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What’s your kit look like? What is your best/worst investment?


Goonie
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Hi everyone!

 

I am new to the forums and am blown away by the wealth of knowledge on this site. 

 

Is sound your hobby, passion, or job? 

 

What would you recommend to a student trying to dip their toes into the massive field of sound? Any great books that you dig? I have been reading Audio In the Media and it has been illuminating. ☺️

 

What does your kit look like for documentary work? What has been your best investment? I am slowly trying to build out a kit and currently only have the UWP-D21 receiver/transmitter and a TR50 (which sounds a little low?). I have a Sanken CSS-5 on the way second hand from a friend but don’t know what accoutrements I will need to be able to wield it properly. I have a Zoom H5 with a few mic attachments but I’m not really a fan of it. Should I go sound devices or Zoom F8n pro? 

 

Buy once, cry once?-

 

What are recommendations that made the biggest difference in your kit for you? Windshields (any cheaper solutions for these guys? Could I use a smaller blimp on my css5 to save money? Also, Xlr rigging recommendations?) field recorders? Etc?

 

I am a student and have a few pieces of equipment but want to up my game for interviews and field work and passion projects until I am competent enough to work gigs. Is there older vintage gear that would last me for a while to build out a kit? I had a total nightmare sorting through the new frequency laws trying to avoid the illegal blocks, my brain was fried for days. Lol. I am new so I am kind of leaning into the 32 bit float to help me out, and I’m taking some classes from Oregon State University, but I’m still left in the dark in so much of the art form. Any guidance for a rookie? Thanks in advance!

 

 I’m in the Bend, OR area and am in my 30s, and would love to get to know anyone in central oregon who likes to nerd out on equipment and tech talk. I also have a decent video kit, Litepanels, arri lights, Sony F55, gold mount batteries galore, fancy flowtech tripod, and other equipment, so if people want to get together for a passion project or collaborate, let me know. And if you made it this far, thank you for bearing with me, I genuinely look forward to learning as much as I can from you all and contributing where I can in the community, thanks!

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Hey there!

I don't really have too different a kit for doco and normal drama. Just everything is more compact and less stuff.

I usually bring a cardioid mic (Schoeps CMC641),  shotgun (Sanken cs3e), if I'm told I need to record in stereo I use a Sanken cs5, as well as Zaxcom Wireless (TRXLA3 and ZMTPh2, DPA 6061 (for small profile) and Sanken cos11d lavs (for durability). I use a Zaxcom Nova recorder feeding a TRX900CL stereo camera link transmitter (great for a backup recording and also sending feed to my URX100 receivers).

 

The best purchase in my kit was the Zaxcom Talent Wireless, having a record function in doco is super helpful - doesn't matter if they split off and go run off with B cam, I'm still safe.

 

My kit started very basic, 1 shotgun, a Zoom F8, 2 x Sennheiser G3s. Once I started getting proper work and needed better equipment I bought mostly second hand mics and wireless to get to a point of a solid reliable kit. My worst decision was buying my Zoom F8 new when I could have got a used Sound Devices 744T for the same price. Nowadays I buy half of my kit new and half of my kit used.

 

Understand that you will always have resale value on the bigger ticket items, whereas cheap recorders, wireless and mics won't give you anything back.

 

 

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"but want to up my game for interviews and field work and passion projects until I am competent enough to work gigs."

 

This is the best sentence in your post. That's exactly the right approach. For a student, I think there is a limit to how far you can go with buy once, cry once. First and foremost, no amount of reading or recommendations will tell you what you need to know. We all have to learn the hard way. What I mean by that is that first-hand experience is priceless compared to reading what others tell you. So, to get that experience, get some used kit and get involved in local, no-budget productions/shorts and do what you are doing.

 

Secondly, pros need pro equipment because it has features that make things go smooth, fast, and are conventionally accepted on set. You don't need that.... yet.

 

Start with a used equipment. Don't waste money on new. You don't have to get the best. You're learning. You won't waste any money on used equipment because you can sell it again, hopefully for nearly the same price. Once you are on a few of these shorts, it will become obvious to you what you need to buy next. You will find the shortcomings of your operation both in quantity and quality. You will determine from your own experience what the next thing to buy will be. But more importantly, you will get the feel of what it takes to be the sound person on set. How long it takes to get set up. What goes wrong. What back ups you need. How to mic for a certain situation. You want to develop that muscle memory of how to be a sound person. And the secret sauce of placing a lav mic. Go read everything you can here about that and watch all the videos on youtube and then do it yourself and find out what that's all about.  After you have a a dozen or four of show experience, you'll really get to know what's what and then you'll be ready to buy the good stuff.

 

If you want to go top-notch and go with Sennheiser or Schoeps and other top brands, sure, go ahead. But it certainly isn't necessary starting out.

