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Shooting Sound: a primer


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 01:13 PM

Hello All,
I've been working with super8 and 16mm formats for some time, gaining experience in cinematography, and with various stocks. Now, I am interested in trying some sound stuff. Eventually, I'd like to put togetehr a nice sync sound package for documentaries. I currently have an Eclair NPR with a Haflexx crystal sync motor, but I don't know squat about sound. Could any of you recommend good beginner's equipment that I could gain expereicne with. I've heard of nagra recorders, but I don't know more than that. If it helps, I have my footage telecined to dv for nonlinear editing, so it is easy for me to sync sound. My issue is, I don't know much about recording it. Thanks!
Best,
Brian R.
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#2 Tom Doolittle

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 02:12 PM

Brian,

Don't know much about your NPR or sync motor setup, but my experience has shown modern DAT recorders to be the way to go. I'll assume you can find one that is compatible with your crystal sync motor, and then it should be as simple as plug and play. Your camera motor will keep the recorder in sync. You're going to need a marker of some sort, since your camera won't record any sync marks on the film for you. The traditional clapper works great for this. Just make sure both camera and recorder are running and call out shot/take numbers so you can hear them later on the audio track and line it up with the clapper on film.

The audio files from a digital recorder will dump right into most basic editing packages, and is easy to manipulate. The important thing, especially if you have lots of coverage that all looks/sound similar, is to keep track of which sound file goes with which take, and that has to happen every time the camera rolls.

Beyond that, I know little.

Hope it helps
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#3 Andrew Koch

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 03:28 PM

I am a student as well so keep that disclaimer in mind, but here are some things to consider.

A Dat would be a good way to go as a recorder. The less expensive ones do not have timecode, but this may not be necessary if you are syncing the footage yourself. (If you want to spend a boat load of money, you could use a timecode dat with a smartslate (also about $1k or more) and sync your dailies in telecine). If you are on a tight budget, I would recommend doing it yourself in an NLE like Avid, Premiere, or FCP. Another option is a fotex digital recorder. It records sounds as individual files to a flash card, which makes it fast and easy to transfer to your computer. The downside is the battery life is really short which is very problematic if you need to move around quickly.

Are you transfering to PAL or NTSC? I don't know about PAL, but the next paragraph applies to NTSC.

Keep in mind that when you tranfer 24fps film to video, the video is very slightly slowed down 23.976 to keep it compatible with the 3-2 pulldown. The raw audio from your DAT, however, is still running at the same speed. This will cause a very noticable sync problem. Within seconds, you will see a drift between audio and picture. To fix this, before you sync your footage, you must slow down your audio down by 0.1%. You can do this with a program like soundforge or protools.

Make sure you get a really good condensor microphone for your recorder. A shotgun mic is usually your best bet if you want to get clean dialogue, because it focuses on what you point it at and does not pick up as much background noise. It helps to use the mic on a boom pole, booming from just above the top of frame, (as close as you can get) the mic pointed at the subject's mouth. Sennheiser and Audio Technica make good ones. I particularly like the sennheisers. If you are in particularly noisy(I promise, I have no affiliation with either company)

short shotguns like the AT 4073, Senn 416, ME 80, and the ME 88 have a wider pick up pattern and are good for relatively quiet environments. Longer Shotguns like the Senn 815, 816, have a much more narrow pickup pattern and are good for noisy.reverberant environments, but they are harder to aim precisely at the subjects. If you use one of these, make sure you get some practice. Also make sure to use a windscreen over your microphone. I have never seen someone use a microphone completely naked, even indoors, but hey I'm a student.

Make sure your levels are acceptable, just because it sounds right in the headphones, doesn't necessarily mean you are getting good levels (however, if the levels are good, but you can clearly hear that the sound is distorted or just plain crappy, don't accept that either). On a dat, a healthy level is about -12db for normal conversation. If people are yelling or whispering, it may be slightly higher or lower respectively, but with loud sound, be careful not to let the levels go to high or you will get unrepairable distortion (I believe the highest you want to go is like -6 or -3db, check on this, I am not sure)

Camera noise is also something to watch out for. 100ft daylight spools are usually more noisy than core spools because of the metal. It helps to cover the camera with something like a barney, a special leather cover that significantly cuts down on noise. You may need additional muting, like a leather jacket. Sound can also come through the lense area of the camera, I believe there are special clear filters that can act as a sound muffler, but this may be affect image quality. I'm not sure about this one.

If you can, get wildlines as often as possible, which will help reduce time spent in ADR. (I am not sure how that applies to documentaries, but oh well)

Best of luck to you
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#4 Robert Edge

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 12:03 PM

I am interested in trying some sound stuff. Eventually, I'd like to put together a nice sync sound package for documentaries.


You may find that the most efficient way to understand the issues and make decisions about how you want to proceed is to read a book or two. There is a good overview of sound recording and editing in Steven Ascher's The Fimmaker's Handbook, and of course there are books that are dedicated to the subject.

The Transom public radio site (www.transom.org) contains good information, but obviously Transom doesn't address issues specific to sound and film. Recently, someone drew my attention to the newsgroup rec.arts.movies.production.sound, which I've found useful.

I am about to acquire a recorder myself and I'm looking only at machines that record either to hard drive or PCMIA or flash card. Given where the technology is going and current pricing, I don't see the point of buying a machine that records to tape, whether a Nagra or a digital audio tape machine.

Over the last 18 months, I have made several voice recordings, unrelated to film, using a laptop computer, simple sound recording/editing software, a small M-Audio pre-amp connected to the computer and a microphone connected to the pre-amp. Because I already owned the laptop, and the recordings were being made for content rather than sophisticated sound quality, this was cost-effective. If you are on a very tight budget, this could be used on a film proect. However, it is not terribly compact and, in the intervening months, some attractively-priced stand-alone digital recorders have come on the market.

I'm planning to make a couple of short documentaries myself with a film camera. I'm doing it because I think that I'll have good control over the amount of film that I'll use and because I think that the subjects lend themselves to film. Were it not for that, I would shoot on video, which is how almost all documentaries are being made these days.
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#5 Craig Knowles

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 12:12 PM

I've heard great things about the TASCAM HD-P2 but haven't had the chance to work with one yet.
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#6 Robert Edge

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 12:49 PM

I think that the new Tascam is very interesting if two channels are sufficient and you want time code and have a way, independently of the recorder, to generate code.

The problem is that the Tascam is so new that very few people have used one. Hands-on information is almost non-existent. That should change in the next few weeks, but at the moment the only user reports that I am aware of are on the r.a.m.p.s. and rec.audio.pro newsgroups. Those reports are positive, but also very preliminary.

If the recorder is as good in reality as it is on paper, it is very attractively priced.
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#7 david west

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 06:18 PM

TASCAM HD-P2 and a smart slate and you dont have to worry about aging DAT players
that are getting hard to find parts for...

just got one and will report on it when i have a chance to test.....
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#8 vinod subramanian

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 02:59 AM

check ty ford's website for his bootcamp book.

-vin
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Glidecam

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Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

CineLab