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Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording
Illustration by John Hersey

Sending tone and testing levels


From:

Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording

with Anthony Q. Artis

Video: Sending tone and testing levels

So now we've got everything hooked up properly. So this is an important point right here, and that is So I'm going to take a listen and as I'm listening, I'm just And as I'm talking into my wireless microphone, I'm going to This is about all I'm doing, during the whole production.

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Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording
1h 23m Appropriate for all Nov 20, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Audio is one the most important but least appreciated aspects of filmmaking. Your audience will notice if you don't put the same care and attention you pay to your visuals into your audio. In this how-to course, Anthony Q. Artis walks through many of the most common audio recording scenarios. Think of it like an audio "cookbook" with step-by-step recipes for situations like conference panels, stage shows, and narrative dialog scenes. Anthony also shows you how to set up mixers, wireless mics, and booms, and make sure your camera is correctly set up to capture audio. He wraps up with troubleshooting tips covering a range of issues, from wind noise to echoes, and shows how to fix the problems you can't solve on set in post production.

Topics include:
  • Hooking up a mixer
  • Selecting the right mic for the job—table, lavalier, or boom
  • Using wireless mics
  • Hiding mics
  • Mic'ing the crowd at an event
  • Capturing the action up close
  • Matching visual perspective to audio
  • Dealing with background noise
  • Reducing rumble, window, and hiss in post
Subjects:
Video Audio for Video Shooting Video
Author:
Anthony Q. Artis

Sending tone and testing levels

So now we've got everything hooked up properly. And we've made sure that we're getting a signal from our microphone to our camera. Now we want to make sure that we're getting a good and clean audio signal to our camera. All I was concerned about before, just making sure I'm getting some audio. Now I'm going to go ahead and clean it up make sure I'm getting proper audio. So to do, that I need to make sure the mixer and the camera are speaking the same language. This is important concept to understand because this is an analogue mixer, however this is a digital camera, when it comes to audio.

So this is analogue audio, and digital audio. The only difference between the two is a scale. So these are both measuring audio, the exact same way. But using two different scales. So I like to tell people to think of it as the difference between the English system and the metric system. There's a big difference between inches and centimeters, and you'll want to make sure you understand that difference. So the same thing on these scales. So if you take a look at the scale, one way you can always tell whether you have an analogue or a digital scale, is by looking at the actual numbers on it.

So, on a analog scale, it's designed to peak out at zero. So, zero is a sweet spot on this scale. That's where we want most of our audio to be peaking at. And notice that it's just to the right of center. However, on a digital scale, if you take a look at it, you'll notice that the zero on the digital scale is all the way at the far end. So you can see they're slightly different. So we want to make sure they match up. So what we want to do is, send tone. This is the most important part of setting up a mixer. If you don't send tone and match it to the camera, your audio could be hopelessly over modulated, or under modulated, or only bad things can happen.

So we have to send tone. Very important procedure. First off, make sure you take your headphones off when you send tone. Because it will be a ear-piercing tone. So I'm going to turn that on right now. And you guys can probably hear that little beep coming out of the headphones. And you can see that's set perfectly at zero. That's exactly where I want it. Now some mixers might actually have output nob here to adjust the output level. If that's the case go ahead and turn that up or down until it's exactly at zero. Fortunately, on the sound devices mixer they're set up to be hardwired at zero all the time.

So coming out of here, coming over to the camera, I'm going to go ahead and turn this up to the hash marks. Now the hash marks on this right here represent minus 12 db. So this is an important point right here, and that is to know the secret to matching these two up is to understand which number matches up to which on the other scale. So zero on the analog scale is equivalent to minus 12 db or minus 20 db.

I know that might be a little bit confusing, so I'm going to come back to the minus 20 db in a second and explain that. But, minus 12 db is what that hash mark represents on this camera. Now unfortunately on this Panasonic AF1 100 just going to turn down the tone there for you. Unfortunately on this Panasonic AF1 100, we don't have the actual number markers on our scale. So we had to check the manual to make sure that we knew what those hash marks stood for. And those hash marks stand for minus 12 db. So that's exactly what I want. When I'm sending tone, I want the mixture to stay zero.

