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Hafeez Z

Indoor Shoots in a Noisy Office Space - Advice needed!

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Got floored by the amount of audio wisdom on this forum that I wondered why I didn't end up here sooner. Needless to say, here I am, signed up with a new account.

 

I'm a one-man production crew working for a tech start-up and we're looking to record some in-house instructional videos and talking heads for our app. Ideally I'd like to get some professional sounding audio but it's a bit hard to achieve that with the environment I'm working with. Our two-storey office is located right next to a busy intersection, and we're very open-concept so there's rarely a quiet space or time in the office. 

 

Right now I'm working with a Sennheiser ew-100 ENG G3 set and a Zoom H5 recorder, which quite frankly doesn't seem to cut it. From reading through articles and forums like this one, I've gathered that to get clean-ish sounding audio while recording indoors, I'd need something like a super or hypercardioid. However, I've also found that the Zoom H5 doesn't actually have a true line level input and the preamps generate quite a noticeable level of noise, so even if I get a new mic I might not get the result I want with the H5. This led me to find out more about more pro-level mixers like the stuff from Sound Devices, which sounds like a great investment but then there are budget considerations to worry about, and it's hard to make the execs see the value in something when you're the only one who can see it. Granted, all this product envy has led me to discover more about the world of audio than I ever anticipated, but I'm wondering if I'm reading too hard into this. 

 

Assuming the learning curve is not an issue, do I really need all these devices to get cleaner audio? It's impossible to treat the office space as the walls and windows are far from soundproof, I'd really hate to be purchasing sound blankets and the like because the constant setup/teardown would be a constant nightmare for every shoot (we don't have a separate room for recording) and the open-office concept makes it a nightmare to record clean professional-sounding audio. I'm also considering sourcing for a good sound isolation pod that we can place in the office to counter the external noise, as this option would have a two-fold benefit of allowing me to use my existing equipment more effectively while being able to provide a space that other people can use too. 

 

I guess I just wanted to canvas for opinions from anyone here who might have encountered a similar situation in their line of work. Being based in Singapore, there aren't a lot of resources for audio guys that have just started out (IMO) and I'm honestly a beginner in audio myself. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Your problems will not be fixed by better equipment.  They will be partially fixed by those furniture pads you are resisting getting (which all pro sound people have, BTW): they are good for calming down wall reflections in small rooms, covering HVAC ducts, putting over doors etc to attenuate sound coming in from other rooms, and so on.  But beyond that you have to find quieter areas to record in.  Common strategies include just asking people in open-plan offices to move to a different area for a bit or coming in to shoot in off hours when fewer people are around.  Having a very directional boom mic for interviews may improve your sound, but won't have particularly less BG noise than the lav mic you already have.  Getting good location recordings starts with getting a good location.

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Hi Hafeez welcome,

 

I guess firstly it depend what you are recording and how many people.

 

Also is the noisy background is in context or in conflict with your subject matter or intelligibility.

 

You will always find that a boom displays more background noise than a well rigged lav,

 

If you are dealing with a number of people then a lav for each and iso track them then

in post they may be able to clean them up.

 

Great advice from Phil but as I well know it's often difficult to control all the background sources.

 

Just make sure you director and producer are aware of your shared problem as often poor results

may be seen as your fault instead of them considering a quieter location or a more viable time to

use the noisy location, say after working hours or even the weekend if they prove quieter.

 

All the best

 

mike

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My first recommendation is find a better location!

But if that isn't possible (really?), then how about a better time? 

Maybe instead of recording during the middle of a busy working day, then could you instead record the video during the weekend when it is quiet?

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23 hours ago, IronFilm said:

My first recommendation is find a better location!

But if that isn't possible (really?), then how about a better time? 

Maybe instead of recording during the middle of a busy working day, then could you instead record the video during the weekend when it is quiet?

yep I said that including other suggestions !

 

been there done that in big productions !

 

mike

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Thanks for all the replies everyone! Just got back from a weekend vacation so I haven't had time to reply back.

