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sfw

Making the upgrade, looking for guidance

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We are a boutique agency that has been slowly developing its internal video and audio departments. We have a full post studio (I'm a post guy so please forgive my lack of knowledge in this realm) but are fed up with our "intro" field kit (tascams, etc.). We've got a couple sennheiser G3 packs that work fine but we are drastically lacking on field recording/mixing/monitoring/etc. we are sort of ready to make the jump into pro gear.

I've been researching what our options are and there don't seem to be many... I've boughten and replaced enough "midrange" gear to know to spend the money upfront and get the good stuff now... Even if it means buying it "piece" by piece.

My big questions are, and I'm sure they are debated all over this forum:

Zaxcom or Sound Devices for field mix/record? (Nomad 10 vs 664)

Zaxcom or Lectronics for wireless?

If zax, the qrx 235's over the 200's? QIFB?

We are looking to buy gear above us and grow into it instead of buy something we have to flip soon.

Cheers!

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Call the the usual suspects,

 

Gotham sound, Pro-sound, Trew Audio, locations sound corp etc. and talk to a rep. They will help you decide what is best FOR YOU. Once you get into the pro level the quality is all there the only differences are workflow really.

 

P.S. I used a tascam dr-680 for a long time and it actually doesn't sound all that bad so don't blame the gear.

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Make the" jump" by hiring professionals with the knowledge to operate the equipment they own, maintain and rent to you.  This way you win by having better gear used on your "shows" and have someone who actually knows how to get the most out of it. Win-Win.

 

 If you go the "buy it, pay someone in house to operate it" route... Call the sales outlets mentioned above and ask away...

Best of luck

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Thanks for the responses. We're in Canada so I think Trew is the only local one.

Will: not overly upset about signal quality but rather workflow headaches. That being said, we did try and use the tascam preamps once to push a dynamic mic. That was definitely the gear.

We're at the point where we either buy two more tascams or a decent multitrack. Lots of used older sound devices but they only record stereo and no ISO tracks (and being a post guy..)

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...

...That being said, we did try and use the tascam preamps once to push a dynamic mic. That was definitely the gear.

...

I disagree -- it was the result of not hiring a pro who knows, carries, and maintains the right tools for the job.

As the age old axium goes, "It's a poor workman who blames his tools."

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We're at the point where we either buy two more tascams or a decent multitrack. Lots of used older sound devices but they only record stereo and no ISO tracks (and being a post guy..)

 

There's about six or seven different Sound Devices recorders, and quite a few of them record 8 or more simultaneous tracks. The SD 633 is modestly priced ($3000) and will do 10 tracks. I think it's more of a mixer that also records, but the price is hard to beat. The 788 is a step up and is what I would call a 10-track recorder that also mixes (and in truth needs an extra mixing panel for flexibility). Zaxcom has similar models that work very well.

 

In terms of workflow, I think you need a reliable source of timecode, the ability to name tracks, and the ability to quickly enter metadata for scene & take numbers and all of that stuff. They all do that nowadays.

 

My advice: rent different models and see which works best for what you need. Very hard to beat a 633 or a Zaxcom Maxx in terms of pricing and features.

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For owner operators, Zaxcom, Sound Devices, Aaton, et al... are all great options with a little research, a lot of practical experience, and personal preference.  For a house kit to be used generically by in-house techs or hired guns, I'd recommend sticking with something simple, approachable, and rugged to take the abuse that any tool, in any trade, takes when used by non-owner, meaning Sound Devices or PSC products.  In fact, I'd eschew the current whiz bang mixer / recorders that you find that seem to have become the entry level products (633, Maxx, etc...) and buy someone's used 442 that you see advertised quite often.  Right now you lack any field mixer, or "not doing it right".  Using a 442 with a proper operator is "doing it right".  Let yourself outgrow a technically correct setup and then buy the rocketship, don't shoot yourself to the moon without learning to fly first (not you specifically, but "you" as a company.

 

For example, you call myself or even one of the more senior members here to come mix on your gear tomorrow.  Show me a 442 + a breakaway cable, and myself and anyone on this board can get up and running in minutes.  Show me or anyone else a 663, 788t, Maxx, Nomad, etc... and there's going to be a few minutes running through the menus to figure out routings, presets, and other advanced settings, plus a few more minutes if we never used the machine before, which is quite possible given that not everyone is fluent in all brands' recorders.

