client again and try to get him to define "excellent." I'll also put in a pitch for opening up the search for sound guys again. Hopefully, if someone who already has this equipment gets on-board, I won't have to spend the last of the money before the job's even started. Even if I make some great investments, the thought of ending a six-week job with less money than when I started makes me a little queasy. That was okay for the first couple of years, but too much more of that and I'm in trouble.

Of course, even if someone shows up who knows what he's doing and has the proper equipment, am I out-of-luck because I have no xlr connections in my camera?

Has anyone tried recording without a breakaway cable, then synching it manually later? Is it as awful and tedious as I think it might be?


Once again, thanks for writing. I appreciate everyone's input a lot.

Chris

---
Novamation Studios
http://www.NovamationStudios.com


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Jordan Wolf
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on May 1, 2009 at 7:37:44 am

You have many questions...I'll try and answer a few before my brain decides to quit for the night (please excuse any poor/improper grammar and spelling).

You sound like you are going to be doing mostly run-and-gun audio and a few sit-down interviews. My advice, if you are going to do this, is to buy a wired lapel/lavalier microphone and one 50ft. microphone cable. You'll have to find one that can run off of AA batteries since your camera does not provide (enough) power to the microphones.

You'll also need a way to interface it with your camera's particular inputs. Looking at the user manuals for both of your cameras, I would recommend the Tecnec XLF-H8-10. Go for the 10-foot-long model with the right-angle minijack (it puts less strain on the mic input on you camera and is less-likely to get snapped off). It might not be the EXACT one I linked to, but look for one that is made for use with DV cameras. They can inject noise into the audio if not interfaced properly.

Use of wireless microphones is not something to be undertaken without the knowledge, expertise, and experience that allows them to be set up and used properly. This applies especially in and around big cities; frequencies would have to be adjusted almost daily, if not multiple times a day.

A wired lapel/lavalier microphone will also give you better fidelity and reliability than wireless. There is less to troubleshoot and you should be able to find spare parts at most music stores. Make sure to get one with windscreen/pop guard accessories - they are lifesavers in the field.

As for recording to a separate, I don't think this is a situation with that is a wise choice. You kind of want the audio to sound "in-the-field", don't you?

The above setup will let you clip the mic onto the interviewee (think of them as wearing a polo shit - try to clip the mic around the 2nd button from the top), check/set your levels, get the footage, unclip the mic, and move on. Oh, and gaff tape the connector to your camera so it doesn't get yanked and break something.


Best of luck and keep us informed! :-)

Wolf
<><


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Craig Alan
Re: Filming Outdoor Interviews
on May 3, 2009 at 3:26:23 pm

I would still get a 302 mixer and mount the cam on one of these:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/502679-REG/Matthews_M25_M25_Tripod_Sy...

Get an xlr to mini plug cable. Velcro the cable to the tripod to take the weight/strain off the mini plug. Get MDR7506 SONY Headphones. Monitor out the camcorder not the mixer.

You can plug either a hand held mike or lav into the mixer. Or up to three of them. Lav placement takes set up time, some practice, and experimentation. A good handheld is pretty intuitive and the interviewer can share it with the interviewee(s). more run and gun. Has a live feel rather than a rehearsed feel IMO.

Either way you are under $2000 at BHphoto and you’ll have some solid gear for the future.

If you have a rental house near you, I would write up a budget for your client based on his needs and see if he is willing to spring for the rental including a better camcorder, travel bag, etc.



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