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#1 Nick Norton

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Posted 29 August 2008 - 10:36 PM

I just finished watching Sherman's March by Ross McElwee and was astonished in his ability to shoot his own material (on what i am guessing is a 16mm camera) and also recording his own audio.

At times you could see reflections of him holding the camera in one hand, and the microphone in the other. (an audio recorder strapped across his chest)

However, there were other scenes in which he is zooming, focusing, etc. and i found no possible way he could have been doing this while simutaneously holding a microphone in one hand.

Does anyone know how he might have accomplished this, or have any practical tips on how one might accomplish this? (while shooting film, of course)


Thanks-
nicholas
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#2 Brian Rose

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Posted 30 August 2008 - 11:09 AM

I've been doing something quite similar, actually. Over the summer, I've been out on the road a lot getting location footage and interviewing historians for a biography that will be my graduate thesis film. I'm shooting digital, but I've been recording audio separately and slating it, much as you would with film. The key (for me at least) is the type of mike you use. If you use a shotgun mike, you HAVE to have a sound man. It's just too much, to run camera and listen to audio and make sure the mike is pointed in the right direction. Not to mention, it could still pick up sounds of the camera running!

Instead, I use a wireless lavalier mike, which is designed specifically for capturing the voice, and little else. It functions a lot like a shotgun mike, recording sound in directional pattern. By using this mike, I eliminate the need for a sound man and boom pole. Instead, I hook it up to the subject, and he/she is able to walk around free from cables, while I just pop the receiver in my pocket, and carry the recorder in a back pack, or around my shoulder.

The key is to know your equipment and sound levels. I spent a lot of time practicing with my recorder, and getting the levels just right. I took notes and pasted them on the case as a reminder, and eventually, I got to where I could switch on the recorder, set my levels, do a quick check based on the conditions, and never worry about it again. I don't really both with the headphones anymore, so I can focus on my interview, and running camera. And so far, my audio has been excellent.

That said, if you intend to shoot film, I think it is still a good idea to have a sound man so, if for nothing else, you can have someone there to record backup sound. Since I've been shooting digital, I've been able to get away without a sound man for most of my shoots because I run the lav mikes through an external flash recorder, and also record stereo through the camera's onboard mike (I'm using XL2, and it does an excellent job). But with film, you don't have this option, which means you need a second person to run th second audio.

Why two audio tracks? For documentary, I think audio is actually MORE important than the video/film, especially when it comes to interviews. Say you botch the footage. You can still use the audio, for voice over, combined with location footage or other visual materials. But if the audio is bad, you're in trouble. You can't redub, or post sync an interview, as you might on a fiction/narrative film. Wihtout audio, any footage you've got of an interview is pretty much useless.

Furthermore, there is the matter of the audience. People can put up with poor visuals (to a point), especially if the conditions are unfavorable,. But their patience will wear thin quickly if the audio sucks.

So depending on the format, you may HAVE to have a sound man. Even if you can make do without one, make SURE the audio is good, and you've got back up sources. That is key.

Hope this helps!

Best,
BR
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#3 James Baker

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Posted 31 August 2008 - 04:07 AM

Does anyone know how he might have accomplished this, or have any practical tips on how one might accomplish this? (while shooting film, of course)
Thanks-
nicholas


Hi Nicholas,
Ross uses an Aaton shooting 16 and later S16, and has been pretty much a one person show --sometimes with help from friends and his son, Adrian. He's a super nice guy and you should ask him directly about his technique. He's still at VES (Dept of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard.) Don't think school has started yet, but his office hours should be posted. Drop him an email. (I'm a friend of Charleen Swansea's :D )
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#4 Ira Ratner

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:43 AM

Brian, great info and advice for all of us! I'll be doing sound once my K-3 is converted to motor/sync (I'm going to be a guinea pig for that Danish company now manufacturing this motor), and I'm pretty clueless.

Would a unit like this pretty much fit the bill?

http://www.samash.co...p...&GroupCode=

Also, I see a ton of lavalier systems at Sam Ash at a range of prices. Any recommendations on good, reasonably priced units, or anything to look out for?

Finally, with the above mentioned digital recorder, can I assume you check the levels on the unit itself? And it doesn't have to run through a mixer? (Unit accepts four mikes.)
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#5 Hal Smith

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 08:56 AM

Finally, with the above mentioned digital recorder, can I assume you check the levels on the unit itself? And it doesn't have to run through a mixer?

If you're recording mono audio one trick is to record the same audio on both the left and the right channel with the levels set about 6 dB apart. The channel set 6 dB lower is your safety channel in case you overload the other channel. With four channel recording this trick can be extended out to recording from two independent mikes (each mike to two channels).
This does NOT work with digitally compressed (data reduced) recording methods such as minidisc, MP2/3, etc. unless you can manually configure the recording system for dual mono, not joint stereo.
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#6 Tom Lowe

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 07:04 PM

I've been trying to figure out how to record high-quality ambient sounds when I am shooting nature stuff on a camera like the Red One, Sony EX3, etc. Obviously I will not have any hands free to hold a boom mic. And I worry about using an "onboard" mic, even if it is an external unit mounted a few inches above the camera. Is there any way to use something like a c-stand to lock off a boom mic? If I am shooting a river, for example, could I lock off a boom mic a couple feet away, aimed at the river? I remember a sound guy once telling me that this might not work, because the wind would cause all kinds of racket.
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#7 Andrew Sobey

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Posted 02 September 2008 - 06:57 PM

I've been trying to figure out how to record high-quality ambient sounds when I am shooting nature stuff on a camera like the Red One, Sony EX3, etc. Obviously I will not have any hands free to hold a boom mic. And I worry about using an "onboard" mic, even if it is an external unit mounted a few inches above the camera. Is there any way to use something like a c-stand to lock off a boom mic? If I am shooting a river, for example, could I lock off a boom mic a couple feet away, aimed at the river? I remember a sound guy once telling me that this might not work, because the wind would cause all kinds of racket.


If you're shooting nature stuff, do you really need sync sound? Couldn't you shoot first and get sound later? Or you could just foley, which would be a lot more fun, if nothing else.

But if it's too windy to have the mic on a c-stand, having a sound person there holding it instead won't do much good. Park you van upwind and wait for a calm spot, I suppose.
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#8 Tom Lowe

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Posted 02 September 2008 - 09:28 PM

I would prefer to be able to simply plug an external shotgun/boom mic right into the XLR and record onboard, with the mic locked off on a c-stand or something. I'm sure I could foley some of it, but why bother if I can record the real deal alongside the footage?
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Tai Audio

The Slider