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#1 Rob Gordon

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 10:54 AM

I mainly do dialog and sound effects editing and temp music spotting, but for the past two shoots my production company has asked me to do the production mixing. So after doing a ton of reading and practicing indoors and out with an R4Pro and a couple of different mics, I held my breath and agreed to do it.

Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist, but I still feel that despite the boom op getting as close as he could, and my setting the levels as high as possible without clipping, I still felt the sound was a bit too distant and reverberant. We were using decent quality mics (an Audio Technica AT897 with a windjammer for indoors and an AT4071A with a zeppelin and dead cat for outdoors). The director made a comment after reviewing the test shoot from the day before about it sounding a little like the actors were in a tunnel. I felt like crap, but I obtained a couple of sound blankets and hung them on C-stands and found a radio lav and a couple of wired Countryman B3's, I used as body and plant mics and went forward the next day. In fairness (I think) both locations were extremely reverberant (the back room of a coffee house with high ceilings and ducts overhead, and a living room in an old house with plaster walls and hardwood floors). But I had no choice in the locations, and excuses about reverberant locations don't fly with demanding directors.

To you production mixers out there, would using lots more sound blankets hanging on the walls and covering the ceiling (if possible) and floor have helped make the sound more intimate? This would surely have increased the setup time needed between shots - but if it helps, I'd of course push for it. For several scenes we wired up the leading actress with a radio mic (she had some very soft lines, walked around the room while speaking, and we couldn't get the boom very close in due to the framing of the shot).

How do the pros do it under tough situations? Is it mostly done with ADR unless it's an extreme closeup? Or is there something I could improve in my techniques for the next time I'm asked to do production mixing? I'd like to be in a position to do it again if needed and I'm pretty sure I have a lot to learn.

Many thanks.

- Rob

Edited by Rob Gordon, 24 January 2010 - 10:58 AM.

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#2 Rob Gordon

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 11:03 AM

I wasn't allowed to edit my own message? Hmmmm...

I wanted to add that after adding the sound blankets, there was some improvement, but still not great sound. Something else must have been missing.


I mainly do dialog and sound effects editing and temp music spotting, but for the past two shoots my production company has asked me to do the production mixing. So after doing a ton of reading and practicing indoors and out with an R4Pro and a couple of different mics, I held my breath and agreed to do it.

Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist, but I still feel that despite the boom op getting as close as he could, and my setting the levels as high as possible without clipping, I still felt the sound was a bit too distant and reverberant. We were using decent quality mics (an Audio Technica AT897 with a windjammer for indoors and an AT4071A with a zeppelin and dead cat for outdoors). The director made a comment after reviewing the test shoot from the day before about it sounding a little like the actors were in a tunnel. I felt like crap, but I obtained a couple of sound blankets and hung them on C-stands and found a radio lav and a couple of wired Countryman B3's, I used as body and plant mics and went forward the next day. In fairness (I think) both locations were extremely reverberant (the back room of a coffee house with high ceilings and ducts overhead, and a living room in an old house with plaster walls and hardwood floors). But I had no choice in the locations, and excuses about reverberant locations don't fly with demanding directors.

To you production mixers out there, would using lots more sound blankets hanging on the walls and covering the ceiling (if possible) and floor have helped make the sound more intimate? This would surely have increased the setup time needed between shots - but if it helps, I'd of course push for it. For several scenes we wired up the leading actress with a radio mic (she had some very soft lines, walked around the room while speaking, and we couldn't get the boom very close in due to the framing of the shot).

How do the pros do it under tough situations? Is it mostly done with ADR unless it's an extreme closeup? Or is there something I could improve in my techniques for the next time I'm asked to do production mixing? I'd like to be in a position to do it again if needed and I'm pretty sure I have a lot to learn.

Many thanks.

