Stephen Murdoch

Suggestions - kitchen table unscripted discussion

15 posts in this topic

Hi all. I've got a documentary shoot coming up about languages. One scene will be a kitchen table discussion with numerous family members sitting around the table talking, unscripted. Production hasn't given me a number for how many participants will be at the table, and I'm not sure they'll know till shoot day. How would you mic this scenario if lavs weren't an option?

I was wondering about hanging two cardioids from the ceiling and recording to separate channels, but feel like that's not necessarily the best option. Looking for recommendations. What say you?  

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Depends...

I've had good luck planting a CUB for one side of the table and booming the other side.  Planting a 2nd CUB would have been better but it wasn't an option.

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This is a fairly common doco-verite situation.  For me my main axe was my boom, as I danced with the shooter around the table and followed the action.  Shutting down the fridge and other noise makers (like furnace, AC etc) if you can is a great idea.  If there are lights hanging over the table getting them raised up (maybe have a few gags to do that with you, like S hooks, A clamps, wire ties etc) so you can boom under it helps too.  If there is a member of the discussion who is central to the story, you might consider wiring them and recording them to a sep channel, maybe more than one person.  I don't really like the idea of plant mics for this--too slow, too dependent on people staying put.  You'll need the boom anyhow, so I kind of like the simple old school (but more physically demanding ) approach....  I generally find that there is really no time in these situations--it just starts to happen and the camera is rolling.  One other note--having a mic on the camera is a great idea I think--sometimes the camera will be closer to a speaker than you and your boom are.  I like having a scratch wireless feed of my boom to one chan of the cam, its own mic on the 2nd channel, then my recorder with whatever I'm getting (wires and boom etc), with TC lock/jam between recorder and camera.  This gives the editor 3 good perspectives .

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Thanks Phil. Surprise - they also want to shoot two cams!!! So, we'd have to choose a primary shooter for me to follow in order to boom. I like the idea of making sure there's an on camera mic recording to each cam as well.

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I would definitely stay away from BLMs, like a CUB. They pick up way too much table noise. I think one or two hanging mics ( even lavs which would be quick to deploy) would be useful as just-in-case mics. If you have 8 people around a table and a conversation between two ends of the table it'll be terribly difficult to get it all. The hanging mics could help you there.
Otherwise I second Philip's post

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2 cams isn't much of a surprise anymore--be glad it's not 3 or 4.  It's a little bit important to try and establish some rules of engagement before you start rolling, re who accommodates whom.  If this is a real setup, ie is planned and lit, then you can map out some no fly and dead zones as well as which camera covers who.  If the situation is more fluid, like real verite, then often the priority of my shoots has been A: A-camera B: sound, esp story sound C: B-camera, in terms of who works around who.  If what you are doing is actually a commercial being shot like a doc then the usual deal applies, ie sound is always wrong if the mic, a shadow or a soundie appears in any shot.  The latter is a dumb way to make a real doc--the sound continuity and getting remarks at their full length will be very important in the cut.  It's a tough sell sometimes, but the really great doco shooters I've worked with are always listening to the dialog intently and editing in their heads, so I try to cover what I perceive they think the real story being told in the scene is.

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I would do what others suggest or something, but given a budget, I'd really like to try setting one (1) suspended 4098 / 3 people. I'll have to draw a picture. This would benefit from a carpeted room. + additional boom operator. One stick / camera operator.

 

4098_mic_placement_plan_IMG_3668.JPG

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Depending on table size and number of people, this scenario (unscripted) often requires a second boom......... especially with multiple camera's. They use multiple camera's for the very same reason !!!

Steve

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8 radios, SD Dugan auto mix.. Theres your mix track... then you have the ISOs...

But no radios..?  wow .. hard spot .. asking about it is a good idea..   2 booms? has to be a good room.. and they will always have to react to the new speaker... poor way to do it...but, maybe necessary.  Overhead(s), maybe if it's an option ..lighting, or other factors may wipe that out.. you will have to wait and see..  CUBS .. may work OK with 1/2" of soft makeup sponge under the CUB Discs.. maybe 3 of them..

  Without the 8 radios, everything else may be a poor choice..  you never know though, sometimes what I think won't work, will end up working just fine. Be prepared for a few options. A great room and the ability of 2 good boom ops , not swinging under lights and you have a chance that way.. but, you need three stars to align.

3 Cubs may sound just fine if placed well.

Good luck.

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Is it lavs not an option or is it radios? I have used hard wired lavs in this situation before because the production didn't want to pay for hiring 8 radios. As long as they are seated throughout, it works quite well. 

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I would 2nd the suggestion for 2 booms, 1 that follows each camera, or just split the table in zones.  If production won't go for that, I would look at and evaluate what portion of the table you can easily and quickly cover with your boom from one spot, then use plant mics to cover the (hopefully) 1 or 2 people you can't cover.  Work with the cam ops to see if they can generally cover the scene around your spot that gives you the most coverage of the table.  Maybe leave a seat open at the table where you would stand so they have no incentive to shoot that way and giving you a space to live that isn't restricted by lighting etc. This is assuming a little bit of preparation on the day.  If you walk into the house rolling, well, then it's all up to your instincts and experience at that point.

The other thing I'd suggest is talk to the director and see if it's more important to cover every speaker and all of the exchanges so they can use the convo on it's own, or if it's more important to just follow who's on the lens.  

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I often worked in situations like that last year, entering in doc scenes unscripted with up to 10 people, no radios...

we worked with two booms, thats it.

Just take care to optimize the room (noise, light/shadow...) and try to make a plan with the camera department,

To have good mics at the cameras is not a bad idea (short shotgun like neumann kmr 81)

iI prefer booming with an mid/side stereo boom, so people speaking from the sides are not totaly lost, either with neumann rsm 191 or a combination of gefell m310/neumann km a 120.

Dont be afraid, if you follow the conversation/the flow and look what the camera guys are doing there should be no problem.

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Guess it's a 1 man gig

2 0r 3 Cubs mounted on thick foam pads would achieve a result

I guess it's not a major drama shoot

Also it depends what the result is used for - a web content?

mike

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You might think about Zaxcom ZFR recorders. Yes they are lav based but they are not transmitters. Either put them on each person or wire them to the table edge at each sitting position with the packs hidden under the table.  I would go with a countryman ENW mic as they are quite sensitive and inexpensive, With Zaxnet time code there will be no jaming. Just switch on the ZFRs and either let them record or control them all with Zaxnet to only record what you need.  Use an ERX3TCD receiver to wirelessly verify audio quality on each pack and time code sync. 

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