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I definitely recommend hiring a pro who has and maintains their own gear. Buying equipment is a money pit because theres always something else youll need, and yes there is a learning curb to it. Not just knowing how to operate the gear, but also knowing what you are doing in the first place. Acceptable resilts can be obtained by in house staff that learns how to push the buttons and turn the knobs, but someone who has a strong understanding of the physics and science that goes into a technical field like audio is ultimately going to give you better results. Besides, ive never come across house gear that wasn't inadequate in some way, and especially beat up.

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1.We are a boutique agency that has been slowly developing its internal video and audio departments.

2.we are sort of ready to make the jump into pro gear.

3.Even if it means buying it "piece" by piece.

 

the three excerpts indicated above should clarify where you're at, "sort of."

 

1. the upshot, i think, is that you're working with 5d or something similar or whatever you can get your hands on. if you've been using tascam it sounds like you are.

 

2. "sort of." waffling is expected. we've all been there. i think you're getting close to "want to."

 

regardless of brands and models of mixer recorders the real question is: after the purchase do you want to invest in a major learning curve?

 

is someone going to be doing enough mixing on a steady basis to know what they're doing and troubleshoot while the client is in the room? if not, then take JonG's advice and hire someone.

 

3. you can get by with pieces if you get what you need out of them for easy stuff that's not terribly involved and as JonG said get a pro--when you need one, like now. look at what they bring to the job. buy it later if you think you can use it consistently and confidently.

 

don't worry about what the client thinks when you suddenly get a sound mixer with equipment for the complicated jobs. there are plenty of camera guys that carry their own basic audio and hire a guy with equipment when they need to so things don't get screwed up.

 

if you're trying to convey to a client that you're on top of everything using tascam and g3s you'll have to find a way to tell them that job y is not job x and why.

 

if what you need is better audio and tc for workflow for 5d type stuff you can copy the setup in the link below.

 

http://andrewwonder.com/blog/entry/zaxcom-action

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All great feedback.

I completely understand the joys of hiring a pro who has his or her own setup and works with it everyday. On bigger shoots, we sub out to pros everytime. It's not the big shoots that worry me, it's the smaller more run and gun work which comprises about 50%.

Booking a pro for a two hour run and gun job would be insane on both budget and coordination. And yes, I'm sure someone will pipe in about proper planning, client expectation, etc. but we all live with economic realities.

Our camera gear is above the 5d world and we typically shoot on a Sony FS700 as our primary with black magic and DSLRs as supporting cameras.

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i don't think anybody can give you good advice without knowing your typical work situation, the skills of the people involved, or the expectations you have in workflow and quality, and of course your budget.

i suggest you should first find out what you need to have covered in the end (wireless options, monitoring, on camera sound vs post sync etc) and then talk to a dealer.

 

that said a 644 sounds a bit overkill to me for a typical run and gun situation for 2 hours that needs to be handled by a non-pro (do you really want to lug that thing around and who is going to set up all those wireless kits?). 

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hi and welcome sfw: " My big questions are, and I'm sure they are debated all over this forum: "

they are, and my guidance is for you to do some searching and reading here on the forum.

 

" I'm a post guy...I've been researching what our options are "

get an audio gal/guy (even if not on staff, but freelance/consultant).

 

it isn't about the arrows, it is about the archers.

 

" but rather workflow headaches. "

get with your new, professional sound consultant and do some workflow tests...

 

" we did try and use the tascam preamps once to push a dynamic mic. That was definitely the gear. "

nope: as JB notes: " the age old axium goes, "It's a poor workman who blames his tools." "

 

Marc tried to help and Tom Visser concluded: " For owner operators, Zaxcom, Sound Devices, Aaton, et al... are all great options with a little research, a lot of practical experience, and personal preference.  For a house kit to be used generically by in-house techs or hired guns, I'd recommend sticking with something simple, approachable, and rugged to take the abuse that any tool, in any trade, takes when used by non-owner, meaning Sound Devices or PSC products. "

if you are going to proceed non-professionally, that is by buying fancy toys, and getting inexperienced PA to handle it, you really need to KISS, and I'd even consider AZDEN mixers and wireless... Definately TASCAM over ZOOM's...

there's going to be a few minutes running through the menus to figure out routings, presets, and other advanced settings, plus a few more minutes a major learning curve if we never used the (specific) machine "

BTW: 552 is much more basic than the rocket ships, and records 2 channels.  see: lots of options!

