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Manageable Film Audio Setup

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Mason Kibler
Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 8, 2015 at 10:58:35 pm
Last Edited By Mason Kibler on May 9, 2015 at 3:41:54 am

Hello all, first time poster.

I've been writing scripts for years--mostly 30/60 minute format--and have embarked on the path of filming something I've written. I've sold a few things and they never get made, so I'm taking matters into my own hands with the help of some local actors and camera buffs. I have a good bit of video and photo gear to work with, as I've shot a few commercials and small things that didn't require anything crazy with audio.

Growing up I spent a lot of time doing audio post-production--mixing and recording local bands and even doing some audio book effect composition. I'm very familiar with reducing noise, EQing, compressors/gates/limiters, etc. I think this knowledge will give me a leg up on most other low budget films--in that, I hear so many projects that could be improved tremendously with very minimal post work.

Having said all this, I'm nervous about finding the right gear to shoot with my budget. We're working with varied interiors (homes, restaurants, etc.) and as many exteriors as we can manage to mix up the locations without having to find more interiors to use. I have two wired lavs and two Zoom H1's to use as backups or for long shots, but other than that, I got nothing.

Budget-wise, let's say the least amount to give me manageable results. What I mean by that is not a VideoMic Pro (which I also have) or something similar. I mean one or multiple mics that will not be very (or at all) noticeable to the audience if recorded by an inexperienced boom operator (me) who can freshen it up in post.

Hopefully that all makes sense. I'm leaning toward an NTG1/2 and a pair of Samson C02's; and use a Tascam 70d backed up to an H1 via the 70d's output. That gives me two hypers to use indoors or a plant, a shotgun for outdoors and larger interiors, and a couple lavs I already own for "just in case" or if I have a fast back-and-forth dialogue section and need to get a two-shot. I'm also leaning toward something in the $5-600 range to use for everything--but I'm not sure what that would be or if it's a better option.

I am definitely not looking to spend a fortune on something, regardless of it's exponential difference in sound. I understand that the 416 is probably 10 times better for 3 times the price, but it's still 3 times the price. Buying something now doesn't prohibit me from buying something nicer down the road--it seems the NTG2, for example, retains value quite well so I can always sell it. However, if there's a single mic that I can use in all situations, I'm willing to go up a bit. (Very) Long story short, I'm just looking for a nice setup for a first time hobby project that I may take more seriously depending on my experience. We're doing a ton of pre-prod for something this small, so I'm hoping our organization and attention to detail will bring the best out in whatever gear we have.

Any help at all will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Mason.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 9, 2015 at 11:37:52 pm

Firstly where do you intend to show your work, broadcast, youtube, in-house, that will determine the quality level you will need?

The DSLR / separate recorder adds lots more work to your production.
I know many that have gone down the DSLR path to produce programs / Docos etc while 'in theory' it ticks all the boxes but in reality it doesn't. Not one of those people have gone back to produce a second or more program on DSLR they have all changed to 'Video camera' shooting.

The Rode NTG 1 / 2 is just ok for 'student' level films but not much more, (don't waste your money) the NTG3 is MUCH better.
Remember the gear / shooting style you start with is what you need to end with otherwise it will look quite odd.

Just a suggestion is produce a 10 minute preamble Doco on your writings / ideas on the format you have chosen to get the technique right before you start so you get a handle on the production work flow.


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Mason Kibler
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 1:09:50 am
Last Edited By Mason Kibler on May 10, 2015 at 2:06:31 am

It's three 22(ish) minute scripts that are self-contained as a mini-season with very few open ends. They'll be premiered at a local artsy movie theater that we have connections with in the fall . Luckily, my community has a pretty active group of artistic folks who love this type of thing. It has an Austin/Ashville kinda vibe to it and even has a few film festivals. The plan is to premiere physically then repeat if possible for a month or so--ending with it either being on Vimeo or possibly IndieReign.com. All of this with the message of "we want to make some more." The story has a heavy focus on the local area which we think will spark a lot of interest. It's also extremely dialog and B-Roll heavy--cinema verite type of thing. No action shots, or big shots; and probably never more than 3 speaking parts in a single shot.

I understand the concern about changing production quality if we were to make more later, but I'm just so skeptical about renting (buying a camera, lenses, mics, etc not gonna happen). We're shooting mostly Sundays, and renting single days is rarely an option. I'd be renting for 60 days for 8 days of actual shooting. The cost of that, even, might be out of our range. I'm also convinced one of our main guys (DP, camera guy, what have you) will be more than equipped to handle production flow, since he does that on a daily basis working for a commercial video production company.


