Project: Live to Multi-track, Rig Setup

I’m actually traveling right now for this project. A couple of weeks ago I began compiling the rig I was going to use to record a live-to-multitrack audio project. When doing the vocal recordings, I tested what became my final rig.

Ta da…

The rack and the laptop in my studio for testing.

The rack and the laptop in my studio for testing.

So, this set up will give me 18 microphone preamp inputs plus 8 analogue line inputs. Hopefully that will be enough for a 4-man band. I will find out tomorrow night when I can start setting up.

Here’s a closer look.

Live to Multitrack Rig, Closer Look

A closer look at the live rig which includes 2 motu units and a focusrite preamp. The top is a passive mic splitter from ART.

From top to bottom:

ART Passive 2-way mic splitter
– This will allow me as much autonomy from the live sound system. I took a peek at the room tonight (it’s set up for another group) and there was a nice ground loop hum… yippee!

MOTU 828 MkII – this was a hand-me-down from a friend’s studio. Since I already had the 8Pre, it was nice to be able to firewire chain together and need no extra drivers. This box gives me the 2 mic pre inputs plus 8 analogue ins. But it ALSO gives me way more routing options for alternate mixes to headphones, etc. Major plus.

MOTU 8Pre – 8 mic preamps with a firewire connection. Pretty straightforward and has been the center of my studio for the past 4 years or so (after migrating away from ProTools).

Focusrite Octopre – 8 mic preamps, focusrite style. Using ADAT optical to connect to the 828. I could connect it to the 8Pre too… or I could purchase another one and easily add another 8 mic inputs. This is the newest bit of kit I have. Looking forward to it using it.

Most likely tracking in Logic Pro 9.

One more note:

I think I will have more than 8 channels of audio that need to be split away from the live setup. So, I made 5 passive Y-cable splitters. I know they’re not the awesomest, but I made them. However, I don’t anticipate needing to use more than 1 or 2 because I think I will be mic’ing for the recording more than what they will use for the house mix.

Will update more about microphones and developments as they go during this project!

Project: Vocal Comping

Vocal Comping

I know I’m behind the times and still using version 9, but I still get a great kick out of weaving together a good vocal comp.

Recently I’ve been doing some vocal track recordings. All the musicians are in another town, but the vocalist is here. So, she’s been coming in and doing some of the vocal tracks. Getting back into more of the music side of multimedia production has been a joy for me!

Some things which have changed since I first started in recording 15 years ago:

  • Running a mix to DropBox and being able to listen to it in virtually any environment – we used to be amazed at being able to burn to a CD recorder and listen in the car!
  • The pitch correction software has gotten pretty spectacular. I use Melodyne by Celemony. Just the light version… but still amazing.
  • The ability to collaborate with musicians all over the world. I know that sounds like so 2005 and people have been doing it but I was not doing it… so… it is amazing to me.

Something else that amazes me? How stinking small audio files are compared to video files! I’ve returned from video shoots with 250 GB or more. A whole audio project and 15 GB, with all revisions maintained for archiving? Gosh… sign me up!

Anyway, the screen shot above is from one of the vocal sessions I recorded a couple of weeks ago. The girl can sing better than that but time was short for her and she’s tired of working on this project so, compromisio! I really like how easy it is to cut a comp track in Logic. Maybe it’s that easy in other software, too. I haven’t found it to be simple in Audition – but that software seems more suited to broadcast and audio for video situations, or at least that’s how I use it most.

Experience: Training Video Storytellers

I’m currently preparing for a trip to Thailand in late March to be a part of a training team for new video storytellers from across different parts of Asia.

Last year’s training was a blast! I was lead on the video training and we lead the students through a 4-day film school. Everything from the tech of their cameras to the concept of story.

The team I worked most closely with was the beginners. They really seemed to get the most out of it. We worked on a script and a storyboard and shot list during the first two days.

Students' Shot List

A photo of the shot list created by our students.

Story Board Drawings

The students’ story board drawings.

These two documents really helped the students to focus during the shooting and it encouraged them so much to see their ideas go from abstract to concrete reality.

The crew was very eager to learn. We used their cameras and helped them to learn easy tricks for lighting and shading.

I’m helping with the lighting during one of the final shots of the afternoon (orange shirt on the ground).

Looking forward to more this year!

Project: Audio Stories

Recently, big hopes for a video story-telling project fell through. I was left with a deadline and nothing with which to meet it.

After consulting with a friend and the client, an idea came about to turn the video interviews into narrative audio stories, a la NPR.

The first go at it was… disappointing at best. I just wasn’t catching the story arch, the audio wasn’t adding anything to the copy. It was just a mess.

So after a small break from it, I came back in and was able to refocus. Completely deleted the other drafts out of my mind and started pouring over the script transcriptions looking for each individual’s story. It was amazing how the little break helped me to have clarity. I wrote a draft and a friend helped me edit it. The first story came off without much of a hitch. I did some audio narration work and spliced in segments of the audio from the original interviews.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed those stories here due to privacy with the client.

The final product was 4 audio stories and the :60 Promo Video.

Experience: Two Camera Interview with Short Turnaround

I’ve been gaining a lot of experience doing the solo 2-camera interview with 2-system audio. My technique is a lot like what Media Storm uses for their 3-camera setup. The only thing is that many times, I end up doing it solo. I have considered adding a third camera like a Go-Pro and using the wi-fi iPhone app or just using my iPhone. Just haven’t quite had the opportunity to do that yet.

