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Realistic options for sound synchronisation.


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#1 Ben Wells

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 12:18 PM

Hi all,

Better do the intros first. My name is Ben and I hail from Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. My background is in graphic design, still photography and audio engineering, though for the past few years I've done the odd DV job for clients. I've always enjoyed cinematography and earlier this week while toying with the idea of film discovered the world of Super 8. Needless to say after several days of scouring the web for info I've decided it is something I'd like to get into. I hope to acquire a Canon 814XLS within the next month or so and in time acquire a couple more cameras, possibly a Beaulieu of some description for slow motion shooting and the like.

Invariably it will remain 'hobby only', though I can see it working within the aesthetic of a post-alt-punk band I play drums in, and have already started storyboarding ideas for a filmclip or two. I'm also toying with the idea of shooting short documentaries. With both of these though comes the issue of sound sync.

From what I've been able to gather from information here and elsewhere, the options are:

1. Slide things into place manually in Final Cut Pro et. al. For your average filmclip, where say only half the actual runtime is band footage requiring sync, and each shot averages 0.5-2sec anyway this probably isn't so bad. For an interview though it would very easy for audio to drift out after 1-2 mins.

2. Crystal sync the camera to 24 fps and mark the start with a clapper. Line them up in the editor and your happy. I'm assuming that a crystal sync'd camera can only operate at that fps though?

3. Capture the flash socket/pilotone alongside the audio. I plan on using a 4 track digital recorder such as the Edirol R-44 for on-location sound so it would be very easy to record a sync "channel" straight off the camera. Assuming some kind of converter is required to turn the hotshoe switching into a recordable short beep (easy enough to do with a little electronics know how) you could again mark the start of the shot, line that up in post and any deviations in the frame rate would show as the waveform peaks are displayed next to the frames, and could be tweaked back into place if necessary.

Is my understanding correct? What methods are people using?

Initially, simply sliding footage into sync manually sounds fine for music clips. Getting at least one camera crystal-sync'd for doco/interview work seems the best solution there though the economics of spending US$500 on a camera unlikely to be worth that amount seems mildly nuts ;-) I'm curious if the pilotone method has any merit... obviously the references online regarding it are for use with Nagra RTR analogue machines. I like analogue for recording music but given all this will end up digital anyway recording to tape on location just seems like an unnecessary complication. That and the decks are rather expensive.

Two other questions if I may:

1. Is there anywhere in Australia where one can buy good, serviced-and-working cameras? Anybody here still able to do repairs?

2. I'm sure everyone's familiar with the common filmclip technique of recording the band etc. at double speed sound and frame rate to give that slo-mo effect. I'm wondering if one could get the opposite effect by recording at 18fps and run sound at 2/3 speed, then playback at 24fps to give an almost-sped up-but-still-time effect? For shots like guitars being strummed, drums being hit, etc. etc. would the extra frames give a very detailed and - for use of a better term - 'accurate' movement? Does anybody do this sort of thing?

I guess one of the things that really draws me to film is the flexibility with frame rates, something obviously you don't get at the blunt end of digital video.

Cheers, Ben.
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#2 Steve Wallace

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 04:59 PM

1 -3 is correct. I've used 1) for super8 and 2) for 16mm/S16 and 3) never really used a pilotone. note that syncing by sliding around in Final Cut can be very time consuming. At least it has been for me at times.

As far as 1 (finding a place in AU) I don't know. And 2 if you were to film at 18fps and playback at 24 it would introduce more motion blur, not less. the individual frames are being exposed slightly longer, thus smearing the image slightly.
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#3 Paul Bruening

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 05:12 PM

Better is better. But, all you have to have is a front and end slate of some kind. Clappers are the age old way. I've got an auto bloop light and tone on my Frankenmitchell. It bloops automatically at the head and tail. It's still the same as a clapper, just uses up less film. If you've got the head and tail, you don't absolutely have to have sync since you can shove the sound longer or shorter without changing pitch. I use Goldwave for that and most other audio fixing. Most folks prefer some kind of sync system. I figure I'm going to spend so much time turd polishing the audio anyway, adjusting it's take length to match the picture doesn't add so much to the job.

