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DIY sound for micro budget film

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Dutch   
7 hours ago, Constantin said:

Dutch, I think you have misunderstood what I was trying to say. 

Having a boom-op who prefers to work without headphones is absolutely NOT part of the race to the bottom. It is not cutting corners at all. It also has nothing to do with technology. I have plenty of iem receivers for boom-ops and others, nor does this meam that a boom-op will be replaced by some piece of gear. Absolutely not. As I mentioned, booming without headphones is reserved only to the highly skilled and experienced boom-op - no-one else. I do that to accomodate him, because he is one of those crew members I feel privileged to work with, so I will do whatever I can to make him comfortable. There have been scenarios when I asked him to put on cans (and he will then), but often it's not needed. This applies to only a few boom operators

Thanks Constantin, and FYI, I truly value your input on this forum as you're always willing to share your wisdom and help guys like me who eat a lot of macaroni and cheese for dinner (American poor mans food). Your boom op sounds amazing and I strive for that level anytime I'm in that role. The reason I'm adamant about using headphones is because they're also my eyes so to speak. The pristine part of the cone on a 416 booming at 32"-36" from chest level is less than a foot wide. Often with indies there is no rehearsal, camera is on an ez-rig, and my eyes are watching the DP, talent, and potential obstacles in my foot path. My ears guide my hands as much as my eyes do. Surely it's a bit easier when using a CMIT-5U but I won't risk that mic in inclement weather/high humidity situations.

In this region some of my peers will work indie's for $400 a day with gear so you can imagine why there's some stress in some of my postings as I don't like to be a dog chasing scraps of meat. We only get a couple of union gigs a year in upstate and our tax credits haven't materialized into much as in other areas of the country so joining that fraternity isn't in the affordability cards right now. But I love this line of work, it's a passion, and I revere those who laid the bricks before me (god bless you Mr. Wexler/many others here and that's respect not ass kissing). Probably would've bailed a few years ago and will spare you the horror stories but a few of those films did really well (over a million paid views as well as theatrical releases) with kudos from DP's, Producers, Directors, and internationally known talent. Still just a journeyman at this craft though and really do appreciate what it's taken for many on here to master it. I owe quite a few beers to some of the major contributors on this forum as you've saved my butt on many occasions by sharing your expertise. Oh and yes I've had a few tonight so pardon the heartfelt response if it seems un-engineer like. Lol

Thank you!

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daniel   
13 hours ago, Constantin said:

Dutch, I think you have misunderstood what I was trying to say. 

Having a boom-op who prefers to work without headphones is absolutely NOT part of the race to the bottom. It is not cutting corners at all. It also has nothing to do with technology. I have plenty of iem receivers for boom-ops and others, nor does this meam that a boom-op will be replaced by some piece of gear. Absolutely not. As I mentioned, booming without headphones is reserved only to the highly skilled and experienced boom-op - no-one else. I do that to accomodate him, because he is one of those crew members I feel privileged to work with, so I will do whatever I can to make him comfortable. There have been scenarios when I asked him to put on cans (and he will then), but often it's not needed. This applies to only a few boom operators

+1.

It is quite possible that maintaining 'natural' stereo hearing would be advantageous to a boom op., in some environments at least. Of course a mechanical boom op (boombot™ :-) is a long way off if ever, but from a conceptual point of view it strikes me the device would almost certainly need more than the 1 audio sensor (mic) it is cueing for the recording. Eg. it might have something like a surround array of audio sensors to 'map' the acoustics of the environment in realtime and determine the sweet spot for the recording mic without having to 'find' it (like an autofocus system). Of course cuing the mic silently, getting the ad libs, not tripping on cables, adjusting the edge of frame for an unrehearsed camera move or change in lighting and all the other things a good boom op does are probably more of a technical challenge and its more likely the PSM will be replaced with a machine (Automix/mix-assist/DNS) than the boom op ;-)

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BrianW   

Wow, this sure blew up!  Thanks for the extra perspective! I agree that a SEASONED, experienced boom op can work visually, because they spent enough time with both sensory inputs working to build enough muscle memory to know what will sound right, but that'd be in a situation with at least a two-person sound department. In the OP's scenario there is no mixer sitting at a cart monitoring the audio. It's a one-person sound dept. sitch. I was recently on a shoot when an expensive, high quality shotgun mic on a boom started making static out of the blue in the middle of a take. Without someone monitoring, that problem might not get caught until post.  (I know you all realize that, not trying to be condescending at all - I don't know if OP or some others would have thought of that kind of situation, or realize how common it is for stuff, especially cheap stuff, to just quit working properly all of a sudden) Yeah, if there's a boom op and a mixer, the mixer would catch any issues.

