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Videographer trying to improve audio
Old 30th June 2011
  #1
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Videographer trying to improve audio

I've been in charge of recording short talking-head instructional videos for my employer for the last year. Initially I used a wireless lav setup for audio, but felt like I was getting a lot of room noise (too much A/C, had to shoot in a conference room).

So a few months ago I purchased an Audio-Technica AT897 shotgun hoping the directionality would remedy the problem. I still feel like there's more room noise than there should be. Recently I've learned that shotguns are not great for smaller interiors for that reason, so I'm back to square one.

How can I achieve really great, clear audio from this setup? It's one person standing on one mark, talking to a camera in a conference room. Having just watched Jon Benjamin Has A Van (great show, btw), his interviews have such crisp, pristine audio (not to mention that he already has an awesome voice), you can really hear the texture in the voice. Can I achieve this with this mic? Would I have to have an insanely expensive mic to get this kind of quality? All help and tips are greatly appreciated.
Old 30th June 2011
  #2
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captainate's Avatar
 

I'll be honest, I don't have a ton of experience with video. Shotguns aren't my thing. But if your lav was an omni, that would explain a lot. I find lav's are great for a lot of things, and a good quality directional lav sounds like what I'd pick out first in your situation. Since you already have the shotgun, experiment with different angles and such if you haven't yet.

If you can find a place to hide a small cardioid or hypercardioid condenser mic, that would be my next move. Hard to say without knowing the room, and the equipment.

Lastly, HVAC systems are the bane of every location engineer's existence. If you have the power, turn it off!
Old 30th June 2011
  #3
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It is not the quality of the mic so much, it is the quality of the room and the closeness of the mic to the mouth that matters most.

Lavalier: wired is always better than wireless, if there is no movement or cable visibility issues. Try to get the lavalier as close to the mouth as possible. It is the distance ratio between mouth and noise sources from the lav which determines how strong the spoken signal is compared to unwanted noise. Directional lavs often add more complications than what they solve, like more handling noise, head movement problems etc.

Shotgun, or any similar mic: again the mic should be as close to the mouth as possible. In a steady shot you can rig a stationary boom somewhere and have the mic within an inch of the frame. Also remember that there is a fairly strong rear lobe in hypers and shotguns, that must not point at A/C vents or machinery.

It might also be possible to block some sound with acoustic screens and blankets, duvets etc. Improvise, it does not matter what it looks like, outside the frame, that is...
Old 30th June 2011
  #4
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thanks so much for the advice. if i were to invest in a quality lavalier, what would you recommend? something <$300, that is
Old 30th June 2011
  #5
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Mics mostly just record the sound that's there, all of it more or less, no matter what the pattern is ("a mic is not a lens"). Your gear is fine. Your room is not. Try to find a quieter place to record or quiet your room down.

phil p
Old 30th June 2011
  #6
Sound stage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Why movie industry name the studio as "Sound Stage"? That is my question the first time I saw it. If quality audio can be done in any room, there is no need to spend a fortune to build the sound stage. You have to do some thing to improve the room. Equipment is much easier than the environment.
Old 1st July 2011
  #7
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 9sbean View Post
Sound stage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Why movie industry name the studio as "Sound Stage"? That is my question the first time I saw it. If quality audio can be done in any room, there is no need to spend a fortune to build the sound stage. You have to do some thing to improve the room. Equipment is much easier than the environment.
Remember that back in early days, movies started out without sound (MOS). They could shoot a movie nearly anywhere because the ambient noise was of no concern. But then when they started recording sync sound during shooting, and especially with the kinds of mics they had available back then, it was imperative that they have a very quiet space to shoot/record in. Even stuff that appears to be exterior was more often than not, a constructed set inside a sound stage.

Add to that the low sensitivity of the film and the smalish lenses, and they had to have orders of more magnitude light than we use today, so the sound-stages had to be large enough for a high grid full of huge lights, and they had to (quietly!) deal with the heat all that produced, as well.

When you have more experience, you will regret saying in public: "quality audio can be done in any room". Its not even an "if". tutt

Of course, modern equipment has changed the way we do everything, including production. Today, you can shoot almost anything on location, practically unlimited by technology (only limited by resources, politics, and public behavior).
Old 1st July 2011
  #8
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Lenzo's Avatar
Without hearing your audio, I don't know how much you have to clean it, but I have a AT815, which works well for directional stuff. I usually use a wireless lav..sennheiser..along with the 815. Get the shotgun as close to the subject's mouth without it being in frame. Then if you have Pro Tools or some other DAW, take the audio in and add a bit of limiting, run noise reduction on it and then use narrow band EQ to pull out any other unwanted noise. And try to get the air turned off in the room you're recording in if possible. And you have to be careful about getting lav's too close to someone's mouth, especially if they have a big booming voice. It can overdrive the diaphragm on the mic and cause distortion. A lav at about the 2nd shirt button is usually good enough.
L.
Old 1st July 2011
  #9
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Here's a sample of the raw audio, followed by the same audio after noise reduction, a bit of compression, and some limiting via soundtrack pro.

