Location sound equipment

What equipment should I expect a location sound recordist to have? And what format is best for editable tracks to input into Avid and sync with picture?

I want someone who does sound and also operates the boom, so they need the kind of equip't they carry/wear. Also, should I rely on that equip't alone or have a feed go to the camera? I've had that set-up for docs but this is for narrative work.

Thanks!
 
I need more information to tell you exactly what you need.

How many cameras are you using per shot? Are you going for perspective or is everyone going to have a lapel? This is very important to know and I can't really give you any good advice without that data.


Mics:

Outdoors use the MKH50 or MK41. COS-11 Lapel mic for the principal character and then if you can afford more, use them on the lesser characters.

Recorders:

Sound Devices 552 five channel or 744T. Get a mixboard and have a link between the mixboard and one of the cameras to feet a stereo mix of all the mics so you can use this in the Avid.

Other than that I can't really tell you much else.

Depends - is it outside? Is it inside? What's the weather like? Where is it being shot? etc. etc.

Please be more specific.
 
Don't get overly caught up on the gear. There are some necessities that will help you weed out the undesireables. But like all tools, it's never the gear that defines the ability and talent.

Also, if you're looking at someone who's good at what they do, have the proper inventory of tools, and you're expecting them to boom and mix, be prepared to pay their rate.

With that said, most location recordists for film/video will carry the following:

A multichannel mixer, battery powered, and the appropriate carrying rig
A 12 ft (or more) boom pole with shock-mount and a supply of wind-controlling attachments
One or more shotgun microphones (long/short shotgun, hyper cardiod, etc)
Two channels (typically) of wireless with lavalier mics and tools for attachment
A 2 channel (or more) digital recorder capable for recording wav files at 24/48 format.
The ability to provide you a feed to your camera.
Headsphones (I use in-ears) for monitoring

Your best bet is to get referrals from other filmmakers.

What equipment should I expect a location sound recordist to have? And what format is best for editable tracks to input into Avid and sync with picture?

I want someone who does sound and also operates the boom, so they need the kind of equip't they carry/wear. Also, should I rely on that equip't alone or have a feed go to the camera? I've had that set-up for docs but this is for narrative work.

Thanks!
 
No worries about me getting caught up in obsessing about gear - that's so not me! I just want to have an idea of what to expect because I just want to hire someone who's got everything we need and not have to rent too much additional stuff. I want to ask intelligent questions and know what is the typical setup. And yes, I am paying (but not exactly top dollar), and I will be speaking with someone soon who was referred to me.

I didn't really want to focus too much on brands and models but rather what types of portable equipment someone should have. I'd rather have a recorder than have it go to the camera because we're doing lots of dolly shots. But would we perhaps want a feed to the camera for safety? Got some good info on this thread, too: http://www.indietalk.com/showthread.php?t=22792

We're shooting in HDV, should we still record sound at 48Hz?
 
Despite having worked in sound for many, many years, I still cannot hear the difference between 48 kHz and 96 kHz sample rate. I'm guessing the argument is better definition at higher audio frequencies.

I don't hear the difference and I'd love to see a double blind test conducted to determine if the difference is audible.

We're shooting in HDV, should we still record sound at 48Hz?
 
There is absolutely a difference between 96K and 48K.

There is also a definite audible difference between 16bit and 24bit.

So much so that you will be rejected by the major mastering houses if you present them with a 48K master.

It is true the higher frequencies are altered, however there is also the factor of stereo image, clarity, separation and presence of each piece of the sound field.

Must be your monitoring system.
 
What equipment should I expect a location sound recordist to have? And what format is best for editable tracks to input into Avid and sync with picture?

First, the person recording the audio on set is referred to as a "production sound mixer." S/he may or may not be the boom-op.

A basic system will be a mixer, a recorder and a selection of mics, both hardwired and wireless, and the obvious accoutrements - boom, shock mount, cables, etc. But don't get hung up on the gear, although that does matter. What matters most is the skill with which the equipment is used. A genius with an NTG-2 will get much better sound than a moron with a Schoeps CMIT5U.

A production sound mixer I interface with occasionally has the Sound Devices 302 mixer and 702T recorder (he just ordered the new 522), about eight various shotgun and cardioid mics, four Lectrosonics wireless systems w/Countryman B6 and other lavs, and a whole ton of other stuff, including a basic on-set comm system. That's a well over $12k worth of gear. He and his boom-op command $600 per day, plus they charge for the rental of the gear. Their specialty is run & gun and documentary work, and they are usually hired by the week or month.

Your budget is going to dictate the skill of the production sound team and the quality of their gear. If you can spend $100 per day you'll get someone learning their craft with very basic budget to mid-price range gear. If you spend less you'll get less, if you spend more you'll get more.

