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Basic sound kit plans


Anatole
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I'll rather dangerously weigh in here as you've mostly heard from mixers. As a production company owner and also an evil RED owner I have a slightly different take. We originally tried to hire sound mixers on every job and, like you, really just couldn't afford it on lower budget stuff (guys, you don't even get called). Great audio is crucial to me. But with most of the good guys here in Atlanta we're competing with major studios for sound mixers with decent kits.

We still hire sound mixers and pay them full rate when we can afford it. But mixers with their own gear in this town aren't cheap. In fact, they can be the highest item in the budget. Many of them have over 100k in their kits so why would they work cheap? Inevitably, we end up in the situation on many jobs where we have to trim by hiring a less experienced guy and have him use our gear. Yeah, we're not Warner Brothers and we're not a signatory company.

As far as gear. First we tried to go cheaper with a cheaper kit. Example being a Tascam HD-P2 which was one ill-fated purchase. In the end, after a couple poor choices dumped on the auction site, we invested in a 633. There's nothing like a Sound Device for dependability and clean preamps. We also own some older Lectros, a couple C460b's (CK61 caps) which is an awesome but not well known cardioid solution, Sankens and a 416T, plus a bunch of other single purpose mics and misc lavs. I also recommend buying industry standard gear on everything. That way, anyone with experience can use it.

At this point, we have a significant investment in audio and I don't regret it one bit. I can hire a mixer and pay him for his kit, pay him to use ours or I can mix myself, and get clean audio, if I absolutely have to because the budget is so awful. It's a lot easier for me to find a competent person to run my camera on budget than it is to mix audio. 

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5 hours ago, Jimmygilmore said:

It's a lot easier for me to find a competent person to run my camera on budget than it is to mix audio. 

yeah, it's kind of an odd situation... seems like the race to bottom have been even faster on the camera side then on the audio. I guess it's mostly because there's a lot of young people who want to get into camera work and still have a low cost life (cheap rent, no kids etc). 

on top of that, prices for cameras have fallen even faster then that of audio gear.

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13 hours ago, Constantin said:


What exactly was it you didn't like about the Tascam?

It wasn't reliable. It would error and we'd have to restart it then it would work fine with a lot of fussing. Always carried a back up because you never know. Also the pre-amps and the timecode clock were not as good. Also had a Wendt mixer for awhile that had some channel bleed but was a pretty trouble free device. Excellent value and you can pick those up for dirt cheap now.

13 hours ago, chrismedr said:

yeah, it's kind of an odd situation... seems like the race to bottom have been even faster on the camera side then on the audio. I guess it's mostly because there's a lot of young people who want to get into camera work and still have a low cost life (cheap rent, no kids etc). 

on top of that, prices for cameras have fallen even faster then that of audio gear.

Yes on all of the above. I also have the theory that cameras are a lot easier to visually troubleshoot. Audio problems are a lot harder to fix.

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On 11/1/2016 at 3:36 PM, Jimmygilmore said:

if I absolutely have to because the budget is so awful. It's a lot easier for me to find a competent person to run my camera on budget than it is to mix audio. 

Very true!

23 hours ago, chrismedr said:

on top of that, prices for cameras have fallen even faster then that of audio gear.

Indeed, look at the price of a Sony A6000 after 3yrs vs the price of a RODE NTG3 after three years (just to give a random example of two popular prosumer gear which starts off at a kinda similar ish price point).

9 hours ago, Jimmygilmore said:

I also have the theory that cameras are a lot easier to visually troubleshoot. Audio problems are a lot harder to fix.

Major camera issues (such as blowing focus, awful composition, or terrible lighting) is also way way easier for others (director, producer, or even an actor!) to immediately pick up on set and get advise to get corrected. But major sound issues (if using someone on "the cheap") might never ever be discovered until it reaches the post production stage. 

Which I bet is another factor in why it is so much easier to find a "cheap" camera operator than it is to do the same with sound recording. 

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Prosumer camera kit does depreciate quicker than audio kit but a fairer comparison would be lenses vs mics or camera vs recorders. Glass holds it value much better than the sensor box it's attached to as sensors go out of date very quickly and in a similar way there will sennheiser/neumann/schoeps mics in kit bags owners were using with dat machines maybe even nagras.

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I agree with Daniel's analogy.  However, something no one has taken into consideration yet in this discussion, is that, not too long ago, many of us had $20,000 to $30,000 worth of wireless systems made illegal to use as of a given date.

...oh, and it's going to happen again -- that should be factored into the cam-cost-vs-sound-cost equation. 

 

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4 hours ago, John Blankenship said:

I agree with Daniel's analogy.  However, something no one has taken into consideration yet in this discussion, is that, not too long ago, many of us had $20,000 to $30,000 worth of wireless systems made illegal to use as of a given date.

...oh, and it's going to happen again -- that should be factored into the cam-cost-vs-sound-cost equation. 

 

Wireless/radio kit is in quite special category in the range of production hardware as it's subject to licence and some other uncontrollable external factors. The hardware may not necessarily be obsolete technology but it's use may be proscribed or unworkable in a given market - it may still have economic value in another market.

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54 minutes ago, daniel said:

Wireless/radio kit is in quite special category in the range of production hardware as it's subject to licence and some other uncontrollable external factors. The hardware may not necessarily be obsolete technology but it's use may be proscribed or unworkable in a given market - it may still have economic value in another market.

Nonetheless, its value drops significantly and that should be factored in if one is to make a worthwhile comparison.

 

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3 hours ago, daniel said:

Wireless/radio kit is in quite special category in the range of production hardware as it's subject to licence and some other uncontrollable external factors. The hardware may not necessarily be obsolete technology but it's use may be proscribed or unworkable in a given market - it may still have economic value in another market.

Yeah I'm pretty happy buying wireless in the 600MHz range to use in New Zealand. 

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On 10/31/2016 at 10:36 PM, Jimmygilmore said:

As far as gear. First we tried to go cheaper with a cheaper kit. Example being a Tascam HD-P2 which was one ill-fated purchase. In the end, after a couple poor choices dumped on the auction site, we invested in a 633. There's nothing like a Sound Device for dependability and clean preamps. We also own some older Lectros, a couple C460b's (CK61 caps) which is an awesome but not well known cardioid solution, Sankens and a 416T, plus a bunch of other single purpose mics and misc lavs. I also recommend buying industry standard gear on everything. That way, anyone with experience can use it.

A big +1 on this from a sound mixer perspective as well. When I first started getting production sound gigs (I'm mostly in post) I tried to cheap out with lesser quality gear, including both the HD-P2 and the DR-680. I got by with them for several gigs, but I always felt like I was just "getting by". Inevitably, something would go wrong and I'd have to scramble for a backup (always have backups!). The cheaper gear just was not reliable enough for professional, paid work. It was actually in the middle of one of those gigs where my HD-P2 failed yet again and I had to resort to recording on my backup DR-100 recorder that I finally said enough and called up Trew and ordered the SD 633. I have not once ever regretted that decision - now I can go on gigs with full confidence that my gear will not only be able to meet the needs of the clients, but also that it won't fail on me in the middle of something important. 

Moral of the story - buy once, cry once, and enjoy that gear for a very long time!

-Mike

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