YouTube - &#x202a;Sequence 1.f4v&#x202c;&rlm;

obviously the room has some echo to it which i'm going to fix next time with some moving blankets. what else can you guys tell me based on this?

the a/c vents were on the far end of the room, blocked off with cardboard. so that room noise isn't air blowing right into the mic, it just sounds like it.

the compression is run after the noise reduction. i know it boosts some of that noise, but it seems like a necessary to even out the fluctuations in level for the voice, and get it all to hover around -3 db. maybe this is part of the problem i guess this is why i'm here in the first place, to learn from those who know!
Old 1st July 2011
  #10
This is what you need AEA KU4 Unidirectional Studio Ribbon Microphone – Products – AAEA Big Ribbon Mics™ and Mic Preamps on a boom.<GRIN>

This was the microphone that all the studios used for a long time when they recorded on the set.
Old 2nd July 2011
  #11
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Lenzo's Avatar
Listening to before and after, and having dealt with this a lot 2 things come to mind...there are times that you have to live with the room you're dealt. This one has a little ambient bounce, but to the casual listener who doesn't scrutinize this stuff like you and I do, I don't think it's too bad. The compression seems to make it more noticable. You might try light limiting instead of compression. Your noise levels are not terrible..again, the average listener just wants to be able to understand the speaker and there is no problem in getting the message there. If you re-do this, you might try putting on your phones and playing with mic placement. There will be a slight difference in room sound, depending on where that mic is placed and which wall it's picking up. Also above and below the talent might change the room sound a bit. I think the shotgun you have will do the job well enough. A uni-directional lav as opposed to a omni would probably also reduce room sound. Some uni lavs however are so narrow that if the speaker turns their head left or right too far, you can hear a difference in tonality and level as they move. In extreme noise situations, and I don't think yours is, you just have to coach the talent not to move to drastically. Another thought regarding the room bounce is to move your talent away from the walls more if possible. This might result in the mics picking up a little less of the reflection. Another thought is a large rug in front of the talent out of frame, with the shotgun above and tilting down toward that rug. That would probably not change things too much, but if you have a large throw rug and the time to experiment, then you might get a slight dip in room sound that way. Also as mentioned before, if you have Pro Tools or any program that will let you eq this, using a narrow Q and sweeping for that frequency the room bounce is on and any noise you hear, you can probably reduce it a bit. I'd try cutting frequencies before adding any high end to it.
Good luck,
L.
Old 2nd July 2011
  #12
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Again, I really appreciate all of this great advice.

So before my next shoot in August, I'm going to be purchasing some moving blankets to dampen the room, and an MM-1 preamp so I can boost the level while having a limiter in effect.

Due to the ceiling height, the rear of the shotgun is probably a lot closer to the noise source than I'd like it to be, given the rear pickup of shotguns. I've seen a lot of reflection filters for stand-up, voiceover type applications, is there something similar or a good cheap workaround you can recommend to minimize the rear pickup of the shotgun when it's up on a boom?

Also, for $100 I can rent a Schoep CMC6/MK4 for a week. Given the other improvements I'm making, would it be worth it considering this seems to be regarded as the holy grail of mics for interior dialogue? (and it's better off-axis rejection)
Old 2nd July 2011
  #13
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Looks and sound like it needs to be much closer to her mouth. I would try up by the shoulder.
Old 2nd July 2011
  #14
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You're picking up some of the liveness of the room but it's not that bad. The AC noise is nasty and is worse in the second cut. If you bring in moving blankets you'll go to a lot of work but it won't kill the main offender which is the AC noise. Is there a grill over the AC register which can be removed? Or better yet, can the AC be turned off altogether?

Allison needs to work on her diction. She is swallowing the "b" in "cube" and it's coming out "cue".
Old 3rd July 2011
  #15
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Earcatcher's Avatar
OK, let's assume I would have to tackle this situation and I could not do more to the room than you could. I would try to boom her, attempting to keep the airconditioner as much off axis as possible. There is a perfect place right above the frame to point the mic at her mouth, even closer than a lavalier can get.

My first attempt would be with the Schoeps CMC6/MK41 (NOT the MK4) microphone and if that would not work sufficiently I would try the Schoeps CMIT5U shotgun, which is a lot less sensitive to room reflections than most other shotguns. These mics are both not cheap, but they sound fantastic, which will help a lot for the diction of the talent. I am always almost shocked by the very dry recordings that the CMIT gives me, even under very noisy circumstances. Just be aware that both these mics have some tail that should not be pointed at anything noisy.

