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Safety limiter in the ADR signal chain
Old 16th December 2010
  #1
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Vytis's Avatar
Safety limiter in the ADR signal chain

I've been doing a fair amount of ADR recording lately and I thought it would be good to re-think my approach at this point. I would really appreciate it if you folks could chime in on this.

My current signal chain is MKH-416 > Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 (using Millenia HV-3D emulation) > Nuendo (at 48kHz 24-bit) > then transfer that via AAF into Pro Tools HD. The sound is pretty good but I'm thinking that a few things could still be improved.

1. Firstly, I'm going to skip Nuendo and record straight into Pro Tools since the Liquid Saffire can now be used stand-alone via ADAT (or analogue).

2. Secondly, what are your thoughts on using safety limiting in the analogue chain when recording ADR? My biggest issue is dealing with extremely dynamic performances (whispering and over-the-top screaming in a single scene). I like recording rehearsal takes and, mysteriously, some actors happen to deliver their most natural performances while rehearsing. Unexpectedly they'd start screaming, too late for gain riding and I've actually had a few occasions where both actors and directors loved the performance but it was badly clipped so we had to repeat and it couldn't be bettered by the actor. In order to avoid those situations in the future I've acquired an Aphex Dominator II 720 analogue multiband limiter to use past the preamp at all times, set to shave off peaks above a certain threshold. Haven't been able to test this in reality yet, so thought I'd ask you what your thoughts are and do you use analogue limiters at all? Obviously recording at low levels in 24-bit should be OK but I really don't want to have a single take clipped. Am I being too panicky?

3. Lastly, actors (and directors) over here love whispering and muttering so obviously there's also this whole signal-to-noise issue and MKH-416 isn't the best on all occasions, even with a bit of downward expansion. I'm thinking of getting a TLM103 large diafragm condenser. Any experience with these in ADR?

So, summing this up, here are the two possible signal chains from what I've got:

A: TLM103/MKH-416 > Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 (using Millenia HV-3D emulation) > Aphex Dominator II 720 > 96 I/O via analogue ins > Pro Tools HD.

or if I skip the limiter:

B: TLM103/MKH-416 > Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 (using Millenia HV-3D emulation) > 96 I/O via ADAT > Pro Tools HD.

So here's my dilemma.



Massive thanks in advance.
Old 16th December 2010
  #2
Gear Addict
 

My advice is don't do it.

When we cut ADR we go mic->pre->protools and consistently get great results.

Try to anticipate preamp levels in advance of each cue so that when you record rehearsal you've got a good shot at catching it. Don't be afraid to change the preamp gain in the midst of a rehearsal take.

ADR is a very dynamic situation (and some of the best actors are the most dynamic), but level compressors and limiters are not the way to deal with it IMO. Just proactively work your preamp levels and mic position to your advantage and do it in advance of each take if possible. If you get blown out you get blown out, but if you crunch against a limiter your take is still blown.

Just my .02
Old 16th December 2010
  #3
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ggegan's Avatar
A limiter that is just shaving off a few dB isn't an issue, but if you hit it really hard, it's going to sound bad, so you haven't really accomplished anything. If you are really having problems with dynamics, I would suggest simultaneously recording with a second mic that has a 10 dB pad.
Old 16th December 2010
  #4
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whatever type of recording i do, whether VO or ADR, my hand sits firmly on the input gain of the pre. If I work in a studio where it's not within hands reach, I take it out of the rack and even have it on my lap if i have to :D
Old 16th December 2010
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

I use the Safe Sound P1 which has a built in analog expander, compressor and limiter. It has saved me a bunch of times when a person starts yelling or laughs very loud unexpectedly. I also use a 416 or whatever type mic was used during the shoot. I have had great results and happy directors/ actors.
Old 16th December 2010
  #6
Multiple tracks

+1 on adding a second mic with the pad. great advice. nice and simple

Like was said above, try to avoid using it for the reasons given. Sometimes I'll patch in a limiter and send that to a 2nd track and use it as a backup.

If you wanted to take that a step further you could have 2 or 3 additional tracks with various limiters or gains. You'd be bound to have a useable recording in there some place.
Old 16th December 2010
  #7
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Matti's Avatar
The same mic splitted to a secondary input at -10. But with 24 bit
you have so much headroom to play with if you set your levels rather
conservatively

Matti
Old 17th December 2010
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matti View Post
But with 24 bit you have so much headroom to play with if you set your levels rather conservatively

Matti
+1, I'd just add...

When recording ADR, monitor between 82-85dB SPL. It's almost impossible to clip when working this loud.
Old 17th December 2010
  #9
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mikevarela's Avatar
 

I'd skip the 103 as they're not used in production - so matching becomes more difficult... better to spend your money on a lav and possibly a second shotgun.... maybe have the two most used (like a 416 and shoeps)

A distance mic is a great thing to have, not only to instantly grab separate perspective, but to also serve as backup in case of really loud passages, so maybe one at a foot or so and the other at 2 feet, plus lav (connected directly - skip the wireless option - it's cheaper too.

record 3 tracks at once and choose accordingly.

