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Hello everyone.

My budget isn't large and I'm looking to get together a little on location sound get together quickly for a possible job that is coming up. Now, as usual with me, I jump before I can even walk, so I may of landed myself with a small on location sound job, before even having proper kit. It's for a local documentary media company that seems to deal mostly with interviews and mini multimedia pieces surrounding different locations (mostly inside locations it seems from their promo videos). Doesn't look like anything too taxing (I hope).

Now, I know this stuff is expensive. I'm presuming I need the option to have a portable mixer to go into a camera as well as a digital recorder to record seperately. I'm presuming I need a shotgun mic of some sort which has minimal handling noise and definitely wind protection. But I don't have much money here and am looking for practical solutions that are a combination of decent enough quality, portability and value.

At present I own the Zoom H2 (for recording ambiances and stereo sound effects and used for my sound design), I have a Mac laptop, Apogee Duet with a AKG C414 and Shure SM58 microphone... this is for my music and sound design... I'm presuming none of this will be usual on a set.

Any help, advice, information, experiece at all to help me get together some kit... Or especially advice on something that can mix, record (or both?) into a camera (or not) would be great!

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Where are you located (UK I assume from your web address)? I know here in the US you can rent production gear for pretty cheap. A few years ago I rented a Sound Devices 302 mixer with a MKH416 shotgun w/ Zeppelin system in NYC for about US$50/day. Very cheap, considering it would cost about $3000 to buy that gear.

Also, most production companies are used to paying gear rental on top of your rate. If you don't own the gear, they just pay for the rental from the rental house. If you do own the gear, they usually pay a rental fee to rent it from you. So you'd get your day rate + rental rate, which around here can start getting up to $750 - $1000 / day on bigger gigs. Since its low budget, this may not apply, but it could be worth asking about.

Renting is the cheapest way to do it if it's only a 1 or 2 day shoot.

From what you're saying about the shoot, I'd probably bring a small mixer, such as a Wendt X3 or Sound Devices 302, a shotgun (I prefer the Sennheiser MKH416 or Sanken CS-3e for location interviews, as they reject the most ambient noise for their size), and 2 lav kits.

Is the crew planning to record straight to camera? If so, I'd go hard wire. Nothing can screw you up more than trying to do a wireless hop to camera, unless you have an extremely high end camera hop (~$5000+). From what you're describing though, it wouldn't seem to be a problem to hard wire. If they don't want to go to camera, for whatever reason, you'll need a recorder too. Your Zoom could do the trick, but you'll be sacrificing some fidelity, and you won't have Time Code and Meta Data, so it'll cost you a bit in post. If you need TC and Meta Data, go with something like a Sound Devices 702T, which you can usually rent for around $100/day. Again, you probably don't need this, as I'm guessing they'll want to record directly into the camera.

Hope this helps! Let me know what you end up doing, as I'll probably have a few more things to add depending on which route to go.

  • Do you think wireless lav mics are really essential? Would wired ones do the job enough? ...Also, the Tascam HD-P2 digital recorder has a timecode reader, is this something that would be useful? (other option maybe the Fostex which can have timecode added to it). Is it 9/10 that sound is recorded straight to the camera? Does any sort of digital portable recorder/mixer combo exist? – littlejim84 Mar 14 '10 at 15:36
  • Also curious to know if there is another other broadcast portable mixer that isn't so expensive as the sound devices? Are there none of the market that could be recommended that doesn't cost so much and still perform well? – littlejim84 Mar 14 '10 at 15:43
  • Wired lavs will work fine, they just limit your movement and the talent's. As long as this isn't a problem, you could get away with wired ones. The HD-P2 would work fine as a recorder. 9/10 of the time low/no budget stuff is recorded straight to camera because it cuts time and costs in post. Sync can be really annoying, especially if you don't have TC jammed between the cam and recorder. I'd try to stick with cam audio if you can - it'll save a lot of headaches in the long run. You can run a dual system ENG kit though (audio to cam, plus a recorder in your bag as a backup). – Colin Hart Mar 14 '10 at 15:48
  • As far as portable mixers go, you can get away with something like the PSC DVPromix 3. bit.ly/bzgzvQ That one's a little less than half the price and it still gets the job done fairly well. Stay away from companies like Azden and ATI when looking at mixers. As for the Recorder / Mixer combo, there's the new Sound Devices 552, which is an ENG mixer with a flash recorder built in. No TC or Meta Data, but it does record. Nice to have as a backup. That's $3000 though. Then there's always the Deva, which is one of my favs, but those start at $8000 and go up from there. – Colin Hart Mar 14 '10 at 15:54
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If possible have a talk with the director to assess what kind of shoot and location you're going to be working, to avoid buying or renting gear that is not indispensable for the gig. If they want to just record to the camera or to a recorder as well; is it a guy talking to the camera? If it is maybe you can get away with renting a lav, or if its mostly tight shots, renting a rode ntg3 + blimp might be a good option.

There's nothing wrong with using a laptop, but if you'll be moving a lot this can get cumbersome, especially outside without a cart.

Can you give more details about the shoot?

  • Thanks for replying, once I posted this, I thought that would be a good idea... So I can get more details soon. It does seem it's mostly close dialogue and room captures (people in classrooms etc) ...Lav mics and a shotgun maybe? – littlejim84 Mar 13 '10 at 14:25
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This may have been said. But if you're recording to cam make sure you send the camera audio back out to your mixer so you can monitor whats being recorded instead of just what your sending to the camera.

  • You are too right there! I recently worked my first low-budget thriller and how I felt (and the bollocking I got from the producer) when we realised that on day 2 I had been monitoring the mixer, not the camera feed (and there was a broken cable and no audio had been taken) were ones I do not wish to revisit soon. Experience comes at a price! – Pim Dec 19 '12 at 12:46
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The mac laptop is becoming more normal on set, the apogee duet is a bit more unusual, but no one will notice, and even if they do it has such an excellent reputation it won't matter if they look it up. You can rig up the H2 as a back up, it is definitely not a standard recorder as it is consumer quality, but a backup system is considered essential when using a laptop. I would purchase your own shotgun mic, wind protection and boom pole and hire wireless lavaliere mics as necessary, you can get these from theatre and PA hire companies as well as traditional video hire companies. You can then also hire the appropriate size of mixer at the same time as this will obviously vary according to the number of lavalieres.

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how to use the H2 on a set with a boom pole. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCn28Ke1tm0&feature=player_embedded

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Rent is the way to go and get some cash coming in - no point in jumping in and buying gear without thinking it through or ultimately, buying what you can afford now and having to upgrade a few months later - worth saving your cash and buying good stuff once. I'll wholeheartedly recommend any of the sound devices stuff and any of the above suggestions.

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For these kind of jobs I use a Tascam Dr 100 (you should be fine using zoom) + Rode NGT2 Mics. It is a ultra cheap setup and you can record to your Tascam and your camera simultaneously.

Lavaliermics like the Sennheiser Ew 100 ENG series do a very good job for little money too!

But like stated above, do not buy cheap stuff head for what you plan ultimately!

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