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Outdoors Film Ambience - mic recommendations
Old 16th July 2019
  #1
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Outdoors Film Ambience - mic recommendations

Hi everybody,

We are planning to shoot a short movie in the countryside - sort of an experimental doc - and we want the ambience to sound as decent and detailed as possible. Ive used my Zoom H6s internal mics to record nature soundscapes before, but noise becomes an issue once you push the gain beyond 8. Not expecting any miracles, but are there any mics under 400 bucks that would make a difference when recording in such a setting? Ive read good things about Rode NT5s for field recordings, do you think these would be a significant step up from the Zoom's internal ones?

Quite a noobie here, so any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot
Old 16th July 2019
  #2
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TVPostSound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balaphone View Post
Hi everybody,

We are planning to shoot a short movie in the countryside - sort of an experimental doc - and we want the ambience to sound as decent and detailed as possible. Ive used my Zoom H6s internal mics to record nature soundscapes before, but noise becomes an issue once you push the gain beyond 8. Not expecting any miracles, but are there any mics under 400 bucks that would make a difference when recording in such a setting? Ive read good things about Rode NT5s for field recordings, do you think these would be a significant step up from the Zoom's internal ones?

Quite a noobie here, so any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot
EASY!
Dont record with the preamp cranked beyond 8!!
Its ambience, keep the preamp down, so theres less noise, you can gain the ambience in the mix.
Old 16th July 2019
  #3
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Thanks for the tip, I'll make sure I adjust my recording levels properly. I've tried recording quieter and gaining up at the mix stage, but I wasnt very pleased with the results, hence my contemplating an upgrade.
Old 16th July 2019
  #4
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I would check what the noise floor is not just of the mic but also the recorder.

In addition, there's always effect libraries...
Old 16th July 2019
  #5
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I don’t know, the problem might be the preamps and or recorder in addition the built in mics, in which case I have a hard time making a cumulative $400 recommendation.

A lot of cities have an independent film community setup through which you can rent pro gear relatively inexpensively, or hire someone that owns it. A decent Sound Devices recorder/preamp and good mics. That would be my recommendation if quality ambient audio is a priority.
Old 16th July 2019
  #6
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MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
we havent delivered any but the Superlux S502 ORTF looks like a bargain..
http://avlex.com/products/s502-ortf-stereo-microphone/
Old 17th July 2019
  #7
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TVPostSound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balaphone View Post
Thanks for the tip, I'll make sure I adjust my recording levels properly. I've tried recording quieter and gaining up at the mix stage, but I wasnt very pleased with the results, hence my contemplating an upgrade.
What didn't please you.

I have in the past recorded ambiences with the H4n Pro (same pres)
Record at a nominal level, those levels should be enough to use without even gaining in the mix. (Its ambience)
My last recording were crickets at my house at 120 degree stereo, they sounded awesome upmixed to 5.1 (except the light freeway noise 2 miles away!! which was above the noise floor)
Old 17th July 2019
  #8
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Been using the H5 (with X-Y) for lots of amb/BG's without a problem.

I sometime use my AT BP4025 into a Sound Devices 702 for really quiet stuff, but not much difference.

Rode NT5 pair would be fine, but then you'd need another $300 to setup a blimp & 'fuzzy' to be usable outdoors.
Old 17th July 2019
  #9
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I have an H5 and after doing some tests with various external mics etc I've concluded it's not generally worth the hassle of adding external mics to it for field recording. (Close-up speech recording, interviews etc would be different - there are benefits to one had there).

Perhaps I just haven't found the right mic that works with the relatively noisy H5 preamps where the improvement in sound is worth the hassle of hauling and setting up all the extra gear & cables, but then again if I need to go all-out dead quiet I have a higher-end option with a Metric Halo ULN-2, but of course that immediately requires a laptop.

I've also done some test recordings with the preamps at 5-7 and boosting the files digitally vs preamps at 10. Again, not much difference, at least for the level I'm working at.