Sync is easier and better if you can scratch up the gear that can do it.

This makes me think back to my junior high school days. There was a kid that shot James Bond films with his dad's S8 camera. He always played Bond, of course. He put the audio on a crummy 1/4" cassette player. He taught his actors to clap once at the camera right after "action" was called and right after "cut". I just remembered that. Memories.
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#4 Ben Wells

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 08:26 PM

Thanks for your replies guys.

Re: 18fps shooting... sorry, forgot that shutter speed is locked to the frame rate in Super 8. I'm guessing then to get the effect I'm talking about you'd have to use synchronised strobes instead. I know this is how they shot the filmclip for Pantera's "5 Minutes Alone", which is just stunning visually.

What is an auto bloop light/tone?... and, er... Frankenmitchell?
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#5 Paul Bruening

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 12:25 PM

What is an auto bloop light/tone?... and, er... Frankenmitchell?


Bloop light. It's a light mounted just off of the lens' light path, usually in front of the mirror, but pretty much where ever it can shine some light on the film but not interfere with the image. On my camera, it is controlled by the motor's controller. As soon as the camera reaches cine speed, it cues the light and a tone. I run that tone to my audio recording device, which, on Frankenmitchell, is a Canon XL2. So, I can match my film's cue point created by the bloop light to the audio track's matching bloop tone. Bruce McNaughton made the blooper to happen when the motor start/stop button is hit to start/stop the motor. It throws on the light/tone after starting and just before stopping the motor. So, I get an automatic slate on the head and tail of each take. It does it so quickly that I waste a lot less film shooting a clapper. You can put the bloop light and tone in the hands of the actors if you want. It can be done remotely or at the end of a wire. Or it can be a light and speaker kind of thing. But, at that point you might as well just use a clapper.

Frankenmitchell is the name a few of the guys here started calling my camera. I guess it's obvious that it's a reference to Frankenstein's monster. It started it's life as a Mitchell GC (Government Camera). It was taken from the silent era design called a Mitchell Standard (an excellent piece of machinery by any measure).

http://en.wikipedia....Mitchell_Camera
http://www.soc.org/o...g10_mitcam.html

So, it's began its life as a bastard for the government. Some GCs were and still are radioactive. Half-life's a bitch. Many of us hope the gubmit has the wisdom to keep these "hot" cameras maintained indefinitely in warehouses or properly destroyed.

This particular GC ended up in the hands of Fries Engineering:

http://www.imdb.com/company/co0024429/
http://www.industryn....asp?CID=366541

They used to, at least, maintain an archaic website. But, it looks like they let that go. There's not much left to the mighty Fries Engineering. Bob Dougherty goofs around with fixing their units as a part-time thing. Last I saw, Mark was in the back of the shop cutting MoCo heads on his CNC. Damn that digital revolution!

Fries put the reflex mirror and video tap works on the face of this GC way back in the 70's or 80's. That means they ditched the L-plate, rack-over works. They also supplied a motor and controller. As well, the Fries front has interchangeable lens mounts. Mine has a PL and a Nikon board. I use Nikons.

When I bought the thing in LA, it was in pretty bad shape. I sent it to Aranda Film Group in Australia to be brought back to life by Bruce "G'day" McNaughton.

http://www.arandafilm.com.au/

Bruce cut a new gear set to make it a 2-perf pull-down (techniscope). He also replaced the fried-fries motor and controller with one of his Rotovision units. He modified the video tap and mount to work with my Canon XL2, 24P video camera. So, I have 2-tracks of 16 bit audio with 2 phantom powered XLR inputs. That gives me synced picture and audio on DV tape. It's kinda' like a live telecine. He also put in the bloop system and a remote controlled start/stop.

It's still, fundamentally, a Mitchell Standard. It's just got a lot of bolts in its neck.
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#6 Ben Wells

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 07:56 PM

I had a feeling the Frankenmitchell wasn't an off the shelf deal! Sounds like a real weapon.

Thanks for the explaining the bloop light/tone, makes a lot of sense. Is it the kinda thing that can be easily rigged up on a Super 8 camera? I was thinking it wouldn't be too hard to come up with an interface that still uses the PC Flash output... that could sense when the frame rate is steady (do Super 8's have that kind of startup inertia?) and generate the signals for a light burst and audio beep into the recorder. And likewise, do the same on stop... assuming the camera exposes a few frames after the stop switch is hit.

