Let’s start out with what to listen for in a recording location. Naturally, we’re always going to be looking for a space that isn’t going to introduce too many environmental and human generated artifacts into the recording, but the physical layout and acoustic properties of a location can contribute as much character to your recordings as microphone selection…sometimes even more. On top of that, recording vehicles and weaponry (what you’ve specialized in) isn’t something you can do just anywhere. So, what do you listen for when scouting potential recording sites?
The biggest problems I face when searching for a recording location is traffic, especially airports and expressways. I’ve scheduled multiple jobs where I had to find ideal locations away from these environments. Fortunately I live and work in a quieter area away so I don’t have to travel too far. However, that rare Ferrari I need to record is located in the middle of a downtown so it’s crucial to make generous car owner friends who are willing to drive an hour or so to a quieter location. Most microphones I’ve tried are quite sensitive in capturing unwanted background sounds. This is why I often use my Sennheiser MKH-418s M/S shotgun mic. For isolation with a mono mic I use either my Neumann 82i or the Rode NTG8. On bigger budget jobs I will rent the Neumann RSM-191s mic (probably one of the best field recording mics ever made).
Randy Coppinger has been dealing with voice and microphones for over sixteen years and is currently Dialog Production Supervisor at Disney Publishing Worldwide. He is active on twitter and his blog with studio anecdotes and thoughts concerning asset management, microphones, acoustics, recording and anything else related to audio and voice. In this interview we tackle topics ranging from microphones to voice talent, organisation and quality.
DS: Randy, thanks for giving us your time. Let’s start with your background. What got you started?
Thanks for asking me. It’s an honor and pleasure to share with you.
I was fascinated with my father’s reel-to-reel tape recorder as a child, which seems like the beginning of my love for audio production (I still have the Astatic microphones he used to record his singing quartet). When I was in college I worked at the radio station as a DJ, and eventually a student leader for all of our audio production. I became interested in the people who put the music on the discs we were spinning, which lead to an internship at a recording studio here in Southern California. I started out answering the phone and making coffee in the evenings. Then one fateful evening after all of the sessions ended my mentor, Chris Austin, poked her head around corner and asked me, “Would you help me put the microphones away?” After a few times striking mikes I learned their names and where they were stored. That meant I could also help get microphones for setups. Doing those setups allowed me to learn how each of the engineers positioned microphones for different instruments. I became a full time employee, assisting on sessions and learning from all of these talented people who worked at the studio. Eventually I was engineering my own sessions, and audio post production had become an important revenue stream for the studio including working on some of the early DAWs.
While AES42 compliant digital microphones are relatively new to the audio world, they’re not “brand-spanking” new. There have been several on the market for a few years now, and new ones are slowly being added as well. For all the time they’ve been available though, I had never heard one in action…not in a controlled environment anyway (the AES show floor is hardly the place for a comprehensive demonstration). I also didn’t know anyone who had spent time evaluating any. There’s always a lot of excitement about the feature set and manufacturer stated capabilities for this category of microphone, but just how much of that is genuine…and how much is the marketing machine up to its usual tricks?
At the AES convention in San Francisco this past October, I spoke to the people at Sennheiser about this very issue. They were more than happy to set me up with some demo gear that I could try out. I recently received nearly $8,000 worth of their top of the line equipment from them, and my biggest regret is that I had to send it all back. Part of that regret is because the gear truly is impressive, but I also feel like I’ve only started to scratch the surface. That’s the larger regret for me. Life waits for no man (or woman), and schedules have a way of moving forward with or without you. So I restricted myself to testing a limited set of features, in the hope that it would give me a view that would be representative of digital microphones in general.
Javier Zumer has a cool post up on his blog about Using Shotgun Microphones Indoors.
I have been researching an idea that I have been hearing for a while:
It’s not a good idea to use a shotgun microphone indoor.
I want to check this question out and, eventually, make some tests. Here we go!
The main goal to these devices is to enhance the axis captation and to attenuate the sound coming form the sides. In other words, make the mic the more directional as possible in order to avoid unwanted noise and ambience.
To achieve this, the system cancels unwished side signals delaying them. So, the operating principle is based in phase cancellation. At first the system had a series of tubes with different sizes that allows the axis signals to arrive in the same time but forces the off-axis signals to arrive delayed. This idea, created by the prolific Harry Olson eventually evolved in the modern shotgun.
Crash Course In Location Sound is a two hour live webinar that will give you an overview of location sound for film and television taught by Ric Viers, author of The Sound Effects Bible. This is your opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade as well as insider secrets to lav placement, booming techniques, plant mics and more. There will be a Q&A session, so bring your questions!
Registration is only $29.99 per person with limited seating.
Sign up for Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 9am PST
Sign up for Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 6pm PST
One attendee will win a FREE Microphone Kit from Rode Microphones (valued at $1,200*) that includes:
- (1) NTG-3 Shotgun Microphone
- (1) Blimp
- (1) Boom Pole
- (1) Boom Pole Bag
More info at The Sound Effects Bible