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Sound kit for my own use as a filmmaker


Tyler Hawes
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Hello,

 

Longtime lurker, first-time poster. Thank you in advance for your help! I didn't realize how long this post was going to be when I started, so my apologies :)

 

I'm a Director/Producer who usually has a sound department and a regular crew with rented equipment, but I have decided to own a bit of kit for smaller productions to get a little more nimble, have some more hands-on experience with the operational aspects, and for the sake of enjoyment (I dabble quite a bit in sound editing and mixing during post, as well as music, and I have a pretty decent home music studio). I am hoping to get some feedback on my proposed kit and a couple different choices I have to make. I want to invest in professional level equipment, but ease of use is also important. I'll still be hiring my regular sound crew for my regular productions, but these items could augment their kit or serve as backups.

 

Here is what I'd like to accomplish with this kit:

PRODUCTION:

Interviews, auditions, indie narrative.

  • wireless lav mic on 2 actors (may increase to 4 later)
  • boom mic for dialogue, both indoors and outdoors, often held stationary by a c-stand on tiny shoots where it's just me and 2-3 helpers
  • recorder with wireless receivers, wireless to director/clients, camera hop transmitter to camera
  • will not be able to ride the levels attentively so is almost a "bag drop" in terms of how much we adjust the mix during production
  • smart slate for TC?

SOUND RECORDING:

I am also wanting to capture some raw sounds for building my own personal library.

  • matched pair of mics for stereo and surround recording possibilities
  • high-frequency recording (96kHz) to preserve detail when I play with slow-down effects in post

 

PROPOSED GEAR:

  • Lavs: Sanken COS-11D
  • Boom mic: Sanken CS3-E, K-Tek KP9CCR 9' KlassicPro
  • FX mics: Sanken CO-100K (pair)
  • Wireless & Recorder:
    • Option A:
      • Sound Devices MixPre-10 II
      • Lectrosonics SSM + UCR411a wireless <> lavs (2 ea)
      • Comtek M-216 transmitter + PR-216 receivers (4)
      • camera hop?
    • Option B: 
      • Zaxcom Nova w/MRX414 receiver module
      • Zaxcom ZMT3 wireless transmitter (2)
      • Comtek M-216 transmitter + PR-216 receivers (4)
      • camera hop?

 

As you can see, the main choice I have is between Sound Devices + Lectrosonics vs Zaxcom. I don't want to make this a this vs that thread, but would love some opinions on the differences for my specific use and experience level. 

  • I see the 32-bit float recording of the MixPre helping with being a little more idiot-proof on mix levels or when it's a bit of a "bag drop" with no one actively riding levels during recording, or maybe even helping with sound effects recording when I'm late on adjusting levels for an unexpected sound. 
  • OTOH, Zaxcom's integration seems like it could make it all more elegant to setup and use and keep the bag lighter/smaller? I also do like the solid state recording in the Zacom transmitters as a backup.
  • I don't have experience with either of these so would appreciate if people can help me know the real practical differences I'm going to have going with either option.

 

Aside from the recorder choice, I'm open to input on any of the above. I listed Sanken out of some familiarity with them, and there aren't many alternatives I know of for field recording at 96kHz. I've heard enough compelling work done with time stretching of high-frequency recordings to know that I want to be able to play with that myself.

 

OK, that's it, thank you again for any help.

 

 

 

 

 

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You'll probably want at least one more mic, such as a Schoeps 641 or a Sennheiser MKH50. SD, Lectro, and Zax all have proponents. Previous threads here will spell out the differences and perceived advantages of the approaches. 

 

But Pete's comment holds weight. You might get more feedback (and good feedback) on a forum such as http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/ . There are a lot more solo-operator people over there, and it's still an active place.

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I know many sound mixers might have different opinions, but if you can afford zaxcom go zaxcom.. no brainer for me. They might be overkill for your intended use tho. Nonetheless they are good tools that should serve you well (even tho they have a bit of a learning curve). For more complicated shoots (narrative) nothing beats an experienced sound team that know how to listen and fix problems on set. Not to mention sound mixers normally have amassed large bags of tricks and tools for different situations. But for interviews and such you should be fine. 

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My only comment is that there shouldn’t be a decent sound mixer that will want to use your kit to augment their kit as we put a lot of thought, money, and preparation into how our kits work with each piece of gear complementing each other piece.

If we don’t know how well the piece of gear is taken care of, if it has all the necessary accessories, and if it is within spec, we can’t guarantee a professional result with it and we won’t ruin our reputation using it.

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9 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:
  • Sound Devices MixPre-10 II

Go for the MixPre-3 II instead, as it is much cheaper, and much lighter. (the Zoom F series is worth a look as well)

And any time you're doing more than 3 channels, you should definitely be hiring a sound department for your film. (as you say you usually do)

 

 

9 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:
  • recorder with wireless receivers, wireless to director/clients, camera hop transmitter to camera


If you're giving a feed to clients and a director, then you should definitely be hiring a professional rather than just buying gear without a clue.

