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Audio for talking heads - on a budget??


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I'm about to embark on a little documentary/memoir project, and I need to do some indoor, seated talking head interviews.  This is a low/no budget project that I'm doing for a friend, but I need to come up with some audio equipment.  The interviews have the potential for some emotion, and I want to capture the emotion in the voice if possible.  I'd like to be able to either record to an H4n or directly into a 5D3. 

My first thought was to pick up a wireless lav set, either a Sony UWP-D11 or Sennheiser G3/ME2 kit.  The thought was I can use these for weddings (which I do occasionally), so the cost is pretty justifiable.  Could possibly add something like a Countryman B3 to up the quality a little.

Would I be better served with a shotgun mic on a stand?  If so, are there options that work well with the H4n?  I'm considering something like an AT875r or NTG4+ which are reasonably sensitive and I believe will work fine with the H4n.  Anyone have experience with these combos vs either of the above lav kits for a talking head setting?

I also have an Instamic Pro, which can be used as a lav/backup, but if there's a way to monitor it, I haven't figured it out.

I could potentially rent gear as well, but I would likely be looking at several rental dates.  

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For indoor a shotgun mic is a no go. Do a little research. There are a few options, I am split between an Audix scx1 Hyper Cardioid and a Neumann MT185 myself.

If you put a mic on a stand, the Oktava 012 with the hyper cardioid capsule can be your cheapest bet, but I would strongly advice for one of the above.

Sony wireless system is quite good. If you up the game with a better capsule then it can be really great.

I use both a hyper cardiod and a wireless lav on such interviews.

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I'd read that shotguns weren't ideal for indoors, but I think I was confusing super cardioid shotguns with hyper cardioid mics.  I think I may look into renting or borrowing a hyper cardioid (I live near Sweetwater, so I'm sure there is someone I know who can loan me something), and then maybe I'll invest in a lav setup, because it's something that I'd personally use more routinely.  You helped me onto the next step, thanks!

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Hypercardioid condensers are neat for this application, but also very sensitive to sibilances which gets you really close to your subject. Which you may or may not want. Obviously a condenser mic will always sound better, but they are not gentle when the subject turns their head against the mic. A lav would be safer because of their omnidirectional pattern meaning the sound won't change as much when not faced directly towards the sound source.

Also lavs are way more flexible, and take very little time to set up, especially when moving around, and a lot easier to carry around than a big mic stand on smaller projects. Especially if you're on a budget (EDIT: and will use the equipment for future projects, wireless lavs are deffo not that cheap!) a lav is the way to go. I like the Sennheiser AVX system because of the rugged antenna, but the g3 has the advantage of being able to use AA batteries.

my 2 cents

Edit: come to think of it, you can get lav mics with standard jack cables for cheap if you don't need the wireless transmitters/receivers, if you really want to budget.

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There's some funny info in this thread.

Shotguns are perfectly fine indoors. I've used the Rode NTG4 in almost every shape and size room you can imagine. Even solid walls or window walls. The results are more than acceptable every time. If you'r shooting in a room where a shotgun simply doesn't work, then you'll be hard pressed to find any mic that will. That said, of course there are alternatives, and many are better in certain situations, but to rule them out like that is kind of silly. 

I film TV interviews for a living, and have used many different lavs. I will always chose a mic on a pole if the option is there. They don't take long to set up and make it near impossible for the talent's hair/necklace/zips/itches to effect the audio. Of course, that can also be avoided with mic placement, but a stand can go in the same place every time, and nail it every time. EDIT: you can also have everything set up, so the talent can come in, sit down and go, without having to be wired up first and remember not to take the mic with them on the way out.

You also don't need to worry about charging extra batteries etc. because they just take power from your camera/recorder.

On that note though, if you do decide to go shotgun route, maybe look at the Rode NTG2 - I know it's old, but it can run on an AA battery OR phantom power. If you use it with a battery, you can run it straight into your 5D3 and avoid having to sync anything later.

 

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The Ira Glass team use some decent but not too pricey gear to make pretty compelling radio documentaries. Here, Ira describes using the Marantz PDM661 recorder and AT8035 (and similar) shotguns for this very long running and wide-ranging show. One could quibble over audio quality at times, but there is the law of diminishing returns at play here: for a reasonably modest price you can achieve good, and often very good audio in a wide range of settings, including indoors. For a lot more money, and with a wider array of microphones you can get some incremental, and occasionally significantly better sound. But since it isn't Hollywood, does the expense-for-limited gains make sense? With a documentary, it's about the story, and some slightly imperfect sound is usually well tolerated as long as the story is good. The H4N would seem good enough for the task. For a microphone, I'd probably stick with a battery-operated shotgun like the Audio Technica AT897 or Rode equivalent. If you are likely to be in a very reverberant indoor setting, simply go somewhere else with curtains, carpets, etc. If you can't do that, spring for something like the AT4053b (hypercardioid). I'd probably go for second-sound into the recorder, rather than straight into the camera, since if the camera switches off you might miss some important audio that could otherwise be included in the final documentary albeit covered by cutaways. Use the camera's audio for sync.

