Cinematography Mailing List - CML

No Boom Allowed

I'm currently shooting a documentary in which a sound person is expressly verboten. Thus I am trying to get decent audio of 2 to 6 people in a (fairly quiet) conference room brainstorming around a large table all by my lonesome self.

I'm shooting with a Panasonic DVX 100A and have tried the following approaches : both Senn ME 64 (hyper Cardoid) and Senn ME66 mounted via shock mount on camera to one track and via wireless a Tram mic placed on the table to the other of the camera's 2 tracks. The Tram occasionally picks up something useful though usually it is out of range. The shotgun mic also runs into trouble when either the subjects are across the table, 10 or more feet from the camera and mic; or when the subjects are too close to camera and off the mic is off axis.

Now I am trying a Audio Technica 4073 (the camera supplies 48V phantom power) and the Sennheiser ME 64 both mounted on camera (instead of the mic placed on table). Might a PZM help?

Any thoughts, suggestions (other than having a real sound person wield a boom pole & 416...)

Much obliged

Byron Shah

Byron Shah wrote :

>Any thoughts, suggestions (other than having a real sound person >wield a boom pole & 416...)

An on-camera Schoeps with MK41 hypercardioid capsule, BD5 windscreen, and Schoeps shock mount (make sure to loop the cable through the mount!) is pretty good -- lots of reach, great sound. The ME64 is a toy in comparison.

Only really good for whoever the camera is aimed at.

Good sound requires a good mic...spend the money and do it right!

Jeff Kreines

If it's a bunch of people around a table then I would get a couple of those omni directional table mikes, the flat kind that are often used for conferences and/or conference calls. The sound will be a bit hollow and airy, but you'll pick everyone up.

I did a conference once where the PA system I plugged into was set up in this way and the results were surprisingly good. Just make sure there's no video projector or anything else with an internal fan sitting on the table and that none of the subjects is an incessant pencil tapper.

Mitch Gross

On-camera microphones will not work in this (as well as most others) situation because they're in the wrong place.

What I would suggest :

A) Hanging 2 hyper cardiod mics from the ceiling (think AKG uls series, blue line if budget constraint, schoeps, audio -technica 40-series, Sennheiser mkh50 etc. - NOT shotguns of any kind and try to avoid the Sennheiser ME series if you can)

B) mount two (high quality) PZMs onto plates and hang them from above or

C) put them on the table.

Make sure that these mikes are de-coupled from the table surface (rubber, chewing gum).

Good luck,

Karl Lohninger
Sound mixer etc, Los Angeles

Byron Shah wrote :

>>I'm currently shooting a documentary in which a sound person is >expressly verboten.


You've already received some good advice. But what's your budget? How many tracks can you record? Just two to the DVX100A? Two to the camera and another two to DAT, minidisc or something? Could you put Lavs on each of them and wire them to an automatic mixer?

For how long will you be recording this brainstorming session? An hour? 4? A couple days?

And I know it's hard to tell beforehand, but how much of your finished doc do you expect to be from tape of this brainstorming? 30 seconds? 2 minutes? 10 minutes?

Is each person in that room of equal importance to you?

You don't have to answer those questions to me, but if it were my doc, the answers would affect my approach.

Jim Feeley

Two to the camera and another two to DAT, minidisc or something? Could you put Lavs on each of them and wire them to an automatic mixer?

Jim et al

Thanks for your many fast responses. I'm shooting this brainstorming for days and days and in the final piece I'd guess 15% (or 30 mins) will be scenes from this scenario. I should add that these are architects that I'm following and although there is a conference they sometimes sit at, for the most part they are all over the room, referring to drawings on the walls, floor, or going outside to smoke (cigarettes, usually).

All solutions, except for putting a better mic on the camera (thank you, Jeff Kreines) involve adding many channels of plant mics, PZMs, etc. Obviously I would hire a real sound person but in this situation I can not. I've never heard of an 'automatic' mixer (except for in-camera Auto Level Controls)--is this something I can set up myself? And what could I record 4 (or 8)
additional tracks to? Is there a hard disc recorder (Aaton Cantar?) that has built in auto level control?