- Rob


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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 11:41 AM

Sounds like you got saddled with a bad location. Now, let me add, I'm not a sound man though I'd done sound in those situations where I'm stuck on me own without my preferred recordist. Sound blankets and "stuff" in frame, like couches, orther soft object can help break up the sound. But no matter how close you get the mic, you'll be stuck with reverberation. Bringing your levels Up in recording won't help, you want to bring them down. To do that you need a high signal to noise ratio, meaning their voices have to be louder than the reverb/background noise. So you bring the boom in as close as you can, and bring the levels down to keep their spoken words around -12 db, for digital recording (which most all audio is now a days I suppose), so that the noise (reverb) sinks down even lower, soon to be covered up with background noises etc in the sound design. Still, echos are echos, and sadly you'll get stuck sometimes with a room which echos a lot. If you're close enough you could try to throw blankets on the floor/ceiling. This'll help a bit more than just walling them in as one hopes that you're shotgun is pointed basically straight down, hence the pickup patterns is cardoid and you're getting things primarily in front of and behind the mic. If you're using an omnidirectional mic, then blanketing on stands, I could see, as being useful, but I've only ever seen an omnidirectional mic on a boom when there's a bunch of folks walking/taking in a group, or sitting in a group at a table etc...
For your wide shots, you can try to lav your talent and boom as well, or perhaps hide a mic on the table, getting that mic close to them will help your signal to noise ratio and kill the background a bit. It's really all about that. Now in a wide you can more easily hide wireless lavs, I've found, as opposed to in a closeup where you might see wireds//buldges/vipeclips etc... But in a close you can really get the boom in there so it's not as big a problem. Also if there is something in front of them where you can hid a mic, again wireless is best as there's no wires to run, get one in there, and record as many tracks of audio as you can, normally I''ll get 4 tracks of audio for each scene, which is great, s you can not only pick the one which sounds best overall, but you can mix and match 'em and really get into mixing which I don't do, again, but I've played with a few times for my own personal projects. Of course no matter what you do often times you'll have to do ADR; it's just the nature of the game I suppose.
Hope this helps.
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#4 Rob Gordon

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 09:51 PM

Thanks for the tips. I'm going to try a test in a similar location with the levels backed off a little. The problem I was most concerned about was the slight buzz from the lighting ballasts (that's why I tried to stay right below clipping). But I can't very well ask the DP to unplug the lights because of the detrimental sound. In fact I generally split the boom into two tracks with one having the gain turned higher and the limiter on.

Another problem was trying to constantly remind the new boom op (his first gig at that position - he usually is a grip!) to get in close and overhead and point at the mouth. He did a pretty decent job after some coaching considering it was his first time, but there were shots where I had to move my sound desk out of the line of sight and had to judge only by what was coming through the headphones if he was in the best spot at all times. I definitely have newfound respect for production mixers. In post, we can work on problems generally until they're fixed as much as possible. But on location, it all has to go bang bang in a (14-hour) day or two or three - with no mistakes.

- Rob
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 10:00 PM

buzz could be from fixtures or bad xlrs. But yeah, kino flo (i'm assuming) lights can be quite buzzy sometimes.
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#6 Paul Bruening

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 04:12 AM

The problem I was most concerned about was the slight buzz from the lighting ballasts (that's why I tried to stay right below clipping).

- Rob


Have you tried a clipboard filter in post? A buzz is a pretty clear and distinct noise that won't take out too much signal on a filtering. If it makes an inverse buzz after filtering (buzz frequency holes in the signal) you can double (offset) the audio slightly to fill in the holes enough. ...turd polisher's trick.
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#7 Alex Donkle

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Posted 31 January 2010 - 12:31 AM

Using a shotgun mic in a reverberant location is by far your biggest issue. A shotgun is designed to reject as much sound as possible from the sides. Great for when you've got traffic noise, crew moving around, ect… but any reverb coming off the walls no longer sounds natural. The reason is that shotgun mics don't (and can't by design) reject sound evenly at all frequencies. So say some random mids in the reflected sound are picked up by the shotgun, but the highs are not (a broad generalization). This basically means that a shotgun mic can't pick up a natural echo.