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Another option is to use both.  Get an inexpensive shotgun (amazing what you can get for under $60, from Chinese DSLRs minis to the Rhode videomicro) and a decent lav (which you can't go cheap on).  Unlike the others here, I don't do this for a living.  However, I feel I can re-express some of what's being said.  IF you're in a room that isn't echo-y (doesn't have bare walls), then a shotgun will work really well and is much simpler to set-up.  Wiring people up is a pain and is invasive.  So I'd invest in the lav, but also have a shotgun for primary or backup.  

Another thing not pointed out is a shotgun will pick up just enough room noise to feel really natural.  The lav doesn't.  The lav is also bass-y, being close to the chest and has movement noise risk, etc, as others have pointed out.  Anyway, I'm always curious about this stuff too!

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I can tell, most people here are camera operators.

Shotgun mics work alright in very well treated rooms, or studios. If you want to spend an hour, and have the right sound blankets with you and the tripods and gear, and the space, to treat the room right, or change location in then be my guest. In any way it is much easier to use a more appropriate tool for the job. If you own just one long tele zoom, then it is ok, use a shotgun mic everywhere. 

I am not going to discuss Rode microphones, but the specific ones mentioned in this thread, wouldn't be on top of any of my lists. 

Canon dSLRs have notoriously bad mic amps. Whatever you put straight there (except some with good in built amps) wouldn't be broadcast quality.

@Drew Allegre if you can rent, Sennheiser MKH 50 is one of the best, ever. Others prefer Schoeps, for me, if you do not do much post in sound, then Sennheiser can be a better bet. Reliable, very hot (signal wise, so you can avoid bad mic amps some) and tough as nails, too. For just little money you can rent one of the top 3 indoors microphone one can use, just put that on perspective with your imaging gear.

Just my 2 cents.

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Really great discussion, and I appreciate the advice.  I picked up a UWP-D11 set on ebay, so that should give me a baseline.  For the interviews of the main subject, I think I'll definitely run a boom mic, whether it is a condenser or a shotgun.  I've read up on the shotgun mic issue, and I don't think it will be a problem.   I definitely understand diminishing returns...trying to get some bang for my buck with this project for sure. 

I'm asking around locally to see if anyone has anything that I can borrow or rent.  So far, it sounds like I have access to a Rode M3 or an NTG1.  I've listened to some samples and really like the sound of the M3, but I'm wondering if that will work in my situation where I'll probably have the mic 18" - 24" from the subject.  

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5 hours ago, Drew Allegre said:

 I've listened to some samples and really like the sound of the M3, but I'm wondering if that will work in my situation where I'll probably have the mic 18" - 24" from the subject.  

The M3 (cardioid) option might work well enough if you can find a quiet environment. The environment needs to be quiet since a cardioid will pick up a lot more background sound than a shotgun or hypercardioid. The indoor cardioid option can also work ok if you have two people sitting side by side for an interview as you can place the microphone between the two of them and it will pick up both pretty well. This can simplify the setup. I've used cardioid microphones for voiceover and for side-by-side interviews and they can sound good. Again, however, they are very prone to picking up unwanted sounds.  Wearing decent closed-back headphones to hear exactly what is being picked up is important here as background noise can be pretty distracting and very difficult or impossible to remove once there. The analogy with lenses pointed out by Kisaha is apt - having a few options is always helpful, sometimes necessary.

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Sony UWP-D11 is the best "no budget" wireless. Get an OST Lav mic as the next upgrade from it.

 

Shotguns are a big no no no for indoors! (With rare exceptions)

As a soundie, to be hearing people say a shotgun is a good choice is probably how a videographer feels when he reads people recommending using your iPhone to film with! lol

 

(Just because lots of people use iPhones to film with, & are happy with the subpar results, doesn't mean we should be recommending that!)

 

Rather use a cheapie Samson C02 than say a RODE NTG2

Then if you're shooting it solo then get a C stand and boombuddy for your boom mic.

Zoom H4n is a pretty horrendous recorder for production location sound. I'd upgrade that if you can: 

http://ironfilm.co.nz/which-sound-recorder-to-buy-a-guide-to-various-indie-priced-sound-recorders-in-2017/

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On 10/19/2017 at 7:02 AM, IronFilm said:

Sony UWP-D11 is the best "no budget" wireless. Get an OST Lav mic as the next upgrade from it.

 

Shotguns are a big no no no for indoors! (With rare exceptions)

As a soundie, to be hearing people say a shotgun is a good choice is probably how a videographer feels when he reads people recommending using your iPhone to film with! lol

 

(Just because lots of people use iPhones to film with, & are happy with the subpar results, doesn't mean we should be recommending that!)

 

Rather use a cheapie Samson C02 than say a RODE NTG2

Then if you're shooting it solo then get a C stand and boombuddy for your boom mic.