 

To the OP: Yep, the camera has a headphone out. If I were the boom op, I would hate the camera op being the one who has to adjust my listening level for me. I would bring my own HP amp at the very least and beg the camera op to never touch the levels. Also, the input levels can only be adjusted at the camera.  If your project is one where the talent's dialog is always one level, even tone and volume level, this might be fine, but if some words are spoken more softly, and some are loud, sure, you can set the gain low enough to prevent the loud words from clipping, and bring up the soft parts in post, but how much is an editor's time worth compared to giving an on-set mixer the ability to adjust on the spot appropriately for the scene? Either the camera op as to make these adjustments, or the sound mixer has to get in the camera op's way allot.  My fingers are always reaching for the mixer, very, very often.  If it were me, I'd feel very awkward reaching to touch the camera that often, or, worse, trying to talk the camera op through making adjustments for me.

I'm sorry if this sounds rude, and I honestly mean no disrespect.  Out of curiosity, did you come to a sound forum for advice from experienced sound professionals on how to make your project turn out better, or simply to validate that the way you've already decided to do everything is proper or good enough? If you've already made up your mind, then fine, just do it your way, yeah? If it was my micro-budget production, I'd have someone acting as sound mixer, and that person would have a small mixer, a recorder, and feed the mix to the camera, at least most of the time. Having experience with equipment from the cheapest to the most expensive out there, my lowest-possible-budget choice would be to use Sound Devices MixPre or 302, plug the boom into that, and feed that to the camera and to at least a zoom recorder for backup, in case the cable comes loose or craps out at any point. I haven't used one yet, but it does look like a Zoom F4 could be another good, workable solution, but that does remove the practical ability to ride the faders during a take, since they're digital and may cause stepping artifacts - but it's pretty tough to ride faders and boom at the same time, anyhow.  It could be done as you say, plugging the mic straight into the camera and plugging headphones straight out of the camera, but that'll have its disadvantages that'll limit the production, make it more cumbersome on set, and raise tensions between crew members. I've done both, and, if it was me you brought on board, I'd use my own 302 for free before I'd plug my mic and headphones into the camera, getting in the camera op's way and risking jiggling the camera or getting tangled up more easily.  Very rarely is standing next to the camera the optimum place from which to boom, and I've found most camera ops appreciate their unencumbered space.  I'd also add a recorder of my own, at least a zoom or tascam or something, to offer the camera op the option of being freed up from the tether in case a situation just isn't conducive to tethering. The production will go faster and smoother for the cost equivalent to a couple days of one tech's labor.

 

Bare-bones, no budget, absolute minimum setup? Buy, beg, or borrow, a Zoom F4. But, since you already said you're using a $10,000+ camera body, we already know this is not a no-budget, absolute minimum setup ;)

On ‎2‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 3:55 PM, Constantin said:


That's not true. At least, it's not a rule that would be always true.
...

Thanks, Constantin. Of course it's not an absolute rule, but my statement was in context to the OP's situation where there is only one person in the sound department.  I'm sure you'd 100% agree if I had worded it, "Someone has to monitor the audio." Please consider my statement as it pertains as a direct response to the OP's questions, where there's no Constantin at a cart listening and mixing in the OP's project.

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Thanks, Constantin. Of course it's not an absolute rule, but my statement was in context to the OP's situation where there is only one person in the sound department.  I'm sure you'd 100% agree if I had worded it, "Someone has to monitor the audio." Please consider my statement as it pertains as a direct response to the OP's questions, where there's no Constantin at a cart listening and mixing in the OP's project.

Yes, I understand. Surprisingly enough, my comment was not only a response to you, but also the OP. Admittedly I didn't make that very clear. The op suggested that the boom-op could listen through an iPad, receiving a feed from the camera. Considering issues like delay, having to put the iPad somewhere, handling it and so on. Since the op had also stated that hos boom-op was an experienced boomer, I thought I'd just mention that it is not always absolutely required to monitor audio fora boom-op.

