7.17.2019

I spent some quality time talking to a real, working, audio engineer about my upcoming video shoot. Here's what he told me about microphone technique. Here's how I'll proceed....

Here's the situation: We're scheduled for a video project that requires us to videograph three people interviewing each other in a very large, bright room that has very high ceilings and hard floors. My first impulse was to use lavaliere microphones (either wired or wireless, no difference to me...) and run two of the channels into one "A" camera and the third microphone output into a "B" camera. That would require two of us to monitor audio levels while operating the cameras. That would also create three different sound tracks, two of which would require syncing in post production editing.

My audio expert works on huge stages and with multiple actors all the time; every day. Years and years.  Keeping track of up to 40 actors, all wearing lavaliere microphones and set to independent channels, in many live shows. When he offers advice about audio I listen.

His suggestion was that I get the interviewees grouped fairly close together for my spot and then mic them with two shotgun microphones. He suggested that there is a sweet spot that's just far enough back to allow two mics to overlap their pickup patterns to effectively cover all three actors.

I asked about using lavalieres for this and he educated me about possible phase issues that could arise and be a bear to fix in post. Better, in his opinion, to stick with a two channel only option and perfect that. Another suggestion (for dealing with the live-ness of the room) was to put sound blankets under the chairs, on the floor behind the chairs and on the floor in front of the chairs. While I won't have each interviewee on a discrete channel I would dodge the dreaded affects of phase issues and also issues of people touching their microphones or having clothing rustle ruin a great quote.

I think that he and I  mostly agree that while well placed lavalieres do a great job at giving one super clean audio and good isolation they can sound quite flat. Think "low dynamic" range, but in audio. A really good shotgun microphone gives a more convincing combination of voice and room tone and, if the actors are a set up linearly then you get actual left to right stereo effect wherein the audio has spatial cues.

One of the other reasons to use wired shotgun microphones is their very low latency effect. Especially versus the newer, mid priced "auto frequency scan" wireless systems. These introduce a bit of delay that can become noticeable as frame rates go up. Wired mics are not affected at anywhere near the same degree.

I'm planning on using two Rode NTG4+ microphones grouped at the end of a Gitzo boom pole, just out of frame. I run them into a passive Beachtek mixer/interface so I can have physical knobs to turn if I want to pull down one channel or the other. Now the only other big thing I need to keep in mind for audio is to bring enough XLR cabling.....

Listening to professionals in the field (at the tops of their games) sure beats the hell out of sourcing information on the gear blogs on the web. And, yes, I get the irony of having just written that.....




What a great swim practice this morning!!! Getting back into shape and watching stress recede in the rear view mirror of life...

Backstroke race. From a USMS national meet a few years back.

It won't come as a surprise to anyone in the "sandwich" generation (the people wedged in on one hand paying for their kid's college and on the other, taking care of declining parents) that life can get stressful. In the last couple of years I've handled my mother's decline and passing and then, eighteen months later I am doing the same for my father. During the same few years Belinda and I worked hard to make sure Ben got the college education we all wanted for him; with the attendant costs for private college and a semester abroad. At the same time we tried to be disciplined about saving for retirement. 
Altogether it's a big "ask." 

If anything went missing over the last two years it was my peace of mind and my swimming fitness. After spending a few days and nights on a chair-bed in intensive care it's hard to summon the energy to get to the pool and work hard at seven in the morning. Repeat this over time and watch your fitness levels drop precipitously. Before 2017 I swam six days a week. Sometimes I'd hit practice early in the morning and then I'd head back to the pool after work to get in another mile or so. With my dad's care I dropped Sundays and headed to San Antonio every week to spend more time with him. 

With Ben in college I turned down fewer jobs and had more early morning calls than I had before and I lost a number of opportunities to swim as a result. 

That's all behind me now and I'm in the pool with a renewed commitment to getting back into competitive swim shape. I just finished my 13th workout in twelve days and I haven't felt this good and this fast in years. In fact, if someone would pay me to swim I'd sell my cameras (except maybe one or two....) do do nothing but swim for as long as the direct deposits remained active. 

We had a great practice this morning. Ian Crocker was the coach on deck. Usually our coaches start practice with a warm-up that's a long, slow distance; like a 400 yard freestyle. They might follow that with a kick set, another 300 yard freestyle, another kick set, and then some warm up sprints before the main sets. Today was totally different. The workout on the board started with a set that looked like this:

5 X 100's on 1:30
Active recovery with a 100 I.M. 
4 X 100's on 1:25
Active recovery with a 100 I.M. 
3 X100's on 1:20 
Active recovery with a 100 I.M.
2 X 100's on 1:15
Active recovery with a 100 I.M.
1 X 100 on a 1:10 pace. 

That was the warmup. 1900 yards. Nice. 

Then we headed into the main set of mixed distance sprints and medium distance pull sets. 

We capped out at about 3,000 yards for our hour of swimming this morning and we hung around in the pool just to see the reaction from the 8 am swimmers as they looked at the white board and came to grips with the enormity of the warm-up. 

Earlier in the week I did a workout with my swimmer friend, Emmett, at Deep Eddy Pool. It's a wonderful, spring fed pool, adjacent to the Colorado River, in the middle of Austin. It's a very "old school" pool as it is 33.3 yards long in the lap swimming section. You definitely get some extra strokes in between the turns. But the lure is the 70 degree water! You can go faster in colder water. There's less heat build up and less fluid loss. But going faster than one's usual pace is a good recipe for being sore and tired by the end of the day. 

My goal right now is 30 great swims in 30 days with no breaks. I'd like to get back into good enough shape to swim some of the events at this year's USMS Short Course Nationals. We'll see how it goes. 
And yes, at this point in my career I am more than happy to turn down photographic assignments if they would interfere with my swim practice. Selfish? Naw, just setting better priorities. 

Speaking of priorities, the people at Viltrox got in touch with me and asked me if I'd like to test out their new lens. It's an 85mm f1.8 autofocus lens that's available in the Fuji and Sony mounts. I opted, of course, for the Fuji version. It arrived the day before yesterday and I'm looking forward to heading out the door to give it an inaugural breaking in. I hope to have more to write about it later this week. I can tell you it feels very nicely made and very solid. Only downside so far? You lose the aperture ring on the lens..... definitely not a "deal killer."