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Audio acquisition for reality show sizzle and pilot... PZM?

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Reed Thompson
Audio acquisition for reality show sizzle and pilot... PZM?
on May 1, 2012 at 8:58:45 am

Hello all... I'm attempting to create a reality series called "The Parlor" (please see clip below). My primary character is an Arkansas based tattoo artist/shop owner who I feel makes for great reality tv. "The Parlor" is a character driven show not so much about tattoos as it is about a guy (and his "entourage") who just happens to be a tattoo artist.
But my post is about AUDIO. I spent a couple of weeks filming for the show last December. What resulted was too long to be a sizzle piece and too short to be a pilot... it just sort of is what it is and was created more so as a trial run than anything else. My equipment was not quite up to par for prime time, if you will, but was good enough to create this piece for a first run sample piece. this version was filmed with an old XL-2. I had a wired lav mic which I used for the scenes in the shop, along with audio captured from the on board camera mic. There was also a Sennheiser MD-46 i placed in the area of the primary action at any given time. For the scene in the bar (during the argument b/w two of the characters, Scott and Alina) i had no access to any external mics so i was limited to the on board camera mic. Because of this, I was unable to capture the essence of the conflict depicted in the piece. As a result, i had to rely on my characters TELLING ABOUT the fight in on camera "interviews" rather than actually SHOWING and HEARING what was said during the heated discussion. You will see what i mean if you watch the clip.
I am going to be filming again this summer for three months. My intent is to create a sizzle reel and a pilot episode or two (or three). I am upgrading my gear and would like some advice on what would be best as far as microphones. I will be making my purchase from B&H in the next couple of days and am currently planning to purchase two Lectrosonics 400 Series Wireless UHF Lav Systems (very expensive but worth it i would say), one Azden FMX-42 field mixer, and one Edirol Roland R-44 digital field recorder. I also would like to puchase one other mic for the shop scenes. This is the mic I have questions about. That third mic would be necessary to pick up everything in the room in case the lav mics (each of which will be attached to one of the people in the shop at any given time) are unable to catch everything for whatever reason. I am wondering if a PZM boundary mic would suffice for this? Would a PZM mic, which i know is designed for meetings and conference tables, be sufficient to pick up general audio in a room the size of this shop (depicted in the video clip at the link below)? i need something that picks up as much as possible in that room. My budget for this third mic is not very high as Im spending so much on the two lavs. Something between 200 and 400 max is what im thinking. Thank you in advance for any advice given. This is a great forum, have searched to find an answer to my issue. Figured I'd go ahead and just ask directly.

Thank you, again.

Reed Thompson







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Richard Crowley
Re: Audio acquisition for reality show sizzle and pilot... PZM?
on May 1, 2012 at 4:46:18 pm

PZM are dramatically overrated. They have a cult status that is completely unwarranted, IMHO. They are great (almost indispensable) in a few niche applications and barely adequate and extremely fiddly to completely inappropriate for everything else. I would not think that a PZM is at all useful for something like you are describing.

Of course you can barely get anything better than Lectro (maybe Zaxcom, etc.) But I would almost opt for wireless mics that were not quite the top-end, but more of them to get proper coverage. Recording each mic to a separate channel allows you to do a proper audio mix during editing as it sounds like you don't have a dedicated audio crew person to attempt a real-time live mix. I would even consider omitting the mixer and buying another wireless lav. If you are recording the wireless receivers directly into the R-44 tracks, it is not clear why you even need a mixer?

"Reality" shows seem to have settled on literally dozens of wireless mic systems recorded multi-track because they are otherwise impossible to boom unless the subjects are stationary or seated or tied-down. And it should go without saying that any mic mounted ON the camera is useful only for room tone or background noises (if even that).

I would use an inexpensive condenser omni to capture general room tone (recorded to a separate track, of course). I don't see how any external mic would be an effective "backup" for a proper lav mic on the primary speaking subjects. If you loose a wireless lav (OF COURSE you are monitoring the audio tracks AT ALL TIMES during shooting!) then you have to make the decision whether to stop and fix it, or to just use the audio-disabled video as B-roll or something.


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Ty Ford
Re: Audio acquisition for reality show sizzle and pilot... PZM?
on May 2, 2012 at 12:37:02 am

Hello Reed and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

"i had no access to any external mics." How is this possible?

PZM mics will be disappointing. The traditional method of getting dialog is with a boom mic. Yet I see no mention of your effort to use one.

The first one you should buy is either an Audio Technica 4053b or Audix SCX-1 HC, with boom and wind gear.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader


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


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Bob Kessler
Re: Audio acquisition for reality show sizzle and pilot... PZM?
on May 2, 2012 at 3:52:12 pm

I always wonder at the "I'll buy something to fix it attitude." Just buying a piece of gear will not fix your problems; it's all about having a complete "toolbox", and the knowledge of how to use each specific tool for the specific situation. If you are truly serious about creating content for major media outlets you should invest in hiring someone who actually knows what they're doing. Even an ambitious up-and-comer with a basic sound kit will do a much better job than you can.

To be honest - and I'm assuming that you want honesty - the people who do the "buying" of new programs want mostly finished product. Reality shows don't have the polished audio of major network dramas and sitcoms, but the dialog does need to be easily understandable. And they do not want to hear "I'll do it better if you give me the budget;" they have the mindset that if you don't get it right in the first place you won't ever get it right.

Now I can hear the "it's so expensive" complaints coming, but this is about your career - at least I'm assuming that it is - and you should put everything you can into it. More otherwise worthy projects are killed by poor sound than for any other technical reason.

Peace,

Bob
____________________________________________________________________
Filmmaking is the art of the invisible;
If anyone notices your work you haven't done your job right.


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Reed Thompson
Re: Audio acquisition for reality show sizzle and pilot... PZM?
on May 2, 2012 at 4:56:15 pm

cool, thanks for the advice, everybody, really appreciate it.


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