The OP already mentioned that he would be listening to the audio off camera, so he would surely notice a broken mic.

 

On some sets (especially low budget) it can be better to not listen to the production audio, and instead focus all senses on your surroundings, especially if you have to move

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JonG   

Isn't digital digital? In that case, shoot your movie with an iPhone. 4K is 4K right?

see the argument?

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18 hours ago, JonG said:

Isn't digital digital? In that case, shoot your movie with an iPhone. 4K is 4K right?

see the argument?

Understand completely. I haven't made up my mind on this and am looking over everything said here, I respect everyone's opinion. But from my side, you have to understand that we have no investors, I'm not spending other people's money. If I hire a mixer and gear at an extra 13K, it comes out of my pocket. And the chances of ever seeing that money again, in the world of indy film, are not good.  Over the last few years, through a lot of training and effort in lighting and set design, (and thanks to advances in camera technology)  I've managed to make the image on the 40 foot screen look much higher budget than it actually is. So I'm inclined to try to keep costs down in the sound dept. as well, weighing cost vs. performance. The film I shot in 2009 was on an HPX500, which had four channels but reduced to 12bit sound when using all four. The sound was OK but that was a direct to DVD project. The FS7 is 24 bit and has reasonably quiet preamps, but I understand it's not the same as an SD recorder. I'm weighing the options back and forth. My boom op has a Zoom H4n, but I assume that would not be a great improvement over in camera compared to say an SD633, correct?

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I don't really understand the question here...

you obviously decided to approach this as a (dedicated) hobby project. nothing wrong with that, it allows you to go ahead without waiting endlessly for funding, you don't have to justify anything to producers, and you'll have a great time with friends and family. If all goes well, the result will be better then an average commercial film because the spirit will transfer into the final film and it will fun to watch. sometimes it will fail completely.

Now you're asking a bunch of professional sound mixers who take pride in their jobs and need to account for professional audio every day if this is a good way to record audio. Obviously to them it's not, because they can't just say "sorry, yesterdays audio is not good enough, we will have to reshoot that". you on the other hand can take that risk.

Simply said, you'll have to option to keep financial commitment at a bare minimum, which has it's limitations and also it's benefits. Or you can get some more funds and approach it differently, which also has some benefits and some limitations. you'll never get to a situation where you get neither of the limitations and both of the benefits.

All that said, if it were me and I would that much time and energy into something, I would invest in slightly better gear (say a Zoom F4 or a used 744T which you can sell again). I would also spend some days on technical training on everybody involved until everybody is feeling comfortable and I'm happy with the technical quality.

And then the things who are much harder to control then sound quality start..

good luck, and remember that filmmaking if done as a hobby should be fun : )

chris

 

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Sorry, but this filmmaker is not a hobbyist. He has distributed and sold his films. He is, therefore, a professional filmmaker and employer.

The chosen method is to be as cheap as possible and hope for the best. That is certainly a valid choice.

The reassurance you're looking for will not be found here. If you want good sound and picture, then hire a professional crew. 

Anything less than that, and you're taking your chances. It may work out, and it may not. That's independent filmmaking. 

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JonG   
4 hours ago, mainstreetprod said:

But from my side, you have to understand that we have no investors, I'm not spending other people's money. If I hire a mixer and gear at an extra 13K, it comes out of my pocket.

Every diy indie resource for film making says not to do this. And everyone who has ever made a film has probably skimped on audio for the first project and learned from it. You have managed to make your picture look great, and since cameras today are essential disposable, that is possible if you can operate it well enough. This still isn't true with sound. 

Every indie film that I work on, the director or producer come to me and say how important sound is, above everything else, and it is where they put their money, because they know that it will make or break the film.

Like @RPSharman said, you aren't going to find an endorsement here in a professional sound forum for trying to find a cheap and easy way of getting great film sound. We are the people who buy a Schoeps mic instead of a Rode or Azden mic because it is better, not cheaper. We spend $10,000 on a recorder because of it's quality and reliability, instead of a cheap feature-packed but unreliable Chinese product. The fact that any one of us will show up to a job with $50k-$100k worth of gear says it all. We care about what we do to the extent that we buy the best even though we aren't necessarily payed more to bring one mic over another. But people recognize that and will pay for us to work on their projects because we are no nonsense in that regard. 

