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nathanalef

Backup Recording for Bag Mixers

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How many of you illustrious sound recordists utilize a separate stereo recorder, capturing a two-channel feed from the outputs of your mixer/recorder as a backup? I haven't really considered this until recently, upon hearing a horror story about corrupted files taking down a whole gig due to non-approved media in a Sound Devices MixPre. Accounting for the fact that I'm using approved media in my 633, it seems like a relatively unlikely situation (I can think of a small number of potential failures that wouldn't also take down the aux outputs).

 

So... what are your thoughts on backup recorders in this configuration or otherwise?

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I carry a backup 4ch zoom in my support backpack. 

On cart I split as early as possible and be redundant. 

Test your gear and media. Record on two cards parallel. 

If your system crashes completely you anyhow have to stop and fix it... 

So, no, on my bag I have no backup recording. I have it on all transmitters though... (zaxcom)

 

For playback purpose I also often send a mix to camera or village... 

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I use a Zaxcom IFB-200 in my MixPre bag, which has 2-channel backup recording with timecode. 

 

Better to be safe than sorry IMO. 

 

-Mike

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Hi, Ditto on the Zaxcom. I always make sure the "R" is showing on my receivers, indicating the transmitters are recording. The boom is wireless Zaxcom also, so the boom also records itself. I have never had a Zaxcom MARF failure, and the only time I have used the transmitter files, was when the talent went out of range. 

 

Thank you, Martin

 

 

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I don't, Nomad 12 with dual recording is more than enough.  If two recordings fail... wasn't meant to be.  I also record on the ZMT boom feed just in case there is a hit, but no extra mix back up.

 

I do have a DR-40 with me at all times as an emergency recorder, but I've had it for 7 years in my roller bag without using it.

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For most of the shoots I do with my main client I usually send split track audio to camera on a breakaway. That's my backup for 90% of interviews. On more complex interviews that are essentially happening live I'll run a Nomad and a Maxx together. 

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I’m also using a full Zaxcom set up, so all of my channels are backed up by the transmitter recordings. 

 

I keep a MixPre 6 in my kit. If my Nomad were to go down, I can swap recorders in less than 10 minutes and be back up and running. 

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I am a bit on the fence about this; I yet have to see a camera dept. coming to set with a backup camera. Currently I do make sure I have some backup plans if shit hits the fan; If I travel I make sure I know rental houses around, or fellow sound mixers in the neighbourhood etc. But the other way around, a small backup recorder (not redundant) would never hurt, although you probably can not bill it. 

 

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All but maybe a couple of issues I've ever had since we moved to file based recording have been due to human error, like a mistake I made, an A2 made, the DIT made or an assistant editor made.  The recorders I mostly use record to 2 media, I make sure they are A: approved types with CURRENT firmware, B: are in good shape and don't have lots of miles on them and have been formatted in the recorder that is recording to them, C : I am very careful about doing things like renaming files while rolling, D : don't get too many eggs in any one basket--if you are recording a lot of hours/tracks then use multiple cards and E: NO CARDS SUPPLIED BY CLIENTS WILL BE USED!  Only media whose provenance is completely known!   Beyond this the problems have been human error, most often someone formatting a card that hasn't been copied off yet.   I used to think of the camera audio as a backup, but so many of the cameras I end up around aren't any good for that these days (DSLRs, Alexa Mini).

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In my vehicle I carry aound an old stereo Zoom H2 as well a non-timcode multi-track back-up. Neither has been needed, (KOW), however I hook them up occasionally to make sure they still record in case I do.

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Aside from the dual cards in my 633 or card/drive in my 788T, I don’t record a backup, though have pondered the idea. Just never needed to. 

 

I will note that I have had more people ask me to record onto their provided cards lately than ever before, and I always reject the notion because they have never heard of an Approved Media List, and what may be approved for one machine and one version of firmware does not necessarily apply to another. This frustrates clients because they’re trying to get away with not having to deal with media management on site, or claim to want the files to be confidential, which of course they are anyways. But my response is that if I record on their cards, I can’t guarantee that the files will be there, so I take no responsibility. That freaks them out and I get to use my cards. This is usually on projects that shoot in various locations and hire locally. 

 

Not knowing the details of the project that sparked this thread, the mixpre and the non approved card, it makes me wonder if someone was possibly not qualified for the job because that sounds like a fairly dubious combination for a professional paid gig. 

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Interesting anecdote, Jon! I fortunately haven't had anyone request their cards be used, on 'NDA' gigs or otherwise, but this is a good stock line to have up my sleeve if I ever need it.

 

The MixPre story as I understand it was a result of a very capable audio engineer-turned-DP from the music world assuming he could easily handle a couple of tracks of production sound. But, since he is often DP/producer he has wisely started hiring professional production sound mixers for most projects. 

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I‘ve had a few mishaps with my 788T last year, which resulted in the recorder completely shutting down in an instant without any warning whatsoever. This was due to a mixture of a rare coincidence, wrong settings, and in part user error. At least on one occasion I couldn’t get the recorder up and running again, so I ran for my second recorder in my car. I was recording  again after maybe 15 minutes. I know camera dept won’t bring a backup camera, but for whatever reason when it happens to sound there is just no patience. 

 

So, as a consequence of this and the fact that Sound Devices are stalling on a new larger recorder, I have installed the second 788 on my cart, too, and now I run two recorders in sync and with a split feed, or if needed I can easily re-configure this setup to a 16 input rig. 

Can‘t report back yet how well this works, my next job only starts this Tuesday...

