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One man crew - video/AUDIO system advice needed


Tom R
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Hi there,

 

I am currently trying to figure out the best and most cost effective audio system setup for my 1 man crew doco shoot (Run and gun setup in a sense but not super fast paced) and am keen to get some advice on the best setup suited for my shoot.. Please excuse my lack of knowledge, I come from a post production background and am just moving into doing my own shooting.

 

There are two main presenters who 90% of the time need to be simultaneously mic'd up with lav mics. And there will often be a third person/talent that needs to be mic'd as well but I am using the Sony Fs5 so only have the 2 xlr inputs and would preferably like to have an on camera mic too. Apparently dual receiver would be off the cards for the presenters as they don't work with our frequencies in New Zealand??? So I was thinking it would be perfect to have a system as follows below (if possible):                                                                                                                                               

 

- 3x lav mic's on talent, each with own recorders clipped on their pants etc recording audio/TC to SD cards like the zaxcom systems.

- Wireless monitoring of all 3 lav mic's simultaneously for myself... Am I dreaming here? Can you only monitor 1 at a time? If possible what equipment does this require? If I can’t monitor them all simultaneously, then I may need to just plug the two presenter mic’s into the camera and I will need an additional recorder of some sort for the 3rd lav but I would not feel overly comfortable/safe not being able to monitor the guest mic. I also don’t want to over complicate the system.

- Then have a top mic plugged into xlr on camera for general sound/atmos/backup and sync zaxcom (or whatever system) mic's to this in post id any TC drift.

 

Is this possible or am I going at it the complete wrong way? If not what is the best/most cost effective solution? I’m aware it could probably solve all my issues having someone else to handle sound for me with a mixer etc.. but due to budget constraints its not really an option. Appreciate all advice.

 

Cheers,

Tom

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You are talking about using the Zax wireless TX that also record.  You can do what you said, record the individual talent on their own TX and then monitor via a small mixer you wear (smallest would be something like a SD 302).  You might as well record the mixed output of the 302 to a channel of your camera as a backup and syncing guide in post.  Your camera mic would go to its own channel.  I'd suggest using a camera with a TC output so you can jam sync the TC generators in the Zax TX to the camera TC--having those files be on the same TC as your camera would allow TC autosyncing in Davinci Resolve.  This all said you are making a lot of work for yourself on location, setting up and jamming the TX as well as wiring everyone, downloading and converting the files, and you'll have to control your camera mic gain on the camera audio level knob for that channel, while mixing the 3 receivers in the mixer.  You'll end up wearing the equivalent of a small sound bag-rig, once you get the mixer, the receivers and powering all in there.  This approach also leaves you with a fair amount of "homework" every day after the shoot--downloading cards from 4 sources, data management and sound syncing.  I'd suggest a very thorough test, maybe with rental gear, before you jump into this.   Or....you could hire a sound recordist and let them deal with it all while you concentrate on shooting your show!

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Thanks for the reply.. Yeah it does sound like a lot of work, most probably too much for me when I will be wanting to focus on shooting/directing. Is there any other alternative approaches you would recommend?

I was initially looking at having the two main mic's transmitting to a dual receiver then into one channel on the camera and having a boom (rigged onto camera) into the other xlr input. This would essentially be the mic used for guest talent (which could be good if there is multiple people) But as I said above, don't think I can use a dual receiver because of frequency issues, but could possibly have two separate receivers plugged into an adapter and into one channel? Not sure how well this would work and it wouldn't be the greatest having no separation of the mics in different channels for post but would be great to not have to sync later on.. Also if I was using a boom for the guest talent and they were close to the presenters, would there be phasing because of the differing distance of the mic's? Sorry a lot of questions! I feel as if I am going to have to make a sacrifice in some way to make this work... 

Cheers

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37 minutes ago, Philip Perkins said:

 Or....you could hire a sound recordist and let them deal with it all while you concentrate on shooting your show!

I think this is the best way to go. Considering the investment for said gear, on top of having to focus on too many things, potentially leading to compromised quality of picture and/or sound, I just don't see the advantage of trying to do everything yourself.

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Unfortunately because of the nature of the shoot, it's just not really an option at the moment. I understand the reasoning behind hiring someone and see how it would resolve a lot of headaches, but it would be very last resort if theres no other way we can do it. It may sound ignorant but theres valid reasons why we are trying to keep it as a small intimate crew.

So for this situation if we say it has to done this way with no soundy... (Feel free to disregard my proposed setups) What would you guys recommend as the ideal setup that will be the easiest to manage, even if it does mean not having 3 people mic'd up with lapels or another slight sacrifice...

