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Mini-DV Camera for Synch Sound?


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#1 Scott Bullock

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 06:14 PM

I have a shoot coming up on Monday that is an extremely low-budget affair. The sound guy was going to use a DAT recorder but suddenly it decided just today that it wanted to stop functioning properly. As an alternative we tossed around the idea of using a Sony PDX-10 DVCAM camera to record sound with because it has XLR inputs and we have access to one. However, I'm wondering if this is a viable alternative for synch sound?

I apologize for asking a sound question in a cinematography forum, but I'm desperately in need of an answer and I know that there are a ton of smart people here, some that may have actually tried this approach before.

Thanks
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#2 N DeWood

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:27 PM

Hello Scott,

You can easily synch sound recorded from a MiniDV camera to your film. I used the markers feature in FCP to synch the slate recorded on film with the slate's sound recorded on the Canon XL2.

I am assuming here that you're finishing on video, and not film. I've done several shoots with an Arri SR and an XL2 Camera. Another bonus and if location space allows, the video camera can record all of the behind scenes action, and that can be a good learning experience.

Make sure to bring long XLR cables if you're not going wireless. Sometimes crammed spaces require that the video camera be placed in another room, so you want to make sure the boom has enough leeway. Also, make sure to bring extra long extension cords for your headphones. Very important.

Hope that helps.

Nick,

I have a shoot coming up on Monday that is an extremely low-budget affair. The sound guy was going to use a DAT recorder but suddenly it decided just today that it wanted to stop functioning properly. As an alternative we tossed around the idea of using a Sony PDX-10 DVCAM camera to record sound with because it has XLR inputs and we have access to one. However, I'm wondering if this is a viable alternative for synch sound?

I apologize for asking a sound question in a cinematography forum, but I'm desperately in need of an answer and I know that there are a ton of smart people here, some that may have actually tried this approach before.

Thanks


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#3 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:48 PM

Hi Scott,

you can definitely record sound on the Mini DV camera and be fine with it. I have done so numerous times on PD170 whilst shooting on my 16mm BL or a rented SR2.

As mentioned by Nick, you can also use the camera to record some behind the scenes stuff, but make sure that the person operating it doesnt get carried away with it for you dont want too much movement with it if those XLRs are stretched out over the floor.

Also, make sure your settings are on top notch but i guess that would be common sense.

You may even decide to shoot DV CAM since your camera can do that - as the durability of the format is better then that of Mini DV, but surely that opens up another discussion. (DV CAM media has 50% lower drop out rate). This option may also cost you a bit more - as DV CAM is priced much more over Mini DV so do read up on weather you really need to go that way or not, before hand... you may not want the Op to roam around in between the takes then, doing behind the scenes stuff ;)

You can also slate this stuff easy, for obviously you can match up the two visions which will give you a synced sound.

Now you just got to stop stressing about the sound and concentrate on your film stuff, your lighting and shots.
Good luck,
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#4 Scott Bullock

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 11:17 PM

Nick, Lav, thanks a lot for your input!

Wow, that really is a stress reliever! The Sony PDX-10, like its brothers the PD-150 and the PD-170, is a really nice 3 chip camera that records excellent audio by incorporating a host of manual features, I just didn't know if it was suitable for double system, synch sound. Now I'm really anxious to try it! As you both guessed correctly, all of the post work will be done in Final Cut Pro, so we're hoping to save a little money by not paying a transfer house to synch our takes for us, but instead synch everything on the MAC following capture of the individual components.

The suggestion of using the DVCAM recording mode instead of Mini-DV because of fewer drop-outs is an excellent one! I'll make sure that we have plenty of tapes on hand and that the camera is specifically set for that mode. I appreciate that you can understand my predicament, having been specifically hired for DOP work but am now being utilized as an overall technical adviser of sorts. There won't be an AC, let alone more than one, and I'll also end up doing all of the gaffer work by myself, as well. Luckily, I will have one Key Grip that really knows his stuff. Combine the two of us with a director and one PA and you can imagine the situation I am in, especially considering that the cast will outnumber the crew! Thanks again for all of your input!
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#5 David Sweetman

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 11:49 PM

There won't be an AC, let alone more than one


Huh? How will you pull focus? The 1st AC is kind of essential... I assume this is 16 or perhaps s16?

