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Perfect low budget sound cart???


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 05:57 AM

Knowing what you know now, IF you had say all your equipment stolen and were forced by circumstance to put together a professional sound package for low budget production, nothing fancy, just a get the job done as cheaply as possible while still remaining professional, what would you include, INCLUDING the sound cart it's self (which I assume would probably be an off brand version of a Magliner)? I would assume a good used Fostex DAT recorder would be the best option for a recorder as DATs are not as popular as they used to be or maybe a crystal sync Nagra, Audio Technica mics (or whatever, which ones, how many) , Mixers, I have no idea, ect ect ect. What would be your choices given these restrictions.
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 07:56 AM

If you're going with DAT you probably want one with time code on it. I'd look for a good PD-4. With any DAT you don't want one with a lot of hours on it. The transports get old and it's been years since the manufacturers have been able to supply replacement transports. My experience is that replacement transports were the only practical repair. DAT transports seem to wear everything out at about the same time. When my radio station clients were using them, I'd replace a couple of small parts, the deck would be in good shape for a while, and then something else would require replacement.

I hate to be a snob but frankly for a dialogue mike I'd go the extra mile and buy a Sennheiser MKH-416. They are such great mikes that I look at them like you look at shooting 35mm, there ain't an alternative. For cardiod and hyper-cardiod mikes it's hard to beat Shure for quality vs. price. The dynamic ones aren't quite as good sounding as the condensors but if budget is important, the dynamics will do a perfectly respectable job. It's pretty easy to find Shure mikes on the web at deep discounts.

One place you can save some $$$ is a Mackie mixer. They're about the best "bang for the buck" I know. They sound good and they're reliable. I've installed a bunch of them over the years as production room and remote mixers and they've done a good job. I wouldn't want to beat one up but that's a given in professional circles, no? The Onyx series has 48 volt phantom on them plus you could use the analog output to drive a DAT and simultaneously run the Firewire output into a laptop for a security copy. With a simple setup you wouldn't have time code on the laptop copy but with classic slating and the time stamp on the laptop recording files you could figure out which take was which. For laptop software, Sony Sound Forge Studio would be perfectly adequate on the laptop.

If you can live with a steel rather than aluminum cart, look into the wire shelf carts you see at places like Sam's. They're a bit small compared to a Magliner but I use one for temporary test equipment setups in the field and it works pretty well.
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 10:20 PM

Good suggestions, Hal, but would I expect any less from the master! :D Although, SERIOUSLY? there is NO substitute for a thousand buck Sennheiser MKH-416 (13 to 13 hundred with a good windscreen, shock mount and fishpole)? I'm not trying to question your obvious experience and vast technical knowledge, but there HAS to be SOME shotgun mic that would suffice for a small, low budget feature to use and still provide professional results? I do understand the mic is perhaps the most important single piece of equipment for a soundman, but NONE of these lower priced shotguns produce the sound quality needed for a feature film? If so, please say so and elaborate on why because I think it would be very valuable for us indy filmmakers as sound is at least 50% of a film. ALSO what the best mic for Foley work? Thanks-Steve B)
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 12:04 AM

Good suggestions, Hal, but would I expect any less from the master! :D Although, SERIOUSLY? there is NO substitute for a thousand buck Sennheiser MKH-416 (13 to 13 hundred with a good windscreen, shock mount and fishpole)? I'm not trying to question your obvious experience and vast technical knowledge, but there HAS to be SOME shotgun mic that would suffice for a small, low budget feature to use and still provide professional results?


Nope. Sennheiser knows something about making a natural sounding shotgun mikes that they're not telling any else. Shotguns by the very nature of their design should sound harsh and most do. There's a couple of Schoeps mikes as good but if you think Sennheiser mikes are expensive, price somes Schoeps. I wrote up a grant application for one of my public radio station clients for a small set of Schoeps for recording classical music in the field. Price? $12,000 for four Colettes with alternate capsules, power packs, etc.

I suggest that you rent a collection of three or four mikes that you think are possibilities. Hook them up to a good mixer, and listen with a good set of headphones like AKG K240's or K271's. The studio Sony phones are pretty good too. Listen to some spoken dialogue and decide which ones sound in the headphones like your ears hear them direct.

I met the 416 personally a couple of years ago when I got hornswagled into recording the dialogue for a little horror short. I couldn't believe just how good that mike sounded. It had the openness I usually associate with the absolute top tier of mikes I see in studios and radio stations while being a shotgun therefore a lot more directional than what studios and stations use.

My personal collection of mike is: A 416, a half dozen of Shure dynamics, a couple of Beyer Hypercardiods, a matched stereo pair of EV studio condensers, an RCA 44BX, and an RCA 77DX (plus miscellaneous lavaliers and so forth). The only other mike in that collection that has the sort of perfection is the 77DX. It's not as natural sounding but you put it in front of a ballsy male voice and something happens that's amazing. I've got the original RCA desk stand (rarer than the mikes by a factor of ten). I've been offered enough money for it to buy a fistful of 416's...and turned it down.

Rant over...buy a 416!
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#5 Bob Hayes

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 11:34 PM

I'd buy a super lightweight wheel chair. I am currently using a "Transport Wheel Chair". It weighs about five pounds and folds up quickly. Throw a board on the seat and one on the arms and you are good to go. It is thin enough to fit through doorways. Two people can easily carry it up stairs.
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