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On 2/16/2017 at 7:45 AM, Dutch said:
On 2/18/2017 at 3:26 PM, JonG said:

On past projects I've "skimped on audio" by the standards here, but not by micro budget film standards. I've been anal about researching mics before buying,  getting them as close as humanly possible, and treating rooms. It's paid off and I've gotten pretty clean audio for an indy. As I said, I respect your opinions so I've found an audio engineer (Nashville has plenty) who wants to try his hand at location sound to do the mixing. Already had a pro boom guy and the budget can handle the rates they have agreed to. I'll buy an SD recorder, probably a 552, and resell it after the project. Mixed track will be run to the camera for a backup. Primary mic will be an MKH50. Lavaliers will be used only when booming is impossible. I'll be dependent on Plural Eyes later to get the tracks synced up. I'll post the trailer in the Fall and you can judge whether the plan worked or not. 

 

 

 

 

Every diy indie resource for film making says not to do this. And everyone who has ever made a film has probably skimped on audio for the first project and learned from it. You have managed to make your picture look great, and since cameras today are essential disposable, that is possible if you can operate it well enough. This still isn't true with sound. 

Every indie film that I work on, the director or producer come to me and say how important sound is, above everything else, and it is where they put their money, because they know that it will make or break the film.

Like @RPSharman said, you aren't going to find an endorsement here in a professional sound forum for trying to find a cheap and easy way of getting great film sound. We are the people who buy a Schoeps mic instead of a Rode or Azden mic because it is better, not cheaper. We spend $10,000 on a recorder because of it's quality and reliability, instead of a cheap feature-packed but unreliable Chinese product. The fact that any one of us will show up to a job with $50k-$100k worth of gear says it all. We care about what we do to the extent that we buy the best even though we aren't necessarily payed more to bring one mic over another. But people recognize that and will pay for us to work on their projects because we are no nonsense in that regard. 

 

 

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IronFilm   
On Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 5:20 AM, mainstreetprod said:

My boom op has a Zoom H4n, but I assume that would not be a great improvement over in camera compared to say an SD633, correct?

Wow. 

Welllllllll..... it is screamingly blatantly obviously your boom op is not a professional sound mixer.

I fully expect a Zoom H4n would be a backwards step in quality over the FS7's audio circuitry. I'd run away fast, & run very fast, from every using the original Zoom H4n.

Though it completely boggles the mind as to why anyone would ever recorded the audio for a feature directly in camera when the Zoom F4 is so dirt dirt dirt cheap these days.

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20 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Wow. 

Welllllllll..... it is screamingly blatantly obviously your boom op is not a professional sound mixer.

I fully expect a Zoom H4n would be a backwards step in quality over the FS7's audio circuitry. I'd run away fast, & run very fast, from every using the original Zoom H4n.

Though it completely boggles the mind as to why anyone would ever recorded the audio for a feature directly in camera when the Zoom F4 is so dirt dirt dirt cheap these days.

He has an H4N, but also has an F8. I chose the boom op not based on his sound gear, but on the quality of the audio in a feature where he boomed. Saw it in a theater and it sounded great, he's also done major episodic TV. He seldom records, usually booms, that's why I picked him. I'm no longer recording in camera and looking seriously at a Zoom F8. I can buy it new, resell after the project, average cost per day probably $12. If the F4 had broadcast line level out I would buy it instead, will seldom need 8 channels. 

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Percentage-wise, you're far better off getting an experienced boom operator who has never mixed than an inexperienced mixer who has never boomed. You can have the best mixer in the world, using the best gear, but if the mic is in the wrong place, your sound isn't going to be good.

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"If the F4 had broadcast line level out I would buy it instead, will seldom need 8 channels."

-  Both the F4 and F8 have the same Main and Sub output specs: "Maximum output level = +10 dBV" which  would be a little anemic feeding a nominal +4dB input.

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Recording on the  Sony fs7-- you can do that- but you will likely have clipping/distortion on loud sounds somewhere in your project... maybe on that great emotional scene that you can never redo and get the same energy... Why be disappointed? Get a quality field mixer to be a front end for the camera. Or breakdown and buy a good mixer/recorder to go with your fs7. Hard to beat the value of an SD633. A used 744t or 552 can be had for way less than $2k...

