31 December 2013
16 December 2013
Whereas we mixers might have once believed that it stood for its pin outs ("ground, lead, return"), we now know that it is the catalogue code for the Cannon Connector:
"Originally manufactured as the Cannon X series, subsequent versions added a locking mechanism (Cannon XL) and then surrounded the female contacts with rubber polychloroprene insulation, which extended the part number prefix to XLR."
19 November 2013
Trew Audio let their fingers do the walking in their own into video, and they raise a valid point about the smaller faders for channels 4-6. Until I can get a review sample to do some finger-mashing of my own, I’ll have to take their word on it:
17 November 2013
The K-Tek Nautilus
Since the advent of microphone use, suspensions, or “shock mounts” have been necessary. A good shock mount must provide a solid grip, excellent isolation, and a certain amount of compliance in a delicate balance. This balance will vary between mics and applications. The more sensitive you make a mic, the more it picks up unintended sounds, such as handling noise. If your mic is out on the end of a long boom pole, and in motion, isolation is key.
While key, it isn’t the sole factor. Place the mic in a nice web of springy, compliant materials, and it will be “floated”, with most thumps from the pole dissipated by the mount.
K-Tek, long known for their boom poles, has introduced the Nautilus. A groundbreaking, award-winning design, it features suspension arms made from a proprietary composite material in the form a spiral, which, according to the website, provides “3 dimensional isolation”.
Below are snippets of each section of the files, labeled according to the orientation of the pole and the type of movement. Again, the Rycote is on the left, and the K-Tek is on the right. The files are downloadable should you want to solo each channel:
Both suspensions worked very well, keeping the mics in place while diminishing the majority of the handling noise from my ham-like fists. The Rycote was more compliant, and thus had a greater travel during the shake. As a result, it had more low end rumble, ostensibly from inertia acting on the diaphragm. The K-Tek was more rigid, and did not exhibit the same low rumble; however, it was plagued, in all three axes, by a ticking sound. I have to imagine that it’s the suspension arm shifting against the T-rail. As the Rycote’s Lyres are screwed in, they have little, if any, travel in their mounts. The ticking is a deal breaker, as its frequency lies in a very noticeable range, while engaging a simple roll-off can virtually eliminate low end rumble.
The Nautilus is a beautiful, if slightly flawed design. Were it half the price of the Rycote, I’d recommend it as a starter kit, or for low-demand situations (static interviews with a boom on a C-stand, for example). With its current MSRP, other options make more sense.
PROS: elegant, original design; superb isolation; versatile setup
CONS: structural ticking; cost ($89 average vs. $62 for comparable Rycote)
UPDATE: A handful of Nautilus owners has expressed surprise that the unit was noisy, and suggest that might be defective. Dave Fisk from K-Tek has offered to exchange the review sample for another. When I receive that, I will conduct another test recording and post a follow up.
15 November 2013
"On my last show, I was having some problems with body mics and scratchy police officer wardrobe.
After trying different ways to mic up the cast with hidden techniques that were not 100%, I [thought] I’d venture into the realm of the pen mic...
24 September 2013
"...Walter Murch lauded him, commenting that film sound could be divided into 'Before Dolby and After Dolby.' The 'Before Dolby' era – from the beginning of recorded sound – was characterized by a constant background hiss, an underlying and irritating noise that was especially noticeable in quiet moments."
The name Dolby of course became synonymous with consumers as a marker of quality. To wit:
24 August 2013
"We hadn’t seen the rehearsal, so we needed to be ready for any possibility. In the tub, Douglas and Damon’s close-ups were shot at the same time so we covered them with two booms. A mirror behind Damon reflected most of the bathroom so we had to work from below and our mikes were almost touching the bath bubbles. Even the camera needed to be wrapped in a towel. The one thing we had in our favor was that the Jacuzzi wasn’t actually running this time."
In the summer issue of 695 Quarterly, boom op Javier M. Hernandez shares some insight about working on Behind The Candelabra, Steven Soderberg's HBO biopic about Liberace. Just reading about some of their challenges (polyester, gold chains, Vegas penthouse aesthetics) is enough to make me sweat rhinestones.
19 August 2013
If you're recording out of doors, you need wind protection. The trick to a proper microphone wind shield is the one that lowers the speed of the air around the capsule, while remaining as acoustically transparent as possible.
Furryhead makes a series of wind shields to fit a range of products, from mics themselves to portable recorders such as the Zoom H4N, which I used for my test. Their shield is a slip-on with two inch long hair and a bunched collar that makes it look like either a dollar store merkin or Ernie finally lost it and scalped Bert.
The first recordings were made about midway across the Hawthorne Bridge, where it was pretty windy. The surface of the car lanes is open steel grating, which makes the tires hum as they drive over.
