July 19, 2009

Sine Language – episode 116

This week, a short episode featuring a heap of positive feedback on the Integrate ’09 vendors episode.
Then, Bomar asked if he should buy an audio interface with some DSP that he can track through, or should he just record clean and use plugins later,
and David McKeitch brought us up to speed on his indie-film tracking project.

Oh, and a reminder that there’ll be no podcasts at all next week, as Cath, Max and I are away on holiday.

July 9, 2009

Recording interviews with field recorders

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve recorded several interviews at 2 different trade shows. Those interviews have ended up in episodes of both Shutters Inc and Sine Lanugage.
In the wake of this, I’ve had a couple of enquiries from listeners as to my technique for recording interviews on flash-based field recorders like the Zoom H2.
These listeners have commented that they never seem to achieve the same level of results as I have managed, and have asked for some insights.
So, I shall endeavour to outline the pitfalls as I understand them.

First off, tempting though it may be, do not record to mp3!
Remember, mp3 is a lossy format, and we don’t ever want to save production audio (clips which still need further work before release) in a lossy format.
And for that matter, don’t record at 16 bit wav either.
No, your preferred option is to record 24 bit wav.
Yes, it will chew up your memory cards quicker, but memory cards are really not that expensive these days, so carrying a couple of extras shouldn’t represent too much of a burden, either physically or financially.
If your recorder of choice does not offer 24 bit wav, then fall back to recording 16 bit wav instead.

Secondly, your recorder SHOULD offer a choice of microphone gain sensitivities.
The Zoom H2 offers low, medium and high.
Low will turn the sensitivity down (useful for really loud sources), medium is what it sounds like, and high turns the sensitivity up (for really quiet sound sources).
I have found that the medium setting usually works well for these trade show interviews, but obviously, judge each on a case by case basis.
Remember, we are recording at 24 bit, so we don’t NEED to peg the meters at zero!
Peaks of -20dB to -12dB are just fine!

Third, if your recorder of choice has a headphone output (I don’t imagine there’d be any which do not, but you never know), then absolutely have some form of monitoring with you when you are recording.
This may be a set of lightweight street headphones, or even a decent set of earbuds.
Me? I use my trusty old Sennheiser CX300′s, with just one earbud stuck in one ear.
The reason for that is that through that ear, I can hear what the microphone is picking up, and through my other ear, I’m hearing the world around me.

Now, because you are monitoring (via your earbud) what the microphone of the recorder is hearing, you are able to move the recorder around as necessary througout the interview to make sure the talent stays ‘on mic’.
Now, you might be thinking that people aren’t going to like having a flash recorder stuck in (and moving around in front of) their face.
I would contend that if they have agreed to do an interview, then they are probably going to be ok with it.
My technique is to hold the recorder at chest height between myself and the talent.
That way, you SHOULDN’T get any plosives (pops), but the mic should be able to hear the talent fairly well, while keeping the ambient noise reasonably under control.
If you talent is a very soft speaker, then you may have to move the recorder closer toward them, and that may feel a little uncomfortable at first.
If the talent keeps backing away from the mic, stop the interview, explain to them that you NEED the mic that close in order to hear what they are saying without being drowned by background noise, then recommence the interview.
Thing is, MOST of the time, the person you’ll be interviewing is from the marketing department or the sales team and they generally don’t speak that quietly!!