"The DSLR / separate recorder adds lots more work to your production."
- Can you elaborate? I'm not entirely sure what specific work is made more difficult. I would think the process of slating and syncing would be the same. I can patch the Tascam 70d (or whatever recorder I use) into the camera to assist in post. What might I be missing? I'm guessing our camera guy will know more than I do about this part as my experiences are entirely with DSLR.

I'm certainly open to the NTG3 from a price standpoint, but will that work indoors well enough? Again, it's very dialog heavy with a good chunk of interiors. Very few exteriors that can't be controlled, or at least chosen for optimal conditions.

Thanks a ton for the help!


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 2:14:35 am

The problem with DSLR shooting, is while they can (in the right hands) deliver stunning pictures the process of a one person doing all is a tall order.

OK lets think 20+ scenes, with 10+ takes on each scene, using a DSLR + audio recorder + 2 'personal' recorders. You will end up with 4 cards with 200+ takes ON EACH CARD and thats 800+ files in total....How do you sort that lot out?
Do you batch sync, or do you only sync the good takes, then how do you handle that in an edit timeline.
And you MUST sort it out BEFORE you start editing.

On the other hand a Video Camera with embedded audio you have 200+ takes to be imported (quickly) then its just a process of elimination in editing.

Im NOT dissing DSLR shooting but for short scene picture only stuff it fantastic or with a full crew where each person is responsible for their component.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 2:25:01 am

Mic selection, Rode NTG3 with softie on a Rycote shock mount..... minimum
Samson CO2 mics are good to use for close indoor stuff (I have 6 of them) but keep them close in, the supplied wind shields are useless, so get some replacements and always use the shield as the mics suffer from wind / air movement noise easily.
The supplied mic holders are brittle and are not good, but get a Rycote shock mount (the same will fit the NTG3). So a pole set up with a Rycote shock mount and just swap the mics is an ideal setup.


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Mason Kibler
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 2:35:10 am

Didn't even consider that part. So you're saying running the actual mix into a DSLR (which never even occurred to me) would not be an option due to...how it handles the audio file? And the VC would keep it uncompressed? I get why that's not an option with multiple sources unless I mix while shooting.

It won't be a one man team on set, but it will be in post: me. I just assumed I'd spend a long long time syncing and sorting because I had to, not because I chose that option.

I'm now thinking I may want to hop over to the video forums to find a plausible alternative. I hate losing the DOF of DSLR, and I'm guessing even a cheap comparable VC would run in the thousands.

If that doesn't work, I'm going to buy a ton of SD cards and pair them up after each couple of takes with labels. Wouldn't really add time since I can change cards with each lighting setup.

You've been a great help!


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 3:01:40 am
Last Edited By Brian Reynolds on May 10, 2015 at 3:03:28 am

When you think audio onto a DSLR think its equal to an old style compact cassette machine, so its far from ideal.
Some people use it but if you have gone to a lot of trouble with your production why not record good sound as well. With DSLR audio how do you monitor the audio out with headphones?

If you are going to use separate cards for each scene when do you format the card for each machine? Prior to the shoot, on the day or at the time of loading the card? How much extra time does this take?

You may need to consider another person on your crew, the role of 'Data Wrangler' the responsibility to format cards, log cards, transfer the files to hard drive, do a backup of those files and store them in a logical way. The role is different than a Production Assistant which takes note of the usable takes.


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Mason Kibler
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 3:18:21 am

I think I'm missing something glaringly obvious, so I apologize.

The chain in my head would be: MICS(s) > XLR > RECORDER > 3.5" OUT > DSLR. I would not be able to monitor at the DSLR, so yes, I could potentially miss something there. However, I could still monitor and record to card at the recorder in the event the DSLR doesn't record properly. Even if there was a flaw in the DSLR recording 50% of the time, that's still 50% less I have to worry about sorting and syncing in post. However, if you're saying that audio file would be worse, or even just different if I had to sync from the card at some point, then I wouldn't want to go down that road. I'd rather slightly worse audio that sounds the same the whole way through than bouncing back and forth between that and slightly better.

I'm guessing we'll never have the time to shoot more than a couple scenes on a single day, so even just having a dozen cards would mean I could make 6 pairs (6 video, 6 audio). Label each pair "Scene 1, Take 1-10", "Scene 2 Take 1-12" etc. At the very least, that would allow me to--at the end of each shooting day--transfer each pair one at a time, sync with a lot less to sort through, then reformat for the next day. Essentially, do sorting and syncing as we go and always change the cards on each device at the same time so I don't have to match up a dozen video cards with three audio cards. Ideally, the number of files on each card in a pair would match (assuming audio/video both get cut each time). Am I oversimplifying this? I feel like I'm missing something here, too.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 3:28:57 am
Last Edited By Brian Reynolds on May 10, 2015 at 3:34:12 am

MICS(s) [Yes] > XLR [Yes] > RECORDER [Yes] > 3.5" OUT [here is where the problem starts 3.5 connections are unbalanced signal and often have connection problems] > DSLR. [low grade audio quality recording] and with NO way of monitoring it at this point.