I've used a GL2 with a shotgun mic for an audio deck before, and the problem I got was that the audio didn't follow the video pulldown, so the audio was all a little slower than the image. I believe DAT decks have a function to compensate for this. Anyway, you just have to speed it up a little and it'll match perfectly, if you do run into this problem.
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#6 Scott Bullock

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 12:19 AM

Hi David;

Yes, this is a Super 16 project, and 'yes' I am the only person in the camera department . . . :(

I've been in this situation before and probably will be again. I'm a lighting/camera operator who makes sure that I have plenty of mags loaded the night before and can pull focus pretty competently by myself. It's the curse of what I'm willing to do. I try to persuade producers to hire larger crews every opportunity that presents itself, but I'm not always on the winning end of that argument. Anyway, believe it or not, many DPs are adaptable to the harshest of production environments and can assume many responsibilities that would otherwise require the skills of more than one person. However, as I often caution prospective clients seeking such services, you will get what you pay for, which, in this particular case, may very well mean that the producer will end up with a PA pulling focus for him if need be. It may seem harsh, but I value every frame that I'm able to shoot on somebody else's dime, if you know what I mean.
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#7 Hal Smith

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 12:29 AM

I've used a GL2 with a shotgun mic for an audio deck before, and the problem I got was that the audio didn't follow the video pulldown, so the audio was all a little slower than the image. I believe DAT decks have a function to compensate for this. Anyway, you just have to speed it up a little and it'll match perfectly, if you do run into this problem.

Was the camera at exactly 24 fps? The GL2 would have be running at 29.970 fields per second and laying down corresponding time code. The camera should have been at 23.976 fps to lay down film at exactly 3/2 pulldown.
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#8 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 07:00 AM

Was the camera at exactly 24 fps? The GL2 would have be running at 29.970 fields per second and laying down corresponding time code. The camera should have been at 23.976 fps to lay down film at exactly 3/2 pulldown.


In my post i refer to using pd170 and 16mm cameras, all which was shot in Australia on 25fps. Just thought i throw that in.

Good luck with the shoot Scott. I believe the AC would be essential to any crew, no matter the budget size or the difficulty of the project. worst case scenario, you should be able to call in help from your mates that also do camera (another DP perhaps) that will know what they are doing and will be able to help you.

Number of times i helped out for free for mates, who did the same without any hessitation for me too.... and as you said, what you pay is what you get, but you should also argue that if it is soft or out of focus completely, they will be getting nothing but still paying something... now that is a rotten scenario.

I dont mean to say it can't be done, i've done it at times myself, it is just easier (much) and quicker to have an AC at all time... a focus puller preciesly.

Again, good luck, have fun and let us know how it went :D

Cheers mate,
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#9 Scott Bullock

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 10:04 AM

Yeah, I realize that having a 1st AC would be a great benefit but, unfortunately, it isn't going to happen this time. I usually work with one as a general rule; it's unfortunate that not all clients understand why one is needed. If they want a moving camera shot and a focus pull at the same time, then it becomes obvious to them why a 1st is needed. Trial by fire, as they say. Trust me, I always ask for camera assistants, but sometimes they just aren't willing to pay for one. The best case 'minimum' scenario is to have 2 camera assistants, 1 excellent grip/electric person, and a gaffer. It doesn't always work out like that though.

I appreciate all the input folks. So, just to reiterate and confirm, we should be fine using a Mini-DV camera to record double system synch sound with a crystal camera running at 24 fps, correct?

Thanks again.
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#10 Hal Smith

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 11:21 AM

In my post i refer to using pd170 and 16mm cameras, all which was shot in Australia on 25fps. Just thought i throw that in.
Cheers mate,

I was replying to Daniel's post about the sound running slow, the post result of 24fps film vs. 29.970fps video. You're one of the fortunate ones who live in the 25fps / 25fps world. All the compromises made to create NTSC color bedevil us poor 60Hz world people to this very day.
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#11 Scott Bullock

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 11:26 AM

Do you think I'm going to run into this problem, Hal?
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#12 Hal Smith

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 11:33 AM

double system synch sound with a crystal camera running at 24 fps, correct?

Run the camera at 23.976 fps if that's an option on the camera. The video camera will be running at 29.970 fps. It won't be huge problem but you're adding the potential of extra time laying sound back in post otherwise. Am I making sense to anyone about this?
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#13 Scott Bullock

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 12:31 PM

The only option I have is 24 fps. We're planning on having the film telecine transfered without synching the audio, and then synching everything in Final Cut Pro after we've captured the 2 video sources (the telecine transfer and the video with the audio on it) into the computer. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will work. This is the kind of stuff that happens when nobody is willing to spend any money.

<sigh> :unsure:
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#14 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 10:44 PM

I was replying to Daniel's post about the sound running slow, the post result of 24fps film vs. 29.970fps video. You're one of the fortunate ones who live in the 25fps / 25fps world. All the compromises made to create NTSC color bedevil us poor 60Hz world people to this very day.


hey Hal, I was actually just throwing my comment out there as I wanted to clarify that i was in the PAL country, so that my advice doesn’t become harmful :)

But yeah, since on the subject of FPS, you wouldn’t actually believe how many people stress about shooting 24fps here in Oz. I don’t get it... I mean, even for theatrical release I’d always go for 25fps, which was recently argued out on my 35mm feature trailer thingy... of course if it is for TV/DVD release I wouldn’t even think about it twice... Others disagree and figure that going 24fps gives them that "Film Look"... so yeah, even though we have it simple, at times its the man that make it complicated with different opinions...