It you are able to mount the mic stationary I do have a tip that may work wonders, but looks very odd on set: use an sE Electronics IRF (Welcome to sE Electronics). It is the little brother of the big reflection filter for pencil mics and really helps to keep out reflections from the room and noises from the back.

If you don't have the money for a better mic, try to use the AT on a boom as described. It will sound better in any case than it did in your samples.
Old 3rd July 2011
  #16
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Matti's Avatar
About the rear lobes, the nulls of hypercardiod mics and shotguns are aimed to the ceiling instead of the rear lobe. The null has the best possible rejection, think of fig. of 8 mics - the most directional mics outside interference tube mics that have varying directivity across the freq. range

Matti
Old 3rd July 2011
  #17
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I don't think there is a magic mic that will eradicate that AC noise. It's probably better dealt with at the source.
Old 3rd July 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timisthedevil View Post
I've been in charge of recording short talking-head instructional videos for my employer for the last year. Initially I used a wireless lav setup for audio, but felt like I was getting a lot of room noise (too much A/C, had to shoot in a conference room).

So a few months ago I purchased an Audio-Technica AT897 shotgun hoping the directionality would remedy the problem. I still feel like there's more room noise than there should be. Recently I've learned that shotguns are not great for smaller interiors for that reason, so I'm back to square one.

How can I achieve really great, clear audio from this setup? It's one person standing on one mark, talking to a camera in a conference room. Having just watched Jon Benjamin Has A Van (great show, btw), his interviews have such crisp, pristine audio (not to mention that he already has an awesome voice), you can really hear the texture in the voice. Can I achieve this with this mic? Would I have to have an insanely expensive mic to get this kind of quality? All help and tips are greatly appreciated.
Get another room. Tell the empty suits that if they dont like your work you need a quiet room to record it. Otherwise live with what it is. there is no magic "nike" (just make it happen) solution like the idiot execs wish there was.
Old 3rd July 2011
  #19
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Matti's Avatar
I just tried some noise reduction with this and you easily get rid of the AC noise and some of the reverb but the YouTube sound quality makes it pointless to go further...

Matti
Old 3rd July 2011
  #20
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And sometimes, the sound you record in a certain place will never be usable in the final product. That is why looping (or ADR) is budgeted in every project above a certain threshold.

The camera will always be king and sometimes, the look (or convenience) of a location will over-rule the needs of the sound department. It will ALWAYS be that way. They can always fix the sound; remember that rule.

Gear, experience, environment will all make the need to fix sound diminish; there are methods and techniques that get used every day to make sound usable in hostile locations. But sometimes, ADR is the only solution. Mixers who say that their projects have no ADR are either 1) shooting projects with no budget or 2) lying I look for a good production track to looping ratio on my projects but sometimes, your tracks will need to be fixed.

If your lead actors have the pull to say "the air conditioning stays on" and that means that your sound track is so impacted that it will be un-usable, then wish the actors well when they are scheduled for ADR. The air conditioners have now become a production problem; no longer a sound problem.

Go back to your recorder and push the red button.

D.
Old 9th July 2011
  #21
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FWIW, which may not be much, especially after the fact, but WAY back when, shooting early ENG video, we simply put a styrofoam cup over the camera mic, causing an open-front cone much like the plastic half domes used to take audio at football games. I have observed shoot-saving improvements in avoiding ambient room sounds this way. Let the laughing begin. {some first post, huh}
Old 9th July 2011
  #22
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Chippy569's Avatar
 

Room noise is tough. If possible, turn off the HVAC system in the building. That's one way to turn it down. If you can move locations slightly, find a less reverberant room (or maybe a more pleasing-reverberant room). Also, when it comes to micing, when you want to maximize your speaker's sound and minimize your room sound, you want to get the mic as close to the source of the sound as possible while still sounding good. Think of it this way, if my talking is at 60dB 1' from my mouth, and my room noise is 30dB, and I put the microphone 10' away from my talking, then my 60dB speaking is only 49ish dB at the microphone, meaning there's only a 19dB gap between my speaking and the room noise. However, if I can scoot that microphone to 1' away, then my speaking is at 60dB still with 30dB of room noise, giving a 30dB gap. If I move that microphone to 1" away, then my speaking is 67ish dB, meaning a 37dB gap! Combining distance with pickup pattern (use the "void" of a pattern to point towards the loudest noise source) you can reduce noisiness rather effectively.

If you have the ability to mount the shotgun off-camera then micing either from above pointing down to the speaker, or sometimes from the floor pointing up, allows you to get the microphone very close while remaining out of the shot.
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