Never, Never delete ANY file until your production is TOTALLY complete, so its fresh cards each shoot.

Crew will start and stop devices at different times and perhaps often leave them rolling i.e. the talent wearing a portable recorder it would have 1 file with 10-20 takes rather than 20 files with just one take on each.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 3:44:42 am

This why I'm saying shoot and produce a Mini Doco first perhaps with some borrowed gear to get your head around various work flows.


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Mason Kibler
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 4:03:55 am

[Brian Reynolds] "This why I'm saying shoot and produce a Mini Doco first perhaps with some borrowed gear to get your head around various work flows."

I might have to do that. We have two table reads scheduled, so I'm going to have the camera operator record some "behind the scenes" as a practice run during the first, then do a few scenes with blocking in the second and record that as well. It'll just be tough for me to really monitor since I'll be at the table. I can always write a sketch for some of the actors to be in and call it an ice-breaker.


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Mason Kibler
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 3:56:00 am

Thanks Brian. From the looks of it, I'm just going to have to stomach the post-work as I can't seem to find a good alternative to DSLR--at least not for now and given that I already own the DSLR and lenses. I'll just try to be as organized as possible with on-set workflow.

Back to microphones, is an Audix SCX1-HC a good option for all around use? If I limited my outdoors, or perhaps used the lavs and blended in the Audix outdoors, would that suffice? I know this is probably like asking a Nascar driver what he thinks about the Ford Focus, but I want to find the sweet spot within my budget.

NTG3 videos I've seen sound really reflective indoors. Every video I see with an NTG 2 or even 3 seems to sound like they are recording a podcast, or that the dialog has been dubbed after in an insulated vocal booth. Maybe I have a strange preference, but I'd almost rather it be too thin than that boomy. Am I in the minority here? It's hard for me to determine how much of this is the mic and how much is the lack of post-production (EQ, filters, etc.) other than maybe levels. The problem is, anyone using a low-budget mic is probably an inexperienced user. I'd love to see what a pro does with the same gear.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 10, 2015 at 4:09:47 am
Last Edited By Brian Reynolds on May 10, 2015 at 4:22:56 am

I have never tried the Audix, The NTG3 / 416 are a similar sound and yes very reflective indoors, the Samson is a good low cost Hyper option, as I have said I own 6 of them and have shot many a TVCommercial with them in kitchens and bathrooms.

Here are some commercials done with the Samson CO2
http://www.mybudget.com.au/watch-our-tv-commercials/

I also own a NTG2 and hate it, 'Cant polish a t**d' comes to mind..... but are useful for a 'disposable' Fx mic on outside broadcasts.

'Celebrating 40 years of Broadcasting Audio....
Started with Magnetic stripe and Sprocket holes to now Gigabytes and Touch Screen Mixing Consoles'......


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Ty Ford
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 11, 2015 at 6:08:13 pm
Last Edited By Ty Ford on May 11, 2015 at 6:12:56 pm

Hello Mason and a belated welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

Brian has given you some excellent information.

I will ad this. If you know what you're doing, you can put audio into a Canon 5d Mkiii and have it sound OK.

Your Samson mics sensitivity and noise ratings (below) may prove hissier than you want.

-40 dBV/pa (10mv/pa) 200Ω
22 dB (A weighted IEC/DIN 651)

I have auditioned the Audix SCX-1 HC. It's OK, but not as good as the best. Didn't compare it to the Samson.

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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Mason Kibler
Re: Manageable Film Audio Setup
on May 12, 2015 at 3:00:42 am

Ty,

Thanks for the feedback on the Samson. I'm glad you brought up the specs, because that's what drew me to the Audix in the first place. The sensitivity and noise on that seem really good (14 dB A-Weighted/80 S>N, 15 mv/PA--which is nearly identical to the MK41 capsule); and I'm guessing the biggest issue people have with it is the tone. That's exactly the type of thing I'd love to have to deal with in post, over noise or having to clean up a low signal. I've decided to go with the Audix and if I can't swing both the NTG2 and a nice softie on top of that, I'll probably just get the best protection I can afford and try to shoot the Audix outside with lavs as backup. In my budget, I feel like picking up as little background as possible is what will deem it the least "amateur". That's the goal, anyway.

Thanks to both of you for the help.


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