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Proper audio level workflow for wireless lav>tascam DR-70D> 5D mark III

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Allard DePallerd
Proper audio level workflow for wireless lav>tascam DR-70D> 5D mark III
on Feb 5, 2015 at 5:00:07 pm

Im still not quite certain on the workflow for audio levels. Ive got the Sennheiser wireless W100 G3 set, the Tascam DR-70D and the 5D mark III

Correct me if im wrong please.. is this the right way to do it..

1) Set your canon 5D audio level on manual and just 1 click above the lowest setting

2) set up audio level on transmitter.. let the subject talk and set the levels so it bounces a little over the half way point...

3) set up audio level on receiver.. adjust the audio level so that it's a little over the half way point.. Now my question is.. where do i see this audio level? On the receiver? (cause I always thought that that was the level readout from the transmitter.. or on the Tascam? And if it's the Tascam.. wouldnt that level readout be influenced by the input level settings of that Tascam..?

4) set up audio level on the Tascam.. For speech.. try to make it bounce around -16db..with peaks between -12 and -10...

And finally..what is better.. Using the gain function on my tascam for an increase in level... (i can choose low, high or high plus).. or just turning the input level knob all the way up?

thanks in advance guys!

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Richard Crowley
Re: Proper audio level workflow for wireless lav>tascam DR-70D> 5D mark III
on Feb 6, 2015 at 8:40:44 am

We generally do "gain staging" starting at the source and proceeding "downstream" to all the destinations.

Set the transmitter level so that it avoids clipping at the loudest sound levels you are expecting. THAT setting is completely independent of everything else in the audio chain. It only controls the operation between the transmitter and the receiver.

Typically we adjust levels at some "middle-of-the-road" setting to avoid operating at either "edge": "down in the mud" of noise at the bottom end, or "clipping" at the top end.

This gets a little tricky with the wireless receiver, because often you must use that output level control also to create the proper signal level that the destination will be happy with.

You didn't really make it clear what your signal path is, but I will assume that you are connecting the receiver output to the Tascam DR-70D recorder, and the output from the Tascam DR-70D to your 5D mark III.

If that is the case, then I would set the receiver to maybe around 40% of the total range (as a default setting) and next adjust the DR-70D level for proper recording levels. That means as high as you can get without clipping at the loudest sounds.

THEN, the very LAST step would be setting the level on the 5D camera input after everything UP-stream is set properly.

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Allard DePallerd
Re: Proper audio level workflow for wireless lav>tascam DR-70D> 5D mark III
on Feb 6, 2015 at 11:09:36 am

Thank you for you answer Richard,
It makes perfect sense.. so work your way from the source to the destination basically.

Its just still unclear to me how to set the proper output levels of the receiver of the wireless set. Because the only place i can SEE those levels bouncing up and on the Tascam.. but then they are already affected by the input level of the Tascam right? So are you saying because there's no way to visually see JUST the output of the transmitter (without it being affected by the Tascam level)... i should put the transmitter at 40% of its range?
The output of the transmitter can be set from -30DB to + 12 DB... 40% from the bottom off, would be -13.2... That's not a I should go for -12DB on the transmitter..and then adjust the levels on the Tascam to proper recording levels? Is that what you mean?

And lastly a final question... Is it correct to say that adjusting recording volume is preferably done by the input levels on the Tascam..instead of the gain settings? So.. I first turn up the levels all the way..and if that's not enough i set 'gain' to high in stead of low.. Or do I start by putting the gain on high...and then turning up the levels?

Sorry about these newbie questions and my poor English.. im from Europe :)

Thank you!

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Richard Crowley
Re: Proper audio level workflow for wireless lav>tascam DR-70D> 5D mark III
on Feb 6, 2015 at 12:14:40 pm

Do you have the instructions for the Sennheiser G3 kit? If not, strongly suggest downloading it and studying it. The setting on the transmitter is based entirely on the sensitivity of the microphone and the loudness of the source. It is NOT "set at 40%". NO! That setting MUST be optimized for whatever you are micing.

According to the manual PDF that I downloaded, both the transmitter and receiver have audio level indicators on the LCD screen. As I said before, FIRST set the transmitter level so that the indicator shows good movement, but not so high that it peaks/clips on loud sounds. And setting it too low is not good either because you leave the signal "down in the mud" of the noise floor.

The receiver level can be set for the default "40%" and then set the recorder level for optimal recording levels.

Proper "gain-staging" means that the audio level must be set at the optimal point at EACH AND EVERY STEP in the signal-chain and each step should be optimized before moving on to the next step. The transmitter level must be optimized FIRST before anything else. THEN the receiver level can be set.

Now, it is possible that the receiver level only adjusts the output level of the receiver, so there is some interaction with the input level of the next stage (the recorder). So if you set the receiver output on the high side, the input of the recorder could compensate by setting on the low side, and vice-versa. But even there, setting the receiver TOO HIGH means that the recorder is operating at a low input setting (to keep the audio levels proper) and that is not desirable. Nor is the converse (setting the receiver too low, and compensating by setting the recorder input higher than "normal".

If you are unfamiliar with setting audio levels (or how to read the indicator on some new piece of gear), plan on spending an hour offline experimenting with your gear. Deliberately set the level of each stage too high and see what happens. And too low and see what happens. That will give you a feel for the "sweet spot" of each piece of gear. After you get some experience recording audio with your gear, you will get the "feel" for getting the levels set properly as indicated by the readings on the gear.

Generally if an adjustment is down in the lower 20% of its range, it makes me think that the incoming signal is "too hot" and should be adjusted down by the gear in the previous step in the chain. And if an adjustment is set in the upper 30% of its range, it makes me think that the incoming audio signal is too low and needs to be boosted by the previous stage. This applies to the receiver, the recorder, and the camera, but not necessarily to the transmitter.

The transmitter is a special case where there IS NO "previous step", so if you have to adjust the transmitter level down really far because your source is very loud, beware of the microphone itself distorting from inability to handle very high sound pressure levels. And conversely, if you find that you have to adjust the transmitter level way up almost to the top of the range, then consider that you may need a more sensitive microphone, or you may need to get the microphone closer to the source, etc.

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Eric Toline
Re: Proper audio level workflow for wireless lav>tascam DR-70D> 5D mark III
on Feb 7, 2015 at 12:27:25 pm

The best way to set G3 levels is to set both the transmitter & receiver levels to -20db. The level on your camera should be at least -20 with peaks about -10. You may have to increase or decrease the transmitter level depending if you have a loud or soft spoken person being recorded.

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"

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