And then of course there are the times when the budget does not exist, and then the filmmakers might decide to work with 24fps merely because that saves a lot of film in the overall picture! In this instance, the sound guy has to worry about recording his bit in 24fps too...or fixing it in post.


Scott, I reckon you will be ok shooting 24fps and using your video camera to record sound at 29.970fps, but as a test, maybe you can shoot some video (or use some existing stuff) and put it in your FCP, adjusting the speed on the audio... I don’t know if that test would be sufficient enough in showing what result you would be facing by recording some dialogue with your camera on the day?! It could take as little as 2-3 hours for the test...and it would be matching the exact POST path you plan to have with your sound work anyways... not to mention that ideally you could shoot some film tests too, lens, stock, lighting, wardrobe, etc... all could be performed in that 100ft of film.

Edited by Lav Bodnaruk, 19 August 2006 - 10:48 PM.

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#15 George White

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 11:50 PM

Scott

You might consider this: capture the audio (along with the video I assume you are not using at all) into FCP with the project settings appropriate to how the camera was set (29.970, 24, 23.976 fps etc. -- should not matter). Then output the audio as an aiff audio file. As long as the camera settings and the FCP project setting match each other it will not matter what they were, the audio file will be time correct. Later just import that audio file into the actual project you bring the telecined project. I can not say have done this, but it seems to me much more straightforward than other workflows that involve different time bases.

---george



quote name='Scott Bullock' date='Aug 19 2006, 10:31 AM' post='122313']
The only option I have is 24 fps. We're planning on having the film telecine transfered without synching the audio, and then synching everything in Final Cut Pro after we've captured the 2 video sources (the telecine transfer and the video with the audio on it) into the computer. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will work. This is the kind of stuff that happens when nobody is willing to spend any money.

<sigh> :unsure:
[/quote]
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#16 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 12:18 AM

hi george, im not following, are you suggesting he shoots sound on mini dv say in 29.970fps, bring it into FCP and export as AIFF which will then match exactly his 16mm stuff that is shot on 24fps without any further alterations? Wouldn't it differ in duration and thefore fall out of sync? I personally dont think it would fall out heaps, and if it did it would only occur after a long time,which would only be a problem if there was no cut for a long time...

But should he bring in the 29.970fps sound file into 24fps off line cut of his 16mm project, shouldnt he just change the speed on the sound file and get 100% matching sync-so he can have takes that go for 10minutes without any cuts :D ? No? Am i way off?


ps. years ago i shot on a camera without crystal sync, that was varying terribly between 25 and 24 fps... the sound was captured on 25fps. in post, the sync wouldnt fall out untill 1:45 min after the initial sync point, which was more then we ever needed for our dialogue shots... not to mention that in every 'breathing gap' in dialogue you chould shift waveforms... of course this was terribly unproffessional, and i would deny it any time to being used for a paid gig, but none the less... the crystal lock sync unit broke on the day and it was best we could do.

better get back to my PAL project editing...
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#17 George White

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 01:19 AM

I was hoping someone else could confirm the logic of this, but yes, if the camera is set to frame rate X and imported into a FCP project set to that same frame rate of X, then the audio file exported at that point will be a real-time (to the accuracy of the xtal in the camera) representation of the sound on the set. At that point it is just an audio file and doesn't know that it started out in life as the audio part of a video. The audio file doesn't know about frames, just about real time. A sound that lasted 10 sec. in real life is 10 sec. in that audio file. When the 24 fps material is brought into a FCP project set to 24 fps, action that lasted 10 sec in real life will be represented as 10 sec. Again, I have not done this myself so validation of the logic would be good.

hope this or other ideas and coments here help Scott get through this shoot.

--george
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#18 Scott Bullock

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 01:44 PM

Lav, George, all:

Thanks for all of your help. You've given me some options and scenarios that will probably work out just fine. Right now I'm just trying to concentrate on shooting the thing. Last night the producer and director said that if it doesn't work out they'll just do some "poor man's" ADR in post. I guess they'd rather do this than simply rent a Nagra or DAT for a day. Sounds crazy to me but it's not my money or my project. My biggest concern is making it look good. It should be an interesting experiment and I'll definitely post all the results once I have them.

Thanks again.
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#19 Scott Bullock

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 09:57 PM

Thanks for all of the help, folks! Just to update everyone with what I discovered, and has apparently been known for quite some time given all the replies, it's not only possible to shoot synch-sound film footage using a mini-dv camera for sound, but the audio was so good on my particular project that there was no need for dialogue replacement in post. We shot S16 at 24 fps and recorded sound on an NTSC Sony PDX-10 via its XLR inputs with boom, zeppelin, professional mic., etc. Everything was synched in post following telecine transfer using Final Cut Pro and it worked wonderfully, perfect synch! Thanks again to all of those who offered their advice and experiences.
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#20 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 10:36 PM

awesome to hear Scott!
Cheers,
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