Narration is the name of my game on Monday. It's all about..."the Voice."

If you look at the typical videographer's set up on the web one of the first things you seem to always see is a microphone in a "zeppelin" at the end of a microphone boom arm; being held up by a guy with headphones on. Big headphones.

Judging from my friends who've been in the video production business for years and years, shooting for clients like Time Warner, Dell, Motorola, HBO, Purina, and many other big clients, the reality is that most production dialog is mic'd with neatly hidden, wireless, lavaliere microphones. And, these days a good amount of the programming and commercials you watch are probably being over-dubbed in post production.

But there is a widely encountered situation in film and video in which you will need the strong, clear voice of the Narrator to slide into your program and move it along. There's no law that says you can't record your narrator with a lav mic or a shotgun mic (in or out of a zeppelin...) but there might be a better way to go about it. You might consider a side address, large diaphragm, studio microphone like the one in the image above.

These generally feature very clean and clear voice reproduction with a very, very low noise base. Which means more dynamic range and less hiss.

The microphone I'll be using Monday is the AKG 2035 which it not a very expensive microphone but is very good at its narrow specialty. The larger diaphragm gives a very pleasing sound to voice with just a hint of more bass, probably induced by being able to use the device closer to the speaker and getting a proximity effect.  The round object to the right is a spit screen which actually subdues sibilants and puffs and other audible artifacts created when normal people talk.

Most of these microphones are condenser units that require phantom power to work. I'll be doing my recording with a Tascam DR-60ii recorder which is also not too expensive but has proven to have very quiet microphone pre-amplifiers and provide 24V or 48V phantom power to XLR microphones that need it.

Ben and I will probably be working with our talent in a small conference room at a client location. We'll prep the room by adding padded furniture, putting sound blankets on hard surfaces and putting up a three sided wall of noise abatement foam to help kill reflections bouncing back to the microphone from bare walls.

The talent already has our script and we'll all work together to make sure we read it in chunks. Several sentences at a time, in a way that makes sense for a script that is divided between a narrator and on location interview audio. If there is space between the narrator paragraphs well be able to work them into the final video edit more easily.

Ben will be taking note of the timing for each take and matching those times to reference times we used to create a "scratch narration" back in our own rough cut editing. We're going to be trying to match the real V.O. with our scratch version so words fall right on the images for effect.

I'm crazy for redundancy so we'll be recording simultaneously with a Sennheiser MK600 shotgun microphone running into a Zoom H4n. We'll sort out which system we like best when we really sit down and focus on comparing the two. One way or the other we'll have nice back-up because....you know.... Murphy's Law.

So many moving parts in video. It was actually much easier to be a carefree studio photographer in the film days. Back then we'd just pull ourselves a good Polaroid, bracket the crap out of some film and then hand over all responsibility to the lab. Now we're paying attention every step of the way.

Great for control freaks but a little intimidating for inveterate slackers....

Just a preview of our battle plan for Monday.  And another version of: Right tools for the job.


Fred said...

It becomes really obvious in my initial venturing into video that it is really different from still photography and that one of the issues is that good quality sound is a very big deal.
The next step will be to start learning about editing.
Call me Cecil B. Demented Jr.

TMJ said...

The 2035 is an Audio Technica microphone and a back electret rather than a true condenser. A very nice microphone, especially on voices and great value for money.

Here is a very concise explanation from the Neumann (who make my favourite microphones) website about the difference between back elecret and condenser.


Michael Matthews said...

AT2035 at B&H for $119 through today, June 6......which is an attractive price for a quality narration mic.