Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Project Movie: Part 2 - Planning This Year

In the last Project Movie post I described the process we went through when my church made a movie as part of their Christmas production. It also incorporated live action and live music on stage which was then made into a DVD (you can see it on Vimeo as well, link in Part 1). As the series goes on I'll be documenting our progress (with no spoilers!). I expect there to be a lot of posts in this series, so rather than try to link to all of them, just click on TOPICS in the menu bar and look for Project Movie to see all of them.

Last year we took all production audio into a Panasonic SD DV camera. It had a pair of XLR inputs with gain controls and good clock so things wouldn't drift. For all the scenes there were just two characters so we used a pair of wireless lav mics that the cinematographer had. The elements were similar to a Shure WL93, a very small omni pickup that hides well on clothing.  That left all ambient sounds to be found and flown in later. We did quite a bit of fiddling with reverb to get a church scene right and got it OK but were never quite happy with it.

As a result I'm looking at better ways to take audio this year, and I may not be able to count on every scene being a two-up so that means multi-channel. The device of choice this year will be my 13" MacBook Pro (1.3 GHz, 8 GB/500GB) on which I'll be running Reaper. Reaper is a terrific open source DAW that is totally worth checking out. It was written to be robust like Pro Tools but not be tied to expensive hardware and the learning curve is less steep. They're well into version 4 at this point and it's only ever getting better, more features, and more stable. VST and other plugins are possible and it comes with a pretty good suite already installed.

I'm planning on purchasing an interface to go with it as soon as the new budget goes into effect in June. The one I have my eye on is the MOTU 896mk3, the reviews have been good but please get in touch if you have a better suggestion.  I'm not sure if we'll be mixing in surround, but I'll have eight outs just in case and eight mic pres to capture lavs, booms, ambients and full surround if needed. It also can do double duty as a stand alone mixer which could come in handy for day to day use at small events around church.

When it comes to time to sync up to video I'm not sure if we'll be working in Premiere again or Final Cut or what but the procedure should be the same. I'll have the editors cut to camera audio and then provide me with a working copy to take into Reaper. With good notes I should be able to sync up the right takes and then go on to pick and choose ambients, fly in effects and music, and then render stems to send back to the video bay. That way I won't have to wait for it to be free to work on stuff. I can set up my own mixing stage in another space and keep the work flow going.

That's it for now. Hopefully the next post will be in just a couple weeks after the first production meeting. If any of my fellow Brethren of the Knob and Fader have any advice to give, now would be the time. Please chime in on the comments section, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter (links above right) Thanks for stopping in and I'll see you next time.

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