Most record to .bwav at the highest sample rate their equipment will permit. The sound crew should do a dump of the audio data in the format you request.

A back-up to camera is nice, but now your sound team is tethered to the camera. When you work with film you don't have the luxury of back-up sound to camera.
 
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I completely agree regarding 16bit vs. 24 bit.

I wonder how many engineers are starting with 48kHz samples and then upconverting for the mastering houses.

As far as my monitoring, it may have more to do with my 50 year old ears, and the abuse I put them through in my younger years while working live sound reinforcement. On set I wear M-Audio IE-30s which are the ruggedized version of the Ultimate Ears Pro 5. My studio is currently equipped with Event TR6s.

All that being said, I stand corrected regarding 48kHz sample rate and I'll reset my gear to 96 and see (hear) if I can discern improved clarity and imaging. Thanks for the input.


There is also a definite audible difference between 16bit and 24bit.

So much so that you will be rejected by the major mastering houses if you present them with a 48K master.

It is true the higher frequencies are altered, however there is also the factor of stereo image, clarity, separation and presence of each piece of the sound field.

Must be your monitoring system.
 
The differences between 16bit and 24bit, and the differences between 48kHz and 96kHz or 192kHz are manifest when you listen on a high quality sound system.

24 bit allows you more headroom and dynamics (although the only place where audio isn't compressed to death these days seems to be sound for picture).

The high end is crisper and cleaner at higher sample rates, the low end can be more detailed. What I personally love about high bit/sample rates is that there tends to be fewer artifacts when I use audio processing, so I can really mangle, fold, spindle and mutilate sounds without them becoming unpleasantly distorted.
 
I completely agree regarding 16bit vs. 24 bit.

I wonder how many engineers are starting with 48kHz samples and then upconverting for the mastering houses.

As far as my monitoring, it may have more to do with my 50 year old ears, and the abuse I put them through in my younger years while working live sound reinforcement. On set I wear M-Audio IE-30s which are the ruggedized version of the Ultimate Ears Pro 5. My studio is currently equipped with Event TR6s.

All that being said, I stand corrected regarding 48kHz sample rate and I'll reset my gear to 96 and see (hear) if I can discern improved clarity and imaging. Thanks for the input.

No problem. Let me know if you have any more questions and I have done extensive testing.

Ultimate Ears are great, I hear.

It is so much an issue with 96K and 48K that every pro Sound Designer I meet says the same thing about mixing at 48K on dub stages: "It's lame". They can't wait until they can mix at 96K. I do all my mixing at 96K.

Most sound designers also record at 192K in the field to be able to do better modulation and processing of the sound later (like pitch shift, etc. etc.).

So what kind of projects have you worked on in terms of location sound? I'm interested to know your background.
 
I'm still a greenhorn having only worked on two projects, the first being an exercise program infomercial with live shots during a fitness convention where I worked boom op. I'm currently working on an indie feature doing boom op, troubleshooting, and some foley, fx, and clean-up.

My background starts in live sound reinforcement, and for last 10 years or so, I've been working steady in live sound for theatre, specializing in musical theatre. I hold an AS degree in Electronics (which is where I learned all the principles involved with analog signals), as well as a BS in Professional Aeronautics which supports my day job as a systems engineer for a major aerospace contractor.

As a musician, I operate a small project studio where my lady and I work out ideas, and track into Sonar 8.

So, I understand signal path, proper gain staging, how to interpret and apply microphone polar charts, the behavior and application of pro sound tools such as compressors, limiters and graphic and parametric eq.

Of all the work I've done in sound over the many, many years, I have found location sound to be, by far, the most challenging audio work I've ever done. The obstables are sometimes overwhelming, and always changing, and by currently working with very tight budgets, the need to get the dialog on location is vital to the success of the project.

By the way, I thought studio gear was expensive until I starting buying location sound gear.

So what kind of projects have you worked on in terms of location sound? I'm interested to know your background.
 
Well, that's great.

You know more than about 90% of the sound guys I know out there.

Check out Alcove Audio's blogs. Lots of information there for location sound.

And also, check out these videos posted about The Hurt Locker production mixer:

http://soundworkscollection.com/casawardspanel2010

The video featuring The Hurt Locker's sound team is down at the bottom - kind of hard to see but find it and watch it. It has some great info on how they worked around the 4-camera "documentary" situation (because there are 4 cameras you can't have much boom operation because you risk being in one of the 4 camera's shots at any time) and how they recorded the voices in the helmets of the bomb suits.

When I watched this, I finally realized why they won the oscar and Avatar didn't. I was no longer upset about it after this interview :) The guys are frickin geniuses. 2 LINES OF ADR FOR THE WHOLE MOVIE ON THE MAIN CHARACTER. HOW??? With all the gunfire, explosions, dialogue, etc. it's a miracle.

Otherwise, welcome to the boards!
 
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