Oh, and directly to pro tools is best, plus they'll be BWF so they'll be stamped at the right time for spotting if need be later
Old 17th December 2010
  #10
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Matti's Avatar
Or Nuendo, also BWF

Matti
Old 17th December 2010
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
If you are really having problems with dynamics, I would suggest simultaneously recording with a second mic that has a 10 dB pad.
That's what I do with opera singers' spots, which, by the way, go thru a real Millennia HV-3 for which Millennia got paid - does Focusrite pay royalties to Millennia or Manley for their "emulations"?
Anyway, the most direct insurance is a second channel down 9 dB and you mix the two channels in post. A limiter on the cue headphones is a must, though.
WalterT
Old 17th December 2010
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Skip the limiter and record it clean with both a shotgun (or 2) and lav. Keep the script handy as well. Usually you can predetermine how loud an upcoming line is if you know what's coming. Ride the input gain accordingly and there should be fewer surprises.
Old 17th December 2010
  #13
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Mundox's Avatar
I record 416 into Amek Purepath, into 192.
Between having a good distance from the talent, occasional gain riding, and a touch of clean compression, I hardly ever clip even with the most dynamic performers.
Most modern gear will have enough dynamic range to handle the quiet parts pretty well, as long as your booth's noise floor is acceptable.
Old 17th December 2010
  #14
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B: TLM103/MKH-416 > Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 (using Millenia HV-3D emulation) > 96 I/O via ADAT > Pro Tools HD.

We have had issues with RFI and our TLM103...Just to let you know.

Randall
Old 17th December 2010
  #15
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PoxyMusic's Avatar
 

I also use a "scream mic" in recording dialog for video games. My last big dialog project I was able to have a pair of U87s. The second mic was back 3 inches, and angled at 15º off center, away from the talent. It went into a second preamp, with a 10 db pad.

I used the first mic 98% of the time, and would simply cut in the second channel for those brief clipped moments.
Old 17th December 2010
  #16
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ggegan's Avatar
I would say the ideal place for the pad would be in the mic itself, since that protects against overdriving the chain at the earliest stages of amplification, but when using a mic that doesn't have a pad, the preamp pad is a better option than just turning down the gain.
Old 17th December 2010
  #17
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Vytis's Avatar
Thank you very much for your valuable input! After reading through your posts I'm definitely abandoning my protection limiter idea and will definitely be using a two-mic setup on my next project. But then what's the best way to manage, audition and comp different takes when recording on multiple tracks in Loop mode? Use a Stereo track instead and only monitor one side? How about a 3-mic setup such as 2 x MKH-416 + 1 x lav? Record to an LCR track?
Once again, your suggestions are very much appreciated!
Old 17th December 2010
  #18
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Vytis's Avatar
Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by audibell View Post
which, by the way, go thru a real Millennia HV-3 for which Millennia got paid - does Focusrite pay royalties to Millennia or Manley for their "emulations"?
It's a very interesting point!

I'm not sure how they've worked it out both ethically and financially between Focusrite and the other brands but I guess it's the same ethical issue with convolution reverbs and sampling in general. Sampled TR-909 / TR-808, sampled Bricasti and Lexicon convolution reverbs, sampled engine roar of a Jaguar, Lincoln, Ford and what not... We bump into these every day. We can't deny the convenience of Altiverb or TL Space. A sampled TR-909 perhaps is not as flexible as the real thing but is often more convenient and sounds just as good. To my ears the Focusrite Liquid pres sound very good even thought the unit doesn't have a button to miraculously transform itself into a physical clone of what it's emulating. On the other hand, my Hollywood Edge library didn't come with a private helicopter, but they did include its sound. Yay! For us the sound we're getting from a sampled instrument, reverb or preamp is all that matters. The rest is up to Focusrite, Altiverb or Sound Ideas to figure out. It's a never ending dilemma from the early days of sampling.

Now I'm thinking that we in post production are far from being saint either! We "emulate" sonic reality, but then we don't pay royalties to mother nature! Time to plant a tree or two!

Old 17th December 2010
  #19
Gear Addict
 

Vytis,

use a stereo or LCR track to cut to and store takes, but route the output to a set of 2 or 3 mono auxes, then use those auxes to control your monitoring both in the control room and the headphones.

Ex.

record track.L ->boom mon aux->control room and headphones panned center
record track.R ->lav mon aux->control room panned right and down a bit
Old 18th December 2010
  #20
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Henchman's Avatar
Well, I don't know how the Focusrite Sapphire compares to the Platinum Focusrite series, but if they're anything llke it, they're crap.

Get a better, high headroom Mic-pre.
I've always had the best success with the John Hardy M1's.
Those those things can go well into the red, and still sound great.
Whereas the Focusrite platinum barely hits red, and it's distorting.
And in my experience, you're going to get distortion at the mic-pre before overloading a good converter. So using a limiter won't do much good.
Old 18th December 2010
  #21
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Vytis's Avatar
While I do have plans to upgrade my pres in the future, I have to say that I am very pleased with the sound of the Focusrite Liquid preamps. I don't think these are the same as the Platinum series, really. What I've asked about here in this thread was to do with a protection plan for those extremely unexpected cases where a whispering actor suddenly starts screaming and ANY preamp and ANY converter in the world would distort. Preamp headroom is not a problem here IMHO.

