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8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?

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Stephanie Onyebetor
8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 6, 2013 at 11:30:42 pm

Hi

This is my first post and am hoping someone can really help me out on this.

I am filming a spec commercial (with a Canon 7d DSLR) with a limited crew/budget and I am very new to a lot of audio terminology and techniques. Limited budget means that we will have to tackle audio myself. I'm used to working on student projects and we always used bad audio or some dingy external audio recorded without much mind to different channels and decibels. This project is different and requires the following:

Maximum peaks @ 10 db and 48kHz, Stereo or Surround 5.1.

as well as

Ch 1-2: L-R Front
Ch 3: Center
Ch 4: LFE
Ch 5-6: L-R Surround
Ch 7-8: Lt-Rt Stereo

This is probably a silly question, but am I actually in need of an 8-channel audio recorder, such as this one by Tascam (http://tascam.com/product/hs-p82/)? Most of the smaller handheld ones I come across are 4-channel or 2-channel. If I am need of an 8-channel audio recorder, does anyone have any recs for one, hopefully under $100? Or better yet, is there a way just to use a 2 track audio recorder, and just make multiple tracks when editing (FC Studio), then adjust the tracks to fit the specifications of the 6 other channels that are needed?

Also, why is it that my audio needs to be Stereo or Surround 5.1 but when it comes to channels, Channel 5-6 is L-R Surround and Ch 7-8 is Lt-Rt Stereo?

So many questions. Argh.


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Peter Groom
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 7, 2013 at 9:29:18 am

Are you confusing shoot and recording specs with delivery specs.?

What are you deivering the FINAL film on? This might explain it.
If its surround OR stereo then its choice.
But in either case you dont necessarily SHOOT in surround. Get good recordings on the shoot with split audio where possible tec and planty of atoms and wild tracks.
The surround or stereo becomes an issue in the sound edit and mix.

There your problems really begin as you said its low budget, you arent an audio specialist and you have to do it yourself.
I doubt if you can do the audio post yourself (based entirely on your words) and highly doubt you can deliver a surround mix that will actually work, be at the right levels, correctly mixed etc etc. Thats a much higher ask!

SO
my advice at this point is
1) go back to whoever gave you those specs, sit down and really thrash out the detail
2) get clarification on shoot specs and post specs SEPARATELY.
3) Be entirely open and truthful with them about where your knowlege and skillset starts and ends.
4) Get clarification on Surround or stereo vs surround AND stereo.
5) Estaablish where exactly these deliverables are to be created.
6) And most importantly, be clear on exactly who carries the can if it all goes pear shaped due to lack of clarity, understanding, kit, experience, budget etc. Dont let it be you.

NB Surround mic systems and arrays and techniques DO exist but are rarely used except in real high end work. Surround is created in the dub normally.

To address your initial question about levels, this will be -10 and will be a calibration of reference level from your mix desk, or field mixer, to the recorder using a reference tone. The meters and inputs on both devices must be calibrated and adjusted to deliver the right level recordings. This is called Line up. Then only using the right type of metering in the mix will go be able to deliver to the right spec, AND not risk distortion.
The fact that you ask this sets my alarms bells off.
Loads of questions on this.

Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Stephanie Onyebetor
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 8, 2013 at 3:14:24 am

Thank you for responding Peter. I am a complete amateur so your alarm bells are definitely right to go off. This is a crowdsourcing project so I don't really have great access to the producers.

We are supposed to format the video to HD 1280 X720p 16x9 so that it will play properly on the website. With the acceptable file formats being .mov, .avi, .mp4, .wmv. and the acceptable codecs being H.264 (MP4), MPEG-4, H.263, MPGV, WMV, DivX.

However, the actual video that would be broadcasted if chosen needs to be delivered in Apple ProRes 422 (HQ). And the needs to have 1920x1080 resolution a 29.97/59.94i frame rate.

So I was thinking of shooting it in 1080 then converting it later to 720p.

But in either case you dont necessarily SHOOT in surround. Get good recordings on the shoot with split audio where possible tec and planty of atoms and wild tracks.

When you say shoot with split audio, are you simply saying to shoot the audio separately? Tec? Not sure what you mean by that. I know what wild tracks are but you lost me on atoms. Planty? Do you mean plenty?