 

 

9 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:
  • Zaxcom Nova w/MRX414 receiver module


Odd that you should mention Zaxcom Nova & MixPre10 but not the Sound Devices 833? (or 633)

Anyway, like I said before, for your purposes get the MixPre-3 II (or an F Series).

 

 

9 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

but these items could augment their kit or serve as backups.


No. That shouldn't be an expectation. @JoshuaT's comment was relevant here. 
In fact, many of us would regard any mention of "using the production's gear" as a Red Flag warning us not to work on that shoot.

 

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Tyler, hi! Everyone else - I think he made it clear that he wants basic kit to dabble with projects yet still hire his regular folk. On the other hand, Tyler, have you asked your regular folk what they think you should get as basic kit / back up? They are by far going to be the best people to recommend what you could use yourself and what they could use beyond their own package to avoid the uncertainty of external hire.

 

I took notice that you are thinking of buying two very expensive and specialised Sanken CO-100K. I've never had the opportunity to use this mic but know what it is ... I probably wouldn't bother recording below 192 with these!

 

But is there any great reason you're looking at this route? I'm a big fan of spaced omni for film atmos myself, and like omnis for many other reasons. But at this level of investment I would be looking at more than two of them probably...! I can see the CO-100K being used for music and very particular effects applications but for a first fx pair? For that money surely you could buy a new pair of more generally useful MKH8040 cardioids and a new pair of DPA 6060s (all of which would have extra life as top quality spares for main shoots...)

 

I would need to know precisely what you're planning to record fx wise before either criticising your choice or recommending an alternative. You have set the bar high for a first purchase ...

 

Jez

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Thanks for all the comments. 

 

Biggest takeaway for me so far is forget about any of this being backup kit for my mixer - got it. 

 

Primary reasons I thought of getting some comteks was because the sound mixers I hire usually don't have enough comteks in their own kit so I end up having to rent a few of them all the time anyway. So I thought I might as well just own them and stop spending on rentals, and then I have them for these other things I'm doing so I can give myself a wireless feed. Doesn't take anything away from sound and I know my kit is better maintained than any common rental house's. 

 

Reason I didn't mention 833 or 633 is because I was really just looking at MixPre line initially because it seems designed more for my level of user - a little simplified compared to the 833/633, etc. I only got onto looking at the Nova when I saw how it had integrated wireless, etc., and it seemed a very elegant solution. I guess I should look at the 633/833 now :) 

 

The Sanken CO-100Ks I'm just smitten with them and I can use them for music too (personal hobby). The sound fx work I'd be doing with them is just recording random interesting noises and then playing with them in post to see what tones I can bend out of them. Totally experimental. If I have a hard list of effects I need recorded, such as for something in production, I'm not going to go out and record that myself. A lot of this is just related to me planning on doing some overlanding trips off grid and wanting to grab some sounds while I'm out there. I don't know what I'll find. I'd like to have a pack with me most places I go and be able to whip out a mic and record anything I run across that I find striking. 

 

--

 

I have nothing but respect for sound professionals and the members of this forum. I personally believe it's one of the most under-appreciated departments in filmmaking. I really don't want to get into a back-and-forth on hot takes, but I am going to give a little more context just this once to hopefully clarify. 

 

Like I said, this doesn't take away from the work I hire people for, it's more for personal projects and little micro productions I couldn't take anyone with me on. I've been producing / directing commercials and features for more than a decade and I have always hired a professional sound crew for a paying gig and I will continue to do so. I thought I made that clear. The idea that I'm going to set and be directing and producing and then also run sound is laughable - that is not what I am doing nor could I or anyone else do so successfully.

 

I hire professionals for their expertise, anyway, not their equipment. Like any of our valued disciplines, the best equipment in the world will not make good results in inexperienced hands. I have a DAW and JBL 7-series surround monitors in my edit suite because I want an accurate environment for editing and I like to play around with mixing and sound editing, too. But I just play - there's not a single paying project that I haven't hired a proper sound editor and mixer to finish. However, I do find I'm better able to communicate with them by having some hands-on experience with it. I also study acting, and have zero desire to be in front of the camera in any real sense. I learn about the proper way to use a C-stand and I own some stands and lights, but I'm not a grip or gaffer. I own cameras and have very deep knowledge about all things camera and cinematography, but I always hire a DP.   