Much obliged

Byron Shah

>>All solutions, except for putting a better mic on the camera (thank you, >Jeff Kreines) involve adding many channels of plant mics, PZMs, etc. >Obviously I would hire a real sound person but in this situation I can not.

If you're shooting fairly close to those you are filming, the on-camera Schoeps works nicely. The sound is then perspective sound -- if someone's off-camera, they're off-mic -- but still audible.

I think the other solutions are messy, as they involve wires you don't need.

Wirelesses on the principles could work, but I don't like wirelesses as they essentially announce that some people are "chosen" and others are not.

Were you shooting with a real camera, i.e. one that is shoulder-held, you could always shoot the way I do -- use a wide lens, and hold the mic in your left hand. You can then aim the mic at whatever you choose, and the camera at something else. Takes some learning....There's a piece I wrote partly about this for Millimeter called "Roll Your Own" that you can download from We've made many many films this way, as have students of ours like Ross McElwee and Mark Rance. But it has limitations...

Note that the Schoeps is extremely sensitive to hand and cable noise, hard to hand hold well without practice. But still the best dialog mic by a mile. Rent one and try it.

Jeff "a Schoeps MS stereo pair is the official on-camera mic of
Kinetta" Kreines

(not officially, of course)

You might want to look into one or more boundary layer mics – flat plate with a condenser very close to it - same idea as the reflection mouse mics you may once have seen on the leading edges of a theatre stage - the idea is that the pickup os so close to the surface of the table that the direct sound and the sound reflected off of the table get to the mic at the same time - surprisingly good sound...

If you are moving around, maybe you could mix a couple of them on the table into a little mixer and feed that into a wireless xmittter to a receiver piggy-backed on your camer with the on-board mic going into your other channel

Sounds convoluted, but might work out

Bear in mind, I have been out of the sound game for a VERY long time and there may be better toys available now.

In the old days, Shure Brothers used to make a three or four channel gated compresser mixer for which you could set some parameters – like all AGC devices, it wasn't as good as a human but not without its advantages.

Consider putting a couple of PZM's on the ceiling - surprisingly useful in some situations, though a bit goofy

Mark Weingartner
LA based

I'd hang two hypercardioids, as Karl suggests, or put two PZMs on the table -- feeding wireless transmitters if cables will be a problem.

Don't forget that you also have options in post, such as:

- Raising your absolute level

- Filtering out low frequencies that nobody will miss because they're not present in the voices anyway.

- Notch-filtering specific room modes (resonances) and noises that have a single (or dominant) freqency

- Gating (or, rather, a judiciously small amount of expanding. You don't want to use hard gating!)

- Digital noise reduction

Probably none of these by itself will give you everything you want, but together they can make a big difference in cleanliness and intellgiblity, and they should not interact badly. However, they should be applied in the above order, followed by a final level adjustment.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

Mark H. Weingartner wrote :

>>Consider putting a couple of PZM's on the ceiling - surprisingly useful in >some situations, though a bit goofy

I can't imagine that you'd get acceptable dialog sound this way.
Better to have good sound with some off-mic problems than to have distant mud.

Good sound really is the result of a good mic in the right place...there's no getting around it.

Jeff Kreines

>>Better to have good sound with some off-mic problems than to have >distant mud.

While I am not disagreeing in the slightest, I have worked with three sound mixer/recordists in particular who have used boundary layer mics in odd ways to get usable sound...though generally not to the exclusion of other mics.

One job I gaffed a involved a bunch of people sitting around a pair of tables pushed together in the back room of a famous restaurant. It was shot two cam S16 to shoot 360 except where the two cameras were, and the mixer suspended some stout wooden panels from my overhead rig (a wooden rig of 2x4's and 1x3's supporting some paper lanterns and some other stuff). Affixed to the panels were two boundary level mics - in this situation, they were pretty effective, albeit not all the way to the ceiling.

Another use was a PZM on a board rigged on a stand as a primary in a group - as well as on tables or buried as mouse mics at various points.

Again, I am thinking of this as coverage for otherwise off-mic people, not to the exclusion of more directional controllable sources.

