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Field mixer recommendations?

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Per Scaffidi
Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 7:55:15 pm

Hi all -- working on a production in a remote location assisting a cameraman with filming wildlife and interviews with scientists in the field. I'm looking for a cost-effective field mixer, and possibly some sort of wireless solution to get into the camera. Any recommendations?


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 10, 2015 at 10:10:12 pm

Here are a few things to get you started....
1. Only record on a device (camera or recorder) you can monitor the output from.
2. If you send a signal to a device for recording and you can't monitor that output then do a backup recording....ALWAYS
3. Never put audio to a DSLR 'as a guide track' they will use it, even tho they say they wont..... Then they will blame you for the poor quality.
4. Even a second hand Shure FP33 mixer and 416 mic will deliver amazing results compared to a cheap hand held recorder (with poor preamps) and cheap mic.
5. A mixer FP33, Sennheiser 416,Boompole, Headphones, 2x radio mics like Sennheiser G3's or Sony UWP-D, Digital recorder, breakaway cable would be regarded as a basic level for a broadcast level shoot.
YES you can go higher with Sound Devices and Lectrosonics etc but your outlay will be MUCH higher as well.
6. You should be able to put a basic kit together for about $3k (with careful shopping) a top level kit will be 4-5+ times that of a basic kit.


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Bruce Watson
Re: Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 11, 2015 at 8:18:36 pm

[Per Scaffidi] "Hi all -- working on a production in a remote location assisting a cameraman with filming wildlife and interviews with scientists in the field. I'm looking for a cost-effective field mixer, and possibly some sort of wireless solution to get into the camera. Any recommendations?"

I'll second Mr. Reynolds comments. All good.

I'll add that in my experience, wireless is not a first resort. Wireless only gets used when you can't find another way. The most expensive wireless does not sound quite as good as a $20 XLR cable. It can't. That same wireless can't be as reliable in operation, can't be anything like as immune to RFI as that cable, etc. If you're in a "one and done" situation, work hard to find a way to use a wire. Really.

That said, if you insist on wireless, you should know that legal frequencies vary all over the place around the world. There is no such thing as a "universal wireless" radio. You should also know that governments are quite cavalier about reallocating frequencies -- look at what the USA is doing, first taking away the 700 mHz block, with the 600 mHz block gone in the next couple of years. Creating lots of "surplus" equipment that's illegal to operate -- but it's not their money, right? Sigh... I'm just saying that if you're going to many remote locations, that have differing frequency and power requirements, I strongly suggest that you consider renting at the location.

Then, if you haven't used wireless before, don't think that wireless is a plug-'n-play scenario. The more congested the airways are, the more work you'll have to do to find a clean spot to use for your signal. So read the manuals, figure out how to do the frequency scans, figure out how to do proper gain staging, etc. Because when you need to do it, you'll find that everyone is sitting around waiting on you.

Finally, I vigorously suggest that you vigorously resist supplying a feed to camera. Camera makers spend as little as possible on audio, often less than 0.1% of the cost of the camera is audio. And... it sounds it. In your case, the high noise floors on most camera audio is going to hurt you filming wildlife -- you'll hear it in the final. So... don't go there.

If you give them a feed, they will almost certainly use it in the final, even if they agree "in principle" not to. Easy for them (they are going over budget everywhere else, this is one corner they can cut), and it's guaranteed to be always in sync. But the sound quality will always come back on you. This song has already been played hundreds of thousands of times. Just sayin'.

So, I suggest researching mixer/recorders. On the entry-level side, Tascam has some interesting ones, like the new-ish DR-70d. On the pro side, Sound Devices sort of rules the dialog sound mixer market in Hollywood. There are of course a bunch of other companies, but I have no idea what you budget is, so... That and a selection of SD memory cards, a good set of closed back headphones, etc... Oh, and a good old fashioned clapper board of some kind for sync. Just like Hollywood has been doing since the 1920s.

Use a system like this (aks "second system" sound) regardless of whether or not you get forced into providing a camera feed. Because you can monitor the sound you're recording and therefore have assurance you're recording the right stuff. And you must monitor. Everything. No excuses. An audio guy not monitoring is even worse than a camera op not using a viewfinder.


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Per Scaffidi
Re: Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 11, 2015 at 9:27:33 pm

Thanks for all the advice. Some more info:

We'll be shooting either a C300 or C500. Sticking to the US for the most part, in parks and wildlife areas where we'll be running and gunning in the woods. I assume most of the time I'll be able to plug in, but I wanted to find out what the options are for wireless for a bit of added flexibility if needed. There's already a decent wireless lav kit and shotgun kit from smaller past projects, but looking to step up the game with a mixer and learn more.


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Ty Ford
Re: Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 14, 2015 at 3:25:20 pm

Hello Per and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

A lot of good info on this thread.

Me? As long as you don't need more than two sources, I like the Sound Devices MixPre-D.

The MIxPre-D has some very useful features. Here's my review of it.
http://tyfordaudiovideo.blogspot.com/2012/07/sound-devices-mixpre-d-two-cha...

If you need three inputs, then I like the Sound Devices 302.

The old Shure mixers are….well….old!

I agree that a hardwire is your friend. Wireless to the camera is interesting, but unless you're plugged into the camera, you don't know if the audio made the trip. (Yes, you could have a wireless return, but then you have another link that could cause a problem.)

I agree that post will typically use what's in the camera.

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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andy lewis
Re: Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:18:55 am

You sound people not providing a camera-audio guide track - are you using timecode sync? If I was relying on the camera audio for sync I wouldn't be a happy bunny to find it not there.

I know where you are coming from though. As an editor, I once sent some interview footage to a post house in London with the lav on the left channel and the boom on the right. It was highlighted in the file name and in the accompanying email. They released it with the sound like that.


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Ty Ford
Re: Field mixer recommendations?
on Mar 15, 2015 at 2:01:11 pm
Last Edited By Ty Ford on Mar 15, 2015 at 2:39:15 pm

Hello Andy and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

If there is no scratch track on the camera, then you need timecode.

It would be best if the recorder were timecode hardwired to the camera, but you may find that jamming time code from camera or from the recorder will work just fine.

I have had people use the camera mic for sync and remarkably, that works if you're using pluraleyes.

Yes, post is sometimes clueless. I fed split track to the camera from a two person interview. Post called and said there was a problem because one of the guys was a very heavy breather and could be heard during the other person's response. I told them it was split tracked, problem solved. But you'da thought they'd have checked something that simple.

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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