This most recent trip was no different – I was going solo again. This trip, however, was quite unexpected. The client was a man who had spent almost a decade with his family living in a part of the Middle East where they had grown to love the people and for them, those people were family. About 18 months ago, the man’s wife was diagnosed with a terminal disease and she needed more medical treatment than they could acquire in country.

The man sensed his wife’s time was drawing to a close and asked if there was any way I could help facilitate it so that one of their best friends could speak at the funeral. As it happened, she passed 2 days after I got the first email.

I bought a ticket that morning and was on my way to another country a few hours east of here the next morning.

In my carry-on:

2 5kmkii bodies
1 24-105 Lens
1 70-200 Lens
1 24mm as a backup
1 Zoom H4n Recorder + remote & AC
1 Beyerdynamic Omni wired lav
1 Sennheiser shotgun + rycote
1 Sony Headphones
1 Omni light
1 Dedo light
1 Sescom Zoom to DSLR cable adapter with monitor tap
Batteries & etc.

In my checked bag:
2 Mic cables
1 SM58
2 light stands
1 tabletop mic stand
1 Manfrotto tripod head
1 Gitzo carbon Body
1 Sachtler tripod
1 Small Softbox
1 Large Softbox
Extra bulbs, filter paper, etc.
1 partial roll of gaff tape
1 Universal power strip.

My 0645 flight was cancelled and I was rebooked for a 1250 flight. That cut my trip down from 25 hours wheels-down to wheels-up to a whopping 19 hours.

The passing of this man’s wife meant that there would be a deadline coming quickly. That was exactly 56 hours after my initial flight was supposed to leave.

So, I arrived. We had dinner and I got to know the interviewee a little bit. All of this was through a translator as it was in a language I do not know.

I set up a two-camera setting with two lights and the audio was a simple omni lav.

A simple 2-camera setup.

A production image from a recent 2-camera solo shoot. Photo redacted to protect the client’s privacy. ©2014 lbmultimedia

As soon as the shooting was done, I copied the audio file off the Zoom, converted them to MP3 and uploaded them to a Wuala folder for the translators to get to work. The time zone helped in our favor on this as it was almost midnight at the shooting place but it was early afternoon for the translator.

After I copied the audio, I copied off the video cards and got to work on syncing. I really am grateful for the Premiere audio sync feature in the new CC version! It worked like a charm.

I took the newly synced timelines and added them all to one timeline. After all that, I packed up my gear.

I was surprised that the english translations were coming back so quickly. They seemed to go well. I worked with the translator to make some edits. We made some decisions about the final content of the video and then sent the English script to the VO actor who was graciously waiting on standby.

I went to bed around 2 AM.

I woke around 8 (overslept!) and there were audio files coming in from the guy doing the VO recording. They sounded great. Now all I needed to do was to sync English with a language I didn’t know! I was amazed at how easily this went.

I started working with my translator beside me but then we ran out of time and I had to dash off to the airport.

There were still some English VOs to download but I didn’t have time before leaving. Amazingly, I found a free wifi at the airport, downloaded the remaining files and boarded the plane.

I started working as soon as we hit 10,000 feet and was cutting and pasting video and audio. By the time I landed, I was probably 50% done with my edits. I took a cab from the airport to my office and started working almost immediately.

For the audio, I used Audition to do some sweetening, some clip fades, and ducking on the original language track.

The two cameras totally saved me in having to make all the video cuts I had. Three probably would have been even MORE helpful (note to self for next time…).

All in all, I didn’t have to pull a true all-nighter and the 18-minute eulogy/funeral sermon was completed and uploaded long before my deadline (meaning a couple of hours, but when your whole production cycle is 56 hours, that’s a lot of time!).

Experience: Working with After Effects for a Photo-Video Slideshow

At the end of 2013, I worked on a :60 promo video for a client*. I had a direction in mind that I wanted to go and Motion Array had a template that seemed to fit.

The Photo Show template was a great jumping off point for me. This was my first real foray into using After Effects in this way. It is quite complex and the template was very helpful in getting me over the hurdles of creating the looks.

I found it tedious but easy to work through the layers, adjust the time, delete some layers, adjust the keyframes… etc.

I don’t know if I’m at the point in After Effects that I could create anything more than titles in it on my own. But, I do really enjoy using it. So, looking for more in the future.

*Due to privacy with some clients and the nature of where I live, some work might only be a screen shot or a brief blog posting about a project.

Tutorials: Getting Good Audio Levels

This tutorial is about getting good audio levels. I’m using a Zoom H4n audio recorder but that isn’t as important as the concept behind using your meters to help you record good quality audio to tape.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below or via the Vimeo channel.

Tutorials: Converting VCDs to MP4s

Another tutorial for you… and by you, I understand that I am targeting a very narrow audience here. Not many people even know what VCDs were, much less do they care about converting them to other formats. But, for any of us who have spent time outside of America in the late 90s, early 2000′s, VCDs were the easiest way to make your own digital video disc because DVD recordable media was expensive and not everyone had a DVD burner like we do now (if we even have optical drives anymore!).

So, this tutorial is for the 3 people who want to know how to convert a VCD to an MP4.

You’ll need an optical drive and MPEG Streamclip (free software download by clicking on the link).