 

Here is a list of what I would start with:

 

1 used recorder, 4 channel. Zoom or Sound Devices. Don't get one of the Zooms that are not made for location sound. There are features on the F8 (and F4?) that you will definitely want.

1 used shotgun - which one is not important - find a name brand that has good resale. It doesn't have to be Sennheiser or Schoeps. Just some decent brand.

1 used hypercardioid - which one is not important - again, at least get a reputable brand that is easy to resell when you are ready.

2 - Tram TR-50 or the like. You can get Oscar Sound Tech 801 or 802 for $100. They are TR-50 clones.

2 - wireless systems - The Sony will do fine for now

1 - wind cover for the hypercardiod. Moving a mic on a boom indoors will cause whooshing sounds. You need something to stop that. Foam covers don't always work. I made my own so I don't have a recommendation.

1 - windshield (blimp) for the shotgun - any old no-name brand will work. It won't be great,  but it will work. Caution here as I don't know what the resale for no-name blimps is.

1 boom pole. Find something on ebay. Find a K-tek Avalon on ebay

1 microphone holder for the pole for the hypercardioid. Don't get a cheap one that uses rubber bands. What a pain they are. Get one that uses either a lyre or a rubber shock mount.  - This kind is what you are looking for. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1155648-REG/rycote_037340_universal_shotgun_mount_for.html

50' of XLR cable for the boom mic. Save the wireless for the lavs.

A bag

Headphones

Consumables - but that's another topic

Good shoes

A strong back

 

What you don't need - IEMs, camera hops, timecode slate, timecode generators (just jam the camera to the mixer),

 

 

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6 hours ago, Paul F said:

First and foremost, no amount of reading or recommendations will tell you what you need to know. We all have to learn the hard way. What I mean by that is that first-hand experience is priceless compared to reading what others tell you. So, to get that experience, get some used kit and get involved in local, no-budget productions/shorts and do what you are doing.


Thank you Paul for the thoughtful response. I can sense that each comment is forged from the wisdom of experience and self-learned workflow. This is everything that I needed to hear and I appreciate you sharing everything that you did to get me started on my journey.  I am even more excited about sound and feel less daunted by the task already. Your comment will take me far, thank you very much.

 

8 hours ago, sciproductions said:

My worst decision was buying my Zoom F8 new when I could have got a used Sound Devices 744T for the same price

Thank you for this! This is where I feel out of my depth and am researching as much as I can to avoid purchase regrets. I generally feel like I reverse engineer systems to find out where I can land in purchasing power. Are there systems/recorders today that are available and relevant? Is 32 bit float as big of a deal (especially for a student like myself) to invest in? Or can slightly dated equipment take me further in quality and caliber? Thank you for your comment! 

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Paul already gave some great tips. Especially to get used equipment. Knowledge is much more important than equipment and the best equipment is always the one that works and is at your disposal :)

 

I think 32 bits isn't that important. If you can afford a used Sound Devices Recorder, go for it. But I don't think that buying something else, like a used Zoom F4 or F8 is a bad decision. At least soundwise. I've started with a Zoom F4 a couple of years ago and I still use and enjoy it. I'm not a professional soundmixer and I do sound mainly for small jobs with tight budget and my own projects. And if something wasn't good it wasn't because of the gear I've used, but because of my own mistakes. 

 

I give you an example from a couple of days ago. Two supercardioids (Gefell M310) into a Zoom F4. The singer is boomed from above (right out of frame), the mic of the guitarist is in frame. The DPA 4099 on the guitar was also running, but I didn't use it for the mix. I've used only a slight compression, and the Schoeps Upmix Plugin on the guitar. No EQ or other editing in Post. The Shaker is a little to loud to my ears, but the musicians liked it like that.

 

 

Would better equipment have made the recording sound better? Maybe a little. But I'm quite shure that working on my skills is much more important than upgrading my gear. So don't waste too much money on super expensive stuff.

 

Greetings

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My best investments are the fancy boom mics, because I can use them for music!

 

Dude, just coming here to ask shows your head is screwed on perfectly.  Well done.

 

I would add that working as a third, A3, A2 or whatever will be a great learning experience.  You may have to go to Portland for that.  Bend is a super cool town!  I would love to move there.

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My fave piece of location gear:  my Magliner.  Buy one once, get the wheels and accs you want, and you'll use it for your whole career.  Especially on small one-person-sound-dept gigs (most of what the OP will be doing) it will be your steadfast friend, allowing you to load up even the biggest job you get and get in and out of the location in one haul, give you a workbench and bag-shelf where ever you want it and be something you can attach antennas, boom holders, cup holders, computer holders, battery chargers, cable hooks and even a tent to if you want.  If you get work with a sound crew on a bigger job, it will be their friend too...

