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Newbies looking to record many actors in studio for audio drama
Old 17th May 2017
  #1
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Newbies looking to record many actors in studio for audio drama

Hi!

My friend and I are working on a long-form audio drama. He is in CA and I'm in FL. He is in charge of everything that is not post-audio work. We are both newbies, but I'm the only one with some experience in audio.

We want to record VO in CA and ship the files for me to edit and mix here in FL. He's looking at a renting a space in CA - 7even Studios

...however neither of us know the mic setup that needs to be done and he has zero experience in recording audio.

We spoke with another audio drama producer who spoke of a 'round robin' setup with voice actors gathered around a shotgun mic acting out the parts to each other in real time. We 100% want the actors to all be acting face-to-face to get a natural, authentic voice over.

I also spoke with a friend of mine who works in television production audio. She said that wireless mics would do just fine for quality and price.

I wanted to bounce this off you guys to see what your suggestions are for recording multiple voice actors in a studio in the most efficient, budgeted yet quality manner. Can this be something my friend, with ZERO audio experience, given enough research and practice could learn to set up?
Old 17th May 2017
  #2
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
voice actors gathered around a shotgun mic
the point of a shotgun mic is to get a tight pickup on an actor while still keeping the mic out of the camera frame. In a studio doing an audio drama, there is no "frame" so you might as well use a regular studio mic. In film shoots, the boom operator often has to aim the shotgun back and forth as two people are speaking. This is tricky, he could be late or early, there could be handling noise as the mic moves.

While a 'roving' shotgun idea has its appeal - i.e. a familiar similarity to how sound for a movie might be recorded - I would plan to have a mic for each actor as well. IRL, lines sometimes need to be replaced. In a studio, you don't have to worry about it. You could still have your central mic, but it doesn't have to be a shotgun. You could simply leave the close mics out of the mix if you want, but it might be good to have them standing by for extra clarity.

remember it's fiction - audiences are used to a little hyper-reality.

Wireless for the individual mics also seems to be overkill. The actors do not need to physically walk around, gesture expressively, or make faces to provide convincing voice-acting. What you seem to be describing is a Radio Play. If people are not running around and are not being filmed, why not have wired mics on stands?
Old 20th May 2017
  #3
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Good points! I was mistaken when mentioning having just one shotgun mic with actors positioned around it. We want to have each actor isolated on individual tracks. We don't want to do a radio play, for us this is more like a 'movie for the mind' so everything besides dialogue is done in post. I'm thinking about a shotgun mic on each actor. We are willing to shell out the money for that setup and I was thinking it would cost about $1,200.

Mics x 3 shotgun Rode NTG-1 $750

USB audio interface with at least 3 inputs $350

Headphones - $100

Those are estimates, the rest comes with a studio space we plan on renting out.
Old 20th May 2017
  #4
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by YourTransistor View Post
...We don't want to do a radio play, for us this is more like a 'movie for the mind' so everything besides dialogue is done in post....I'm thinking about a shotgun mic on each actor. We are willing to shell out the money for that setup and I was thinking it would cost about $1,200.
It may not be a "radio play" in the sense that there is a sound effects guy standing there rattling a piece of sheet metal for the "thunder" - but it is a radio play in the sense that there are no cameras. If there are no cameras, visuals don't matter, you can have each actor standing right in front of his mic. If each actor is standing in front of his mic, there is no need for shotgun microphones.

Quote:
Rode NTG-1
Use regular mics, you will get more for your money and they will sound better.

check out this article:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sound-ad...ny-uses-studio
Old 20th May 2017
  #5
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Thanks for taking the time to share that article! I understand now.

What mic do you suggest we use, dynamic or condenser? Is there a particular brand and model that you suggest? Also, how can I make sure that the actor's lines are not bleeding into each other's mics yet the actors can still see and react to each other in the same space?

We are renting a space at this studio - 7even Studios

Thanks!
Old 20th May 2017
  #6
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by YourTransistor View Post
Thanks for taking the time to share that article! I understand now.

What mic do you suggest we use, dynamic or condenser?
I personally would go for a condenser - it will capture a fuller range of sound than the dynamic ... it may give your better clarity at mixdown.

Quote:
Is there a particular brand and model that you suggest?
There are a million threads on mics for VO. You will see some dynamics listed as well and rationales for their use.

Quote:
Also, how can I make sure that the actor's lines are not bleeding into each other's mics yet the actors can still see and react to each other in the same space?
I would set them up in a circle - with cardioid mics pointing away from each other - in a treated room there should be pretty good isolation. You might want to add some room mics, though, as perhaps some ambient pickup might enhance the realism of the performance. Perhaps the actors are supposed to be standing in the same space. Or perhaps one character is the 'point of view' character and another character is supposed to be farther away from him.
Quote:
We are renting a space at this studio - 7even Studios
Quote:
...however neither of us know the mic setup that needs to be done and he has zero experience in recording audio.
it strikes me as odd to be paying hourly for a rehearsal studio where presumably you will still have to bring your own gear, buy your own mics, interface, laptop, set it up yourself ... not to mention teach yourself how to use it.