 

On 7/5/2019 at 11:13 PM, Philip Perkins said:

Your problems will not be fixed by better equipment.  They will be partially fixed by those furniture pads you are resisting getting (which all pro sound people have, BTW): they are good for calming down wall reflections in small rooms, covering HVAC ducts, putting over doors etc to attenuate sound coming in from other rooms, and so on.  But beyond that you have to find quieter areas to record in.  Common strategies include just asking people in open-plan offices to move to a different area for a bit or coming in to shoot in off hours when fewer people are around.  Having a very directional boom mic for interviews may improve your sound, but won't have particularly less BG noise than the lav mic you already have.  Getting good location recordings starts with getting a good location.

 

Thanks for the pointers Philip! Yeah I figured as much 😕  Just to clarify, I'm all for getting me some sound blankets to help with better audio, but as I'm a one-man crew I have to consider the effort I have to expend setting up as I can't reliably depend on my other colleagues to help me out on every shoot. That, and procuring equipment where I'm working is honestly a nightmare, at best. I figured that it seemed more like a stopgap solution than addressing the core of the problem with a single all-encompassing one, but you're right. As a budget solution, treating the location should come first.

 

On 7/6/2019 at 8:22 AM, Mike Westgate said:

Hi Hafeez welcome,

 

I guess firstly it depend what you are recording and how many people.

 

Also is the noisy background is in context or in conflict with your subject matter or intelligibility.

 

You will always find that a boom displays more background noise than a well rigged lav,

 

If you are dealing with a number of people then a lav for each and iso track them then

in post they may be able to clean them up.

 

Great advice from Phil but as I well know it's often difficult to control all the background sources.

 

Just make sure you director and producer are aware of your shared problem as often poor results

may be seen as your fault instead of them considering a quieter location or a more viable time to

use the noisy location, say after working hours or even the weekend if they prove quieter.

 

All the best

 

mike

 

Hey Mike, they're basically just explainer videos for our SaaS product shot on location in our office. Usually it's just a single subject but there are times when we will have 2 people in shot. The noisy background is definitely in conflict with the subject matter as clarity is of the utmost importance when delivering usage information. And you're right, I've realised it's much harder to control BG noise with a boom than a lav. I just thought it might have been the polar pattern of the mic that I used which is why I considered getting a hypercardioid instead. But yeah, I'll take your advice on that as well as shooting at alternative timings as well.

 

Have you had experience with the G3/Zoom H5 combo? Do you recommend adding a pad on the H5, or even decreasing mic sensitivity on the G3 to help with the BG noise?

 

On 7/6/2019 at 1:16 PM, soundtrane said:

There are a few experienced sound guys in Singapore. Maybe you should contact Jason Yun and Alan Chong out there for some advice on gear etc. 

 

Thanks for the heads up, ST! I'll definitely look them up if I need to 👌

 

On 7/6/2019 at 4:58 PM, IronFilm said:

My first recommendation is find a better location!

But if that isn't possible (really?), then how about a better time? 

Maybe instead of recording during the middle of a busy working day, then could you instead record the video during the weekend when it is quiet?

 

Hard to believe but yeah. We're right smack in the central business district, and if location isn't a problem then conflicting hectic work schedules are. I'd do better if I had a 2nd person on board to take over a producer role but I have enough on my plate as it is, and beggars can't be choosers. 🤷‍♂️ I guess the only way out is to shoot on odd timings then.

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52 minutes ago, Hafeez Z said:

Hey Mike, they're basically just explainer videos for our SaaS product shot on location in our office. Usually it's just a single subject but there are times when we will have 2 people in shot. The noisy background is definitely in conflict with the subject matter as clarity is of the utmost importance when delivering usage information.


If you really have no control over location or timing (as you need to work around other people's work schedules) then I'd have a careful thought about your framing, as that can at least physiologically make a difference. (as if you can see the source of the noise then it tends to be somewhat less obnoxious than if it is just some mysterious unknown source)

Depends on what is appropriate for your video though, if for your SaaS product to see a busy office background?