The two most useful accessories I bought for the H5 were a hairy windscreen and an adapter that enables it to be used on a mic stand.

Here's a couple of ambient recordings with the 'vanilla' H5

Borneo rainforest


British garden
Old 17th July 2019
  #10
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This is all very helpful, really appreciate it. Ill keep trying with the H6. Any tips on how to deal with noise on post? Is Izotope a worthwile investment?
Old 17th July 2019
  #11
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RX is a fair chunk of money but does a lot of things. Only you can decide if it's worthwhile. I find it to be hit-or-miss for certain problems, some it can't really fix and yet others are zero problem to work miracles on.

For self-noise from equipment you could hypothetically create 'tone' that RX can use as a basis for denoising. That'd be the spectral denoise module in RX. Intuitively I'd say you'd need to hook everything up in a very quiet environment and set the gain to where you have it in the field and record that noise. It should probably also be boosted as much as your ambience is eventually boosted. When you then treat your recording you use this noise as a source for the module and it then applies the reduction to the actual ambience recording.

I think you can run RX in demo mode so you can try it for yourself.
Old 17th July 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
RX is a fair chunk of money but does a lot of things. Only you can decide if it's worthwhile. I find it to be hit-or-miss for certain problems, some it can't really fix and yet others are zero problem to work miracles on.

For self-noise from equipment you could hypothetically create 'tone' that RX can use as a basis for denoising. That'd be the spectral denoise module in RX. Intuitively I'd say you'd need to hook everything up in a very quiet environment and set the gain to where you have it in the field and record that noise. It should probably also be boosted as much as your ambience is eventually boosted. When you then treat your recording you use this noise as a source for the module and it then applies the reduction to the actual ambience recording.

I think you can run RX in demo mode so you can try it for yourself.
Fantastic , I'll do just that. By the way, I just borrowed an NTG4+ for recording dialogues and specific sound sources. Having just used the XY capsule until now, I have noticed that when you activate any of the XLR inputs (as in just pushing the buttons, without connecting anything) and turn the gain up to 7 (which isn't a crazy level), there's a fair amount of hiss. Is this normal and is there any set up that could diminish it? Thanks.
Old 17th July 2019
  #13
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I'm in post so I don't really do location sound and don't really know that mic or recording unit specifically unfortunately. I'm someone else will chime in.
Old 17th July 2019
  #14
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No worries at all, found your post incredibly helpful :D
Old 17th July 2019
  #15
Hi Balaphone! Welcome to Gearslutz

I use a Rode NT4 for stereo natural soundscapes/ambiences. I also use a Sound devices 702 which has a lot of clean gain and headroom, and this works well with the NT4's low self-noise.

I like the NT4 for the detail and sense of spaciousness it provides.

I also use a Sennheiser ME66/K2 which although mono will provide good detail that spreads well in a reverb. I tend to use the ME66 for 'figure' and NT4 for 'ground.'

I'm sure the NT5's or NT4 would work well with your H6.
Old 17th July 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Stone View Post
I use a Rode NT4 for stereo natural soundscapes/ambiences. I also use a Sound devices 702 which has a lot of clean gain and headroom, and this works well with the NT4's low self-noise. I like the NT4 for the detail and sense of spaciousness it provides. I'm sure the NT5's or NT4 would work well with your H6.
+1

I meant to say to the OP that the NT4 is indeed a very convenient package if you don't see yourself needing anything like ORTF that you could potentially do with 2 x NT5s.

Somehow I always felt the NT4 sounded better than the NT5s, which is daft really as they are the same capsule so it's probably all in my head!

If I remember correctly you can also power the NT4 with a 9v battery which could be a big help in terms of reducing phantom-power drain on the H5/6.