And I want my digital audio meter on my camera to say minus 12. So now I have matched them up, once I have done that I can turn my tone off. And now, I am no longer going to touch these audio settings on the camera because I've now calibrated the two. So this is now my audio control center, my mixer and all of my audio levels are going to be set from the mixer not from the camera. In fact it's such a big deal that I recommend highly that you just tape off these levels once you set tone so they can't actually be touched.

If anybody comes along and they're not you know, sure or don't know what they are doing and they end up moving these marks after you set tone could throw off all your audio settings. So, that's another reason that we want to return audio to the mixer. To make sure we're able to hear, if any of those things happen. So periodically during production, once I've done that I'm just going to turn my tone on every hour, every half hour or so. And look back at my scale and make sure no buttons were accidentally hit, very important to do that. Now I'm going to go ahead and set-up the levels on my microphone. So, I'm going to go ahead and put on my headphones and just listen, make sure I'm getting a good clean signal.

But really at this point I'm looking at the actual meters. So I'm going to take a listen and as I'm listening, I'm just going to hold this mic at approximately the distance that it would be. And what I'm looking for, is that I'm peaking right around about a zero. So it’s not an exact, you know, sign. It’s not always going to be hitting on the zero, sometimes it's going to be a little bit below. If I get a little loud, I would like this it might go a little bit over but that’s okay. I want it to be averaging hitting the high mark right there at the zero. So, that’s my mic on input one that looks fine. Now I'm going to switch over to my other microphone.

And as I'm talking into my wireless microphone, I'm going to reach for Input two and just find good healthy levels. So I'll hold this at about the level it would be. And obviously I'd be doing this with talent, not necessarily doing this myself. So, I'm going to turn up these levels and as I'm speaking we can kind of see where we're getting healthy levels right about there is looking pretty good for, this microphone to me. And they should more or less be in line but right there I'm pretty happy with those levels obviously once the actual production starts I'm going to be adjusting these as I go.

Now when it comes to mixing. By the way the job of mixing what we just did right there, that's the hardest part. This is an intimidating thing for a lot of people, I know because its complicated and there is a lot of moving parts and a lot of things you could get wrong. But once its hooked up, I want to show you what the job of mixing entails. This is about all I'm doing, during the whole production. The rest of the day, once this is hooked up, I'm not doing anything else after I've sent tone other than making slight tweaks to this. If I've set my levels properly, I really don't have to do a whole lot of, you know, I'm not mixing like a DJ up here.

I'm just, tweaking it as I go. As the general tone of the conversation gets louder, I'm coming down a little bit. As it gets a little softer, I'm coming up a little bit. But if you set your levels properly, you shouldn't have to do a whole lot of fussing with these buttons as you go. It's normally just keeping an eye on your levels. So, that is how we hook up our mixer. Now I want to go back to the confusing point that I made earlier about the scales. So this is a analog mixer, comes out at zero. And on the digital scale we want it to be at minus 12 db or minus 20 db.

Now what's the difference? The difference is real simple. It's personal preference. So if you want to be a little more conservative and you're worried about your levels over modulating, then you might want to set your camera at minus 20 db. if you're more worried about getting soft sounds, then I recommend you do what I do. Instead of that minus 12 db. Every sound person I know has a preference. Some of us are minus 20 people, some of us are minus 12 people. And I know some people that like it in between. And if you look at the scale, the difference is actually pretty negligible. It's a couple of clicks on the actual scale, so it's not as great of a difference as it sounds.

so decide what works best for you minus 12 or minus 20. And if you're working with other people, make sure you ask the audio engineer or camera person or director or whoever what they would prefer you set the audio levels at. Most people will already have a preference. So once you've done that, you should have a pretty happy mixing experience.

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