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Getting Into Film Audio

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James Alire
Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 18, 2010 at 7:55:31 pm

I have been doing audio professionally for a few years now, but it has mostly been in studio and live sound music recording.

I want to get into Production Audio for TV and Film. I have seen a lot of job posts lately of people filming out here and looking for boom operators with their own gear. I figured I need some gear first in order to get started. I have done some research on my own and put together a list of stuff to buy to get started.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=wishlisting&A=wishlistDet...

What I am looking for is some advice as to if this is enough gear to get started. I have a mixer and and matched stereo pair of mics on the list, but was wondering if this is something I could get away with buying at a later time.

Any advice from an experienced film audio engineer would be greatly appreciated.


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Ty Ford
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 18, 2010 at 11:18:08 pm

Hello Jim and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum,

A nice start. I've been doing location about for about 15 years. (hard to believe time has gone by so quickly). I'll make one swap; headphones Sony MDR 7506.

Shotgun mics work best in non-reflective environments. To understand why, watch this...http://gallery.me.com/tyreeford#100038

So you'll need a good super or hyper cardioid for interiors and slappy outside spaces

You'll also need a good mixer

and a mixer to camera (or recorder) cable

at least 2 wireless mics

two hardwired lavs

Regards,

Ty Ford

and lots of batteries.

PS: where are you?

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






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James Alire
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 18, 2010 at 11:39:13 pm

Thank you very much for your expertise Ty and the welcome.

With shotgun mics I chose the NTG-3, I like how it sound in a lot of the videos I have seen. I have heard the 416 is like an industry standard, but some say it is just a name. Wondering your opinon about this, since I am sure gigs could be lost based on gear alone.

What do you recommend for super or hypercardiod mics that work well in the field or are considered an industry standard?

As for the mixer, do you think I can get by with just the Tascam temporaily? I would love a SD 552 but can afford it. Could I get away with an SD Mixpre and some decent CF recorder?

in regards to the mixer to camera cable, are you referring to the beta breakaway cables?

For wireless mics, do you mean wireless lav mics or mics for broadcast/interview type stuff? What do you recommend for wired lav mics? Not too familiar with these types of mics.

Sorry for all the questions, but my budget is limited to about $3500 and I want to be able to get enough gear to get gigs rather than sitting there jobless with $3500 worth of gear.

I am in Phoenix by the way.


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Ty Ford
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:08:44 am

Hello James,

With shotgun mics I chose the NTG-3, I like how it sound in a lot of the videos I have seen. I have heard the 416 is like an industry standard, but some say it is just a name. Wondering your opinon about this, since I am sure gigs could be lost based on gear alone.

-- It's a name because it has stood the test of time, over and over again. The NTG-3 is a similar design. No doubt the folks at Rode took a close look at the MKH 416. Rode makes good gear. Will the NTG-3 enjoy the same heritage? Who can say. I reviewed the NTG-3 in 2008 when it came out. That review is in my online archive in the Gear Rview Mic folder: https://public.me.com/tyreeford You'll also need wind protection for the shotgun. Don't know whether or not you had that.

What do you recommend for super or hypercardiod mics that work well in the field or are considered an industry standard?

-- Top of the line is the Schoeps cmc641, then Sennheiser MKH50, then AT 4053b, then Audix SCX-1 HC, then Oktava MC012.

As for the mixer, do you think I can get by with just the Tascam temporaily?

-- No.

I would love a SD 552 but can afford it. Could I get away with an SD Mixpre and some decent CF recorder?

-- Try a Sound Devices 302.

in regards to the mixer to camera cable, are you referring to the beta breakaway cables?

--Yes, breakaway cables (beta or not) with a headphone return and at least one extra 20 foot extension.

For wireless mics, do you mean wireless lav mics or mics for broadcast/interview type stuff?

-- Wireless trans/rec with small lavs that can be easily hidden like the Countryman B6. Sennheiser G3 are as low as you want to go and you'll probably want new lavs like the MKE-2.

Above that are Lectrosonics, Zaxcom and Audio Ltd.

What do you recommend for wired lav mics? Not too familiar with these types of mics.

-- Choices are Countryman B6, Sanken COS-11, Tram

Sorry for all the questions, but my budget is limited to about $3500 and I want to be able to get enough gear to get gigs rather than sitting there jobless with $3500 worth of gear.

Can't say whether or not that's possible.

Regards,

Ty Ford

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






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Rodney Morris
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:06:43 am

Welcome to the forum James!

Unfortunately, $3500 isn't enough money to get what you need to be competitive in this business, unless you want to buy used equipment. Even then, you are severely limiting what you can do.

I recently put together a list of ENG/EFP audio gear for someone here on the forums. That list cost over $11,000 and that was a somewhat basic, but high quality, setup.

http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/30/864586

Your best bet to break into TV/ENG/EFP location audio would be to find a shooter in Phoenix who has their own gear and try to get hired by that person(s) for some jobs. Most shooters have basic audio gear. It would be a good way to learn the gig, familiarize yourself with what people use (and how to use it) and give you time to save money before making any purchases.