Doing this without a recordist/mixer is probably dicey, and the devil is in the details with these mics even more than lots of other micing techniques ( if anyone has appreciation for the specialized skills of the sound department, it is me, who left sound a million years ago to pursue less stressful things ) but in the right situation, they can be the right mics in the right place

Mark H. Weingartner

…Out on a limb, perhaps, but not sawing with too much gusto LA based MOS guy former mixer for "The All New Cotton Club, writing a new page in Jazz History!" among other venues .

{wait for the book, due to be written after all the people who could sue me are safely dead}

Not a shill for Crown or any other boundary mic supplier your mileage may vary - nothing is worse than the right solution to the wrong problem

Mark :

I agree that with a recordist one can use PZMs and other mics as supplemental mics -- but the situation was clearly one where Byron was having to shoot one-person (something I always do).

What's most important (and hardest to learn) is that one should keep one's rig as simple as possible -- and embrace the limitations.

Jeff "of course, you could run 12 mics into your Kinetta camera" Kreines

>>What's most important (and hardest to learn) is that one should keep >one's rig as simple as possible -- and embrace the limitations.

Can't agree more

>>Jeff "of course, you could run 12 mics into your Kinetta camera" Kreines

Not until I can take delivery of it...

Mark H. Weingartner

Byron Shah wrote:

>>I've never heard of an 'automatic' mixer (except for in-camera Auto Level >Controls)--is this something I can set up myself?

The automatic mixers that are used in this type of situation (conference room P.A. systems) have gate triggers for each channel that let you set a threshold that will turn on a channel once it sees the level that you have determined and or decide which has the highest signal and use only that signal.

The more sophisticated of the units will let you pre decide what conditions will switch the microphone(s) to the output. If you are stuck with two tracks I would put the auto mixed signal to one and your on camera microphone to the other. As to microphones I have a lot of experience with the Crown PCC 160 microphones the boundary microphones that sit on a table. They are a directional microphone that give off axis rejection. If there are hot spots in the room where people tend to stand and talk (in front of plans, etc.) then hanging shotguns would be the answer.

Lastly what about hiring a good sound man to setup all the mics and the auto mixer so you can have fun for days and days and days.

Richard Bakos
Studio One Inc.
25833 State Road 2
South Bend, In

I've never heard of an ...

>>'automatic' mixer (except for in-camera Auto Level Controls)--is this >something I can set up myself?

The automatic mixer of choice is made by Dan Dugan in San Francisco. He has patents on the technique and it works. Elegant.

Shure has a somewhat barbaric auto mixer at a much loweer price... Barbaric is the operative word.

Overhead Schoeps plants, BLM Schoeps on the table itself work exceptionally well. Crown PZM would be my second choice. Generally there are never enough wireless Lavs available to mic everyone and the RF "hits" may cripple a auto mixer.

Try to use plants &/or BLM/PZM with good mixing technique for a 2 track recording...Simple is usually better.

David Lezynski
HD Vision Engineer
815 Washington #1
Oakland CA 94607

Well I think we've given Byron at least enough to think about. Probably more than enough. A couple point from me and then I think I'm done with this thread:

Automatic mixers

Here are two that work fairly well and are worth at least thinking about:

Dan Dugan

Lectrosonics LecNet

Keeping is simple (as Jeff and others suggest) :

I'm a big fan of Jeff's work and that of others who work in similar ways. Consider watching some one-man-band docs that have small-group scenes and think if their audio worked fine for you or got in the way of your experiencing the film. If that approach will work for you, that'll save you tons of hassle (as Jeff said).

A hybrid approach :

Try to get everything into the camera with a mic setup similar to what Jeff suggests (in addition to the Schoeps, you might like the Sanken CS-1 mic). But in addition either wire everyone (there are only a few folks), or plant mics in the room. Record those tracks to say a Tascam DA-98, Laptop, DEVA, or something as safety. Then if you don't have some crucial dialog on the camera tape, you could hunt through your second system tracks to find what you need.

You're in LA, So maybe take your question to a good local audio dealer and talk to them for a while. For LA, I'm partial to Coffey Sound. But there's also Location and others.

Smart folks, decent rental rates, good advice. Could be helpful.

