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Microphone for run-and-gun indoor - recommendations?


SeanStiller
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Hi everyone

I'm in the midst of some filming for a documentary project and I'm hoping for some recommendations regarding indoor run-and-gun recording. 

For my main shotgun microphone I'm using the RODE NTG-3, which is excellent for outdoor shooting or in rooms with minimal reflective/echo'y surfaces. The problem is I'm finding myself in environments where it sounds quite echo'y and/or shallow, where I need to follow the action of one or more people. I do have my main subject mic'ed up with a TRAM TR-50, but the main subject is at times not close enough to another subject to capture their dialogue at an appropriate level. It's a documentary so I don't expect the audio to be flawless, but it would be great to get a little more even recording between subjects than I'm achieving at the moment.

I'm a one man band using a Canon C100, so introducing a sound mixer, etc. is out of the question. I've got two XLR inputs, so in addition to my TRAM, it would be great to find out if another shotgun mic will meet my indoor needs better than my NTG-3.

Thanks guys!

Sean

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If your mic is mounted on your camera then I'm afraid you are doing the best you can.  I'm sorry that my main recco to you (other than to get a dedicated sound person or even just a newbie person willing to pay attention with a boom mic) is to get in closer to people who you want to hear speak clearly, and make sure you have the camera pointed at the person whose dialog you want the clearest (so then the mic is pointed at them too).  I know it seems like a stupid limitation but with your hands full w/ the camera and thinking about the movie you are making it's prob the best you can do.  What you do not want is a mic that is more directional (too long, and would not that much more directional or effective than what you already have).  Another solution my clients use in this situation is to go with 2 cameras--one shooting for content (close to speakers) and the other doing the wider estabo shots where ambient sound is all that's needed.  In doc-world it is often easier and cheaper (if not free) to find another shooter with a camera than it is to get a good sound person with gear, ironically enough. 

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Wider is better only in that you won't be attenuating the voices of people not right in front of the camera so much.  It would be worse in a noisy situation.  As an example: I mixed a doc shot with a cam mic that included an interior convo between 2 people in a kitchen with a noisy reefer.  The shooter might start on the person talking, then pan over to the person listening in the middle of a sentence: ok for the shot, but the sound just changed in an arbitrary and very noticeable way.  Then the 2nd person would answer, same thing again.  The mix for this scene was problematic to say the least (but the conversation was important to the story so it had to stay etc).  A wider pattern mic might have helped in that situation, as far as making the conversation more consistent sounding. This is prob why built-in onboard camera mics tend to be wide pattern (nearly omni)--users want to hear everyone including the shooter.  So the best mic to use is dependent on the situation.....

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sean, ... what Phil said +  I suggest you watch the films of Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) . He 's a one-man-band shooter that has manages somehow to hand-hold his camera in one hand and his mic in the other hand. This way he keeps his mic cued in one direction while panning the camera by twisting at the waist. This contortion may not work for you, but the idea is to find ways to get the microphone in close where the good sound is, and keep it there steady, because an indiscriminately panning microphone does not sound so good and becomes a problem to mix later. Another thing you could do is get another wireless system and plant a lav mic nearby subjects that you wish to record. This technique has it's failings too , as often the subject will be too far away, but if it's placed in the right spot you can do well. For instance planting a mic on the window frame of a fast food order window-- like they have at Foster's Freeze , or a bank teller's window-- everybody who walks up to the window will be more or less on mic. Or on the branch of a tree or a bush close to the subjects. Then you can get far away with your camera.  But usually in one-man-band doc shooting, the situation requires one to get in close to film people talking, and stepping back to do establishing shots.  Quiet locations help.  There's a variety of techniques you can use depending on the situation and learning these things and thinking about the sound and the image as 2 halves of the same puzzle.  When Les Blank went to China to make his film about Tea importer David Hoffman, I set him up with a Lowel aluminum flex rod (arm) that I welded to a clamp that clamped to the handle of his Sony Camcorder. This was very light and fairly rigid and the on other the end of this was Schoeps mic with a cardioid capsule. With this set up he could quickly twist the Lowel rod and face the mic in the direction he wanted. So he would have David Hoffman on a wireless mic, and then when David was talking to someone - a tea farmer- he could twist the mic to point it at the farmer, while maintaining his shot on David. This was in close proximity- within 6 feet. The cardioid pattern on the m4 capsule was more forgiving of pans than a shotgun would have been and of course being in the quiet countryside was a great advantage. I think using a wider pattern cardioid would have worked better still.