The advantage would be in not having to modify the camera itself.

Cheers, Ben.
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#7 Paul Bruening

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 01:32 AM

Sorry, Ben. My technical skills are catch-as-catch-can. I let Bruce figure out the automation on the bloop. He's way, way smarter than me. If it were up to me I would have had to make-do putting a simple dead man's switch next to the start/stop button to drive the light and tone manually after and before pressing the start/stop button. You'd have to have a little discipline with the buttons but you wouldn't have to solder more boards into the camera's existing electronics. As far as mounting the light: is there room behind the lens but in front of the mirror, out of the image path but still able to shine or bounce light around from the bloop onto the film? It would take about the same voltage to drive the light and an externally mounted, piezo driven, smallish speaker that the mic could pick up. You could battery the bloop separately or pull some of the power off of the camera's battery or power input. That's about the limit of what I know about it. I wish you luck on it. Clappers can be clumsy and inefficient with film. Not to mention needing another person just to clap.
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#8 Paul Bruening

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 01:39 AM

Sorry, Ben. My technical skills are catch-as-catch-can. I let Bruce figure out the automation on the bloop. He's way, way smarter than me. If it were up to me I would have had to make-do putting a simple dead man's switch next to the start/stop button to drive the light and tone manually after and before pressing the start/stop button. You'd have to have a little discipline with the buttons but you wouldn't have to solder more boards into the camera's existing electronics. As far as mounting the light: is there room behind the lens but in front of the mirror, out of the image path but still able to shine or bounce light around from the bloop onto the film? It would take about the same voltage to drive the light and an externally mounted, piezo driven, smallish speaker that the mic could pick up. You could battery the bloop separately or pull some of the power off of the camera's battery or power input. That's about the limit of what I know about it. I wish you luck on it. Clappers can be clumsy and inefficient with film. Not to mention needing another person just to clap.


Wait. I have the strangest feeling I've said this before...
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#9 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 10:37 AM

Wait. I have the strangest feeling I've said this before...


No, you didn't, Paul. Where did you get that idea from?

By the way, see you later at the Groundhog Ceremony on Main Street.

Cheers, -Michael
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#10 Will Montgomery

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 09:20 AM

I mentioned this on the Wedding sound thread, but here's another easy, practical method for syncing if you're shooting shorter clips.

Setup a miniDV camcorder on a tripod in the corner of the room and send the audio to that. Even a cheaper consumer one will probably be ok if you can get audio into it and set levels avoiding the built-in audio compressor.

Let that run and just shoot your Super 8 scenes. Right when you start the Super 8 camera, manually set off a flash from a 35mm camera. That will light up the entire room for about 2 frames and you can use that to sync in post. Chances are that it will only stay in sync for a short period but that should be fine for most cuts.

Not scientific, just practical and easy. You can also do something like that with a cheap digital camera that can record movies. Sound will be bad but better than nothing and rather easy to do.
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#11 Gareth Blackstock

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 04:06 AM

hello.

i might have some ideas that might help you with the sound aspect. build a blimp, or soundproof cover for the camera. some cameras are noisy, others not so much, depends on condition. I use a metal case, with padding layers of dense lead rubber, a remote for the "trigger" and external battery pack. It works so well, i can film in a concrete room, 6 feet from the actor, and get no "camera noise" total cost for the blimp, around $30AUD

for recording i use a minidisc, these are the best, if you buy one, be sure to get one that takes AA batteries, other chargeable internal batteries can be hard to get. almost any brand will be very suitable. they are almost the cheapest digital recording device you can get. they need Minidiscs, these are harder to find new. Ebay has tons of both these items.

As far as i know, there are no super8 camera repair bussinesses in australia, I might be very wrong here, look around. chances are if you buy a camera off Ebay it will be ok, depends on the price, more is not always best. if it runs when you get it, chances are it will keep running.

hope these thoughts are a little help, Super8 filmers in Aussie are dwindling fast.... good luck
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