For example of this at work of "seeing the noise source vs not seeing it": imagine filming a builder with an empty lot behind him vs him turning around to face the opposite direction and instead having the busy construction site behind him? 

Both videos may have the same amount of background noise in the video (well, perhaps not... as the body blocking one side of the lav could help the 2nd video be better), but the first video will "feel worse" than the 2nd video where you can see the context of where the background noise is coming from because you can see the background construction in the video itself. 

So in short, a good rough rule of thumb to keep in mind is: "if you can't kill a noise source, then include it in the frame". (so at least there is context)

 

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52 minutes ago, Hafeez Z said:

Have you had experience with the G3/Zoom H5 combo? Do you recommend adding a pad on the H5, or even decreasing mic sensitivity on the G3 to help with the BG noise?

 


Been years since I last used a G3/H5, not a kit I'd use myself today, but the core of you question is:

Would reducing gain then reduce the background noise? 
Technically yes. 
But does this do absolutely anything practically useful? NOPE!
Because it would also pull down the gain of the dialogue as well. 
What you really care about is the Signal/Noise ratio ("noise" here including noise such as the background noise which you don't want"). 
And turning up or down that gain does absolutely nothing in changing that S/N ratio, that remains the same. (except at the extreme ends of too much or too little gain, when the S/N ratio gets worse once normalized).

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Typically an on-camera subject will be directing his speech to someone. If there isn't actually an interviewer, there may be a producer who serves as the "audience" for the speech.

 

Position your interviewer/producer a little distance from the speaker, perhaps eight or ten feet rather than just five feet. The subject will naturally project to be easily heard and the stronger voice will carry better over the background. 

 

If you don't have anyone in that role, draft someone and instruct your talent to address that person.

 

Better results, minimal extra set-up and no additional cost.

 

David

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2 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Depends on what is appropriate for your video though, if for your SaaS product to see a busy office background?

For example of this at work of "seeing the noise source vs not seeing it": imagine filming a builder with an empty lot behind him vs him turning around to face the opposite direction and instead having the busy construction site behind him? 

Both videos may have the same amount of background noise in the video (well, perhaps not... as the body blocking one side of the lav could help the 2nd video be better), but the first video will "feel worse" than the 2nd video where you can see the context of where the background noise is coming from because you can see the background construction in the video itself. 

 

I get what you're saying, and it's something I've been giving a bit of thought to since I've started working here. Personally I'm okay with framing the shot to provide some context to any noise that may be captured, but there are times when my bosses want none of that in the frame. It's those times that I have to get creative with my soundproofing options, unfortunately.

 

1 hour ago, IronFilm said:


Been years since I last used a G3/H5, not a kit I'd use myself today, but the core of you question is:

Would reducing gain then reduce the background noise? 
Technically yes. 
But does this do absolutely anything practically useful? NOPE!
Because it would also pull down the gain of the dialogue as well. 
What you really care about is the Signal/Noise ratio ("noise" here including noise such as the background noise which you don't want"). 
And turning up or down that gain does absolutely nothing in changing that S/N ratio, that remains the same. (except at the extreme ends of too much or too little gain, when the S/N ratio gets worse once normalized).

 

I guess the problem may lie in the transmitter sensitivity being set at around -21dB (with receiver output unchanged at 0dB), which on hindsight is probably too low and why I'm getting higher noise levels when I normalise the audio in post. I know it's been awhile for you but correct me if I'm wrong: I should get much cleaner audio if i increase the transmitter sensitivity and get better mic placement (and treat the location, etc)?

 

1 hour ago, David Waelder said:

Typically an on-camera subject will be directing his speech to someone. If there isn't actually an interviewer, there may be a producer who serves as the "audience" for the speech.

 

Position your interviewer/producer a little distance from the speaker, perhaps eight or ten feet rather than just five feet. The subject will naturally project to be easily heard and the stronger voice will carry better over the background. 

 

If you don't have anyone in that role, draft someone and instruct your talent to address that person.

