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Still not sure which mic to use (watched Ty Ford's video!)

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Jonathan Moore
Still not sure which mic to use (watched Ty Ford's video!)
on Nov 4, 2014 at 1:43:59 pm

I've probably put a good 10 hours of research today learning about various mics for various situations and need a bit of advice.

Background: I work for a startup (limited human resources, so we don't have a professional sound guy), and we are producing language learning contents via short videos.

Situation: We are enacting certain situations such as checking into a hotel in the hotel lobby, ordering food at a restaurant, asking about prices in a shop, etc. All these situations will require 2-4 people.

Which mic: While all our actors won't be that far away, they may not be THAT close either where a boom will work well. Just imagine the normal distance between you and a cashier, waiter, or hotel desk rep. Or a table of 4 people eating food and ordering from a waitress a couple feet away.
I've tried lavs before, but didn't like showing that in the video, hearing the rustling around the clothes, and dealing with frequencies. Furthermore, I'm based abroad and travel a lot, and that's a huge mess requiring different mics for each country!

Most of my situations will be indoors, but some will be outdoors. So if I needed ONE mic, I'm assuming hypercartioid would be the way to go? (SCX1 or AT4053b on this budget). If I need to be outdoors, would these work fine? Again, I can only really afford up to $1500 for the whole kit here.
Another option I looked into was the AKG Blue Line CK93 with the CK98 which would probably be ok for the budget; and people say it would work both indoors/outdoors. The last option is the Sanken SC-3E. People are saying it's the best for both indoor/outdoor. It's expensive and over-budget, but if it's THE best option, I'd try to get it.

If you've read this far, I really appreciate it and look forward to your responses.


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Jonathan Moore
Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 5, 2014 at 5:56:59 am

Also forgot to mention I do have a Zoom H6. Just looking for what ONE solution fits me best here.


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Rob Neidig
Re: Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 5, 2014 at 4:12:21 pm

Jonathan,

That's just the thing, there is no ONE solution for every audio situation. Would you just superglue your zoom lens to just one place, lock down the iris and focus ring and shoot every job that way? Well audio is the same, if not even more variable. That's why the typical pro audio person has a field mixer, a couple of wireless mic systems, a boom pole, a short shotgun and a hypercardioid mic and a pair of headphones to monitor. Not to mention maybe a long shotgun, a handheld interview mic and maybe a few others stuffed into the run bag.

Any of the mics you mention in your first post will work both indoors and outdoors. But none of them will work well if they are not close to the talent. The reason you hear people talk about "indoor" and "outdoor" mics is that interference tube shotguns typically don't work well in indoor environments where you have lots of reflective surfaces, like a kitchen or bathroom, or a room with wood floors and wood panelling for the walls. So you normally would get better results with a hypercardioid there. You talk about scenarios where you have 4 people and too much distance to boom them all. Well, that's where you need to maybe hide a wireless lav under their clothing (you said you don't want to see it) and learn how to use tape and moleskin to get rid of, or at least minimize, clothes rustle. The ideal would be a combination of boom and wireless lav, booming those that are close enough and using the lav where they are not or when the shot is too wide to get a boom in close. Then you have to monitor (and possibly do a live stereo mix of) all the mic sources at once.

It sounds like you are talking about being a one-person crew. If that is the case, then good luck - good audio is just not going to happen by itself. Not putting anybody down, it's just that good audio takes talent and attention and more than one mic.

Have fun!

Rob

Rob Neidig
R&R Media Productions
Eugene, Oregon


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Jonathan Moore
Re: Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 6, 2014 at 1:19:11 am

Thanks for the response, Rob.

It won't be a one man crew, as we have a seasoned video guy/producer on our team. It will basically be him, myself, and one other guy (also not experienced). So we have 2 extra people (albeit inexperienced but ready to learn) on the team.

I realize ONE mic won't be optimal, but just trying to figure out the most necessary piece of equipment. Better to try for buying 2 wireless lavs or just the one boom mic?

Also: I've heard people mention hard-wiring a mic to a nearby plant, etc. What kind of mic would that be (lav?) and what would that be suggested? Many thanks.


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Jonathan Moore
Re: Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 6, 2014 at 10:43:14 am

If I was on a budget, would the Rode smartlav+ be an option, or is that just too low of quality to deal with?


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Richard Crowley
Re: Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 6, 2014 at 3:14:51 pm

Unless you have an experienced crew and adequate setup time, etc (which it sounds like you do NOT), a boom mic is more useful to a professional sound person.

If you want decent, intelligible pickup of dialog from multiple people (and it sounds like amateurs, not professional actors), I would say that "lav" body-mics are the most likely to get you what you need. If you don't want the mics to be visible (why?, people know they are looking at a produced video!) then hide them. The art of hiding the mics and avoiding clothes rustle, etc. is not a 10-second process of clipping it on and hoping for the best. If you want quality results, you must plan to work for it. Note also that clip-on lav mics don't HAVE to be wireless. If the scenes are in a fixed setting, wired mics are a perfectly fine option.

"Plant mics" were popular back when mics were the size of a flashlight. And they had severe limitations because of proximity vs. ambient noise, etc. With modern lav mics the size of a match-head, I can't think of why "plant mics" would be useful.

Note that the Rode "smartlav" is only a microphone. You need a recorder or smart phone, etc. to plug it into for recording. And then you must offload the recording. And with a standalone recording solution, you can't monitor what the mic is doing, and you could waste a lot of time only to discover a bad recording from one of the players.

If you are recording 5 or 6 mics, you need to get the Zoom XLR adapter to allow 6 channel recording. With the limited crew you have, you probably don't want to attempt to MIX the dialog while shooting.