I also just realised the FS5's multi interface hot shoe allows for an adaptor with an additional two xlr inputs (with controls) but I'm unsure whether you can actual record with more than 2 channels of audio?? I heard theres a way you can do this with a Canon C300 (some type of 'hidden channel(s) but haven't seen it...) Anyway may be the wrong place to be asking about that..
 

 

 

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From what I understand - which may be incorrect, that the FS5 lacks the DSP to support 4 channel audio, so although you can use the MI shoe to use the XLR-K#M type accessories, it is still limited to 2 channels.  The FS7, with similar physical features does allow 4 channel audio recording, because it is equipped with much more DSP capabilities.  What you are asking for is possible (one man band shooting) but the equipment you are bringing to the table is not beefy enough to handle the workflow you suggest.  Either upgrade to the FS7+XLRK#M or augment the capabilities of the FS5 with additional recording backbone, such as using a Video Devices PIX-E style recording device - such a recorder would allow you to use the FS5 preamp to drive a shotgun mic and then 2 wireless mics to the PIX-E inputs, configure routing to allow embedded audio from FS5 to be recorded to PIX.  If you stick with moderately wide lenses, you can shoot verite style spots, keeping close to the subject, giving camera shotgun a chance to work properly, without too much near field distortion if you don't overdo it.  I have an A7S with PIX-E7 and a Sanken CSR-2 for my own personal work that seems to work quite well if you are smart about choosing the location you shoot in.  Even as a professional sound recordist, I would think that stopping to mic people and keeping tabs on picture simultaneously would be asking a bit much from me - and I do sound on a daly basis.  Determine when sound is critical and bring in manpower to help when it warrants it, but otherwise K.I.S.S. for your workflow and shoot keeping in mind the limitations of your audio gear.

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In regards to needing a small intimate crew I would argue that your crew will appear smaller with a dedicated sound mixer. What I mean is the kind of set up you are proposing will likely be very cumbersome and clumsy for a one person operation, particularly so if you are new to the gear and location shooting in general. You will end up tripping over yourself, forgetting to roll various recorders or mix the right mics in the heat of the moment and doco shoots don't generally offer second chances. With a dedicated (and experienced) sound mixer as a second crew member you will be able to work much more quietly and quickly while also having a much better hit rate on getting good usable footage. The only reason I wouldn't have a 2 person crew is either financial (but as someone here has pointed out, all that gear you need to hire or buy may well cover the cost of a sound mixer and gear) or if it is physically impossible to have a 2 person crew, like if you're doing an autobiographical doco shoot on yourself paddling a canoe across the atlantic ocean.

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This whole scenario just screams of a no win situation for anyone... Your TC/Recording TX's will need something to sync them, so a zaxnet TX. And you want to monitor them and all while operating a camera.

If this doesn't frustrate YOU during the shoot, it will probably frustrate your talent. You know there will be issues with sync etc. It sounds like you don't already own the gear you are proposing and like anything there is a learning curve.

I know you said it wasn't an option for a Sound Mixer to be present, but looking at the unrealistic expectations you are presented with?? I would figure out a way to make it happen..For the sake of your sanity and for the betterment of your shoot.

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5 hours ago, Tom R said:

Apparently dual receiver would be off the cards for the presenters as they don't work with our frequencies in New Zealand???

Here's a New Zealand dealer that sells Lectrosonic's dual-channel receiver: 

http://www.soundtq.co.nz/index.php?pageID=10&itemID=38

And here's one that appears to sell Zaxcom's receivers:

http://www.protel.co.nz/shop/brands/t-to-z/zaxcom/receivers.html

So perhaps you could get down to just one receiver in a small bag/pouch that you wear (with a cable running up to your camera, or feeding a small recorder also in your waist bag).

I have TV news friends who do this sort of thing regularly (two work at stations all excited about the VJ concept...yep, they sometimes go out without a reporter). However, they've all been doing it for years...and they don't need to buy their own equipment. And they pretty much top out at two wireless per set up...and they're not ALWAYs by themselves. A couple have cameras with four-channel audio so their camera mic or a pool feed will run into its own channel... but they're also not running their camera all day while tracking story, light, camera, and audio. They're shooting tight and short stories. Some doc friends who do this sort of thing also pretty much top out at two channels of audio when working solo. They're willing to accept some audio issues (including just flat-out missing stuff) and they also, as far as I know, pretty much top out at two channels.

