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Keeping it simple (KISS) - using as little stuff as possible
  • Thanks to my experience with using an iPad for a music recording (and how the simplicity of capturing / editing / uploading all from the one device, allows you to focus on what you're capturing) I was inspired to keep it very simple for my recent shoot.

    We spent a day in a church "playing" with some ancient music and various instruments. The day was for invited musicians and wasn't intended to have a serious outcome of any sort, just to be fun. While it was nice to be able to record some of it, it would have been totally wrong to throw a load of mics, tripods and lighting gear at this - it would have changed it from being a get-together. Equally, just in case anything turned out to be good, the iPad wouldn't quite cut it!

    So I kept it simple: I did audio recordings all day with the Zoom and used a handheld GH2 for just one item, where our singer improvised to a written text. This was (obviously!) a single pass. I did a few cutaways afterwards. The improvisation - both the music and the audio quality - was wonderful. The "keep it simple" approach was perfect for that day. The audio from this video is making it onto UK radio soon and we're planning to make a whole CD with this singer. Given the amazing amount of stuff we got (not just this, but another complete item incorporating a recording someone had sent us from the US, and some fantastic sound effects we've created for a stage presentation, using our voices) I think it worked out pretty well for a minimal use of gear. So sometimes the question must be: "What's the least stuff I can use?"

    Of course, having a solid gold instrument and an attractive singer helps so it's worth a look at this very short section, even if only for that. The language is Akkadian and the words are around 2000 years old. I used GH2 / 14-140 / Cake. Looking forward to doing a proper grade of the whole thing when I get the time.

    For those on ipods, the URL is

  • 5 Replies sorted by
  • Your thinking re: KISS was spot on, Mark. This looks and sounds real nice.

  • good stuff Mark. Love to see and hear more. As an audio guy how do you like the zoom? I heard it's better for music than dialogue as it has a high noise floor. What's your take on that? I'm very much into the keep it simple idea, especially for the no budget feature land. Good dialogue sound is mostly mic placement after all

  • @sherwood Thank you! I didn't know what we'd end up with on the day, but I have a feeling a ton of equipment would have got in the way. So (but who knows?) having only a small amount of stuff contributed to a great musical result.

    @davhar. I love the Zoom. I guess it now counts as a bit "old"! I got it to replace my antique but very small DAT recorder, because by the time I scrabbled round finding mics and tapes, any stuff I wanted to capture was long gone. I agree with everything you say about good mic placement, and to be honest the zoom (I think) is great. I've never found the noise floor a particular problem, although I have 24 input's worth of dedicated soundcards which I would use for anything serious. And moving a mic to the right place is probably going to make a lot more difference than changing one bit of equipment for another.

  • "...24 input's worth of dedicated soundcards..." What does that mean? Are they in the computer for cleaning up location sound? What kind of mic would you use for booming dialogue with the Zoom? Thanks

  • Hi @davhar - oh, sorry, I didn't explain that very well. What I mean is that for a serious music gig I could have brought my soundcards along, which allow me to record up to 24 simultaneous channels into my computer - we were doing lots of different stuff in different parts of the building and I could just have set up loads of mics. But I decided not to throw a bunch of equipment at this particular shoot.

    For dialogue I have a Sennheiser gun mic which I sometims use with my HDV camcorders - while not the greatest image quality, it's great for grabbing stuff on the fly with the minimum of wasted frames, with the mic sitting on top and plugged straight into the camcorder. I've also used it with the Zoom in 4 channel mode, feeding one of the Zoom's inputs while recording stereo on the Zoom's built-in mics so you can bring these into your editor and mix between them. Here's an example of where I did that, for a piece about arranging music - the Sennheiser is just out of shot below the bottom of frame (it was a very reverberant building), and the zoom was on the floor by the harp. I did the speech and music examples in one take, mixing between the gun mic (narration) and the stereo pair (playing), and I was on my own for this shoot so had to go minimal. Video was on GH2 in this case (stock firmware).

    I repeated the opening of the piece for the wide shot at 7.32 - I removed the Zoom and just tried to play at the same speed without hearing any playback (so I had to just guess at the timing) and amazingly it synced up. Basically, when doing multiple passes, you must get sync sound for the closest shots, as they're the ones you're most going to need to be in sync. Then I move the mics away and shoot the rest to playback (or just try and play at the same speed, in this case). You can get away with looser sync for these more distant shots.