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Peter Groom
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 8, 2013 at 7:57:42 am

Hi
Sorry for my typos - comes from writing posts in tiny gaps and should slow down a bit.

Yes wild tracks are silent recordings using the same setup and mics as the dialogue recordings were made, to allow dialogue track smoothing.
Atmos (atmosphere) tracks are best stereo and are general recordings of an environment (beack/park/hillside/paltground etc . Used to layer, texture, fatten the sound scape and become really important in a surround mix.

You still dont seem to have pinned if or why you need surround. I meant that you should shoot separates, ie try to keep speakers on separate tracks etc and always boom as well as personals. That way the edit becomes better.
Id be surprised if a web video needs to be delivered surround. If its broadcast then it MIGHT be broadcast surround but different stations will have different spec / requirements. But Id doubt that ant station would REQUIRE surround as a condition, and be willing to tx a project at this level? They tend to be much bigger funded commissions where a full delivery spec is available from the go.

peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Ty Ford
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 16, 2013 at 1:35:53 pm

Hello Stephanie and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

Peter has given you a lot of very direct input on a somewhat complicated subject and if you are new to audio, I can see it could overwhelm you.

Peter always teaches me something. What we call room tone in the US, he calls wild tracks. "Two countries separated by one language." I'm sure there are other differences in our nomenclature.

I think he covered your questions and the differences between acquisition, mixing and deliverables, record levels and surround. You seldom, if ever, shoot in surround. Sometimes clients don't really understand what they need. The idea of Surround sounds cool, but doesn't make sense for web delivery, unless I'm missing something. Unknowingly, their direction could be leading you astray. Perhaps you could elaborate.

What kind of recorder are you using now and how would you use an eight track recorder - none of which cost $100, btw. :)

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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Stephanie Onyebetor
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 16, 2013 at 10:02:57 pm

Hi Ty (and thanks Peter for your last post)

I've been researching the subject a bit since my original post and I think I'm understanding it a bit more.

So this specific project can be recorded in either Stereo OR Surround. So I will obviously be choosing stereo as, like you said, surround would be unnecessary for such a simple project. I've managed to scrape up enough money to hire a boom operator/sound recordist. He has his own equipment: a Zoom H4n with a MKH416 microphone with a Zeppelin (which I'm under the impression is a type of windsock??). He also has a Rode mic as well.

The final video has to be delivered with maximum audio peaks at 10db and at 48khz. Does that mean if we were to shoot audio that measured higher than 10db, I could simply adjust it to the appropriate level in post? Will be editing with FCP.

Another thing that confused me was the term "track" and "channel." It seems that people interchange the two terms but they don't seem to be exactly the same thing. Is a two-track recorder the same thing as a two-channel recorder??


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Peter Groom
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 16, 2013 at 11:55:19 pm

Hi again

when looking at delivery specs and they say " recorded" its highly unlikely the are making any comment on the shoot recording. Im certain they mean the mix recording. What you deliver as the film soundtrack. so the mix can be stereo or surround, as i said originally.

maximum audio peaks will be minus 10db (or dbfs to be more accurate). This means -10db from full scale o point (where clipping occurs). This relates as follows.
PPM 4 ikhz tone is at -18dbfs. (might be -20 in US)
PPM 4 - PPM 6 is 8db so this is the max MIX level at ppm6 or -10 dbfs.
It doesnt matter what peaks you record at on location (apart from staying away from distortion or being so quiet as to be useless. They refer to MIX levels.

Tracks are usually referring to record tracks and channels are normally referring to mixing console channels. A 2 track recorder but yes some might refer to this as a 2 channel recorder incorrectly. Doesnt matter too much i dont think.
Ultimately , a 2 track recorder can only record 2 different recordings at once. If you need more than 2 sources recording at the same time, you will need to MIX some together on multiple channels of a mixer to the 2 record tracks.

I Hope thats clear for you.

The point you need to address is
" how will you ensure your final mix meets this spec?"
Who will mix it and do they have the correct equipment to read the peaks correctly and control the levels to the right mix.?

Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Stephanie Onyebetor
Re: 8 Channel (or Track) Audio Recorder? Maximum Peaks?
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:50:28 am

Thanks again, Peter.


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