Troubleshooting On Decent Quality Headphones

12/5/2012 9:11:55 AM

Troubleshooting On Decent Quality Headphones

You wouldn’t ever film something without being able to see what the camera is capturing, and audio is no different.

You should be plugged in whenever the camera is rolling, and you should be using headphones that block out all external sounds so you know you’re hearing exactly what the camera is hearing. If you put your headphones on with the camera turned off and you can’t hear a word the person standing next to you is saying, then you’ve got the right kind of headphones. Sennheiser’s HD 25 are one such set of headphones, although there are many equally capable cans out there.

Description: Sennheiser’s HD-25 are one such set of headphones, although there are many equally capable cans out there.

Sennheiser’s HD-25 are one such set of headphones, although there are many equally capable cans out there.

Once you’re monitoring the sound, the next most important thing is to have a backup. That means two audio sources going into the camera. Conveniently, all cameras record in stereo, but you only need mono, so that means you can record two different mics at the same time one on left channel, the other on the right and then pick and choose which one you want to use during the edit This usually boils down to either a handheld stick mic or clip on Lavalier mic as one source, and a camera-mounted shotgun mic as the second. This gives you a close-up source that records your subject and separates them sufficiently from any background noise, and a fallback backup you can tweak to bring out your subject’s voice if necessary.

Handheld or lay mics are often wireless, which makes them easy to use on hectic shoots, as there’s one less wire to deal with. The downside, especially with the number of camera crews you frequently find at popular events, is interference. There’s only so much bandwidth available for wireless trans missions, so if another crew is operating nearby on the same band, you’re going to get interference. The only thing you can do is change to a less-contested channel, but if the interference happens during an actual interview, then chances are you’ll have to re-record if you have time. If you don’t, then at least you have the wired shotgun mic to fall back on.

Description: If you don’t, then at least you have the wired shotgun mic to fall back on.

If you don’t, then at least you have the wired shotgun mic to fall back on.

One advantage of radio mics is that they’re just that radio. In most setups, they’re only used to link one transmitter to a single receiver, but you can go beyond that if you’re shooting with a multi-camera setup. Radio mics are mostly used for a one-to-one connection, but since it’s just transmit ting radio waves, there’s nothing stopping you picking up the transmission on more than one receiver. On a two-camera shoot, then) you might have your subject wearing a wireless lay mic and transmitter. The receiver on your wide camera would then pick up the mic and record it along with the video. The second, close-up camera would just use its on board mic, which wouldn’t separate your subject from the background noise anywhere near as well as the lay mic audio.

When It Comes to editing, you’d then need to sync audio from the wide camera with the video from the close-up camera before you could start producing the actual edit. This is fine if you’re producing the video days or weeks later, but less ideal if you’re trying to turn the videos around in minutes rather than hours to get them online as quickly as possible. However, if you mount a second wireless receiver on the close-up camera, tuned to the same frequency as the transmitter, you can record exactly the same sound as the wide camera. Provided there aren’t any interference problems during recording, there’s no need to sync the audio before you start editing.

This receiver trick also works when you’re recording a speaker presenting at an event. Ideally, you’ll get an audio feed directly from the sound desk to pipe into one camera, which will give you the best quality audio. However, you’re trusting that the crew operating the sound desk know what they’re doing, which isn’t always the case. If they make a mistake and there are audio dropouts, you won’t be able to use their feed. Sometimes they can’t provide you with a sound feed, but if you can find out what frequency they’re using for their wireless mic, you can tune in your receiver and record the audio directly.

Description: Sennheiser EW 112-p G3

Sennheiser EW 112-p G3

There are a few wireless mic systems on the market, but the most popular is Sennheiser’s ewloo series. One advantage of it being the most widely used is that it’s better at dealing with inference from other units being used nearby, and also it increases the chances that any venue you visit will also be using the same system, making it easy for you to tune into the same frequencies if necessary.

So far, I’ve just looked at sound; I’ll be covering filming in a future column. The main thing is to have options no two shoots are ever the same and what works in one situation won’t necessarily work in another. The more ways you have of achieving the result you want, the better your chances of finding a solution quickly when you’re on location and hit a snag. This gives you more time with your subject and increases the chances of creating an amazing final product.

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