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Production Mixing

Contributed By Fred Ginsburg

Mixing Panel
Always use a mixing panel, even for one mic. Employ high quality RF condenser mics, such as Sennheiser, Schoeps, Audio Technica. Electret shotgun systems have less reach and sensitivity than real condensers. Always have Rycote or LightWave blimp windscreens for outdoors and foam for indoors.

The mixing panel provides control over the input level during the take!

  • Allows use of multiple mics

  • Ability to equalize

  • Tone oscillator for setting levels

  • Slate mic

  • Talk-back or PL

  • Boom monitor

  • Audio taper vs. linear pots

  • ENG mini-mixers/production panels/post-prodroductionboards.

    Examples of mini-mixers
    FP3 1, FP32, Audio Technica.

    Examples of production panels
    PSC/Sela, Sonosax, Interface Electronics, Mackie, Cooper, Sony PX-21 & 61, EQE/Tascam, Panasonic etc.

    Setting levels:
    VU meters are averaging. Peak meters are peak reading.
    In film, set 0 VU on panel to -8 db on Nagra. In video, record bars & tone at 0 VU on VTR. Then readjust input of VTR so that 0 VU (panel) corresponds to -5 VU(VTR). This allows for extra headroom on dialogue. Line level (600 ohms) is much louder/stronger than mic level (250 ohms). To convert MIC to LINE level requires small amplifier. Use line level outputs from mixer to recorder for less interference. If line level signal must be reduced for use with mic level input, use 50 dB worth of pads/attentuators. OK to use pads in series and add the totals.

    Example: 2OdB + 15dB + 15dB = 5OdB

    Headphone Monitoring

    Monitor from the recorder when possible, so no surprises. Direct vs. Tape/Peak. Confidence head is off of tape, but slight delay.

    Be attentive to buzz, AC hum, SMPTE bleed, ground loops, RF and radio/TV. Impedance of headphones should be approx. 50 ohm. Adapters for stereo/mono, 1/4' to mini.

    Use of ear wigs. Open ear vs. closed ear. Sony MDR-V6 (7506) is industry norm.

    Safety considerations for Mixer and Boom. Protect your hearing! Mixer can monitor off of tape for protection. Warn Boom operator and others listening. Keeps pots closed except when mixing. Protect the 'privacy' of talent on lavs & radio mics.

    Recording the Signal
    Allow plenty of headroom, never exceed 0 dB. On Nagras, dialogue around -8 to -6 PPM. In video, -10 to -5 VU is max.

    Equalization should be minimal, except to roll off unwanted low end (wind noise, rumble); slight mid-range boost to enhance dialogue. Only do active EQ when there is no alternative -- once it is done, it cannot be undone. Better to leave it for post. Be cognizant of continuity.

    Always allow 5 to 10 seconds for 'speed" after transport has stabilized. Provides 'Pre-roll" for post-production lock-up time. Talk through the "waiting period" between 'roll" and 'speed".

    Multiple mics
    Think one mic at a time. Keep other pots ducked down to avoid phasing problems.

    Be aware of background ambiance level - consistency! Establish relative levels for talent, and maintain consistency even on close-ups. Voice quality is different than volume.

    Recording Priorities
      Sync effects
      Wild tracks

    Introduction to Microphones
    listing of shock mounts, long and short shotgun mics, lavalier and cardioid microphones. mics covered include Schoeps, Sennheiser, Audio Technica, Neumann and Sony.
    Microphone Patterns
    basic microphone pick-up patterns are covered, including cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid. M-S stereo, bidirectional, X and Y stereo.
    Sound Recording
    An indepth look at film production sound recording; microphone selection, perspective, recording situations and noise reduction.
    Introduction to the Sound Track
    An introduction to the elements of the sound track and the composition of each.
    The Sound Track
    film sound track: a complete overview of building the sound track: duping, picture editing, checker boarding, equalization, overlaps, sfx, foley and music editing.