 

Same thing in this context - I want more hands-on experience with recording for the joy of it, for some special cases, and to increase my knowledge of another key department I rely on as a storyteller. I don't think that is treading on sacred territory or taking anything away from talented sound professionals. I enjoy knowing a little about every role in filmmaking and frankly it's part of what I think defines me as a Director. My personal opinion is even if a guy did want to attempt to do it all himself, then by all means he should be able to. It would probably be foolish and setting himself up for failure, but to each his own. But I digress, because this is not that. I just mean that, in the end, professionals will get the jobs worth getting. I don't think they need protection from fools, as the fools won't be in business long. 

 

The types of projects I have in mind are things like traveling across Alaska with my family while I take some trails and record random unexpected sounds for fun to see what I can hash out of them in an edit suite some weeks later for no project in particular. Or an off-road trip through the desert with just me, an assistant, and two actors on a micro budget experimental with no crew and zero budget. Or a random Saturday morning favor to help a buddy shoot a video for his YouTube channel. These aren't the type of projects I do a lot of nor do I get paid for them, but they can be fun and experimental and are an excuse to get to know more about sound recording, which I am curious about. I believe in "buy once, cry once" when it comes to gear, and I don't know where this might lead me, so I'm looking at professional-level gear for my admittedly hobby-level work.

 

Hence why I asked here and not DVXuser or Creative COW or other places that are more for videographers and generalists. I am interested in advice from real sound pros who know a lot more than I do about it. I'm also talking to my sound mixers that work with me and they are very supportive about my ambitions. I don't think they feel threatened by my interest in sound, if anything I think it shows how much I care about their work. But I wanted to ask here to get a diversity of opinions.

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3 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

Everyone else - I think he made it clear that he wants basic kit to dabble with projects yet still hire his regular folk.

Zaxcom Nova w/MRX414 isn't exactly congruent with "dabbling".

 

2 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

Primary reasons I thought of getting some comteks was because the sound mixers I hire usually don't have enough comteks in their own kit so I end up having to rent a few of them all the time anyway. So I thought I might as well just own them and stop spending on rentals, and then I have them for these other things I'm doing so I can give myself a wireless feed. Doesn't take anything away from sound and I know my kit is better maintained than any common rental house's. 

 


1) you've got to 100% check in with your usual Sound Mixers that this is ok with them. And to make sure that you're buying comteks compatible with their existing gear. 
2) what if in the future you're working with some different mixers, who use something else such as Sennheiser IEMs or Lectrosonics IFBs? You've just wasted that money on those comteks. 
 

 

2 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

The Sanken CO-100Ks I'm just smitten with them and I can use them for music too (personal hobby). The sound fx work I'd be doing with them is just recording random interesting noises and then playing with them in post to see what tones I can bend out of them. Totally experimental. If I have a hard list of effects I need recorded, such as for something in production, I'm not going to go out and record that myself. A lot of this is just related to me planning on doing some overlanding trips off grid and wanting to grab some sounds while I'm out there. I don't know what I'll find. I'd like to have a pack with me most places I go and be able to whip out a mic and record anything I run across that I find striking. 


Sounds like the ultra compact and lightweight MixPre3 II is going to be a good choice for you! Perfect for going off the grid when carrying your own pack too. 

However..... if you're planning on on using it with those Sankens specifically for 192 KHz recordings, I'd make sure you deeply research into if that is a sensible pairing, as I remember initially the MixPre series had a number of notable flaws, one of which was 192KHz recordings for sound effects. Can't remember the details (TapersSection/Gearslutz discussed this a lot though), but something about a noise issue? (plus the original MixPre3 couldn't even do 192 KHz, so make sure you get the Gen2 anyway)

I assume this has been fixed in the Gen2 update to the MixPre series, but I'd be double checking before spending money on them and a pair of Sankens. 

 

2 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

I believe in "buy once, cry once" when it comes to gear


A lot of people buy into that philosophy, but honestly I feel that's not the case.
Nothing is static, nothing stops moving, especially not in 2020.
Even if you splurge out and buy top notch gear as of right now 23/06/2020, and then some time further down the road (be it 3, or 5, or 10yrs later) you "see the light" and realize your true calling is not to be a director but in the sound department! I can guarantee there will be shinny new that's come out since then you'll lust over and you'll want to get. It never stops! 


Thus I recommend instead instead you get gear which is fantastic "bang for buck", suits you right now, and leaves you still with some room to grow. (and a new MixPre Gen2, Zoom F Series, or secondhand 633/644/788/Nomad/Maxx would all meet generously these Three Criteria and more)

 

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4 hours ago, IronFilm said:


Sounds like the ultra compact and lightweight MixPre3 II is going to be a good choice for you! Perfect for going off the grid when carrying your own pack too. 