The ideal mic is the Schoeps CMC6 with MK41 cap. It's a hypercardiod, non-shotgun. The wonderful thing about this mic is that it rolls off all frequencies evenly as you get off axis from it. So if you're pointing the mic straight down at someone, then start tilting the mic they'll just become softer but not sound "off-mic" as the case would be with a shotgun in this situation.

This is where the standard rule-of-thumb for sound mixers has been "shotguns outdoors, hypers indoors"


And if you have issues with buzzing lights, TELL THE DP. Maybe he's can't fix them, but always ask. You don't want to be sitting in the studio explaining to the director how the DP's lights messed up your sound, and then have the DP say you never even asked him.

Now on sound blankets? Well you need a TON to significantly affect the reverb of a space, and make sure you're using the thick and very heavy ones or you're wasting your time. The much more common use of sound blankets is, honestly, just quieting other sounds. Tossing one on a table so you don't hear bottles being set down, on the ground so you don't hear the gravel actors are walking on, ect...

Edited by Alex Donkle, 31 January 2010 - 12:34 AM.

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#8 Rob Gordon

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Posted 31 January 2010 - 04:20 PM

Any recommendation for a good indoor boom mic somewhere btween the AT897 and the Schoeps? What are your thoughts on Senns? How about the Sanken CS1? Is the AT897 a crappy mic? It got lots of positive customer reviews at B&H. I'm ordering more sound blankets for now.

Rob


Using a shotgun mic in a reverberant location is by far your biggest issue. A shotgun is designed to reject as much sound as possible from the sides. Great for when you've got traffic noise, crew moving around, ect… but any reverb coming off the walls no longer sounds natural. The reason is that shotgun mics don't (and can't by design) reject sound evenly at all frequencies. So say some random mids in the reflected sound are picked up by the shotgun, but the highs are not (a broad generalization). This basically means that a shotgun mic can't pick up a natural echo.

The ideal mic is the Schoeps CMC6 with MK41 cap. It's a hypercardiod, non-shotgun. The wonderful thing about this mic is that it rolls off all frequencies evenly as you get off axis from it. So if you're pointing the mic straight down at someone, then start tilting the mic they'll just become softer but not sound "off-mic" as the case would be with a shotgun in this situation.

This is where the standard rule-of-thumb for sound mixers has been "shotguns outdoors, hypers indoors"


And if you have issues with buzzing lights, TELL THE DP. Maybe he's can't fix them, but always ask. You don't want to be sitting in the studio explaining to the director how the DP's lights messed up your sound, and then have the DP say you never even asked him.

Now on sound blankets? Well you need a TON to significantly affect the reverb of a space, and make sure you're using the thick and very heavy ones or you're wasting your time. The much more common use of sound blankets is, honestly, just quieting other sounds. Tossing one on a table so you don't hear bottles being set down, on the ground so you don't hear the gravel actors are walking on, ect...


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#9 Alex Donkle

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Posted 31 January 2010 - 05:15 PM

Any recommendation for a good indoor boom mic somewhere btween the AT897 and the Schoeps? What are your thoughts on Senns? How about the Sanken CS1? Is the AT897 a crappy mic? It got lots of positive customer reviews at B&H. I'm ordering more sound blankets for now.

Rob


I haven't had any experience with the AT897 personally, but the cheapest shotgun I've ever been happy with is the Rode NTG-3 (which is nearly identical to the famed MKH416 that's been the industry standard for a long time). And in my experience, B&H reviews only tell part of the story. No professional is going to speng $200 on a shotgun mic and expect to match the $1200-$2400 mics they use with it.