Try renting everything you're considering using and spend a weekend seeing if you can make your approach work. Then think about how much up-front AND back-up kit you'll need to buy... 

But four channels of audio AND camera by yourself...man, that sounds pretty damn difficult. 

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one more thought into the equation: Are you OK with visible Lavs? 

If yes, imho it might be an option to do it all by youself, because then the problems are "reduced" to operating your gear with max 10% of your attention (the other 90% will go into keeping your talent happy, organizing your next couple of shooting hours, doing the camera work and actual directing. 

If the Lavs have to be hidden, as a newbe to miking your chances to get decent audio per take per mike are around or under 50%, depending on the clothing of your talent. So simply forget about the one man option then. 

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I would consider a system based around these receivers, a lot of redundancy and a lot more work in post than you'd have with a sound op.

These dual receivers have a cable free compatibility with many sony cameras (as well as conventional outputs), have a built in 3 channel mixer and has external mic input for a wired mic eg a camera mounted ('top') mic. The UWP is not a Lectro or Zaxcom system but they were designed for OMBing, sound good enough if you buy decent capsules (eg cos-11s) and they are cheap enough to allow you to buy at least 2 dual receivers (RX). 1 RX I'd mount on the camera the other RX you plug into a recorder like a zoom F8 (with audio bracketing). 

The RX on the camera is going to allow you to mix the 2 radio mic (RM) channels and a top mic down to the 2 tracks available on the camera, if you forget to press record on the zoom you still have a chance with just the camera audio, you will have a sync reference for you zoom recorded audio if you prefer to use that and it will give something to monitor in your HPs. 

The dual RX with the zoom can be recorded across 4 tracks eg. each channel is 'bracketed' so you have a better chance of not over cooking the levels and because the camera is receiving the same audio you have a sync reference and don't need to wire the zoom to the camera. Having the zoom will also mean you are recording sound (so long as you remember press record :-) even if the camera is not running. Because both the zoom and the sony cameras have TC so you can jam them as well (TOD).

Check your levels and mic placements, press record on zoom and put the bag in the corner of the room/car/etc, you don't want to operate a camera with sound kit hanging round your neck. You can monitor the radio mics from the RX on the camera.

https://pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/product-URXP03D/14/

The above package is based on having 2 belt pack transmitters (TX) but it may be worth considering have 3 dual RX and 3 or 4 TX, 1 TX could be a 'plug-on' for a super cardioid or PZM like a Cub-01. The extra RX would only be for the zoom but it would allow you to get both an extra belt pack on a 3rd person and have something like a Sanken CSR2 mounted on the camera if need be or quickly moved to somewhere better if the opportunity allows or it could be used to power and transmit a discreetly placed PZM. The zoom has 8 channel I/Ps so you can bracket all 4 channels for level safety. The shit with all of this is (assuming you're proficient at setting it all up), without a sound op carefully adjusting levels as things proceed and trying to give you a nice mix, you are dependant on setting levels before you roll, some audio bracketing and lots of messing about in post           ...but some projects need to have a small production footprint which usually means an increase in the post production footprint. I doubt they'll be much if any cost saving in not using a sound op, indeed depending on how post works out it could be more expensive (even if you are doing it yourself).

Good luck.

d r

 

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Don't forget Michael Moore's rule 13!  You will get so much more footage if you have a mixer on your team.  Depending on the mixer's radios, they can mix for a little bit of a distance, preserving the intimacy you desire with your talent.  You're going to have your hands full with three talent in the field.  

http://www.indiewire.com/article/michael-moores-13-rules-for-making-documentary-films-20140910

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On 5/16/2016 at 5:20 PM, Myk Farmer said:

Is a possible reshoot because you can't do it all cheaper than a sound mixer with gear ?

Lets be honest, He sounds like he's on a tight budget and not trying to take any sound Mixers jobs so lets cut him some slack. He's come to JWSound for advice which is what this forum is supposed to be all about, so lets give it to him.

I would recommend 3 x ZFR300's, one for each talent. And a master. Get an ERX reciever and jam that to the same timecode as the master and put it in to the Camera's Timecode in. Get a sennheiser ME66 and it can be the camera mic or a mobile boom mic plugged in to the third ZFR300 (WHEN NOT IN USE). As far as monitoring you will be limited for range but with visible Lav mics you should be fine.

Hire some gear or borrow it (there should be some people that can help you here?) that myk Guy is from NZ) from a production company that has it and try it out on a test shoot if you can.

The main challenge you have is that you have 3 x talent.