Anyway, I've been looking at the Sytek and Grace preamps recently.
Old 18th December 2010
  #22
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Henchman's Avatar
Well having done a ton of ADR and VO recording myself, I never used a limiter or compressor to record with. Let alone any kind of emulation. I don't want to add any kind of coloring to the recording whatsoever.
Old 19th December 2010
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
Well, I don't know how the Focusrite Sapphire compares to the Platinum Focusrite series, but if they're anything llke it, they're crap.

Get a better, high headroom Mic-pre.
I've always had the best success with the John Hardy M1's.
Those those things can go well into the red, and still sound great.
Whereas the Focusrite platinum barely hits red, and it's distorting.
And in my experience, you're going to get distortion at the mic-pre before overloading a good converter. So using a limiter won't do much good.
What Mark said. You need something with a lot of clean headroom, which means a clean design running at higher voltages. My Hardy M1's run at +/- 24 volts and have soooo much headroom, they can drive headphones cleanly! Not that that matters, but it's just to illustrate that they can provide tons of clean gain into a very low impedance without breaking a sweat.

And run two mics.
Old 19th December 2010
  #24
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santacore's Avatar
Quote:
Anyway, I've been looking at the Sytek and Grace preamps recently.
You might want to skip the Sytek. I owned one many years ago, and although it's a great preamp for the price, it doesn't have a lot of headroom. No comment on the Grace, I haven't tried one.

You would be better off saving your money for a Hardy or Millennia. Both are trusted units that have good headroom, sound clean, and are low noise.

My 2 cents on compression-I almost always use light compression when recording ADR and voice-over. With the right unit/settings, it's transparent and helps control dynamics. YMMV.
Old 20th December 2010
  #25
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Vytis's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by santacore View Post
You might want to skip the Sytek. I owned one many years ago, and although it's a great preamp for the price, it doesn't have a lot of headroom. No comment on the Grace, I haven't tried one.

You would be better off saving your money for a Hardy or Millennia. Both are trusted units that have good headroom, sound clean, and are low noise.
Thanks for the tip regarding headroom on the Sytek, John. I've been offered a good deal but I guess I'll be skipping it then. I'm taking your advice very seriously and I have to say that your foley stuff is absolutely gorgeous! Great work! Will see what I can do in order to get hold of a Hardy or a Millennia.
Cheers.
Old 20th December 2010
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
Get a better, high headroom Mic-pre.
I've always had the best success with the John Hardy M1's.
Those those things can go well into the red, and still sound great.
+1 for Hardy M1's.. and I also use a 2nd/slightly distant mic as a safety catch as mentioned by others in this thread as well.
Old 20th December 2010
  #27
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Vytis's Avatar
Anybody have experience with D.A.V. Broadhurst Gardens pres for ADR or foley? Sort of a British 'John Hardy'. Some seriously prefer it over the Millennia for transparency.
Old 21st December 2010
  #28
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santacore's Avatar
Vytis, thank you for the kind words, I do appreciate it.

The Sytek is a decent preamp, but not ideal for your purpose. Save your money and buy something that's proven to work. That way you don't have to waste time and money on the gear merry-go-round.

The DAV has definitely gotten some praise, unfortunately mostly by music people. A few people have said it's a bit noisy, which was a concern to me. The bottom line is you won't know until you try one. If you can, try to rent one before buying. I'm sure it's a good unit, but perhaps not the best for ADR.
Old 26th December 2010
  #29
I have a DAV and I like it very much on VO / ADR, usually in combination with a U87 or a 416. I would describe its sound as "alive", with a lot of depth.
I never had an issue with noise on these recordings at all. The headroom could be a bit larger, but as long as you record at 24 bits and use conservative levels you will not run into any problems, even when recording loud screams.
As far as processing is concerned, I always have a comp and EQ in my chain for some very slight corrective processing on the way in. When I know that I will be mixing, I may even apply a bit more.
Old 26th December 2010
  #30
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ggegan's Avatar
For any of the ADR mixers who use processing while recording, I would encourage you to think about something:

When you process the ADR, you are altering the cues in ways that are impossible, or at least extremely difficult to undo at a later stage. You are making this decision using a monitoring system that is likely very different from the one that will be used during the mix, in a very different environment, and you are not listening to the dialog in its real context. Many times you are attempting to match lines that are not the final version that will be in the mix, because often they are transfers of composites of the boom and lav. In other words, you are making a decision in a relative vacuum that will tie the hands of the rerecording mixer later.

There is absolutely no reason for you to compress or EQ the ADR, other than perhaps have a high pass somewhere below 80Hz. It can, and should be left for the rerecording mixer to make the decision as to how much and what type of processing is required.

If you will be the rerecording mixer, then that may be a different matter, but if you are delivering the lines for others to mix, I strongly recommend that you concentrate on mic choice and placement, and leave the processing for later.
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