Then, with the Furryhead:
As you can hear, there's no comparison: the open-cell foam tracks are unusuble, whereas the Furryhead knocked the wind down a considerable amount (the website claims 30 dB). However, it didn't eliminate the noise completely; you can still hear some low rumble on occasion (to be fair, it's all a matter of degree, as there is no completely wind-proof option for any microphone).
The second recordings were made on a pontoon dock just below the Hawthorne Bridge (see? Lazy...). I held the Zoom over the edge where the small waves were splashing against the dock itself.
As there wasn't much wind down on the dock, I wanted to do a rough comparison of how acoustically transparent the Furry was relative to the foam. While I could hear a bit of high-end roll off in my vocal slating (which I edited from the tracks, since I sound like a stilted dork), I didn't really notice much difference in the lapping of the waves. Anything you cover a mic with will alter its frequency response, but losing a little high end (which you could more than likely recover with a some EQ in post) is certainly preferable to the full-on noise storm of wind on the element.
The Furryhead utilizes an elastic band to hold the cover on the Zoom. In practice, it took a little effort to get it situated (mine is new), but certainly isn't going anywhere once it's seated. If you're a journalist and looking to switch back and forth between different covers quickly, this one isn't for you.
Pros: tight fit, decent wind reduction, price
Cons: seating it takes a little effort, only good against strong breezes, not high winds
12 July 2013
29 June 2013
Too often in our relentless pursuit of quiet backgrounds and running refrigerators, we sometimes forget that as much as sound mixing is a technical art, it is also a business.
Since a good portion of a freelance mixer's work will likely be non-timecard, invoices are necessary. If you're as averse to the benumbing slog of paperwork as I am, you'll appreciate a simple, intuitive invoicing program, one that offers flexible analysis and tracking as well as a humdinger of a professional looking result.
I had used ProfitTrain for the past five years or so. I needed something for OS X that would offer a personalized invoice template and overdue payment tracking at an affordable price, and it met all of those criteria. However, it is an app that runs on a desktop, and thus requires me to always use a particular computer. While my primary hardware is a laptop (and thus portable) , it's still heavier than a tablet, or even a phone. What I needed was something cloud-based, accessible from anywhere, but also low cost.
Eventually I found Invoicable. It's web based, which means I can sign in from a browser on anything with Internet access, regardless of platform. While it's more comfortable to type on a full-sized keyboard, I've been able to invoice a client from set before I'd even loaded the kit into my car, all from my phone.
You have the option to email invoices as HTML, as well as receive payments online. I haven't used these features, as I typically email a PDF to the client and wait for a check. It offers a freemium model, with an unlimited free version that only places a discreet, single-line ad for the service itself at the bottom of the invoice. I honestly didn't mind the ad, but chose to purchase the full license anyway because I want to support the company. (I am not affiliated with Invoicable in any manner, nor am I receiving any compensation for this post. I'm just impressed with the product.)
17 June 2013
So, the Zaxcom 742 plug-on pure digital transmitter is nicely made, lightweight, usually has plenty of range, and accepts mono, stereo, and digital microphones, has a built-in recorder, can be controlled remotely, and has 137dB of dynamic range.
As you might expect all of these premium features come at a bit of a premium price: US$1995 for the transmitter and one cone (additional cones $200). But is it worth it? I’m sure that many will say “yes”, and put their money where their ears are. As purists often do.
16 June 2013
Aside from certain specialized SFX gathering, we live and breathe at one set of data specs: 48 kHz sampling rate and a 24 bit depth. (Yes, once upon a time there were off-speed sampling rates to deal with pull-up/down for 35mm film, but these have mostly been superseded by modern DAWs' capability to re-sample cleanly on-the-fly).
In the music world, it's a different story. Numerous articles and reviews extolling the "air" of higher sampling rates, or the flat-out accusation of inferior playback have been levied at the venerable redbook CD format, and its cousin visiting from out of town, the MP3.
Do I have a personal attachment to either? Nope. But I do have a certain bemused schadenfreude when an engineer can systematically demonstrate what others vehemently rail against, as in the case with the following video from the wonderfully nerdy folks over at Xiph.org (and this is good viewing for anyone who wants a clear, concise explanation of how digital audio works).
To reiterate: there are specific reasons why we on the pro side of things need 48 kHz and 24 bit: 48 mathematically agrees with digital video formats better, and we need 24 bits of headroom for the processing that will inevitably occur with production audio tracks (which are handled in most DAWs with an internal precision of 32 bit floating point). But for the folks at home? Rewind your CDs and give them another spin. Assuming better mastering of latter-day discs, they'll sound just fine.
Link to video.
