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Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?

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Chris Wright
Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 10, 2019 at 12:57:44 am

Anyone ever recorded with a binaural mic setup? It seems like it would be a shortcut to surround sound editing since the effect gets recorded directly into the mixer.


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Richard Crowley
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 10, 2019 at 5:12:16 am

Just to clarify, do you mean binural where a pair of microphones are embedded into a pair of head-spaced rubber ears (or worn on your own ears) Or do you mean a stereo single-point microphone where the left and right capsules are fixed at some angle in a single mic body?

But regardless, all microphones and microphone techniques have their place and meet a particular need. But are horribly inappropriate for other situations.

Don't plan on "shortcut to surround sound editing" until you have tried it. There may be SOME situations where it will work. But don't get your hopes up.

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


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Chris Wright
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 10, 2019 at 5:24:08 am

I was trying out some binaural plugins that gives the sense of 3d sound with only headphones. But since you can record a dummy head with mics separated by a rubber cavity that can re-create the physical separation of sound as it hits different parts of the ear at different times and freq, I thought maybe you could get some good foley or dialogue this way. Obviously it wouldn't work in a noisy environment, but maybe you could filter it through a special phase cancelling setup.

I guess the human brain is better at isolating sounds than 2 omni mics(if our ears are truly omni) compared to a shotgun so maybe it wouldn't work as well as I'd think. I was just curious as I'm noticing more and more music is being processed in this way to sound more immersive. It just seems useful as the mic would hear sound the way we do while shooting video. Compared to a stereo mic or shotgun, I wonder which is more practical.


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Bruce Watson
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:46:19 pm

[Chris Wright] "I thought maybe you could get some good foley or dialogue this way."

First, Foley is a man's name, so it's capitalized.

Dialog is nearly always recorded in mono, and recorded close to the speaker's mouth to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio. IOW, recordists get in close to maximize recording the speaker's voice and to minimize recording any local noise as much as possible, such as reverb, ambiance, reflections, whatever you want to call the sounds around the speaker. Reverb will be added to the dialog in post, to make the dialog sound like it was spoken in the space depicted in the film, not the space in which it was actually recorded. That's an important distinction.

As to surround sound... practically the only sound that's recorded on set is dialog. So there's no need for stereo recording, and no need for any kind of surround sound recording on set. For example, consider the scenes in bars, restaurants, etc. you've seen in movies. All those people in the background of the shot are silent -- they are acting, not talking. It can be rather eerie to film scenes like this; silence except for the dialog, but that's how it's generally done. The sound of the extras in the background is called "walla" and is recorded separately, typically on a sound stage and not in the bar/restaurant/club set. Because again, it's about supporting the story being shown on screen; it's not about sounding like the film set.

Basically everything you hear during a movie, other than the dialog itself, is done in post. All the non-dialog sound, from footsteps to the creak of door hinges, to the sound of that airplane flying overhead or the dog barking out that window, to music, to the added effects and reverb to make the audience believe the sound came from the space shown on-screen, all of that is added in post. So nearly all of the stereo considerations, and all of the surround sound, and Dolby Atmos considerations, are done in post. Almost none of that is being recorded while the scene is being filmed.

With any rule there are always exceptions. The exceptions here include "live" shows (think game/talk shows on TV), sports events (like the just finished French Open tennis tournament which used an impressive array of mics, each in its own wind basket with furry cover), parts of movies that include live events, concert films, especially classical music in historic spaces (often well over 100 mic channels used), that kind of thing. Some documentary work maybe. But narrative film work still tends to be very much dialog only recording on set.


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Ty Ford
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 10, 2019 at 12:41:28 pm

Hello Chris and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

As Richard points out, binaural is one of the many subsets of two-channel recording. It is not a shortcut to surround. Most surround is "manufactured" during post. If any of the two channel schemes would work, I'd suspect that Mid-side wold work.

Here's more good info on two channel recording.

https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/stereo-microphone-techniques/

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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Chris Wright
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:16:34 am

thx guys. I was hoping you could create 3-d sound in realtime like how they used to make audio for cartoons with 5 guys standing around each other making sound effects. perhaps our brains overcome the omni mic limitations that real world outside recording could never accomplish. I need to get a hold of guys that are testing this but mostly they are college professors.


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Ty Ford
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 12, 2019 at 2:33:17 pm

Hello Chris,

"College Professors." That causes a knee jerk reaction in me. Some years back at an Art College (MICA) I was called in for a day to present on several different topics. I was appalled that one teacher, who seemed a bit light on Pro Tools operation said they didn't want to teach students how to USE the software, but be aware of how it works so they could manage others who would actually do the work.

I'm sure there are college professors who do know what they're doing, but "leading with one's degree" is usually a sign that they don't. George Massenburg was FINALLY awarded a tenured track at McGill in Montreal after teaching as an Adjunct for years. He's a genius. Those academics who make those decisions are not.

The folks you'll run into here do the work.

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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Bruce Watson
Re: Anyone ever recorded with binaural mics?
on Jun 12, 2019 at 4:16:51 pm

[Chris Wright] "I was hoping you could create 3-d sound in realtime like how they used to make audio for cartoons with 5 guys standing around each other making sound effects."

Well, if you could do that, what you'd record would be the work area behind the camera. Which is full of people and equipment. It's got the DOP and his assistants, the director and his assistants, lights and light controls, people to set them up and control them, etc. Don't expect these people and their equipment to be perfectly silent, they will not be.

Typically on a film set, when you see a room on screen it's only two walls and a floor. So if you record what the room sounds like, it sounds huge (because it's not really a room at all), which doesn't sound at all like what's shown on screen (which is, say, a room in an office).

It's not like this stuff hasn't been tried before. It was tried when movies expanded to stereo. A lot of things were tried. And rejected. This is why we have a center channel for dialog, and why dialog does not track the actors. Because dialog tracking the actors does not work for the audience. There's plenty of research and papers published in peer review journals to prove what they guys discovered back at the time. Google away; most of it is on-line now.

You don't want to accept the wisdom of those who came before us? Fine. It's easy enough to learn this yourself. Go try it. Setup a surround sound rig on set and record everything. Try different techniques, from double M/S to IRT cross (two compact systems, there are many more to choose from). If you like what you get, use it. As Duke Ellington used to say "if it sounds good, it is good."

But please report back what you find and what you decide -- you aren't the first to ask these questions, and you won't be the last. Let other people learn from your experience.


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