Since this material will comprise such a big part of your film, it'll really be worth testing in advance, if you can get access to the room. Rent a bunch of stuff, bring in some folks (perhaps the principals & also a sound person to help with setup), and experiment for a day or two. Then choose the approach that has the balance of simplicity and redundancy that you can live with.

Oh, and hire a good dialog editor for post. They can work small miracles.

What's the old Verite/Direct law? "The importance of a bit of dialog is inversely proportional to the quality of the recording."

To be clear: I'm not claiming any originality here. And I'm not dismissing any of the other posts. Nor am I claiming any special expertise, or pretending you don't know what you're doing.

This sounds like a fun project with some real challenges. Good luck and give us a report during production.

Jim Feeley


You are amazing, thank you for your excellent advice. The CML is an incredible resource.

Hopefully I'll be able to hire a pro to rig the room, and put wireless mics on all subjects to record backup audio to multi track recorder via automatic or human mixer.

A few questions :

How does recording to laptop work?

The camera I'm shooting with (Panasonic DVX 100A) is not shoulder-mounted but rather wrist-straining, so I'm not going to try the Jeff Kreines virtuoso mic-in-one-hand-camera-in-other approach.

I'm thinking to mount two mics on camera, short shotgun (Audio Technica 4073)--to reach across the room- and hypercardiod Sennheiser MKH 50 or Schoepps MK41-for close action. Does this sound like a decent plan?

Thanks again,

Byron Shah

>> How does recording to laptop work?

With something like :

Or any of several such devices. Depending on a few factors, this could be nice because you could record to a big-old hard drive, burn off to DVD-R at the end of the day, and easily start/stop recording via the keyboard. And if you could leave everything set up in the room, that could be nice. Obviously there's a bit more to it. But not tons more.

>>The camera I'm shooting with (Panasonic DVX 100A)
>I'm thinking to mount two mics on camera, short shotgun (Audio >Technica 4073)--to reach across the room

I don't know if you'll find a big-enough difference in reach btw the 4073 and the Schoeps/Sennheiser. I have a 4073, and while I like it in small verby rooms (esp considering the price), I wouldn't rely on it for across-the-room dialog. And it doesn't match wonderfully with the Schoeps (at least w/o eq, etc). Perhaps something a bit longer would work. But that depends on the size of the room, the mics, and all that.

Also, that'll start to be a bit of weight to carry. But I haven't ever tried two mics on a camera (other than in an MS setup.

Seems like a good audio dealer could be helpful here. Or someone else on CML.

Jim Feeley

Byron Shah writes:

>>How does recording to laptop work?

There are many options -- but a purpose-built multitrack recorder will be less risky.

If you use a recorder placed outside the room, you should at least have a safety feed (say, a mix of the two most important mics) fed to the camera via wireless...and feed an onboard hypercardioid into the other channel.

As for using shotgun mics -- you can sometimes orient them so they pick up more distant voices by directionality and nearby voices by proximity. In other words, keep your distant targets centered in the mic pattern and your closer targets 45 to 90 degrees off center. That can go a long way toward evening out your relative levels.

It may not be possible in your situation, but also consider hanging sound blankets wherever you can.

>>The camera I'm shooting with (Panasonic DVX 100A) is not shoulder->mounted but rather wrist-straining

For this kind of martathon gig you should really consider a good shoulder brace with a descending waist-rod that can take all the weight off your arms.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

OK so I'm curious, why no sound engineer allowed ? It seems well insane to put it mildly.

Or is just no one on boom. But you've got a room full of architects, it's not a surgical procedure. Unless you know something the rest of us don't.....

I like Crown PZM's also, but "unattended" ? (I knew an audio guy who did one person band recordings of focus groups as bread & butter gig and used them but the video camera was fixed, locked off, he concentrated on audio).

Sam Wells

>>Unless you know something the rest of us don't....

Yes it's absurd, and yes I know something I cannot share that at least partially explains why.

I'm exploring having a sound mixer in another room, mixing together the various mics...

Really this is just twisted penance I'm paying for being a DP who has said time and again :

"If you want good/professional/decent/useable audio, you must have a sound person."…and in particular on small-format shoots where good audio makes the pictures look so much better.

Anyway, thanks again for all the excellent suggestions.


Byron Shah

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