It can be done mate, Dont give up! And dont listen to the naysayers.

 

Best of luck.

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Tascam Dr 701?

4x mic input recorder. You will need to find some way of syncing external recordings with the FS5, which does not have TC i/o, as others have said. You will obviously have to attach the recorder to camera in some way. You will need to remember to hit record on two different devices, manage two sets of batteries & media. You will be able to monitor all channels on headphones, but Post production will need to expect to have to mix all the ISOs from scratch. As a multi-tasking self-shooting producer-director you will not be able to Mix effectively while shooting so Post will need to do it instead.

Combined with any set of radio mics and on camera shotgun you like. Probably run the 3 radio mics and the on camera shotgun directly into the 701D, then output the 2ch mix from the 701D into the camera for guide track. RMs panned to ch1 and the shotgun panned to ch2. Set gain appropriately, leave faders all open, monitor only mix ch1 on headphones so you're only hearing the radio mics. Don't conceal the lavalier mics.

I guess the 701D has the technical capabilities you need, assuming it can be operated adequately and issues of sync/power/size/weight/media/hitting record etc can be worked around. Obviously doing everything yourself will lead to a greater chance of screw ups, but that's your business.

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Thanks Daniel, JWL & Jamie for the good advice... Thats what I was looking for, and...

19 minutes ago, Jamie Tongue said:

Obviously doing everything yourself will lead to a greater chance of screw ups, but that's your business.

Hit the nail on the head there! Cheers buddy.. Love the idea of the 701D panned 2ch output mix into camera for monitoring, Thanks!

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23 minutes ago, Tom R said:

Thanks Daniel, JWL & Jamie for the good advice... Thats what I was looking for, and...

Hit the nail on the head there! Cheers buddy.. Love the idea of the 701D panned 2ch output mix into camera for monitoring, Thanks!

This is why I'd go for a system with plenty of redundancy in terms of kit failure, operator error and setting of levels. Btw, you mention in your original post "Apparently dual receiver would be off the cards for the presenters as they don't work with our frequencies in New Zealand???", did you find out what this is about - I don't see why this would be.

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If you can't hire a sound recordist for whatever reason, I would at least consider hiring one for a day or two as a consultant. Tell him what your needs are and have him put a gear list together and organise the rental. Have him check out the gear from the rental place and set it all up for you. Then have him explain the need-to-know basics to you so that you can operate the gear on the day.

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Constantin - Yep definitely going to do this... Cheers

Daniel, Sorry if I am missing the point here (highly likely I am)... But when you speak of 'bracketing' is this when the zoom F8 (or other device) is recording audio with a high dynamic range to avoid clipping etc? If so sounds great... I would rather do this and not have a soundy and have to bump up gain to ganged clips in post (as long as they're not too low and doesn't lose quality!)

If so, would it be more efficient to have a tascam recorder like the above DR-701D mounted under the camera and have all 4 mic's into this device with 'bracketing' if possible in this type recorder??? Then only be monitoring the 3 lapels on 1 channel of a 2ch output mix into the camera, and shotgun unmonitored on the other channel? (which would also be super handy for post)... It may be a niggle having a few receivers rigged onto camera, but hopefully manageable if tidy?

Also if this is the case... I believe some one was saying earlier (Or maybe I read somewhere) that the FS5 can't sync Jam T.O.D. TC?? And TC seems to be the main benefit of the DR-701D (from what I can see) over a cheaper device such as the tascam DR-70D (less than half the price $NZD) which still records 4 channels but no TC... However because of the mixed in cam recording, I could surely easily sync the ISO mic's to the camera audio with pluralise, meaning the TC function is redundant for my situation? 

And if this is all possible... Does anyone know if it is possible to wire (not mount) the tascam units to a camera like PWX-FS5 so that when you hit record it does so on the tascam unit also? Probably dreaming - I thought so (and still do) but read something earlier about being able to do this on a DSLR camera with an HDMI cable...

Thanks

1 hour ago, daniel said:

Btw, you mention in your original post "Apparently dual receiver would be off the cards for the presenters as they don't work with our frequencies in New Zealand???", did you find out what this is about - I don't see why this would be.

I think its bull, a friend of mine says he owns a few dual receivers and they work fine!

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Another question... With the sony dual receivers (or any in general) If it was receiving 2 lapel mic's, Is there any way of still recording these mic's separately into the tascam into 2 different channels? Or are they always gonna be mixed in? Maybe using a Y-splitter xlr cable or something? Probably not I'm guessing... I'm full of dreams.