However..... if you're planning on on using it with those Sankens specifically for 192 KHz recordings, I'd make sure you deeply research into if that is a sensible pairing, as I remember initially the MixPre series had a number of notable flaws, one of which was 192KHz recordings for sound effects. Can't remember the details (TapersSection/Gearslutz discussed this a lot though), but something about a noise issue? (plus the original MixPre3 couldn't even do 192 KHz, so make sure you get the Gen2 anyway)

I assume this has been fixed in the Gen2 update to the MixPre series, but I'd be double checking before spending money on them and a pair of Sankens. 

 

No, David, the ultrasonic noise issue was fixed long before the second generation Mixpre models: back in firmware v.3.00 (Dec 2018).

 

I agree, though, about the Mixpre-3 being a good fit for the OP's non-professional purposes: it is capable and remarkably diminutive.

 

Cheers,

 

Roland

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2 hours ago, Throwback said:

No, David, the ultrasonic noise issue was fixed long before the second generation Mixpre models: back in firmware v.3.00 (Dec 2018).

 

Yes, but my point is that it existed, so is worth checking if it has been fixed before buying it to specifically use at 192 KHz with that pair of Sankens. 

Have you recorded with an original MixPre @ 192 KHz to see if it does indeed reflect the firmware notes? If so, good to hear it was a software issue that allowed it to be resolved eventually without needing to wait for a hardware update. (as I recall there was pages worth of discussion on other forums about this, including speculation it was a hardware issue that couldn't be fixed)

Anyway...  the original MixPre3 can't do 192 KHz (so I can't test it out myself with mine), so the OP should either go with the original MixPre6 (which can do 192) or get the newer Gen2 of the MixPre3 or 6 (as all Gen2 recorders can do 192).

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From what you've said I can't object to your choice of the CO-100K : although I've never used one it's been on my 'would like to try' list of mics since it came out. Further 'off grid' recommendations would be a pair of DPA 6060s or 4060s : they are just so useful (and for FX use I recommend the standard microdot termination with DAD XLR adapter and perhaps microdot extension cables. I also like the MKH series for their dependability in adverse conditions (particularly humid) although they're not alone from other choices here.

 

I would definitely go for the newer series of MixPre if going that route (and be mindful of all IronFilm said). Personally, although the size of the 3 is very nice I think the 4 preamps of the 6 would be better (even now that the series II all do 192 as remarked). When you're onto your SECOND pair of CO-100K and want to record quad atmos in Kashmir with the Kashmir preamps ... (or even just the 'budget' kit of 4 DPA6060s ...)

 

Everything else that was said I find quite decent. Although if you have regular sound folk I would run over options for a "lo-no basic kit based around your new FX / music package" for value and compatibility ...

 

Jez

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6 minutes ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

and want to record quad atmos in Kashmir with the Kashmir preamps ...

Yeah and if the OP ever wants to do ambisonics (is possible, with their interest in SFX / personal library) then the MixPre6mk2 is the way to go (or even, I'd argue the Zoom F8n / F6 is an even better choice for this specifically).

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11 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

So I thought I might as well just own them and stop spending on rentals,

You don’t always know what IFB the mixer is going to bring. Maybe it’s another brand? Maybe it’s a comtek operating on a different frequency? Maybe whatever you get doesn’t play nice with their setup Let the mixer figure that out. Any time a client tells me “I have this, can you use it in your kit?” I get annoyed.

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Thanks again for the advice.

 

I can definitely see wanting to play with surround and ambiance recording, so it might be worth it to go for the 4-ch. MixPre II.

 

Since my mixers are always going to have their own kit for regular productions, should I instead be looking at less expensive wireless systems? I only was looking at Lectrosonics + Comteks because it's what every mixer I've hired in recent memory uses and I'm not familiar with alternatives. Two lavs transmitting to the Mix Pre, and then one or two wireless headphones from it is all I need.

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2 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

Since my mixers are always going to have their own kit for regular productions, should I instead be looking at less expensive wireless systems? 


how should we know? : ) 

seriously, there are so many factors, some of them very subjective... like:

how much money do you have to burn for your hobby? how critical is sound quality to you? and reliability? what kind of equipment do you like and which one annoys you?

 

the truth is that nearly all of todays equipment is more then good enough for nearly everything in hobby or semi-professional use.

I spend way too much time looking at gear myself instead of going out and learning the important stuff. I comfort myself that I get some pleasure out of it, but I‘m brutally aware that for most things it really doesn‘t matter and that I‘d learn more by actually using low tech gear then endlessly researching high-end equipment.

 

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6 hours ago, Tyler Hawes said:

Since my mixers are always going to have their own kit for regular productions, should I instead be looking at less expensive wireless systems? I only was looking at Lectrosonics + Comteks because it's what every mixer I've hired in recent memory uses and I'm not familiar with alternatives. Two lavs transmitting to the Mix Pre, and then one or two wireless headphones from it is all I need.

 

Perhaps one of your regular mixers is planning an upgrade and would like to sell off some perfectly usable 'Lectro gear...

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