If it were me, I would buy 4 or 6 Oscar Sound Tech OST-801 wired lavs and a bunch of mic cable. http://oscarsoundtech.com/services.html They are excellent value for the price, available in several colors, and very tiny to make them easy to hide. You probably should get some "vampire clips" to attach them to clothing, etc. And some "moleskin" to mitigate rustling noises and/or for attaching to skin, etc.

It doesn't sound like your scenes involve extensive movement, so I agree that wireless may be more trouble than its worth.


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Rob Neidig
Re: Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 7, 2014 at 4:32:26 pm

Jonathan wrote: <>

There are pros and cons to both methods. In many ways, especially for someone with little experience with a boom, the two wireless mics would probably be best. You will need to learn how to hide them and how to minimize noise from movements, though. Then you can be back out of the way of the actors and just monitor and tweak levels of the wireless mics. Many people prefer the more natural sound of a boom mic, however. But as Bruce points out in his later post, you have a whole 'nother set of issues there. Especially if the people are far away from one another as your first post indicates they often are. It can be very tricky to swing the boom from one person to another, then back - especially if the lines are short or overlap. And in inexperienced hands, the boom mic might not sound so great, because inexperienced boom operators often don't get the mic in close enough to get good sound. And if you want a pretty wide shot, then there's no way to get the boom in close enough without seeing it in frame. So the bottom line is, choosing either a boom mic (or two if you want to have both a good short shotgun and a hypercardioid mic) or wireless mics means compromising something. If you can't buy them all now (I understand - it's an investment!), then it's up to you to choose where you want to compromise.

My recommendation for a good, solid audio kit:

Sound Devices mixer - either an SD302 (3 channels) or step up to the SD552 if you want a lot more (5 channels plus recorder). A used SD442 is also a great option. If you only have a mixer, buying something like the Zoom H4N to record to would be advised.
2 sets of Sennheiser G3 wireless transmitters and receivers. If you can, replace the mics that come with the sets with Sanken COS-11 mics, or Tram mics. For a big quality step-up, go to Lectrosonics wireless units.
K-tek boom pole (lots of options, your arms will thank you if you go for the higher priced, but MUCH lighter graphite ones)
Sennheiser MKH-416P48 short shotgun (still the standard, though there are other options)
Audio-Technica AT4053 hyper mic (or Audix scx-one with hyper capsule, AKG SE300 with CK93 hyper capsule, etc. Schoeps CMC641 if you want the gold standard and can afford it).
Electro-Voice RE50B handheld mic for interviews.
Breakout cable to run to camera.
Sony MDR-7506 headphones
Porta Brace bag with harness to carry the mixer, wireless receivers, etc.

And of course wind protection as Bruce also mentions later down in the thread, and mic cables, etc. There's lots more that could be added, but the above is a basic kit that would get a pro started. Not trying to overwhelm, just trying to show that there's more to it than buying one mic.

Have fun!

Rob

Rob Neidig
R&R Media Productions
Eugene, Oregon


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Ty Ford
Re: Any response appreciated :)
on Nov 8, 2014 at 5:33:23 pm

Hello Rob and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

You have described a one-legged stool. A "seasoned shooter", and two people with little or no experience.

Lighting and Audio, you will soon learn, are also required. Your seasoned shooter, is more than a camera. He's a functioning brain with arms and legs. The same are required for lighting and sound……and editing, etc.

Your presumption that the right mic will result in acceptable sound is typical, but flawed. I could present you with the most expensive gear on the planet and you could still end up in the ditch.

My suggestion would be to hire pros for all three positions and watch them closely for several shoots to see if you can figure out what's going on. Then try one yourself that can, if necessary, be reshot to see how well you did.

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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Bruce Watson
Re: Still not sure which mic to use (watched Ty Ford's video!)
on Nov 6, 2014 at 8:19:38 pm

Rob and Richard have answered most of your questions. But there are always questions that newbies don't know enough to ask.

In this case, if you're going to film outdoors, you're going to want to have wind protection for your mics. This is almost a requirement for boomed mics outdoors. You're looking at something more or less like the new Rode blimp with the Rycote suspension (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?N=11056426&InitialSearch=yes&sts=pi). It's possible that you might be able to get by with a slip on furry like the new Rycote Super-Softie, it depends on your environment.

Another thing is humidity. If you're going to be filming in the desert, no worries. But if it's a rainforest in the rainy season, you'll have to find a mic that can stand it and still work. The best for that duty IMHO are the Sennheisers. These are RF condensers and aren't much effected by humidity. This is one of the reasons the MKH 416 keeps handing around -- one of the most popular shotgun mics for dialog recording out there. Still. And the used markets are flooded with them (and they are widely counterfeited, so be careful).

The real problem though is that no one on your crew is a boom op. It's not something you can pick up overnight. It takes some talent, a lot of practice, and dedication to the craft. Moving a mic at speed without creating any handling noise, hitting aim points with precision, and not dipping into the frame or leaving a visible boom shadow takes a special temperament. Just sayin'.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Still not sure which mic to use (watched Ty Ford's video!)
on Nov 12, 2014 at 4:06:34 am

What you are describing is difficult for any amateur to pull off well. So ask for a bigger budget, because the pros say you need it. Then hire people that will make you successful at this in the early going. You can then maybe figure out what they are doing, fire them, and use the bigger budget to buy the gear you really need. While I might be cynical, it's how the world works.

Al


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Ty Ford
Re: Still not sure which mic to use (watched Ty Ford's video!)
on Nov 12, 2014 at 12:59:05 pm

underline MAYBE. :)

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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