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Interesting and stressful story, Constantin. I know at least two mixers who run dual 970s on their carts. If you're already in digital land it's easy enough to split off before the recorder. Good luck with the dual 788 setup!

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When I use my MixPre6 rig I make sure all my Zax wireless are rolling just in case since it only has one card. I'm less diligent about tx recordings when I'm using my Nomad just because there are 2 cards and I trust it more. I also keep the MixPre6 with me just in case something were to happen to the Nomad. Never needed any of these backups so far though thank goodness.

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I was in the unfortunate position of having a 788T crash on me during startup while doing a broadcast job. It wasn't my recorder and I made due with a Zoom and a 442 while someone installed a new disc in the 788, but the whole thing sucked and I got flack from the producer even though everything was out of my control. I was reluctant in taking "gear provided" shoots previous to the incident, but that day pretty put me off those for good.

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10 hours ago, Vincent R. said:

I am a bit on the fence about this; I yet have to see a camera dept. coming to set with a backup camera.

Yeah, but you know the same rules don't apply to the camera department as applies to us....     

However, on those rare times I work in the camera department as a "DoP"/Cameraman I have always thrown in my bag a DSLR/mirrorless/BMPCC as an emergency back up camera "just in case".

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7 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Yeah, but you know the same rules don't apply to the camera department as applies to us....     

However, on those rare times I work in the camera department as a "DoP"/Cameraman I have always thrown in my bag a DSLR/mirrorless/BMPCC as an emergency back up camera "just in case".

It reminds me of a Red (dragon, weapon, epic, I lost count... ) movie shoot I had a couple of years ago. It was quite hot those days. during the production. First camera "broke", got swapped out. the swapped out camera broke a couple of hours later, got swapped out again for a 3rd. Luckily the rental company was just an hour drive away, so yeah we had extra lunch breaks... 

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I have one client that requires a redundant, separate recorder while running sync on bag shoots.  2nd recorder runs continuous (no start stop).  For bag use the Lectrosonics SPDR is what I use. Takes a jam, external powered with internal batts as backup, AES or analog.  It's the size of a LT transmitter.  

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Responding to a few posts here. 

 

Regarding 788Ts: I’m really surprised to hear of any problems with these. I still use mine on my cart and it performs flawlessly, and has never seen service. It did lock up once when I was shooting in sub zero conditions, but pulling the power and restarting had me back up within minutes and I didn’t lose the file. Other times in sub zero conditions, it was the only thing that kept running. Cameras were especially susceptible to the cold and we barely made our day because of it. Sound documented everything!

 

Regarding Camera: It seems to me, that camera crews are often the least experienced on set, and tend to use the wrong tool for the job. The buzz word camera du jour is often new and relatively untested, and often has major drawbacks because it is usually the cheapest yet most feature rich camera available. Using Red cameras in extreme heat or in quiet emotional scenes comes to mind. Lots of days lost here. But no reprimand issued because the cult of camera puts them up on a pedestal and no matter how bad they are, they are excused. It is a cancer in the industry and unfortunately people aren’t bright enough to see that they have been blinded by hype for too long. 

 

Regarding using provided gear: Don’t. I’ve seen it all and at the end of the day they’re just trying to save a buck and pin you with any problems that arise. Make your argument for your gear and walk if they don’t budge. You don’t need to be working for cheap clients and in my experience, every time I say no to a situation studded in red flags, another door opens with a better proposition. Karma at its best. 

 

I hope these small anecdotes help someone looking for answers. In the end, it is best to use good gear, not cheap gear. Good gear is often very expensive, but using the right gear will show others that you are professional in the way that you conduct yourself. Using the cheap stuff only shows that you probably don’t belong in this business.  Your investment in your equipment is part of your income, and using provided gear for financial reasons on the part of the client is a huge red flag and you need to run in the opposite direction when this situation presents itself. 

 

Whatever happens, know your sh*t, read the manuals, and do better than those around you, because sound is an unpopular department and they will throw you under the bus for no reason other than the fact that they don’t understand what you do, and that makes you unpopular. So do good, be pleasant, and be professional. Take no prisoners and charge full rate every time. 

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On 3/17/2019 at 9:33 AM, Vincent R. said:

I am a bit on the fence about this; I yet have to see a camera dept. coming to set with a backup camera. Currently I do make sure I have some backup plans if shit hits the fan; If I travel I make sure I know rental houses around, or fellow sound mixers in the neighbourhood etc. But the other way around, a small backup recorder (not redundant) would never hurt, although you probably can not bill it. 

 

I see people bring this up a lot online but on a lot of TV and features I work on we do in fact have backup camera bodies... Now when I'm mixing an interview or "branded content" (low budget commercial) there seems to be a little less contingency planning, probably because the jobs are shorter in duration. On a long film or TV show, you're almost guaranteed to have a camera body fail at some point in which case you pop the next one on there.

 

As far as rolling a backup, I've considered a Lectro SPDR or a Zaxcom ZFR300 for a backup recording of my mono mix in the bag, but haven't seen the need to invest yet for my mixing work. Now that I'm thinking of it, I should at least rig a Zoom H1n in my bag for this as it does two channels. I personally think you get the most use out of that on TV or films. When the cost of individual takes starts increasing (large crews, stunt work, lots of rigging work, you know the stuff...) I've seen a mono track backup recording save productions a lot of money firsthand in reshoots.

 

For now whenever I'm renting equipment to a production I always keep a backup recorder close by in the kit. I am in the rental game after all, and rental houses arrange a replacement when one of their items goes down in the field.

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