 

Better results, minimal extra set-up and no additional cost.

 

David

 

That's actually...pretty ingenious. I had thought the only reason that role would be helpful was if it was an interview with the interviewee speaking to an interviewer off camera. But to apply it to a talking heads type situation...brilliant! Thanks for that, David!

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4 hours ago, Hafeez Z said:

I guess the problem may lie in the transmitter sensitivity being set at around -21dB (with receiver output unchanged at 0dB), which on hindsight is probably too low and why I'm getting higher noise levels when I normalise the audio in post. I know it's been awhile for you but correct me if I'm wrong: I should get much cleaner audio if i increase the transmitter sensitivity and get better mic placement (and treat the location, etc)?


Yes, you need to set your gain staging right otherwise you'll be bringing up the equipment's noise floor when you normalize (or at the other end, you'll be hitting the limited too hard. You need to be in between those two extremes)

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I am following these conversations recently on the forum and I am starting to believe that they are kind of unethical.

 

Practically there are people asking us to help them to do our full time job that we feed our families and paying our bills, knowledge acquired through decades of work experience and education being explained on a couple of posts.

 

Would you ask Coca cola for its recipe?

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To Kisaha, I strongly disagree with your assessment of this sort of topic/thread. Nothing to do with ethics and I really don't think any of us should feel threatened by one person's asking for advice and help doing a job. I remember early on in my career an seasoned older sound mixer told me that I needed to keep secret things in my "bag of tricks"  --- all those things, including ideas and techniques I might have learned and put to use doing my job  ---  he said I should not share these things with others because they will take my job and I will be left northing. I did not take this person's advice, I saw no value whatsoever in not sharing my knowledge with my fellow workers no matter at what level they were working  --- in fact, throughout my long 48 year career, some of my greatest joy has come from helping others, imparting to them the the things that I had learned (and many of those things were learned from others who were generous to me with their knowledge).

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To the OP: I can sympathize with your notion that you can only do so much as a one-person dept, but know that most sound being recorded every day for video is done by one-person depts, and those folks make it work.  The problems you have are frankly nothing special, they are in fact typical of what people doing sound for corporate videos encounter all the time.  I encourage you to bring as much energy and thought as you can to that work, so that the sound you capture will not only be good, but possibly better in those circumstances than others doing that same sort work for your company.   Some of this is equipment, some of it is preparation and having plans A/B/C etc, some of it is diplomacy informed by knowing how the other departments, including post, really work.  Often sound people on these sorts of shoots have to walk a line between being professional and being a pain in the ass to everyone else to get the job done well.

 

Re: giving away my "recipes":  that's pretty funny any more.  There is nothing I can tell someone about production sound that they could not find out in 5 min on the web.  When soundies of JW (and my) generation started there was a lot of info hoarding going on among established mixers vs newbs, which I though was bullshit then and think is bullshit now.  I'd rather tell a questioner, esp if they are new to sound, what I know and have their gratitude than blow them off with the false assumption that I have just safeguarded my exalted position in the biz.

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1 hour ago, Philip Perkins said:

To the OP: I can sympathize with your notion that you can only do so much as a one-person dept, but know that most sound being recorded every day for video is done by one-person depts, and those folks make it work.  The problems you have are frankly nothing special, they are in fact typical of what people doing sound for corporate videos encounter all the time.  I encourage you to bring as much energy and thought as you can to that work, so that the sound you capture will not only be good, but possibly better in those circumstances than others doing that same sort work for your company.   Some of this is equipment, some of it is preparation and having plans A/B/C etc, some of it is diplomacy informed by knowing how the other departments, including post, really work.  Often sound people on these sorts of shoots have to walk a line between being professional and being a pain in the ass to everyone else to get the job done well.

 

I'm trying my best, and it definitely helps to know that I've got people like you, Jeff and everyone else who's contributed meaningfully to this thread to point us newbs in the right direction when we need it. Also, pretty sure at this point I'm straying dangerously close to the "pain in the ass" side of that line you're talking about. 😈 Hey, if it needs to get done, it needs to get done, right?

