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Performance Capture Audio

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Hi all, first time posting so sorry if the images don't load on the first go. I've been doing audio for performance capture recently, and I'd like to share the rig that myself and the HMC specialist came up with. I am hoping to get some criticism and feedback about our method, and discuss my thoughts/observations after using this setup for a shoot.

 

As it stands, we have been using Joe's Sticky Stuff to adhere the lavalier to the helmet. This is not a permanent solution (obviously), but I have been brainstorming different options. Eventually I would like to purchase Hide-A-Mic concealers and get them permanently mounted to the frame, or fashion some form of mount with plastic that will enable efficient attaching and removal of the microphone. Are there any specific mounts that would fit this well? 

 

The studio I contract at uses SMQV transmitters. The weight of the transmitter isn't an issue for actor comfort; the helmets are counterweighted, the pack is very comfortably situated (I've worn the helmet along with the actors/stunt team from our last shoot.) Weight becomes an issue when a scene is played out with lots of fast head movements and stunts.Ideally, this packs can be substituted for smaller Lectrosonics models, but for now they work fairly well.I don't have as much experience with the SSM transmitters, but from a size standpoint they look perfect. I'd love to hear about your experiences with these units! Also, if you're curious as to why the transmitter is attached to the head in the first place, it's for actor efficiency. Many times, I am the only audio person contracted for a shoot. Often times when actors aren't shooting, they want to remove their HMC for comfort reasons. By having everything self-contained in the HMC frame, actors can simply take off the helmet and relax, rather than yell "Sound! Get this thing off me!"

 

Majority of the time, we are recording cinematics for videogames. I often run into dynamics issues when working with lavaliers in this environment. I've noticed performances are incredibly dynamic in videogame scripts... The last shoot I was on, characters would go from a soft whisper to lung-breaking shouts within half a second. I often find myself having to make the choice of gainstaging the transmitter to get clean recordings of one or the other... We try to avoid compression/limiting as much as possible from the transmitter side. 

 

Lastly, we have been running Sanken COS-11d lavaliers. Obviously an industry standard, but I'd like to hear some different perspectives. To my ears, COS-11s have always sounded bright to compensate for hiding under clothing. I've used DPA 4060s, to my experience they have a less exaggerated high end. I'd love to get your thoughts on different lavs!

 

Hope that's not too much info for one post... If anyone has questions about the entire audio rig for the studio let me know, I'm sure I have photos kicking around. Performance Capture is a strange beast for audio! 

 

 

 

 

 

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that forehead position is pretty standard for live theatre reinforcement, and if actors are shouting at all, most people go for the DPA 4061 rather than the 4060 as it has a higher max SPL rating by 10dB. I've directly compared the COS-11 and a DPA 4060/4061 in that position and your thoughts are correct re the top end boost of the sanken being problematic unless the performer is a real mumbler, in which case it might be useful.

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On the mocap shoots I've done put the lav (dpa 4063) on the side of the camera boom arm with a decent fluff on it, it just off to the side to avoid direct breath hits and it works well, especially for low level stuff. I also use zax wireless which you can adjust preamp on the fly and their neverclip system deals with unexpected level changes pretty well. That said high dynamic performance with fast changes is still tricky, especially on multi talent scenes. But that's the best thing about mocap is that it is a dream set up for the boom and that is always the primary capture mic. With a good boom op and remote tx ability you can pretty much deal with anything. I always look forward to mocap shoots because you have the consistent ability to turn in very good tracks. Lav mic on forehead when not using facial cam rigs which still sounds good but I prefer the arm rig though its a bit more fiddly to rig. We also put the Tx on a pouch on the back along side all the other boxes they wear, the removal of them is fast, we have them disconnected faster than the camera team disconnect the facial cam umbilical so all good so never an issue.

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I also agree that a DPA 4061 would probably serve you best in terms of frequency response and dynamics. I would look at the Core versions.

 

Regarding TX, I think your intuition about the SSM is right. They are far smaller and lighter than the SMQV transmitters (about the size of a Zippo lighter), but do have their own considerations. They use a 3-pin lemo connector instead of a TA5 connector, which means all your current lavs would have to be reterminated, though not an issue if you get new ones like the DPAs (you could get them terminated to Microdot, and use the adapters to go to both TA5 and 3-pin lemo). They also use a completely different battery (np50), so you have to deal with the results of that (lower battery life, battery charging, etc).

 

Outside of that, I think your approach is pretty good. I love motion capture shoots myself. As cjh said booming is amazing.

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Interesting topic!

I'd also recommend a 4060 or a 4061. The first time I heard a 4060 with a flat cap on a forehead placement changed how I mic people. I go for the forehead whenever possible, haven't come across a better sounding lav solution. To my ear, it can be as nice as a boom. The SSMs are great, I've used them a couple of times and I've really liked them. Very impressive, though they do warm up quite a bit.

Personally, I'd try to get the transmitter off the head. You could still use the SMQVs, maybe give them to talent in a waist strap that's easy to take off after they remove the helmet rig?

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Are these your main concerns?

 

1. A transmitter smaller and lighter than what you currently have

2. A simple solution for when you're the only audio engineer on set

3. Control of on-board dynamics and that is sure to never clip

 

I don't like to encourage people to choose one brand over another, but it sounds here like the exact product you are asking for is a Zaxcom ZMT.

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I will look into that Zaxcom model, thanks! Yes, those are my main concerns. Majority of the time clients will opt out of hiring a boom operator, so I am by myself working solely with lavaliers.

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With a smaller transmitter like the Zaxcom ZMT you could even rig up two lavs on the setup. That would provide safety and redundancy and you could also rig one at a lower gain level and one at higher gain to catch the full dynamic range of the performance. 

 

-Mike

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