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5 hours ago, David Silberberg said:

Recording on the  Sony fs7-- you can do that- but you will likely have clipping/distortion on loud sounds somewhere in your project... maybe on that great emotional scene that you can never redo and get the same energy... Why be disappointed? Get a quality field mixer to be a front end for the camera. Or breakdown and buy a good mixer/recorder to go with your fs7. Hard to beat the value of an SD633. A used 744t or 552 can be had for way less than $2k...

I did decide to go with a recorder after reading hundreds of reviews, a Zoom F8. Did a quick test when it arrived yesterday and was very pleased with the lack of preamp noise. Also, the second channel "safety" recording at lower DB will be a big plus. And, I've hired a dedicated mixer so the boom guy can do his job. The mixer is just getting into location sound, but has 20+ years post experience. 

I plugged the Zoom into the FS7 , set it for line level and expected a low signal but was pleasantly surprised. I will only have to boost the Zoom gain in the menu by 20% or so to get it where it needs to be for a solid scratch track.

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Thought I would post an update since I in the middle of filming...with my first professional sound crew. Very happy with the results so far, using a Zoom F8 to record and a Mixpre (which the mixer happened to own) as preamp and way for the boom op to monitor his boom mic only. Each track recorded on the F8 has a safety track recorded at lower db. Listening to the sound files, so far no need for the safety track. We are using wireless G2's when necessary for the complexity of a scene, but still booming as an alternative sound source. Plenty of tracks to work with, maximum so far 7 tracks. I had purchased an MKH50 for the project, but the boom op preferred his CS3E and is using it on every shot, indoors or outdoors. So far I have no complaint with the result. Looks like I will have an MKH50 for sale soon, along with most of my other location sound gear as I prefer to let the pros handle it. 

bts boom 2.jpg

bts boom.jpg

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On June 1, 2017 at 10:34 PM, josephboyle said:

I'm curious, what were the names of the films you made in the past (that were distributed)? Good luck on the rest of the film.

Distributed films included "Flowers for Fannie", "The Good Book" and "Providence", which got a limited AMC theater release. Former films were faith based, but the current one is a Vietnam war era drama. We will release it Veterans Day 2018, with the goal being a wide theater release. 

summer porch grab.jpg

summer_still_funeral_.jpg

summer wedding grab 1.jpg

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1 hour ago, mainstreetprod said:

Distributed films included "Flowers for Fannie", "The Good Book" and "Providence", which got a limited AMC theater release. Former films were faith based, but the current one is a Vietnam war era drama. We will release it Veterans Day 2018, with the goal being a wide theater release. 

summer porch grab.jpg

summer_still_funeral_.jpg

summer wedding grab 1.jpg

I will check them out. Hope it's going well!

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IronFilm   
On Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 9:38 AM, mainstreetprod said:

Distributed films included "Flowers for Fannie", "The Good Book" and "Providence", which got a limited AMC theater release. Former films were faith based, but the current one is a Vietnam war era drama. We will release it Veterans Day 2018, with the goal being a wide theater release. 

summer porch grab.jpg

summer_still_funeral_.jpg

summer wedding grab 1.jpg

Ah ha, "Providence", I recognize that name!

Realised just now I've seen you post in the dvxuser forums, as I hang out and lurk a lot in their F3/F5/F55/FS7/FS5 subforum (because I own one of them myself, & use the others quite a lot).

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39 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

Ah ha, "Providence", I recognize that name!

Realised just now I've seen you post in the dvxuser forums, as I hang out and lurk a lot in their F3/F5/F55/FS7/FS5 subforum (because I own one of them myself, & use the others quite a lot).

Yep, that's me. Just finished wrapping the latest film, "Summer of '67" about 3 hours ago.Now on to editing and post. Love my FS7!

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IronFilm   

Oh wow, congrats on wrapping! & you're already online on filmmaking forums only 3hrs later. You should be out celebrating your accomplishment! ;-)

 

I'm only a few days away from wrapping up finally on my first full feature film (I've been involved on quite a lot of other features, but usually only just for small sections of it. This is my first time I'll be there from start to finish).

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