Thread: Stereo mics

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    Stereo mics
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    Hello Listers,

    I'm trying to expand my capabilities and wondering about stereo mics. In particular I am thinking either the AT4029 or its longer brother the 4027. Both have lots of features and versatility. The more expensive stereo types are out of my network. For indoor applications, music and dialogue, I am pretty well covered with both long and short condensers. Outdoors I am more limited with a few shotguns, lavs, and RE50s. Outdoors I feel better ambience would benefit my work (though with Covid, there hasn't been much of that by choice). I own multiple AT mics and have always thought they were well made and delivered value at their price point.

    So lets say I have four channels, two dedicated to dialogue, and the other 2 could be used by the 4029 for ambience which seems like it would give more depth than a single channel. In a pinch, it could possibly serve as a single mic for two speakers, record outdoor music, or other things I haven't thought of yet.

    Any thoughts on this concept and or the 4029 in particular would be appreciated. And make sure and tell me if this is just plain wrong headed.


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    Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ggrantly View Post
    So lets say I have four channels, two dedicated to dialogue, and the other 2 could be used by the 4029 for ambience which seems like it would give more depth than a single channel. In a pinch, it could possibly serve as a single mic for two speakers, record outdoor music, or other things I haven't thought of yet.
    Not the first time this kind of setup has been mentioned around here. I wouldn’t recommend it. That stereo “ambient” track won’t make the mix in post because it won’t do anything helpful to the dialog. There’s a reason dialog is, as it always has been, a mono source both in acquisition and in mix (panning effects for off-camera movement notwithstanding). And using a stereo mic array to record dialog between two people also presents more challenges that are worth the effort. Keeping them both on-axis is a struggle, and some arrays are less mono-compatible than others.

    I do keep stereo mic arrays in my kit, but only for SFX recording (and music).

    For single-point, look at the RØDE NT4 and the Audio Technica BP4025. Or, if you’re interested in having more control over pattern and spread, grab something like the sE Electronics sE8 stereo pair and use them for a more versatile stereo array.

    Also, pay close attention to self-noise specs. Anything above 16dB self noise is just too much. I have a Shure VP-88 that I bought in 1997 and, while I love the sound overall and the single-point simplicity for a mid-side configuration, it has a very high self-noise of 24dB. It’s perfect for loud SFX, but a very poor choice for ambient sound beds. My sE8 stereo pair, though, is very quiet at 13dB and a great choice for softer sounds and sound beds.
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    Senior Member Peter C.'s Avatar
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    Wanting stereo mics (for dialog) is a common mistake most of us have gone through. When you first learn this its hard to believe so google it you'll probably need to do some research to confirm what were saying and then some time to accept it.


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    I was only imagining using a 4029 for dialogue for two people in an emergency only. Question: if I were using MS for a one person outdoor interview, I should be able to isolate the forward looking track and use the side track for ambience? Is that correct?

    I was imagining using it for SFX yes which is part of my motivation.

    I have plenty of mics for stereo pairs indoors (4053 and 4050) , but not so much for outdoors. I was imagining avoiding some of the hassle factor for a quick outdoor setup; think birds flying by or other audio recording of subjects in motion.

    Thanks for the speedy responses.


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    Moderator Alex H.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ggrantly View Post
    I was only imagining using a 4029 for dialogue for two people in an emergency only. Question: if I were using MS for a one person outdoor interview, I should be able to isolate the forward looking track and use the side track for ambience? Is that correct?
    Incorrect.

    If you don’t use a mid-side single-point with internal matrix, you do get separate mid (cardioid) and side (Fig8) signals. However, to reap the stereo width of the sides, you have to use the mid to factor out (L+R) and (L-R). Essentially, matrixing mid-side requires splitting/patching the “side” to two inputs or audio tracks, phase reversing one of them, panning them hard L and hard R, then mixing in the “mid” as a center-panned source.

    So while you can separate the “sides” without a matrix, you end up with a mono Fig8 signal that doesn’t do what you’re wanting.

    And again, even if this were possible, that’s not the kind of “ambience” you’ll find at all useful in post.
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    Sound Ninja Noiz2's Avatar
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    Leaving the dialog aside, as a post editor I can tell you that I DO NOT want stereo dialog. Ever. As a SFX recordist I have always used a stereo pair, well not always but always since I owned a stereo pair. I am sure that there are great stereo mics that sound fantastic, but I bet they are in the high three to four digits. I own some stereo mics that are in the ~~$400 - $700 range and they are OK for some things and they are convenient, but I record with the stereo pair.

    Second point is that ,and I may be wrong, it sounds like you are thinking of picking up BG's while recording dialog, or at least "on set". As a post person, mostly, I will say that I like the idea but 99.9% of the time it's a waste. The reason is the "set" is not where the story of the film takes place. It's the set. It is super easy to get sucked into the "this will be so useful" mode on set but almost always you are forgetting that the Film is taking place in a space that doesn't exist. Or if it exists it is NOT the set. So as a post editor I have a bunch of great recordings from shows in my library, but I never used them on the films they were recorded on because they were the sounds around the SET and that is not where the scene takes place in the world of the film. Every once in awhile this is not true, but in the vast majority of films it is true.

    The other problem is that set are noisy. Unless shooting is going on people are talking and stuff is happening so it's just not much use to post.