It looks like they have a PA system in each room, no recording gear. You don't need the drum set or the bass amp or the PA. Except for the 3 pieces of foam on the walls, this could be your living room as far as how it fits your needs.

Why not simply book time in an actual recording studio? - it may cost more per hour, but they will have mics already there - and someone who knows how to set them up and has a DAW to record you. Studios are hard up for business these days, and rates can be pretty low for some decent spaces.
Old 21st May 2017
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
it strikes me as odd to be paying hourly for a rehearsal studio where presumably you will still have to bring your own gear, buy your own mics, interface, laptop, set it up yourself ... not to mention teach yourself how to use it.

It looks like they have a PA system in each room, no recording gear. You don't need the drum set or the bass amp or the PA. Except for the 3 pieces of foam on the walls, this could be your living room as far as how it fits your needs.

Why not simply book time in an actual recording studio? - it may cost more per hour, but they will have mics already there - and someone who knows how to set them up and has a DAW to record you. Studios are hard up for business these days, and rates can be pretty low for some decent spaces.
I fully agree.

In addition I would say that there's a huge benefit in not having to worry about technology in addition to content/performance. There's enough to worry about anyway, so why add recording?

At least at first I would spring for a studio recording and then in the future move on to do it yourself, once all the rest has been settled.
Old 21st May 2017
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YourTransistor View Post

What mic do you suggest we use, dynamic or condenser? Is there a particular brand and model that you suggest? Also, how can I make sure that the actor's lines are not bleeding into each other's mics yet the actors can still see and react to each other in the same space?
As an alternate choice to a condensor, I'd recommend the EV RE20, a classic dynamic radio mic that rejects off axis sound better than any cardioid pattern condensor mic, it's impressive - every time I've used one where there's another sound source right next to it, it barely registers.

Also, the dynamic EV could be useful if the actors have very dynamic lines where there's yelling or screaming etc.
Old 26th May 2017
  #9
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Thanks for the feedback!

All good points, especially about the rehearsal space.

I've got some additional feedback from guys that have done radio play dramas in a studio and they suggest a stereo condenser mic setup in the center of the room with actors positioned around it and ditching having each actor on a separate track.

They said this would better utilize the stereo image for the voices and draw the listener in more. I like the idea.

The biggest challenge is that I'm in another state from my friend who is fronting the money, casting, and will be the director. So he's wanting to get as much practice as possible directing which means keeping costs low while he learns. He's willing to learn to do the audio, even if he sucks at it, because the point is to get started on something even if it's not good.

Nothing we plan on doing for a while will be released, we just need to get the ball rolling and learn along the way. The only people that will hear what we are making are people giving production feedback, however our biggest focus for now is getting a great story.
Old 26th May 2017
  #10
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by YourTransistor View Post
Thanks for the feedback!

All good points, especially about the rehearsal space.

I've got some additional feedback from guys that have done radio play dramas in a studio and they suggest a stereo condenser mic setup in the center of the room with actors positioned around it and ditching having each actor on a separate track.

They said this would better utilize the stereo image for the voices and draw the listener in more. I like the idea.
Except that the actors' position in the stereo field will be fixed. Kind of pedestrian really. I doubt it would draw ME in more.

If you really have in mind the idea of making an "audio movie" having each voice on its own track will allow you to (for example) pan those voices anywhere and everywhere - instead of "Bill" always being on the right. Imagine a fight scene or an argument or a plane crash.

If one character is trapped in the rear fuselage of the plane, you can put a reverb on his voice to make it clear to the listener he is not "with" the others. What about the old 'chamber' sound when someone is "thinking" a sentence instead of speaking it? As Firesign Theater said: "Who is he talking to? And how does he make his voice DO that?"

I am sure there are hundreds of other creative ideas for individually processing the voices. Yes , you should also have a stereo ambient pair for those situations where you want a simple natural people-in-a-room vibe. But what is there going to be for you to "mix" with a stereo mic?

If a stereo mic is all you want, you can buy a Zoom, starting at $100. They have very nice ambient-style stereo mics built in. Group your actors in front of it and hit record. Done. But where's the audio creativity?


Quote:
So he's wanting to get as much practice as possible directing which means keeping costs low while he learns.
somehow, just like with so many musicians, the idea that you could practice BEFORE you go in to record just keeps eluding people. He could rehearse at home, in his living room. For free. Directing and directing - it all counts as "directing practice" - whether mics are on or not.

Quote:
He's willing to learn to do the audio, even if he sucks at it, because the point is to get started on something even if it's not good.
sooner or later he is going to have to choose whether to be a director or be a recording engineer. It sounds like he has already chosen, so every hour he spends "learning to do the audio" is another hour he takes away from directing. You only need a recording engineer for the handful of hours that you spend actually laying it down. If people are well-rehearsed, they could do everything in a quite short amount of time.

Last edited by joeq; 26th May 2017 at 08:45 PM..
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