Never used the CS1, but its big brother CS-3e is just plain AMAZING. The amount of isolation you get is honestly frightening compared to just about any other shotgun I've heard. Indoors it deals with reflections far better than it should, but it also has a bit of a high noise-floor so in really quiet rooms I wouldn't use it. (Ideally a hyper and shotgun are the minimum for any location sound mixer, but the CS-3e is the closest I've ever seen to a "jack of all trades" so to speak)

On a cheaper hypers? The AKG CK93 / 300B is a very good choice, or the AT4053b. Slightly cheaper, the Oktava MK012 has become rather famous recently, as it is "Schoeps-like" in many regards so it's become fairly common to swap a Schoeps for an Oktava when using blanks on-set (less expensive mic to break). The one rather major drawback is that you're basically required to have a Rycote BBG and K-Tek KSSM shockmount on it at all times, as it's abnormally sensitive to wind and handling noise (although with both add-ons it's pretty darn good)
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#10 Paul Bruening

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Posted 31 January 2010 - 05:19 PM

Hey Rob,

If money's not a problem, good sound blankets are really good. However, if you've got a mind to save some cheese I recommend these.

The frames are made of PVC. It's all glued together except the bottom legs group. The 8" upright connectors are unglued and the T-shaped leg pieces are not glued to the uprights. Otherwise they are one glued together unit. I did it this way so they could be pulled off and thrown into a duffel bag. The panels have to be truck hauled unless you don't mind strapping them to the roof of your sedan (which can be done if you use another big piece of scrap, fluffy side down to protect the paint job).

The frames are 6' by 4' using slightly bigger, scrap, shag carpet. Better carpet is thicker, denser and noticeably better. The carpet is screwed onto the frames with self-tapping, hex-head screws (ain't power tools grand!). The middle of the panel is a tad floppy but not too much. I got all the carpet for free since it was scrap and the local store owner is supportive of local movie making (it probably would have ended up in the dumpster anyway).

The great thing about them is that you can stand them up all over a room or lean them against walls or even prop them up or dangle them against ceilings. And Brother, do they eat echo. Your lighting guys will bitch about them, so you have to move them out of the way between set-ups. But, you tuck them around, here and there, and Voila! Happy sound crew! More importantly, happy sound editor!

I've got a dozen of them and would prefer even more. I also haul rolls of scrap carpet of random sizes to throw on wood, tile and concrete floors. They're also handy on pneumatic tired dolly shots. There's no way around the bulk and hassle of sound deadneing stuff. But there's no way to get clean sound without it.

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#11 Rob Gordon

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 04:01 PM

I use regular furniture blankets on Cowboy stands (with horizontal poles and C clamps). "Real" sound blankets cost about five times as much as an eight-pound furniture blanket and I find that if I double the furniture blankets up, they work just as well. I even use them in my home studio to make a little ADR/VO booth in a corner.

I think the main problem I've been having is that I didn't have enough blankets at either of those locations to really soak up the echoes. Next time I'll slather them on the wood floor and the plaster walls and maybe even on the ceiling if I can figure out how and the framing allows it. That and maybe I should look into a shorter supercardoid for those types of rooms where the AT897 is too long -- still seems to be "echoey". I've gotten recommendations for the Schoeps (over two grand though!) as well as for the Oktava MK-12. What about the more affordable K6 series Senn's? The ME-64 or the ME-65? Are either of these good candidates for booming in reverberant indoor locations?
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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 04:10 PM

While I'm happy that you're asking questions here, if you haven't already, you might pose the same issues where the Sound Guys hang out at the RAMPS forum. Links for that and other useful resources at http://realfilmcaree....php?topic=14.0

:)
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#13 Hal Smith

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 05:55 PM

The 1" duct board air conditioning people use to construct ducts and plenums is very good at absorbing sound, that's one of its design criteria. I've used it to budget soundproof radio station studios with great success. It's around $20 for a 5' X 10' sheet. One of its very useful properties is that it's a fairly rigid board, you can use it by simply leaning it up against a wall or lying it on the floor.

It's GreenGuard rated since it uses 25% recycled glass content.