    What is useful, but almost never happens, is to have an SFX recordist on the shoot who the directors talks some concepts with or the post supervisor/ designer/ etc. talks to. They will go off and record sounds that will work IN the world of the story and they will do that far away from the working set. If they record on the set it will be after the shoot is done and everyone has left. This hardly ever happens but when it does it's a gold mine for post.

    Any "ambience" you record on set for a narrative film is 99.999% a waste of bandwidth. Post will probably not even listen to it. Post time is tight and something with such a small likelihood of being useful is just not worth the time. I can see it might be useful on a documentary, but they generally have such a small budget for sound post that odds are it won't be used.

    The exception to the above is if you and the director and the post supervisor are all talking and you are grabbing things the post people say they may want. It happens but it's rare.

    If you are thinking of grabbing stuff not during production then go for it. Unless you know or have talked to the sound designer a lot of it probably won't be used (in that film) but they will be happy to add it to their libraries. Which isn't a total loss for you. They will be happy and they might say nice things about you wich could end up in a gig or two. And you get to practice SFX recording which is a bit different from production recording.

    If you record ambiences make sure to record enough. 1.5 min. is really the minimum (and that is un interrupted, a car goes by start over). 3 min is a LOT better, we would aim for five min. but hardly ever can you go that long with out something breaking it up unless you are in the middle of nowhere. Ambience SFX recording is, or can be, pretty tedious. Even actiony things are loads of set up and a few seconds of action, and then hope you got it. I like doing it but I am probably a deeply flawed being. Six seve hours to get a few train bys, I'm all over it!
    Cheers
    SK


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    Alex, thanks for that. Like I said in the first post, tell me if I'm wrong headed.

    Noiz, I really appreciate your input and it has great value, but I don't do any narrative type work, and with a few exceptions work solo. My idea for this mic was to add some depth and potentially reduce my reduce setup burden out in the field. Sounds like the depth part doesn't figure.

    So condensing this down, it sounds as if this mic has value mainly for ambience or SFX, but no 2 for 1 bonus adding dialogue. Would this mic be a consideration for recording small venue music outdoors. My only outdoor option presently is an XY using two SDC's with BBG's. More tracks aren't really an option when going solo. If there are other moderately priced suggestions for this, I'm all ears.

    Grant


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    I’ve probably made more money recording classical music than pop in my career and I’m very comfy and able to record stereo, but it’s for me also a big problem whenever he microphones that recorded it were not fixed. I’ve been known to even mix in the dark because I spend a lot of time on the image. My studio acoustics are not precise enough to get it absolutely right, but my pet hate, spot mics, are the most incredibly difficult thing to place, eq, process and balance. All this care is wrecked when the recording stereo mic got moved. The stereo field suddenly moves, and I hate that sound because with video it is a very important early decision. Does the stereo image change with the edit, or maintain locked, or both.

    We have a space. There are two people, one left and one right. In the background right, is a dog snoring in its basket. To the left is an open window with city streets and noise outside. In the edit we could have two tracks of radio, or two booms, or one boom swinging between. Hopefully a silent and well behaved dog and an uncontrolled amount of street sounds.

    Ideally I’d want two separate box tracks and fx tracks with the dog and street noise. Worst would be the moving boom in stere. Editing dialogue would be horrible, any stereo ability pointless. A stereo room mic would probably stay fader on zero.moving stereo mics can be vomit inducing. Your brain cannot process the visuals and sound to make a stable ‘whole’. For capturing sound fields, m/s can be great, and even for music, though it’s still a niche technique. Mics are always snapshot devices. Changing where they are during recordings needs to be very controlled, because our brains seem to accept camera movement but they struggle with microphone movement in anything other than mono.

    In the scenario above, it would be brave to hard pan the two voices on a shot by shot basis, so even though we could it’s probably best to conform to voice is central, as a rule.

    This is not just a movie thing, we do (did) live sound and newcomers to live sound mixing are often unaware that pretty much these events are also usually mono, because with the width between speakers, people near one side get grumpy when the stage left singer and guitar don’t come out of their speaker. They can’t hear the other. So live sound too is about effects in stereo, the critical stuff in mono.


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    Sound Ninja Noiz2's Avatar
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    I was going to say that a Sennheiser MKE 44-P would be a cheaper solution but then I checked and they aren't being made anymore and used is almost the new price of what you are looking at so? If you are just adding it to pick up ambiences and such one of the many handheld recorders would be my first suggestion. My DR40 gets a lot more use than I thought it would because I can grab it and be recording much faster than my "better" rig. Or toss it in a bag "just incase" something cool sounding is happening. If I were buying today I would take a hard look at the handhelds that record in 32 bit float. Being able to grab sounds with virtually no worries about levels would be worth the extra cost.

    For non-narative work you can probably get useful stuff while shooting. I mean generally the problem in post is lack of coverage with them so anything helps, and of course in those cases the "set" is the location of your story.
    Cheers
    SK


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    Senior Member JAMedia's Avatar
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    18 months ago I was doing video at a technical conference near Birmingham UK taking the audio from the house mixing desk. One of the speakers came up to the audio desk to ask the sound man about the microphone set up. It was explained there was a podium mic and or he could use a wireless lav (Sennheiser G3). He was most unhappy because he wanted to move about the stage and demanded we use a stereo mic so the audio would follow him across the stage..... The sound guy promised that if the speaker wore the radio mic he would live pan the audio as the speaker moved across the stage. :-)


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