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    London based filmmaker.
  • Interested in Sound for Picture

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  1. That's very useful – thanks so much all! Running a mixer straight to camera would make life easier, though it does become more problematic if we want sound and camera to roam separately (e.g. at an event). Is it ok in that case just to monitor the audio off the mixer, given that the mini doesn't have sound out? Mic wise it seems like the MKH50 is certainly the consensus. I only mentioned the 8050 because that's currently £630 in the UK, vs £1160 for the 50 – seems to be a pretty big disparity there! But if handling noise really is too problematic then that's probably not a good option.
  2. Thank you very much for the advice from many of you! Particularly big thanks to Jez, Daniel and several others. I understand the concern that some of you raise, and it's also one that I'm very aware of myself. Without failure, the first person we hire on set is always the sound recordist – even prior to the DoP. We would of course much rather focus on work where the entire team is made up of professionals but sometimes that's just not possible. It's tempting to revert to such phrases as "Sub-par work gets you sub-par clients" (John) but in reality running a business is much more complex than that. RPSharman – perhaps it's the case that we're doing projects for charities because we actually want to do some genuine pro bono work rather than try to glean work off them in the future? But that's our choice to support a cause, and I certainly would not want time and time again to ask our sound recordists to work without charge. That, to me, would be unfair and exploitative. I'd rather not engage in a debate on the business front – for a start I haven't offered much information about my business, so many of the comments are rather too speculative. Suffice to say, this is not a typical case of a production company not prioritising sound. Jesse – perhaps this is the issue that a lot of you have missed. If we wanted (naively) to replace a sound recordist on all our shoots, we'd put together a £15k package. We're not trying to do that. Why do we have a £70k in camera equipment? Because we don't want to have to choose our DoPs on the basis of what cameras they own. Richard – you're right, this was poorly worded. What I meant is that at the low end, we inevitably have to do a lot of shoots which help us meet our fixed costs, but which fundamentally are much less critical than the bigger projects that we do. This is what I meant: for every project I make the judgment of the degree to which failure is serious. Any decent sized project, failure with sound is totally critical and screws us completely. For a basic interview with a crew of two, if in the worst case we lose the sound, we can shoot it again. Of course this happens rarely, and we have conversely lost sound when using a professional recordist. But the most we can do is take the necessary precautions and hire the best people we know, when we can. If somehow a project is important to our reputation and it's budget is too low to afford a professional sound recordist, then we simply won't take it on. RPSharman and Joseph: this is not a zero-sum game. Do you treat your investment in your equipment in the same sort of way that you treat your ordinary expenses, such as travel expenses? Of course not. I have certainly not indicated that we're spending the production budget of a single project on a camera. We are a production company, and we produce several projects every month. If we didn't have the camera we'd be hiring it in every single time. This was an investment. It is simply a fact that it's been a good purchase, and that we will make our money back on it in the first couple of years. Above all, it allows us to approach our DoPs on the basis of their actual ability rather than on the basis of what kit they own. So in general we're very much concerned about the quality of the crew and try to avoid any other superficial measure. Sound is different. As I've said, most good cinematographers do not own an Alexa or similar. Most sound people do own their own equipment. So what's logical? Spend more money on camera equipment, so we can hire who we want for that; and spend less money on sound equipment but hire in a sound recordist more frequently. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure £3k only gets you a basic sound kit. We've budgeted a minimal amount for a reason – there's no point replicating the kit of our professional sound recordists. Simultaneously, if you spend too little then your equipment doesn't last, so it's wasted money. And John – perhaps this is a professional sound forum, but you don't shoot down beginner sound recordists do you? I've been on professional camera forums, and people are very happy to help out those interested in filmmaking, from across the board. On a camera forum, they do make it clear that a professional camera matters significantly less than a skilled operator. The same is entirely true of sound, and nowhere have I suggested otherwise. If you think this conversation is below you, then please don't engage with it. But I find it extraordinary to suggest that I should go to a camera forum instead and ask about sound there. Would anybody in a cinematography forum send me here to ask about cameras? Having browsed through this forum many times in the past, I'm also familiar with you individually as posters and that's why I'm here – to seek out your opinions, because I value them.