 

5 hours ago, Kisaha said:

I am following these conversations recently on the forum and I am starting to believe that they are kind of unethical.

 

Practically there are people asking us to help them to do our full time job that we feed our families and paying our bills, knowledge acquired through decades of work experience and education being explained on a couple of posts.

 

Would you ask Coca cola for its recipe?

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "unethical". Am I stealing your clients?

 

To me, asking questions on a forum implies that you acknowledge other people have had a different set of experiences than you do, and those experiences may help solve a problem that you couldn't otherwise solve on your own. As they say, two (or more) heads are better than one. Just because you see people like me posting and crowdsourcing for advice on this forum doesn't mean we don't contribute our advice in other forums as well.

 

Not all of us are stingy with our knowledge.

 

(In case this didn't occur to you Kisaha, I'm sure there was a point in your career where you had to ask for help from someone more experienced than you. How is this any different?)

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The saying " I'm sorry, but your budget does not meet your equipment and labor expectations." Helps me tons. 

As a sound mixer I either get the budget to accomplish the task or sit home and know I'm not going to have a headache because someone trying to save money is disappointed and will act unprofessional. 

 

If it is a professional office that needs a professional video; there should be professional budget.

Startups will pay you low then sell the company for millions and forget about you. While somehow having "Team building trips" at resorts or wasteful keeping up with the jones's activities that could grow the company more professionally.  It would not hurt to ask the higher ups in a way that they might think of it as saving money/time.  

 

Also you seem to have intelligent questions.  I would trust your gut, look around the space and see what you personally need to do.  Every ounce of your time and thought will make it better.  None of us are can visualize the exact situation you are in.  But if you have a question about gear just google it and type JWSOUND after.  All results will be quicker than scouring the forum back pages.  Absorb and adapt it to see what gear fits you right.  

 

"- It's the archer, not the arrows-" - Senator 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Hafeez Z said:

(In case this didn't occur to you Kisaha, I'm sure there was a point in your career where you had to ask for help from someone more experienced than you. How is this any different?)

 

I started in 1999 as a boom op and until 2005 none of the older generation gave me any advice,ever. I was doing my job and that was it (including coffee for my "superior"!). Since then I have educated a lot of sound people. 2 new boom ops only last year, told them everything I have learned in 20 years 

 

I have also a small production company, when I have to light, or need professional drone scenes, I always hire someone. I have all the lights and a Mavic 2 Pro and 4 cameras and everything, and I have the education and the work experience, but when it is a proper job, I will ask a professional to do his job.

 

I wrote a few hundrend words more about the "youtube generation professionals" and how it is suddenly a race to the financial bottom in smaller markets but nevermind..anyway, my bitterness wasn't directed to you personally.

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Hello Kisaha,

 

I understand that you had to work with some older that never got you any infos and I am sorry for you (and them). But I don't believe that nurturing other professionals with your input will kill your job. As you know it's not only some great equipement, tutorials and some knowhow that will give you the job, but how you are as a human with other professionals. What you can give to the others. What value you bring to the project. And IMHO this process starts with nurturing the youngsters.

Pat

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1 hour ago, Kisaha said:

 

 

I wrote a few hundrend words more about the "youtube generation professionals" and how it is suddenly a race to the financial bottom in smaller markets but nevermind..anyway, my bitterness wasn't directed to you personally.

This I have to say does really annoy me. 

 

I will never understand the the need to be a YouTube sound mixer you had done "10 feature films this year!" On your own with no crew...... And nobody has seen said films.

 

When I started in this business I learned from some of the best in the business and quietly built my career. Then you see the YouTube lot who have never even been a trainiee offering their "professional advice" 

 

There is one in particular who is fairly well known who I had this misfortune of going to university with. we both graduated the same time I spent 2 years as a trainee he started making YouTube videos as a "sound mixer"

 

Says it all really. Although he was found out as a fraud in the UK sadly some of our American bothers and sisters still think he is a worth while resource.

 

 

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