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Audio Setup Advice

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Dan SudkampAudio Setup Advice
by on Jan 10, 2017 at 4:41:40 pm

Hello all, I'm looking for some advice on audio setup for a production this week with some budget-related hurdles.

The production is a Q&A session between an off-camera adult and 3-4 on-camera grade school students, with the adult doing the Q's and the students doing the A's. I need to capture audio from both the adult and the students, but the budget doesn't allow for any gear rental nor hiring a freelance audio engineer, which is what we would typically do in this scenario.

At my disposal I have two Zoom H4n recorders, a half-dozen Countryman lav mics, and a shotgun (brand and model unknown, but I believe it's a Sennheiser) with a K-tek boom kit.

The setup I am planning on going with is putting a lav on the adult, and then grouping the students as closely as possible with the shotgun on the boom pointing at them. I don't know enough about the directionality of a shotgun mic to know if this setup with give me good enough results, and the shoot itself will be very quick so there won't be a lot of time for trial and error. Knowing that I have the second H4n, I could also throw that on a stand in front of the students to get an additional source, but I'm not sure if that would even be usable quality. I've never used the built-in mics on the H4n.

Any thoughts on this setup and if it will work for me? Also suggestions for alternatives? Thanks in advance!

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Steve KownackiRe: Audio Setup Advice
by on Jan 10, 2017 at 5:29:52 pm

What type of camera are you using? Something with decent audio/XLR? My first choice would be to LAV each student and feed the H4n's and send the adult's audio to the camera. Editing would be clean with separated audio tracks. With only 3 students, all audio can go to the H4n's.


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Richard CrowleyRe: Audio Setup Advice
by on Jan 10, 2017 at 8:43:30 pm

You did not mention what camera you are using (what mic preamp quality, what input connections, etc.) And assuming you don't have a mixer available since you didn't mention it.

I agree with Mr. Kownacki that it seems rather more likely to expect better quality from the students using individual clip-on mics, or if that is not possible, the H4 built-in-mics close-up on the kids. Keeping them all close enough together to use a stationary shotgun mic seems rather beyond reasonable expectations unless you have an experienced boom operator (which you seemed to indicate was not possible).

You did not mention the environment where this is being recorded? If it is in a typical school classroom, cafeteria, auditorium, library, lab, etc, those rooms are typically all plagued with nearby reflections and rather reverberant ambience, and we would not expect a typical shotgun mic to perform very well in that environment.

I would put a clip-on mic on the interviewer going into one channel of the camera, and take the audio from the H4 recorder and feed it into the other channel of the camera. Or at least the on-camera mic into the other channel as a "sync-track".

Recording audio without metering and monitoring is exactly like framing and focusing without looking at the viewfinder.

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Dan SudkampRe: Audio Setup Advice
by on Jan 10, 2017 at 8:56:59 pm

Thanks Richard and Steve for the feedback. Unfortunately we are shooting with Canon 7Ds without any accessories to allow XLR input. I won't be100% sure of the environment until we get there, but I would expect it to be a classroom, and I too was worried about potential reverb issues in that setting.

Assuming we are able to keep the groups at 3 students or less, we can just lav them + the adult and run it all through the H4n's. Was hoping to keep all the audio on one device but quality is more important than ease of use, I guess. Thanks for the help, guys!

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Brian ReynoldsRe: Audio Setup Advice
by on Jan 10, 2017 at 11:16:38 pm

Firstly (I assume) the lav mic is a wireless system rather than a hard wire cable mic, if thats the case then mic up the adult that is asking the questions and put this to one track of the recorder (camera or H4n).

Secondly NEVER mic a child without the parent present (a teacher isn't good enough).....NEVER yourself, ideally get the parent to do it.

In these time and dates never touch a child..... So the suggestion is to group the kids together and boom it with the shotgun mic closely and feed this to the second track of the recorder.

It would be good if the sound was also on the camera but not essential as long as there is a way to sync the 2 together (clapper board or hand clap)

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