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34 minutes ago, Tom R said:

Constantin - Yep definitely going to do this... Cheers

+1


Daniel, Sorry if I am missing the point here (highly likely I am)... But when you speak of 'bracketing' is this when the zoom F8 (or other device) is recording audio with a high dynamic range to avoid clipping etc? If so sounds great... I would rather do this and not have a soundy and have to bump up gain to ganged clips in post (as long as they're not too low and doesn't lose quality!)

'Audio bracketing' generally requires twice as many tracks as you have I/Ps eg radio mic 1 gets sent track 1 at 1 level and track 2 at another, safer level. A bit more work in post if there is problem with track 1 but you have safety. If you take my suggestion of sending your 2 main radio mics to the camera and an audio recorder you can in fact have 3 different levels for each mic - eg peaks at -5 on camera and peaks at -10 and -20 on the audio recorder. Tascam has only 4 I/Ps that can be iso'd and be mixed to the 2 mix tracks (6 in total) but bracketing for only 2 I/Ps. Zoom has 8 I/Ps (and I/P tracks) so bracket for 4 I/Ps and 2 tracks for a mix down (10 tracks in total). If you can afford it I would consider renting a sound devices 688 for a bag based recorder and hire a sound op to set up and show you the auto mix function - this might save you a lot of time in post. I would still have a receiver on the camera for the reasons I lay out. 


If so, would it be more efficient to have a tascam recorder like the above DR-701D mounted under the camera and have all 4 mic's into this device with 'bracketing' if possible in this type recorder??? Then only be monitoring the 3 lapels on 1 channel of a 2ch output mix into the camera, and shotgun unmonitored on the other channel? (which would also be super handy for post)... It may be a niggle having a few receivers rigged onto camera, but hopefully manageable if tidy?

Whilst the dr-701d is small and mounts well to a camera by the time you've found a way to have 2 or 3 RX attached (or in bag round your neck/waist with cables from that to the recorder), possibly with a power supply so you don't have to change a bunch of AAs on your RXs, I would say operating hand held will be a tiresome experience and the camera work will suffer. And any box mounted under a camera can create a bit of problem if/when you want to put the camera on sticks. 1 dual channel sony receiver mounted with or without cables (in hot shoe of FS5) will be about as small as you can go whilst having 2 channels of RMs and top mic/TC solution (see below).

Also if this is the case... I believe some one was saying earlier (Or maybe I read somewhere) that the FS5 can't sync Jam T.O.D. TC?? And TC seems to be the main benefit of the DR-701D (from what I can see) over a cheaper device such as the tascam DR-70D (less than half the price $NZD) which still records 4 channels but no TC... However because of the mixed in cam recording, I could surely easily sync the ISO mic's to the camera audio with pluralise, meaning the TC function is redundant for my situation? 

I don't think FS5 has TC but you could send TC to an audio track via a tentacle sync box for example but you'd loose an audio track on your camera doing so. Another advantage of having 1 dual RX on the camera tuned to the same 2 main freqs as dual RX in bag with recorder (and worn by your 2 main presenters) is you are recording exactly the same audio across the 2 devices and it will be easier to sync than just having a top mic for this purpose, You could hard wire recorder to camera but thats a pain. You could have wireless hop from recorder to camera but you'd need the similar amount or radio kit as my suggestion without the redundancy. Btw the dual sony RX I recommended looking at has a hardwire I/P as well as being a receiver for 2 RMs so you could put TC into the camera through this I/P but you will need to pan TC onto a separate camera channel than the audio and check for crosstalk.


And if this is all possible... Does anyone know if it is possible to wire (not mount) the tascam units to a camera like PWX-FS5 so that when you hit record it does so on the tascam unit also? Probably dreaming - I thought so (and still do) but read something earlier about being able to do this on a DSLR camera with an HDMI cable...



Thanks

I think its bull, a friend of mine says he owns a few dual receivers and they work fine!

 

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Dual receivers have two outputs, one for each lapel mic.

Personally, I'd get a few Zaxcom ZFR recorders, wire them up with visible lapel mics, put fresh batteries in them twice a day, and leave them rolling.  You then only need to deal with your camera mic (easy), and timecode sync (also easy with one of the many cheap timecode devices now on the market).  I wouldn't even concern myself with radio mic receivers, you'll have far too much work to do.  And I think you should warn whoever you're working for that unless they hire a soundman, there will be unforeseen problems - not the least of which will be you being knackered at the end of every day.  Working on your own with nobody to help can be extremely tiring.

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