" Our camera gear is above the 5d world " not by much... stick with TASCAM and Sennheiser Evolution wireless...

 

Gerrard muses: " after the purchase do you want to invest in a major learning curve? " but I suspect sfw (and company?) figure it is only sound, so no learning needed, just buy the right toys. (and PluralEyes..?)

 

will: " I used a tascam dr-680 for a long time and it actually doesn't sound all that bad so don't blame the gear. "

how "that bad" does it sound..?  (can you tell in a blind test ?)

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I always love these threads on GS.

I hear all your feedback and agree with almost all of it.

We are in the situation where we need at least 4 more tracks of recording. As a post guy, I naturally want iso's so whatever solution we buy will almost certainly have the ability to record isos and the mix. We need to buy 2+ more wireless rigs plus cabling and mics. My concern with spending $6000 on lower midrange gear Is that your $1500-2000 in accessories (cables, lava, etc) are all gear specific. If two years down the road we upgrade to true pro gear, you have to rebuy all of that stuff. It's one of those, $6000 now, $12,000 later or $12,000 now conversations in my mind.

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P.S. I used a tascam dr-680 for a long time and it actually doesn't sound all that bad so don't blame the gear.

Yeah, definitely not a "pro" unit but when I was fresh out of film school, it did the trick / paid for itself in no time.  I actually still have mine and keep it in one of my pelican cases as as an ultra "if everything else fails, including my usual backups" solutions as I figure I can run it off AA's and get sound with it if shit really hit the fan for some reason.

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sfw: " My concern with spending $6000 on lower midrange gear Is that your $1500-2000 in accessories (cables, lava, etc) are all gear specific. If two years down the road we upgrade to true pro gear, you have to rebuy all of that stuff. It's one of those, $6000 now, $12,000 later or $12,000 now conversations in my mind. "

yep.

 

that is another conversation....

 

" We are in the situation where we need... "

... a professional ?

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It's one of those, $6000 now, $12,000 later or $12,000 now conversations in my mind.

Third option: spend $12,000 now and realize in a few years that this was a total waste of money, because for whatever reasons you don't need it anymore. Better to waste just $6,000

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Booking a pro for a two hour run and gun job would be insane on both budget and coordination. And yes, I'm sure someone will pipe in about proper planning, client expectation, etc. but we all live with economic realities.

 

Perhaps you should consider educating your clients on the same economic realities.  If they want decent sound, tell them they have to pay for it.

 

Anyway, if I were you I'd just buy a second hand SQN and a couple of those Zoom recorders.

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Lan: " If they want decent sound, tell them they have to pay for it. "

so you are saying that for the last two years, simicycle hasn't been delivering good sound, but that if they raise his pay rate, it will be better ??

once again: there is no causal relationship between the sound and the pay-rate., just as there is  not a consistent readily and clearly discernible difference between the sound carefully and properly recorded on a Zoom, and the sound recorded on a NAGRA or CANTAR., and, in fact improperly recorded on one of the expensive machines there could be a noticible quality issue!

Edited by studiomprd

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<improperly recorded on one of the expensive machines>

 

many times this is the issue. 

 

 

<properly recorded on a Zoom>

 

many times this does not happen. 

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<improperly recorded on one of the expensive machines>

 

many times this is the issue. 

 

 

<properly recorded on a Zoom>

 

many times this does not happen. 

thus, it is more about the archers, than the arrows, and what the archers are paid does not necessarily indicate the archers' skills

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just as there is not a discernible difference between the sound properly recorded on a Zoom, and the sound recorded on a NAGRA or CANTAR

I would tend to disagree with this. The difference in sound is clearly discernible. Whether this difference is discernible in the final product and discernible by whom is an entirely different question

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