14 June 2013
Han Solo wasn’t. Not technically. While his last name may have been a super-obvious indicator of his initial world view, he was always accompanied by Chewie, his trusty, hairy cohort. No matter how good a pilot, no matter how savvy a smuggler, he didn’t go it alone.
And neither should sound.
“Multitasking” has been debunked as a myth. Having a single person doing multiple tasks means that that person is doing each task less well. In certain applications, this will produce acceptable results. In the aforementioned arenas, the audience has a lower expectation of quality, and a higher tolerance for the compromises innate in such productions. We don’t expect House Hunters to sound as clean and dramatic as a movie, and that’s perfectly fine, for House Hunters. A feature film, “indie” or otherwise, deserves better.
A single person department will be pulled in multiple directions at once. A single person won’t be able to wire that one picky actor in advance so that production won’t have to wait. A single person booming properly won’t be able to look down into the audio bag to keep an eye on levels, or be able to keep two hands free to adjust said levels should there be an issue. A boom operator strapped into a twenty- or thirty-pound bag won’t be as nimble or precise when booming a complex dialog scene, dodging lights, staying out of frame, keeping talent on-mic, all while occasionally walking backwards without falling over grip gear.
For a quick indicator of how to adequately book your crew, look no further than behind the camera and take a head count. Is there one person acting as DP, operator, 1st AC and 2nd AC? On reality TV and documentaries, yes, and that’s perfectly fine for those genres. But if your film isn’t the kind of production where there’s a single person camera department, then it also isn’t the kind of production that should have a single person sound department. Sure, your DP can do it all solo, but the quality will be compromised, and your feature will look like The Real Housewives of The Jersey Shore Who Are Also Pawn Stars:
Belts are being tightened across the board. The fact that this is even requested is merely a symptom of contracting budgets. But the fact that it actually happens on set is our fault as mixers. When we say yes to this, we’re not being “team players”, or whatever euphemism production is using when they try to convince us to do this. We’re racing each other to the bottom, where we can’t earn a living or afford to maintain gear, because we’ve shown that we’re willing to do the work of at least two people for less than the price of one.
30 January 2013
NeverClipA live demonstration of NeverClip with a detailed explanation of all it's benefits to production.
ZFR bodypack recording with wireless QC audio and time code transmissionA major step into the future of production audio, this new software release enables multiple ZFR100, ZFR200 and ZFR300 bodypack recorders to wirelessly transmit timecode for syncing and audio for quality-control monitoring. The update enables a new, low cost, time code referenced method of recording high quality sync sound for production without the use of traditional wireless microphones and bag-based audio systems.
MaxxThe Maxx is a new class of mixer / recorder / transmitter. We'll demonstrate its many capabilities and how it can improve bag-based production audio.
The seminar is free of charge and will begin at 10:00AM PST. Everything should be wrapped up by around 11:30. Lunch will be served immediately following the event.
27 January 2013
20 January 2013
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the new PS617 bag designed for the Sound Devices 664. The bag is thoughtfully designed to securely hold the mixer and/or CL-6 and multiple wireless units and it certainly can be used with any other combination of mixers and/or recorders. I appreciate how its design does not force you into one configuration and Petrol clearly did that on purpose.
19 January 2013
Sound mixers are a techie group, by definition. Our jobs only exist due to audio technology. We bury ourselves in acoustics and electronics, we learn to perceive the world a decibel at a time. We hold fuzzy sticks aloft.
We must also be business people. As most of us are freelance, we become our own employers. Business acumen may come more easily to some than others, and it can become a trial by fire, lurching from one awkward negotiation to the next, until we get our sea legs and can converse as easily about invoice terms as we can about hypercardioid pickup patterns.
But the most important reason is you. As your own boss, it's up to you to make sure you're adequately compensated and treated fairly. Occasionally this means saying no to available work, which at first feels completely at odds with freelancing, but over time contributes to your overall professionalism. When you do show up on a set, you're prepared and confident.
The blog Work Made For Hire has a great post about learning how to say no. I had to learn myself, and while there were a scary couple of months (I swear I opened my checkbook one day and a tumbleweed rolled out), it was worth it. Yes, I work fewer days, but those days pay better, and are more on my terms, where I feel comfortable:
“No” is one of the best tools a freelancer has to protect herself and make sure she’s in control of her career.
“No” to a low paying job is “Yes” to your value as an artist or freelancer.
“No” to a client’s outrageous demand is “Yes” to your professionalism and self-respect.
“No” to a volunteer project you honestly don’t have time for is “Yes” to time necessary to relax and rejuvenate so you have the mental and physical energy to do all the other things you’ve said, “Yes” to.
“No” can help you avoid getting distracted by gigs that don’t serve your goals or that make you feel trapped.
Every time you say “No” to a request, you are saying, “Yes” to something else.