I would not rely on the TASCAM recorder as a field mixer for ENG/EFP productions. It doesn't include some features necessary to work on set/in the field (such as a tone generator for calibrating input levels on the camera, return audio for confidence monitoring, etc...). This recorder would work, however, on a film shoot where only two channels of audio needed to be recorded discreetly.

I'm a little scattered this evening, so this may not be as coherent as I would have liked. If you have any other questions, let me know. I have a friend who used to work in the Phoenix area as a sound mixer. He may have some leads.

Rodney Morris
Freelance Sound Technician/Mixer


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Sam Mallery
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 19, 2010 at 8:38:22 pm

You need a boompole on that list.

Wireless lavs are essential and unfortunately they're expensive too.

As far as breakaway cables are concerned, don't try to save a buck there (or anywhere in the kit, really). Get the Remote Audio brand. Their 20 foot cable is $240. You need it.

You could get away with the Mixpre as your mixer at first. The trouble is that two channels is very limited. I have a very basic kit with two wireless lavs and a boom and a 302, and I feel limited by having only 3 three channels just about every time I work.

http://www.sam-mallery.com


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James Alire
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 20, 2010 at 7:22:44 pm

I want to thank all of you for the info. You really got me thinking as to the gear I will need to purchase. I think I may have a decent list together and wanted to try to get your opinions again.

Here is the stuff I will be purchasing:

SD302 Field Mixer
Tascam HF-P2 CF Recorder
Rode NTG-3 w/boom, windscreen, clamp and accessories
Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
Organizer Case
Breakaway Cable**
Other Accessories**

**I know I need a breakaway cable, but there are a lot on B&Hs site, and some of them look like they are for specific cameras. Can one of you send me a link to the cable I may need? Also, what are some other accessories I may need in the field, stands, clamps, etc?

I don't need to purchase the following equipment since the studio I currently work for has them and I will be able to borrow from them.

AT 4053b
2 x Senn EW112-p G3 wireless system with ME-2 lav mics

I will eventually need to purchase a couple wired lav mics and will probably go with the Countryman B6. I noticed they make them with a few different connectors, just want to make sure I will be OK if I get the ones with the XLR connectors.

Thanks again for all of your insight into this side of the audio industry.


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Will Salley
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 21, 2010 at 4:41:08 am

James, I wish you luck in your quest to make a living as a location sound person. I've been making a fairly decent living for over 20 years and have just recently decided to stop doing location work...or at least, slow down a bit. The primary reason for this is that I'm getting to --- old to be following around a cameraman for 12 hours a day. But, the other reason is the industry has changed and it is now very difficult to make a "decent" living while still maintaining high production values. Here's why:

- Many production companies are now run as big businesses are and have little concern for the quality of product, only the amount of profit. I've turned down more days of work in 2010 - because of unacceptable pay - than days I worked. For years, producers would call and ask, in detail, about my gear and my experience, which I welcomed. Now, all they ask about is if I'm willing to do a flat-rate day for $450, which means they are PLANNING on working the crew until you fall down dead, and then expect to pay no overtime.

- With the plethora of reality show production, there has been more production overall, but less money budgeted, per person, on the crew. Sound ops are expected to be able to handle massive amounts of wireless channels and be extremely portable. Most producers ask for a wireless link to camera - so they have no idea if a particular take was "good for sound" (see below). Coming from a film-based, commercial production background, this is rubbish.

I have also been involved in music production and find the two fields similar in that good equipment is often a requirement but it does not guarantee a better result. The basic act of setting a mic, running it into a preamp, then mixing it with other mics, and sending it off to be recorded is identical, but there are also huge differences.

In sound for film, noise is always your enemy. Noise can be anything OTHER than the intended source be it tape hiss, room noise, traffic, planes, clothing rustle...anything.

Equipment choices should follow that rule. It needs to be durable, compatible, and often compact, but most of all, it needs to produce very clean audio.

One last point - Take the time to sit in on several edits. It can be a mix session with Pro Tools or it can be the video edit where the raw parts are assembled. Listen to what the editor has to say about the quality of sources, about the way a track mixes with the others, and how consistent levels may, or may not be recorded. You will learn more about field production in the edit suite than you will anywhere else because that is where problems are revealed. Learn to listen "for the edit" and how to solve the inevitable problems of capturing clean, uncolored sound when conditions are against it. That will get you appreciated by the producers and editors than anything else. It's also helpful to learn to recognize the levels of acceptable noise in situations where it's just not possible to get away from it. Listening on headsets is tricky and intelligible dialog is not always as obvious in the edit suite or further along.

Now, Let's hope they will then pay you what you are worth.

Mac Pro 2x2.8 Quadcore - 10.6.3 - QT 7.6.3 - 22 GB RAM - nvidia8800GT - SATA internal & external storage - Blackmagic Multibridge Pro - Open GL 1.5.10 - Wacom Intous2 tablet - AJA io
SONY XDCAM EX3 - Letus Elite - FC7.0.2 - CS4 Prod Prem.


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Ty Ford
Re: Getting Into Film Audio
on Oct 21, 2010 at 5:04:11 am

James,

Will's words are solid. His experience is considerable and invaluable. We are lucky to have him here in this forum.

Regards,

Ty Ford

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






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