Need Advice for Event Panelist Audio
I've been making films since I was 16 and most of what I know is self taught. I've been to school and graduated but now I've found myself in a psuedo-internship role at a pretty pretigious non-profit in a weird transition phase that has resulted in a lot of changes in personnel. They put on regular events and they are looking to me to fix their trend of terrible video/audio coverage for these events.
They hate wired mics and mixing boards. These guys love streamlined, small setups. They want to avoid wires, and especially avoid hand held mics unless they have no other choice (and they are very convinced they do have another choice somewhere).
In their words, their ideal setup would be for each panelist (never more than 6) to have a wireless lav that transmits the signal to a receiver that can plug right into a laptop and record all the mics on separate channels simultaneously.
I know my knowledge is limited, but is that sort of setup even possible? And if so, where can I find the gear to do this. How do I do this? If I can figure this out, this place has some really tremendous opportunities in the not-to-distant future. You can see where I am going with this.
As a side not, they have one HVX right now, which I am very familiar with, but they want to have two cameras instead of one and are considering selling the HVX to go towards two lesser cameras. Does anyone have an alternative camera setup? I fear they are going to chuck a pair of Xacti's or something at me and that is the last thing I want.
Thank you for your time.
Yes it's possible. Very possible. I've run 4 audio xlr cable to a device that converts the audio for inclusion into cubase or protools which spit the audio to 4 channels for simultaneous recording. If you plan to mix the audio and then sync with live video youre better off getting a board to handle it all with a laptop doing the final recording. I find it easier to mix the audio before it gets to the laptop and then sync up the video and audio, but, like you, I'm totally self-taught and I'm drawing off what works for me.
The only real question isn't can it be done, but what's the budget? Go to B&H for starters and check out the live event forums for video. You will want some decent lav mics - I like Sennheiser, but there's tons on the market. You need transmitters and receivers and a board to run the audio to (or a device that converts the audio for an audio app), the audio app itself, some good pro headphones (none of that Bose crap!), the laptop, and id suggest at least 1 omni mic for ambient sound but it's not totally necessary. Sky's the limit on price, unfortunately and the more the organization can spend the better.
You have a couple of things going on here: your needs for the live audience as the event unfolds, and your needs for a post-event audience for the recording.
A quick flip thru the FullCompass catalog shows an 8-track digital audio recorder called the Joeco blackbox in the $2,500-$3,000 range. Looking thru Musician's Friend.com may turn up better alternatives.
But let's back up a minute. I'm not sure you really gain that much by buying one of these gadgets.
For the live event, they want 6 wireless lavs. Okay, fine, so you need at least a 6-channel mixer to feed those lavs to the room's PA system. I'd actually go for a few more channels, to accomodate something like a powerpoint or DVD that may have audio, and maybe a floor mic in the room for ambience or audience questions, you never know what may pop up. So a 10 or 12-channel mixer might be better.
Once you have that mixer, which is required for the PA, you can feed that pre-mix into your existing camera, in different combinations. Assuming your camera only has 2 channels, you could mix the left 3 guys into channel 1, and the right 3 guys into channel 2. You could pre-mix all 6 into channel 1 on the cam, and a backup shotgun audio or PZM boundary mic on the table, into channel 2. If you shoot with a pair of cameras, you can put various combos of mics into the 4 inputs you have available, some direct, some, pre-mixed, using small, 3-input mixers like the wedding guys use.
Depending on the cameras you have, and the breakout cable situation, you can record 2, 4, 6, or 8 discrete tracks of audio into one HD camera. I never use but two of these, so I'm not someone to quote about this, but the tracks are in there to use in post. I only notice them when turning them off in my NLE's digitizing window.:-)
If the point of their request is to improve the audio quality of live PA events and on webcasts after the live event, I would invest in a live mixer operator as-needed, before buying a bunch more hardware. Will save a lot of editing time later to get the mix right in real time. Sure, there are black boxes that can "listen" to multiple mic inputs and raise and lower the appropriate source in a few milliseconds. Most of these I think are pretty expensive for doing what a human being can basically do about as well. And the human has reasoning and the ability to foresee what's happening on stage and anticipate cues.
As far as cameras, hey, two is the bare minimum to do your job right. Three would be better.
Zoom has a 16 & 32 mixer / recorder for under $500 for audio.
Synch it in post.
Owner / Director / Editor
Video Marketing Toolbox.net
Canon 5D Mark II
Mac Pro Tower, Quad Core,
with Final Cut Studio
HP i7 Quad laptop
Adobe CS-5 Production Suite