Here’s a quick couple of photos from a recent interview for ABC’s The Chew with Carla Hall (ex Top Chef runner up from season 5). Carla interviewed two of the principal cast members from the upcoming TV series Nashville, Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio.
While the interview itself was fairly straightforward, it was a bit whacky in terms of the interconnection. Three wireless and an overhead shotgun going to two cameras… simple, right? Except the producer wanted separate iso tracks on everything and I don’t have a multitrack for location work (yet… it’s on order this week).
Once I determined that we weren’t going to be moving around, I was able to feed two wireless signals to one camera, then one wireless and the shotgun signals to the other using my Sound Devices 442’s direct outs The downside was that the 442’s direct outs are pre-fader, so the only way to adjust levels was at the camera. Not ideal, but it did work and the client was happy… but it illustrated the real need for a good multitrack location recorder. Right now I’m going against conventional wisdom and considering Tascam’s HS-P82 over the Sound Devices 788T or the Zaxcom Nomad. While I generally prefer Sound Devices gear as a matter of course, I like the Tascam’s feature set a little better (8 XLR inputs rather than six, for example) and their pricing is a lot easier to swallow at $3,500 (vs. $6,000 for the Sound Devices). Since the 788 has been out for awhile now, I have a feeling that they’ll be announcing a “new and improved” 788 sometime soon, and the Tascam might fill in the gap until then.
On the Carla Hall interview did you get a lot of “bleed” from the talent’s lavs and the fact that they were sitting so close to each other? It looks like a challenging situation. Did the producer expect 4 ISO tracks that only had a single voice on them?
I have worked with 2 people being interviewed (both laved) and found it challenging. I recently made an interview recording in which I was both talent (interviewer) and the ENG. When I knew the other person was going to talk for a while I closed my lavalier mic using the fader on my 442. I did this to reduce the additional noise floor of my mic, but I could not do this constantly, so I imaging I made more work for myself in post.
As a person new to sound recording, your advice and experience would be of value to both your readers and myself.
Yours is a simple question, but with a complex answer. The short version- yes, I delivered four ISO tracks in the form of .wav files from my recorder, and I did a “pre-mix” to the cameras.
Long version- The advantage of using a 664 recorder instead of recording straight to camera is OPTIONS IN POST. It gives them some choices in order to get the best possible sound, at the expense of complexity and added time for extra steps. Some projects don’t have the budget to bother with syncing multitracks of audio and choosing the best track. But suppose, for example, you have three lavs and one gets a wireless hit. If you have iso tracks, you can mute the track just before the hit and unmute just after, and save the take. Likewise, you can mute any track that doesn’t have program on it, eliminating phase errors and excess background noise.
If you don’t have the luxury of a Sound Devices multitrack, then you have to make informed decisions in the field about what will sound best. If your environment is reasonably quiet, then probably a GOOD shotgun mic sounds best, but ONLY if you can get it within a foot or so of your talent… closer is better! DO NOT EXPECT DECENT AUDIO FROM A CAMERA MOUNTED MIC… the only thing this is good for is nat sound B-roll. If it’s fairly quiet and you only have two tracks to work with, I’d put the shotgun on one track, and mix the lavs to the other. But remember, anything that you do with the faders while you’re recording is impossible to undo. We used to call it “riding gain,” and doing it well takes practice. It’s more difficult with a rotary fader, and if done poorly can make things sound worse.
If it’s noisy, then you’re probably best by using lavs only and pan one left and the other right. If you have more than two sources, then you’ve gotta mix something. Usually in a group of three, one person will talk more than the other, so observe carefully before the roll to figure out who does most of the talking. Grouping talent closely together isn’t usually best in terms of sound, since both mics will start to phase cancel as they get closer together (google “phase cancellation,” or better yet, get two mics and use your ears to see how they sound at different distances apart when mixed to mono.) For a 2-shot, usually placing lav mics dead center is best. Sometimes they’ll tend to face each other more & it’s OK to position lavs up on the collar a little… it depends on wardrobe & how friendly they are with each other.
Riding gain in a noisy environment may be a bad choice because the changes in level of the background noise can be very distracting.
In the end, trust your ears, practice, try some different things, and listen carefully to your results. Hope this helps- BG
Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed response to my questions. I am glad that you mentioned the proper technique “how to” using boom and lavs and what to watch out for (phase cancellation).
I would like to clarify my question and hopefully it will be a simple answer. I will pose the question as a post-recording question. If you listen to one of the ISO tracks that you recorded to the 664 does this track just have the voice of the person that the lav was attached to? Or did some of the other speaker’s voices get picked up (spilled) on to this track?
I understand that in a studio situation each person (talent) could be placed in a sound proof room and then each track would have perfect isolation from any other sound source. That level of control does not exist for location sound work. So I was wondering how isolated the ISOs really are and what in you opinion makes a good ISO track.
Many Thanks for sharing with the sound community. I have enjoyed reading your articles and your “DYI” topics.
Slowly learning the art and science of recording sound.
All lavs are going to have a certain amount of “spill.” Most lavs are omnidirectional & pick up sound from all directions. Even cardioid lavs (rare, but they do exist) will pick up bleed from other sources. Some lavs are better at this than others. Example- I was doing a job once when I ran out of Countryman EMW wires, which at the time were my go-to mic. I had an Audio-Technica 899 on a third person, and noticed that I had less room tone from the AT than the EMWs. I’ve since bought several more 899s and use them first. My preferred mics are Sanken COS11, but the 899s are a less expensive second choice.
If there’s one rule to remember when recording voice, it’s distance from the sound source. Closer is always going to be better due to the inverse square law (intensity of sound falls off by the SQUARE of the distance… intensity of sound at 2 feet is four times less than at one foot, at three feet it’s nine times less, etc.)
In practical terms, that means getting the mic (lav or shotgun) as close as possible to the sound source, and separate as much as possible from other sources… i.e., the second person in a 2-shot. Same with a shotgun… you want it just barely out of frame for best sound. This is why I like using a C-stand for interviews… I can position the shotgun very accurately (and it saves my arms on long interviews.)
And actually, if you had PERFECT isolation between sources, it would sound a little weird. We figured this out back in the ’70s in our recording studio. Back then, the prevailing wisdom was to make drum rooms as absorbent as possible, with lots of sound-absorbing fiberglass. But they tend to sound kinda lifeless that way. When we moved the drums out into a larger, more reflective space, the natural reverb of the room sounded MUCH better than anything we could add artificially. We had some very nice reverbs at our disposal, too, but the “real thing” was always better. I think you’d find a similar result if you had complete isolation between sources, like in a recording studio. The control would be great, but the end result would probably be rejected in a blind test.
Hope this helps
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ISOs and lavalier methods. I have found your site very helpful and started making my own cables using your methods as a guide. I look forward to your posts on audio related subjects.
All the Best,