One more point is that you do need to make sure you always have the bespoke NT4 Y-cable and the large mic clip it comes with in your gig bag, as if you forget either you can't improvise in the same way you can with individual mics. Just something to be aware of.
Old 17th July 2019
  #17
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TVPostSound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balaphone View Post
This is all very helpful, really appreciate it. Ill keep trying with the H6. Any tips on how to deal with noise on post? Is Izotope a worthwile investment?

Noise? If recorded properly, the noise is minimal. Put the gain in the sweet spot.
As I said you're recording ambience. It should be recorded at the same level you hear ambience.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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My 2p:
Regarding Zooms - have used H4n, H6 and F8 for location audio. +1 on ambience, don’t crank up the gain unnecessarily.

No one has mentioned it so far I’m glad to say, but avoid the Zoom Mid/Side capsules at all costs - they are very noisy, much more so the the X/Y modules of the H5 and H6.

The main problem I found with using the Zoom modules outside for ambience is adequate wind protection and there’s a limit to what can be done when the mic is attached to the recorder. If you can shelter from the wind without using vegetation as cover (cue every bee/wasp/insect for miles buzzing round the mics) that could help.

With other mics, I suggest that something equivalent to a Rycote softie would be the minimum level of protection for a calm day, and then only if the mics don’t leak at the XLR or any pad/HP switches. Some of the Rodes are a bit disappointing unless gaffer taped up round the suspect areas. I found the Rode WS8 windshields on NT55s no use even in sheltered locations where there didn’t appear to be much air movement. A Zeppelin/Blimp is much safer - an NT4 should fit in OK, but it’s a heavy combination.

Also give some thought to how low a frequency you want to record - do you really need 20Hz, 40Hz or even 80Hz? There’s always something lurking round the bottom end that only seems to become evident once you’re back home/in the studio. Have a good listen at the location and make a call on how much LF to cut.

Wind is a pain in the *ss in exterior location audio (and potentially a bigger problem than Zoom preamps) and having unintentional rumbles in the audio doesn’t say much for production values. If you have tracks/mics to spare, by all means record a pair straight in without any low cut, but trying to EQ out high energy rumbles in post won’t work.

Sorry if I’m preaching to the choir, I’ll get back in my box now.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
I'd imagine line audio cm4 pair would be good for outdoor sound, I'd much rather use them than say a rode mic.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann View Post
I have an H5 and after doing some tests with various external mics etc I've concluded it's not generally worth the hassle of adding external mics to it for field recording. (Close-up speech recording, interviews etc would be different - there are benefits to one had there).

Perhaps I just haven't found the right mic that works with the relatively noisy H5 preamps where the improvement in sound is worth the hassle of hauling and setting up all the extra gear & cables, but then again if I need to go all-out dead quiet I have a higher-end option with a Metric Halo ULN-2, but of course that immediately requires a laptop.

I've also done some test recordings with the preamps at 5-7 and boosting the files digitally vs preamps at 10. Again, not much difference, at least for the level I'm working at.

The two most useful accessories I bought for the H5 were a hairy windscreen and an adapter that enables it to be used on a mic stand.

Here's a couple of ambient recordings with the 'vanilla' H5

Borneo rainforest


British garden
Thanks for posting these! Makes me want to break out my H5 and give it some more attention. I was thrown off by the preamp/mic noise when I first got it and haven't done much with it, but your examples are extremely usable for ambiences!!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pencilextremist View Post
I'd imagine line audio cm4 pair would be good for outdoor sound, I'd much rather use them than say a rode mic.
I have a pair of CM3s - fantastic little mics inside but quite a lot of handling noise and very sensitive to wind. Great if you can get them in a Zepplin and anchor it securely.

Since we’re talking Zoom preamps here, quoted CM4 sensitivity is maybe a bit on the low side for quiet stuff but it’s better than the CM3.

NT4/NT5 are a bit higher still. And hey, other mic manufacturers are available
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
A pair of iSK Pearls might work. They're cheap enough that you can replace them if they get ruined.
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