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19 hours ago, John Blankenship said:

 

While I'm a gear-head and a geek who loves equipment, my best investment by far is the time spent learning my craft -- and it continues.

 

 

The answer we all wish we would have said. Agreed. Thanks for the reminder!

On 11/22/2022 at 6:53 AM, pillepalle said:

Would better equipment have made the recording sound better? Maybe a little. But I'm quite shure that working on my skills is much more important than upgrading my gear. So don't waste too much money on super expensive stuff.

I often get so caught up in gear I forget the art and the process. What a great video! And lovely recording of two very talented people. Thanks for sharing!

17 hours ago, Rick Reineke said:

As our old friend Senator frequently stated, "it ain't the arrows, it's the archer".

Hehe great quote. I need to define what bow is capable of delivering on target then. 😆

16 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

My best investments are the fancy boom mics, because I can use them for music!

 

Dude, just coming here to ask shows your head is screwed on perfectly.  Well done.

 

I would add that working as a third, A3, A2 or whatever will be a great learning experience.  You may have to go to Portland for that.  Bend is a super cool town!  I would love to move there.

Thanks Izen! I love it here in Bend! If you are town be sure to reach out and we can grab a beer! I am definitely looking to broaden my experience and understanding and know that I can’t do it alone! ☺️🙏

16 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

my Magliner

I hope to one day know what and how to rig one of these bad boys out! Good to know, thanks!

16 hours ago, thenannymoh said:

Favourite purchase: Pelsue tent

I had to groogle this. Haha. Game changer, eh? Awesome! 

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1: we don’t have kits. The term kit has been used to make our equipment seem small and insignificant compared to other departments. We provide an equipment package rental. You shouldn’t use the term kit or let others describe your package as such. 
 

2: keep reading this forum before spending money or making career decisions. I know it seems like the best thing to do is to go and get into debt buying a bunch of gear and jumping into mixing right away, but that is actually the long hard road. If you try the road where you train under someone established, working as an utility or boom op, or in post at first, you can learn the way things really work, make connections without spending money on gear, and move up to mixing when you have connections and can afford better gear. But please be patient and read read read. All your questions are in this forum and with much more information than quick responses on this thread. 

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I am with JonG point 2 on this one. Before thinking about buying  I would advise to work as a trainee and second assistant (or utility, you have all these names in the US I do not know about!) as much as possible, with different teams and setups. Then on short films as well.

Since your topic is about gear, although I consider gear to be only 20% of the job, my point here is to get to experience different gear in real life situations, and how experienced sound teams use them. So you can then choose according to experiences and your own taste. Basically never buy a mike just because someone else told you it is the best one. We all have our « best& worst mikes, headphones, preamp, recorder, etc... » and guess what, each of us has a different list. Better for you to make your own with your ears and experiences on the field.

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You will buy what you wish you had on your last gig.

Eventually you will have a package you like.

Until the next gig.

 

Wireless IFB (3 transmitters/10 receivers) has been my best long term profit center, but I do a lot of Live Network News.

 

Never neglect the business side of your business.

 

 

Cheers,

 

Tim

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  • 2 weeks later...

For me, i have a fiction bag and a documentary bag.

For doc, it's my old but rough Sonosax R4 recorder, a MS mic-couple DPA 4018/Ambient ATE308, Wisycom wireless and DPA 6060 lavs.

For fiction, my Sound Devices 688 or MixPre 10T, my DPA 4017, and same wireless kit plus IFBblue

 

For News or Advertise, I bought a small SD MixPre 3 II that I use for radio interviews too.

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My worst investment(s) we’re all of the pro-sumer recorder/mixers that I bought to try to avoid shelling out the big bucks for a professional recorder. I had a Tascam HDP2, a DR680, and a couple of others I’ve forgotten about or blocked from my memory. Every gig was a struggle with those. Trying to make them work and do what I wanted consumed way more mental energy than actually recording. 
 

Conversely, I think my best investment was when I broke down and ordered a Sound Devices 633. I remember the moment well - I was actually on lunch break at a gig that I had been “using” (read: sweating and struggling with) the HD-P2 on and I got so frustrated that I sat there at lunch and called Trew Audio. I’m not saying that that the 633 solved all of my problems forever but once I got it I could finally trust my recorder to do its work and focus my brainpower on other aspects of the job. 
 

-Mike 

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I most of the time I operated with the mindset of buy once, cry once.  I feel the higher end gear is made to last.  It may not have the latest bells and whistle, but continues to work all the time.  I am not opposed to buying used higher end audio gear.  It arrives working and continues so, I am happy.  Yes I will admit I am a gear head and like to experience what manufactures are offering.  The new SD Nexus/A20 combo is of interest.

One area I will default to is in the home workshop, yard, or garage.  I do buy from Harbor Freight knowing that the tool or product may not last.  If it works for the project I bought it for and continues on, that is fine.

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