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Hey guys, I have been asked to work on a Television series which is going to be shot in the bushes of Africa.

The challenge of this TV series is to record 3D footage as well as 5.1 sound...

I have been asked to sort out the sound department and so far what the company has got in stock is a Rode NT4 and they are contemplating on buying a Zoom H4n, what cheap solution could you suggest the company to get in order to record 5.1 sound in the bushes of Africa...

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Recording ambiences needs high quality preamps and microfones. If you want to record sensitive things like wind, grass and trees, you need an good recorder if you want some sound level on the tracks and not only the hiss from bad microfones. Recording 5.1 ambience you need in minimum 4 channel for quad. Take 4 Neumann KM184 with windshields and stands. If you take omnidirectional mic for the rear, you get a nice and wide surround. For recording ambience, you need to rise up gain very high. If you're too close, you hear yourself breathing on the tracks, also you cannot hold mics in hand.

Wherever you are, you need good windshields. Omnidirectional mics are less sensitive against wind but you need to protect them too, otherwise the result is unusable if you have a lot of rumbles on the tracks. Imagine, you have now 4 or 5 channels to control. If you have rumbles or noise on one channel, it affects all the other channels too. Also you need to run them in sync, another point to take a 4 channel recorder in minimum instead of 2 individual recorders.

If the budget don't allows to work with professional stuff, I honestly would recommend to record the atmospheres stereo. It is better to have well recorded stereo atmospheres with windshields and good microfones which delivers a good sound level instead of surround atmospheres which were not used because the post production of the tracks is too much work. Keep that in mind: What you have to do for one track (sync, level adjust, pan, positioning, cleaning...) you have to do for every track you record.

Best

Guido

  • You can use the double MS/technique, you need only 3 inputs (and free Schoeps decoder plugin). – Cédric Mar 14 '13 at 7:50
  • Completely agree, especially with the last paragraph. There's no cheap way of doing it properly, but perhaps you should hire good quality gear instead? – Mark Durham Mar 14 '13 at 9:27
  • Double MS ist not a 'real' 5.1 system. Because the mics are all so close together, it never can provide you the wideness of a 2 stereo setup. It is not stable in the rear, if there is something closer to the mik, it just jumps around you. You can make distance with a space between to front an rear recording channels. Also you need 3 channels for recording too. There is no 3 channel recorder, they have 2 or 4. why not rec 4 channels? – Guido Helbling Mar 15 '13 at 7:21
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Use two stereo digital recorders, like the H4n, but I would use two recorders that are the same brand and model if possible. You can capture the ambience in "quad", you can pan the front stereo (from one digital recorder) to the left, center, and right and you can use the other stereo recording for your rear surrounds (when in post). You don't need to put any audio content from your ambience in the sub, but if you want to, you still could. For the more important audio, like dialogue you won't get a chance to ADR, you will want a mic of a higher "quality", but for the ambience and overall sounds, having two H4n's or some other good digital recorders should do the trick. I personally like the Sony PCM-D50, it is a bit more money, but I think it is more versatile because you can change the directions of the mics. Either way, if you are going, have a great time and capture some good sounds out there.

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The Rode NT4 and Zoom H4n are okay to record quad ambiences (h4n can record internal mics plus the nt4 onto 4 distinct tracks), but don't forget the stuff that's important once you're out in the bush: a) everything needs to work, also in heat and moist conditions b) wind protection c) handling noise, the h4n and nt4 are quite sensitive to handling!

Also, XY might not be the ideal mic-setup for wide ambiences (if that's what you're recording), but that's not as urgent for your task i guess. That lion will probably just roar once, so everything has to work as perfectly as possible...

It seems a bit weird they want to film in 3D but use a Zoom recorder, btw.

Another thing: If you do want to record stuff like specific animals, you absolutely need a strongly directional mic like a shotgun. I've heard some savanna recordings and there can be a lot of 'noise' from birds and insects (most of the time actually)

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