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#14 Paul Bruening

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 06:20 PM

The 1" duct board air conditioning people use to construct ducts and plenums is very good at absorbing sound, that's one of its design criteria. I've used it to budget soundproof radio station studios with great success. It's around $20 for a 5' X 10' sheet. One of its very useful properties is that it's a fairly rigid board, you can use it by simply leaning it up against a wall or lying it on the floor.

It's GreenGuard rated since it uses 25% recycled glass content.

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http://www.certainte...chanical/317386


Thanks for the info, Hal. I didn't find anything on weight in the link you provided. What do you guess is the weight per panel on these things? I'm curious because they could be very useful for hard ceilings if they are light enough to suspend easily. As you say, they are obviously useful leaned against walls. How do you think they'll hold up to the rigors of production?
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#15 Alex Donkle

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Posted 01 February 2010 - 07:29 PM

I've gotten recommendations for the Schoeps (over two grand though!) as well as for the Oktava MK-12. What about the more affordable K6 series Senn's? The ME-64 or the ME-65? Are either of these good candidates for booming in reverberant indoor locations?


The Senn's MKH line = great mics and I've never been disappointed by any of them. Senn's ME line = junk and far overpriced for their quality on all the ones I've tried.
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#16 Rob Gordon

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 03:08 PM

The Senn's MKH line = great mics and I've never been disappointed by any of them. Senn's ME line = junk and far overpriced for their quality on all the ones I've tried.


The MKH60?
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#17 Rob Gordon

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 03:59 PM

The MKH60?


How about the Sanken CS-1? Anyone used it for indoor booming?
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#18 Hal Smith

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 01:25 PM

Thanks for the info, Hal. I didn't find anything on weight in the link you provided. What do you guess is the weight per panel on these things? I'm curious because they could be very useful for hard ceilings if they are light enough to suspend easily. As you say, they are obviously useful leaned against walls. How do you think they'll hold up to the rigors of production?


CertainTeed's getting back to me on weight. It's pretty light, I have no problem toting a 4X10 sheet by myself.

It's reasonably sturdy, I wouldn't try to sit on a box made out of it but I haven't had any problem damaging it carrying it around, installing it, etc. I'd rate it as being similar to 3/16" Lauan plywood in strength.

CertainTeed makes it in 1", 1-1/2", and 2" thicknesses. I've only used the 1" since that's what's readily available in OKC. I'm going to try to con CertainTeed into sending me a sample of the 2" to play around with.
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#19 Paul Bruening

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 02:26 PM

CertainTeed's getting back to me on weight. It's pretty light, I have no problem toting a 4X10 sheet by myself.

It's reasonably sturdy, I wouldn't try to sit on a box made out of it but I haven't had any problem damaging it carrying it around, installing it, etc. I'd rate it as being similar to 3/16" Lauan plywood in strength.

CertainTeed makes it in 1", 1-1/2", and 2" thicknesses. I've only used the 1" since that's what's readily available in OKC. I'm going to try to con CertainTeed into sending me a sample of the 2" to play around with.


What do you think would be a good way to perforate it to make it even more sound energy absorbent? Maybe a 1" hole saw just deep enough to puncture the outer coat; evenly spaced holes that open up the glass but leave enough coating to keep the panel strong? It would be a time consuming nuisance. But, I'm guessing it would improve it's sound absorption qualities. I darn sure like the price and rigidity.

Thanks again on this, Hal. This is a great tip.
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#20 Hal Smith

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 06:39 PM

What do you think would be a good way to perforate it to make it even more sound energy absorbent? Maybe a 1" hole saw just deep enough to puncture the outer coat; evenly spaced holes that open up the glass but leave enough coating to keep the panel strong? It would be a time consuming nuisance. But, I'm guessing it would improve it's sound absorption qualities. I darn sure like the price and rigidity.

Thanks again on this, Hal. This is a great tip.


I don't know that holes will make it more absorbant, its absorbancy is a function of its thick, open mat construction.

The 1" weighs 16# for a 4X10 sheet, the 2" weighs 53# per 4X10 sheet. The 2" is quite a bit more absorbant
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