  3. In general we do push hard to get external sound recordists. And usually at the very least, we'd end up using somebody externally who's at early stages in their sound career. I know full well how important it is to get professionals on the team. Unfortunately the reality is, when you're a young production company like we are, you can't have the luxury of constantly turning down work. We'd definitely wouldn't exist now if we did that. There are also cases where we're either doing work effectively pro bono for charities or working on our short films etc., and I really don't want even to ask our sound recordists to do those for free. And I have been bitten by these decisions - we have ended up with poor audio or we have lost audio on a couple of occasions. Nonetheless I still fundamentally wouldn't change our approach - hire an experienced professional for the critical work, and someone less experienced (but without their kit) for the lower end stuff where in the very worst case we can redo the shoot. And also if we can get a kit decent enough to support budding sound recordists along the way, then I think that's a good thing to do too. Back onto topic...I had originally been thinking about the MKH50 but oddly it's a lot more expensive new in the UK than the 8050. I know handling noise is bad on the 8050, but does the 50 justify its 80% higher price? We have an Alexa mini which has terrible audio inputs / monitoring. I'm not sure how realistic it is to run the mixer directly. What do you think?
  4. After much research, I've started to piece together a kit plan. I'd be keen to hear your thoughts, given how useful this forum has been throughout! Budget: this is relatively limited, probably in the region of £3k ($3.7k at the current terrible exchange rates). What is this for: This is for my film production company. We have professional sound recordists on any decent budget project, but the lower stuff we need to do in house. We shoot a wide range of projects, ranging from narrative to documentary. 70% indoors. Situations include indoor dialogue in quiet environments, both for short films and interviews; vox pops in noisier places; and events, sometimes with speakers miked up and other times not. Current kit: We currently own a Zoom H6, NTG-3, 2x Sony UWP-D11 wireless lavs, Rode aluminium boom pole, Rode windshield and 2x Tentacle Sync boxes. However we have several issues at it stands. H6 physical build isn't great, with the headphone jack currently broken; H6 audio quality is also an issue – not just pre-amps, but crucially dynamic range, so we end up peaking if there's an unexpected laugh etc.; H6 can't properly do timecode; and NTG-3 is distinctly average indoors, so it's effectively become a backup for our lav mics. The boom pole is pretty crap. What we need: A highly reliable and versatile setup which performs better for both indoor dialogue and for noisier environments. We also need timecode capability. Since users will often be less experienced, I don't think we'll be mixing on the fly and instead will probably work of ISOs or potentially an auto-mix on the less critical projects. We also won't need that many tracks – again we'll probably only encounter those situations where we can afford to get a specialist with their own kit on the project. --- Current plans: Recorder. So currently I'm looking at a used recorder, due to the low budget. Options include the Zaxcom Maxx or a Sound Devices 744t @ £1800 including bag and cards. Handheld mic. Additionally we're looking at a handheld cardioid mic for vox pops in noisy environments. Everybody seems to suggest the Beyer M58 but I'm not sure whether we'd want to have an omnidirectional mic, especially since this will only be used when there's a lot of background noise. Something like the Sennheiser MD46 looks relatively suitable. Cost is around £150 new. Indoor boom mic. I've been looking specifically at the MKH8000 series. Glen Trew apparently recommends the MKH8040. Something like that looks great for the quietest locations, but I'm concerned that off-axis pick up might be too great. There are situations I can imagine where the handheld mic might not be suitable and we'd like to crack out the boom mic. In an ideal world, we'd get an MKH8060 and MKH8040 perhaps (both at around £650 new)... but that would probably blow our budget. Unfortunately Sennheiser doesn't seem to be selling the capsules on their own anymore, so we can't really take advantage of modularity to cut down on cost. So the boom mic is probably the thing I'm most uncertain about. Miscellaneous. At present we're looking at a new boom pole, 2m with internal coiled cable, e.g. Ambient Recording QXS-550 @ £205. Then additionally a Rycote windshield – though these seem pricey (@ £300). Also a Tac!T filter cable @ £40. And miscellaneous other TRS and XLR cables, coming to an extra £50. So total cost would be £3200 which is a bit over budget. --- What does everybody think? In particular, what should I be doing about the indoor boom mic selection? Am I allocating funds correctly? Big thanks.
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