6.06.2016

Studio Dog was clearly miffed at not being invited along to record narration on our latest video...

Caninus Emeritus. 

You could see the look of disappointment on her face as Ben and I left the Visual Science Lab compound, cleared outgoing security, and headed out on our assignment for the day. Sometimes we need to travel light. And Studio Dog needed to stay behind with the rest of the staff to sniff out shirking and possible mutiny...

The travel crew thought we'd just be recording audio but we packed to be prepared. Three cameras and a couple of light units, as well as light stands and other accoutrement. 

We hit our location an hour later and pulled our two cases filled with audio gear, into the front door of the company that had engaged us. After a quick scouting we found the quietest area in the entire building, ran out all the usual inhabitants and set up camp. 

Our primary recording rig for this voice-over narration was a Tascam DR-60ii, powered by an external, lithium battery pack and fed by an AKG, large diaphragm, model 2035 microphone; with spit screen. Our secondary (back-up?) rig was a Zoom H4n, fed by a Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun microphone anchored to a Gitzo boom pole.

My bright assistant and I brought along a number of big, fluffy backgrounds to muffle bright surfaces that might effect our audio quality. We also brought along five or six 4 foot by 4 foot foam tiles to break up any room resonances that might wreak havoc on our lower frequencies...

Ben prepped the room while I set up the gear. We were aiming to keep levels between minus 12 db and minus 3 db on our two recording units. The Tascam has a very useful feature: You can set one channel to record at whatever db level you set and set the second channel to record the same signal at 6 db lower. I think you can program in different values as well, but -6 db was perfect for me. In this way, if you have a spike past zero db in your primary channel you may be able to use the lower input channel instead. It's a bit like bracketing in regular photography. 

With the room and the gear prepped all that remained was to actually direct the reading of the script. Sometimes our narrator hit the exact read in the first take while at other times we did up to 17 takes to get exactly what we wanted from the script. 

During the process of getting takes and directing Ben was logging takes, noting issues and also starring the good takes with one star and the great takes with two stars. Every once in a while we had to stop taping to accommodate a chirping bird outside or a helicopter gliding noisily by but we figured that no recording environment, outside of a full blown studio, would be perfect. We got close with this one. 

I have reviewed the audio and haven't found any hiss, noise or distortions from overload or electronic failure. Since we were using external power for our Tascam unit I was able to use phantom power for the microphone and also keep the meter lights lit without worrying about low batteries. 

We got what we needed and a lot more. We got different intonations and different inflections. We even got a series of possible taglines to slide into the ending graphic treatment. We might not use them but we do have them. 

It's fun when everything goes according to plan. 

Why the cameras? Well, in a post recording meeting we decided to drop a still frame from the project but add video of a certain process. We were able to pull a camera out of the bag right then and go video record a wide, medium and close series of shots and load them into our program back in the studio. More stuff got done. It was fun. 

I'm both learning more each day and also making use of the knowledge gained from creative directing hundreds of radio commercials back in my advertising days. Remind me to polish some of those Addy awards.... But seriously, there's a lot of knowledge that both sticks and transcends technical advancement, and a lot of it is knowing how to help a narrator get his performance where you need it to be.  Not a technical skill. More importantly; a human skills. 

Sounds good? That's more than half the goal for a video project....


6 comments:

Fred said...

Kirk,
This is a very interesting post since I will be dealing with sound issues soon if my video project doesn't implode, which it might.
How would you compare the Tascam and the Zoom in practical use. Besides recording audio for video projects I would be recording live music, practice mostly.
Oh, and tell studio dog that Bella feels her pain.
Fred

RichardEby said...

You get 10 points and a gold star for the best "miffed dawg" photo I've ever seen. Made me smile!

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Fred, A quick note about those two audio recorders. Both have really great, nearly noise free recording capability. Both work well with a wide array of microphones. The Tascam is fun to use because you have physical knobs that you can individually set, which makes fine tuning on the fly easier. The Tascam has lots of features that are nice, like a slate feature that lays down a tone to reference. I find the menu easier to understand and scroll through. That being said the Tascam pretty much just devours batteries. Gobbles them up 4 at a time. The Zoom has advantages in that it uses only two double "A"s and seems to sip power much more gracefully. The Zoom also has its own set of built on microphones which are actually pretty darn good. The Tascam has no microphones of its own. If I could only have one and used it for a wide array of stuff it would definitely be the Zoom. I can get used to the less physically elegant control interface. Where they really matter, audio quality, they are on equal footing. Hope Bella and the crew are doing well. All good here and actively getting work out of the boy! Best, Kirk

Frank Grygier said...

A little tip:

Create a portable "sound booth" using inexpensive moving blankets. Hang them from light stands or just put them on the floor to deaden the room.

http://www.harborfreight.com/72-inch-x-80-inch-movers-blanket-66537.html

Kirk Tuck said...

Frank, Thanks for sharing a great tip!

TMJ said...

A new Zoom H4n Pro has just been released, with quieter preamps.

Recording at -12 to -3dB is quite hot, certainly using 24 bit recording. A maximum level of -12dB is not unusual with digital (I know we used to crank it up to 0dB on tape, but the ensuing distortion only 'warmed' things up as apposed to what happens when you clip digital signals).

This is a simple explanation: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep10/articles/qa0910-1.htm