Zoom H4n is a pretty horrendous recorder for production location sound. I'd upgrade that if you can: 

http://ironfilm.co.nz/which-sound-recorder-to-buy-a-guide-to-various-indie-priced-sound-recorders-in-2017/

Tascams have a CAMERA OUT port, I haven't used them yet.. is it silly to mix with such a recorder and send to the DSLR? How it does affect quality?

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On 10/17/2017 at 6:26 AM, Anaconda_ said:

There's some funny info in this thread.

Shotguns are perfectly fine indoors.

Agreed!  Otherwise, somebody needs to tell all the pro mixers here in Hollywood that they are wasting their money hiring boom operators!

 

I suspect that this suggestion will sound alien to some here, but never mount your shotgun mic to your camera.  Always boom the shotgun mic just outside of the frame, as close as possible to the subject.  If your subject is static, such as someone sitting for an interview, you can boom from a light stand or C-stand.

 

Of course, make sure that the shotgun mic is aimed directly at the subject's mouth or aimed directly at the action you want to record.

 

One important trick that is often overlooked -- position the mic so that there are no air conditioners or other noise sources along the shotgun mic's axis (both in front and in back of the mic) where it is most sensitive.  So, if there is an air conditioner on camera right, boom the mic from slightly to camera right, so that it is aiming a little leftward towards the subject, perpendicular to the noise source on the right of camera.

 

As @maxotics suggested, it is best to use both a lav and a boomed shotgun, if possible.  In such a scenario, one is always a backup for the other.

 

 

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4 hours ago, tupp said:

Agreed!  Otherwise, somebody needs to tell all the pro mixers here in Hollywood that they are wasting their money hiring boom operators!

Well, you don't always have a shotgun on a boom. In fact, most boom ops would use a hyper/super cardioid indoors. I was simply saying don't rule out a shotgun, in most situations, it's perfectly acceptable.

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I have a Zoom f4 and the UWP-D11s on the way.  I'm going to try out a few different boom mics to see what works well for me.  It seems like the lesson when it comes to mics is that the ideal (or bang for the buck) choice is going to come down to what sounds best with the subject's voice in the environment that I'm recording, and that's not something that's going to be listed on the spec sheet. 

I'll test what I can that is locally available, and go from there if I feel like I need to rent or buy something.  I'm hoping to test and learn (play with) equipment for the next week or so, and then jump into recording.  I appreciate all of the advice.  Will definitely run both the lav and boom for the main interviews and anytime the situation allows.

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@Drew Allegre

you are going the right way! one last advice, just try to get one of the hyper cardioid ones for indoors, Oktava could be the minimum you can get, and if you do not move it on a boom (or else needs special technique and mounting accessories) then it is extremely good (for the price) for indoor interviews, this is the one I use on very tight budget jobs (I can handle it on a boom too!). http://www.oktava-shop.com/Small-and-medium-diaphragm-condenser-mics/Oktava-MK-012-01-movie.html remember, even if you test a shotgun mic in your grand ma's living room, with all the sofas and the heavy curtains, there is a huge possibility that your next interview will be on a minimalistic office, or an Ikea's made living room (with hard surfaces and rectangular!), or anything, at least with the hyper, you tried.

 

 

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11 hours ago, tupp said:

Agreed!  Otherwise, somebody needs to tell all the pro mixers here in Hollywood that they are wasting their money hiring boom operators!

It seems you might be mistakenly thinking that the only microphone on a boom is a shotgun, which is very *very* wrong :-/ 

 

12 hours ago, Eric Calabros said:

Tascams have a CAMERA OUT port, I haven't used them yet.. is it silly to mix with such a recorder and send to the DSLR? How it does affect quality?

As a scratch track for reference, or for very quick turn arounds, then it is a reasonable approach to take. 

4 hours ago, Drew Allegre said:

I have a Zoom f4 and the UWP-D11s on the way.  I'm going to try out a few different boom mics to see what works well for me.  It seems like the lesson when it comes to mics is that the ideal (or bang for the buck) choice is going to come down to what sounds best with the subject's voice in the environment that I'm recording, and that's not something that's going to be listed on the spec sheet. 

 


Few of us have the luxury to have a massive selection of microphones at hand to match one to each person's voice :-P (although.... I do own quite a ridiculous number of microphones!)

But if you have two (one for indoors, one for outdoors) then that is more than good enough for most situations for the kind of shoots you're doing. 

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On 10/23/2017 at 1:12 PM, IronFilm said:

It seems you might be mistakenly thinking that the only microphone on a boom is a shotgun, which is very *very* wrong :-/

You should tell that to the pro's here in Hollywood.

 

Almost all the boom operators that I see here on set are using shotguns on their booms, both indoors and outdoors.  These operators are nimble and precise, and they want clean, dry audio.

 

I am not specifically and audio person, but I always use my boomed shotgun mic, and I have always gotten great results.  I would never want anything with wider reception.

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