OK, so now you’re back at your desktop (or in your hotel room working on your laptop) and ready to edit and mix.
Drag the files into your DAW of choice.
DO NOT go and normalise the waveforms!
Remember, they’re 24 bit files, so it’s all good.
In your multitrack (which is also mixing at 24 bits or higher, right? RIGHT??), lay up your interviews where you want them.
Adjust the gain so you’ve got peaks around -20dBFS to -15dBFS off each channel. At this point, you should have NO processing on your master output.
Put in some per channel automation to keep each interview roughly in the bacllpark in terms of output level. You don’t have to get too finicky with it, just ‘in the ballpark’ will be good enough at this stage.
Now, if your final audio piece is going to feature other pieces of audio as well, I’d suggest setting up a submix (buss) for just the interviews to go through.
Then, slap a peak limiter across that buss with an output level set for -15dBFS, and the threshold set so that you’re getting about 4-6dB of gain reduction on that peak limiter.
Then, AFTER the peak limiter, put a compressor with a moderate attack (~20-30ms), moderate release (~100-150ms), a medium ratio (3:1-5:1) and again, enough threshold to give you another 3-6dB of gain reduction.
Your interview submix should now be exhibiting tightly controlled dynmaics, but not sounding squashed.
Go ahead and mix it in with all your other audio bits so that everything sounds roughly equal in apparent volume.
Slap a peak limiter across your master output, and you should be cookin’ with gas!
Have fun!

October 5, 2008

Sine Language – episode 098

This week, a ton of e-mail to answer from the last month or so,
including some reminiscing about the transition from analogue to digital within the radio industry through the late ’80′s and early ’90′s,
Ron Eastwood tried recording quasi-binaural on a boom box,
Jim Addie sent in a link to an interesting article on the merits, or lack thereof, of recording at higher sample rates and longer wordlengths (when I recorded this episode, I commented that I hadn’t read the entire article. I now have, and have the feeling that at some point in the past, I’ve been pointed to it, and have actually read it. Still, it was good to read it again!),
Greg Andreson (who is all “Bruced” out) wrote to tell me about his Zooms (the H2 and the H4!) and how much he likes them, and to comment on the wildly different standards of audio production that exist within the podcaster community,
and Pascal asked about sidechain compression.
One free VST plugin that I know of which does sidechain compression is Sidekick.
And finally, a bit of a chat about what is in store for episode 100.

March 2, 2008

Sine Language – episode 084

Filed under: !Podcasts,Cache,Defragmentation,H2,Sine Language,Zoom — Bruce Williams @ 22:13

This week, a warning from Bruce McKinnon about the Zoom H2,
plus another e-mail from Paul Fischer regarding laptop audio. This time, about the capacity of the cache on your hard disc drives, plus a warning about disc fragmentation.

January 20, 2008

Sine Language – episode 079

This week, a few listener e-mails to answer.
Curtis from the “Dingy Room in a Nowhere Town” podcast asked about mouth clicks and how to deal with them.

Mark Hobold from the “JapanesePod101” podcast is very happy with the Zoom H2. Some of his recordings made with the H2 can be heard here.

And Vassya asked about which frequency range should be used for what instrument? He also included a link to this chart which shows the range of frequencies covered by which instruments.

July 22, 2007

Sine Language – episode 067

This week’s episode was inspired by a comment on the Zoom Handy H2 portable recorder blog post.
Joseph (from English Mojo) asked about what to look for, and what to avoid, in a field recorder.
After running through a checklist, I moved on to a discussion of how to calculate data storage requirements based on given sampling rates, bit resolutions and channels.
Here are some of my notes:

1hr @ 44k 16 bit stereo = 10MB/min or 605MB/hr
1hr @ 44k 32 bit stereo = 20MB/min or 1210MB/hr
1hr @ 48k 16 bit stereo = 10.9MB/min or 659MB/hr
1hr @ 48k 32 bit stereo = 21.9MB/min or 1318MB/hr
1hr @ 44k 16 bit mono = 5MB/min or 302MB/hr
1hr @ 32k 16 bit mono = 3.6MB/min or 219MB/hr
1hr @ 22k 16 bit mono = 2.5MB/min or 151MB/hr

MP3 (CBR 320)
1hr @ 44k 16 bit stereo = 2.29MB/min or 137.3MB/hr

July 17, 2007

Zoom Handy H2 portable recorder

Filed under: H2,Sine Language,Zoom — Bruce Williams @ 11:39

Looking to record “in the field”? You might want to check out the latest offering from Zoom… the H2.

Looks pretty neat!

H2 recorder from Zoom