Production Audio? Theres an APP for that, right?

An interesting read: Production Audio is Ripe for Revolution

Please do read that article before reading my thoughts on it… Some aspects of the article are very relevant, and are already true albeit not accessible to most due to the required investment (eg distributed recorders with wifi sync & data sharing) But many other issues discussed are not new problems, and it will take more than a digital software revolution to solve them since while a cheapish lens can stream ok images to a cheapish high resolution capture device, the parallel situation of capturing audio is more problematic, especially with regards to microphones – technically, but more importantly how they are used on location.

What is also particularly telling in approach is the consideration of a Zoom H4 as a suitable companion audio capture device for a DSLR. Lets compare the investment. Take a typical DSLR setup and not even a new one: a 5DMKII would cost what? I’d guess us$2k, and yet for some reason similarly pro results are expected from a capture device that is worth a fraction of that (eg from bhphoto h4/5DMkII us$258/us$1800 = 14%) Apples & oranges? I could similarly argue the reverse, I own a Sound Devices 722 recorder and a Canon s100, so why don’t I get the same pro imaging results shooting video as I do recording sound on my 722? (eg from bhphoto s100/722 us$349/us$2495 = 14%)

Apply the same thought process when considering the actual imaging device ie the lens vs the microphone. I’d suspect most 5D owners have a set of lens worth more than their camera, but how about their investment in microphones? I’d suspect 14% is likely an optimistic candidate for an investment in microphones. And the investment in camera tripod compared with microphone suspension, wind isolation and boom/mic stand?

So whats really interesting in this discussion is how the expectation for ‘good’ audio is so devalued – it should be solveable with an app right? Or a comparatively small investment? I don’t mean to dismiss the authors ideas, but some problems exist for a reason and it’ll take more than an app to solve them eg the idea of an app advising you the best location to place a microphone for ‘good sound’ seems as unlikely as an app on your camera suggesting the best placement for a ‘good image’ – its the high resolution human devices; our ears, our eyes and our brain – that are required for that process, simply because lens and microphones cannot see & hear what isn’t immediately present but is maybe a huge issue with capturing technically and/or creatively great results, and that reflects on intent.

Is recording sound technically more difficult than shooting video on a DSLR? The only answer surely is that it depends on the users experience not on the complexity of the equipment. The ui of a professional Sound Devices recorder is far more highly evolved than that of the Zoom H4, and is likely a match for the ui of a 5DMkII, but they both have settings that are critical and require informed decisions to be made by the user.

I’m all for the concept of democratizing film making, but democracies don’t tend to consist of one person and it appears the concept being pitched in the article as an overdue revolution for production sound involves attempting to eradicate the role of the production sound recordist via some technology, no?

Some good food for thought otherwise, though…

3 Responses to Production Audio? Theres an APP for that, right?

  1. rene says:

    I think the best idea in the article was to streamline the interfaces of these devices. Most are still far more cryptic than they need to be.

    I think you could also easily build in a system that does voice recognition and accepts voice commands – so things like camera speed, action, take 4, etc all do things to the audio device (like set markers, embed metadata, etc.)

    the idea of a lapel mic that connects to an iphone isn’t exactly the right idea, but lectro has their new transmitters that record locally in high res, which is already out in the field. author probably doesn’t want to pay that premium though. 🙂

    I think ultrasonic communication between devices could be useful as well. one 30k tone burst could potentially sync, slate, and start recordings across devices with very basic implementation.

    i think that this kind of thinking could be explored much more deeply by the likes of lectrosonics, sound devices, zaxcom and others – and I certainly applaud it.

  2. bassling says:

    Fair enough, audio is overlooked most of the time — even though it usually conveys more than half the information in a scene since they’re mostly shot in close-ups and rely on sound to give context.

    Often I have wished a camera would have a mic and a headphone socket, rather than sharing one. Yeah, if I bought a pro camera it would but, fark it, I’d prefer to spend my money on microphones since the high def picture gives plenty of scope to fix things in post but I’m going to need a friggin’ foley artist to do something similar with the sound.

  3. Daniel says:

    I totally agree, and thankfully I am not alone in my anti H4N stance. It’s a terrible device, bad preamps, minimal sensitivity and gain control while recording as you would with a 744 / mixer combo. The other thing i’ve been trying to tell people to take into account is the -10db consumer line level requirement so need a padded cable. So you have really hot mics, you need the same for the recorder. Sadly the 788 beast has heaps more functionality and apps to control it via wifi. SLR’s are dead anyway now there is more higher end “affordable” cameras that don’t record to h264 which is a video streaming codec or let you record out to a PIX recorder instead. The other problem to take into account these people will likely use something like Pluraleyes which is not frame accurate leaving post sound to fix it up and the slate is always king anyway because timecode drifts on cameras unless it’s jammed regularly. I believe timecode could be recorded on one of the channels on the SLR though.

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