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AV setup for a focus group

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Brad HouserAV setup for a focus group
by on Oct 31, 2013 at 6:32:46 pm

I need to set up a room to conduct a focus group. I need to record the session for reviewing later, as well as broadcast the session to another room down the hall (less than 75') where people will observe it in live time. What equipment do I need to accomplish this? Of course, budget is a concern.

It is important to hear what is said in the room and to capture the facial expressions during the discussion. The room with the participants is 20' x 20'.

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Mark SuszkoRe: AV setup for a focus group
by on Oct 31, 2013 at 8:31:29 pm

You don't say how big the group is.

I will assume six.

I would put them all on one side of a table, preferably a semi-circle. That way your average lens to face distance is roughly the same, making quick focusing easier.

On the table, I would place three PZM type boundary mics, with each mic shared between two speakers. If you are in a big city, these can often be rented for the day. I like PZM's for this because they make the entire surface of the table, wall, or ceiling into the mic, they pick up well over a great range, they are flat and unobtrusive on the table, so people are less self-conscious of a mic in their face, thus, more honest and frank in their opinions.

The moderator gets a lavaliere mic, hard-wired and phantom-powered. Run these into a four-channel mixer that has phantom power (probably rent this same place as the mics). it would be good to have a dedicated operator ride the pots on this mixer, for better overall audio quality.

Use the built-in or supplemental shotgun mic on the camera for channel 2, feed a mix from the mixer to channel 1. Record in-camera. Feed a mix from the output of the camera or the spare output of the mixer, into the viewing room.

If you can't swing boundary mics, you can get hardwired lav mics at radio shack for about 25 bucks a pop, or rent a mixer and 3 to 6 table stand omni dynamic mics with XLR cables from a local music/guitar store. Cheap mics and mixers are also available at pawn shops, caveat emptor.

Now, for the bigwigs 75 feet down the hall... Well, the "old school" method would be to run a coaxial cable that far, to a TV in the viewing chamber, running either an RF broadcast signal on channel 3 or 4, or an HD signal via the SDI-output spigot on the camera (if it has one). 75 feet may be pushing it, to pump an RF or composite SD video signal over cheap coax without adding an amplifier, you'd have to experiment and see. They make HDMI cables that long, but that's kind of expensive. HDMI running over cat5 with baluns might be cheaper.

The hipster way to relay that video would be to stream it on a private channel, maybe using a streaming appliance like a V-brick or teradek Cube, livestream, Minicaster, BoinxTv or the like.

Sending it over wifi or bluetooth may be tricky in al all-metal-framed building at 75 feet. My friend in NYC works in film studios, and what they do is use a microwave-based video relay system that has pretty good range, even thru walls. These are not cheap, though.

You could perhaps use something like Apple's Face Time, or Skype, and this would be relatively easy (and free) to set up. You just have to find a way to get the camera signal into the macbook, ipad, iphone, or whatever, treating it as if it was a webcam.

There is also a variety of streaming solutions like or ustream. You just need to feed the video and audio out of the camera, into a laptop, using perhaps a firewire cable, in the simplest version, and tell the laptop to consider that input as if it was a webcam.

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Brad HouserRe: AV setup for a focus group
by on Nov 5, 2013 at 4:46:09 pm

Thanks for all the options. This is excellent info. BTW....that group size will be 6-8 people.

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Mark SuszkoRe: AV setup for a focus group
by on Nov 5, 2013 at 10:53:15 pm

If you don't mic them individually, then use no more than two people per shared mic, with the mic between them. If you use "stick" mics on stands, be sure they are omnidirectional or at least cardioid pickup pattern, not directional.

I saw a box at that can boost HDMI over a hundred feet, for cheap, could be the way for you to go. Browse Cyberguys, Markertek, Monoprice, and TigerDirect for the hardware to reach the other room.

Good luck.

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