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On 30/07/2016 at 1:44 PM, David Silberberg said:

When Les Blank went to China to make his film about Tea importer David Hoffman, ...

Sorry for jumping off topic Sean, but I'd just like to say to David I'd love to see this film. When was it made?

I have two cups of tea on the go beside me as I type (a plain Assam and a Dharamsala Tips green). The professionally most ridiculous was bringing about 4 different cups into the final mix theatre whilst dialogue editing Inkheart in 2008 (drink the black first hot then the lighter teas cold). And I like Les Blank.

Jez

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On 01/08/2016 at 0:32 AM, Jim Feeley said:

All In This Tea still available on DVD and streamable...

http://lesblank.com/films/all-in-this-tea-2007/?portfolioID=605

Cheers Jim and to David for mentioning it in the first place. Look forward to checking it out when I get a chance to. Jez

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On July 29, 2016 at 10:44 PM, David Silberberg said:

Sean, ... what Phil said +  I suggest you watch the films of Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) . He 's a one-man-band shooter that has manages somehow to hand-hold his camera in one hand and his mic in the other hand. This way he keeps his mic cued in one direction while panning the camera by twisting at the waist. This contortion may not work for you, but the idea is to find ways to get the microphone in close where the good sound is, and keep it there steady, because an indiscriminately panning microphone does not sound so good and becomes a problem to mix later. Another thing you could do is get another wireless system and plant a lav mic nearby subjects that you wish to record. This technique has it's failings too , as often the subject will be too far away, but if it's placed in the right spot you can do well. For instance planting a mic on the window frame of a fast food order window-- like they have at Foster's Freeze , or a bank teller's window-- everybody who walks up to the window will be more or less on mic. Or on the branch of a tree or a bush close to the subjects. Then you can get far away with your camera.  But usually in one-man-band doc shooting, the situation requires one to get in close to film people talking, and stepping back to do establishing shots.  Quiet locations help.  There's a variety of techniques you can use depending on the situation and learning these things and thinking about the sound and the image as 2 halves of the same puzzle.  When Les Blank went to China to make his film about Tea importer David Hoffman, I set him up with a Lowel aluminum flex rod (arm) that I welded to a clamp that clamped to the handle of his Sony Camcorder. This was very light and fairly rigid and the on other the end of this was Schoeps mic with a cardioid capsule. With this set up he could quickly twist the Lowel rod and face the mic in the direction he wanted. So he would have David Hoffman on a wireless mic, and then when David was talking to someone - a tea farmer- he could twist the mic to point it at the farmer, while maintaining his shot on David. This was in close proximity- within 6 feet. The cardioid pattern on the m4 capsule was more forgiving of pans than a shotgun would have been and of course being in the quiet countryside was a great advantage. I think using a wider pattern cardioid would have worked better still.

Interesting! I've seen Sherman's March but didn't realize that's how he worked. I don't think I could pull that off too well with my C100 tbh, but a DSLR + gimbal setup might work well here. Zacuto or some other such company recently came out with a Super 16 style viewfinder attachment for the Sony A7/AR cameras. That might be a nice combo.

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2 hours ago, SeanStiller said:

Interesting! I've seen Sherman's March but didn't realize that's how he worked. 

you can see it sometimes when there's a reflection in a window or mirror... simply amazing how he pulled this of, all with gear that by todays standards is cumbersome and low-fi - not to speak of lugging everything alone including film rolls, changing rolls, changing tape, getting exposure right, getting focus right, getting levels right etc..

even more amazing, fantastic film! one of my all time favourite documentaries.

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