Thursday, September 2, 2010

25 Months Ago: Day 20

DAY 20 - August 2, 2008

John Sindoni, who played Professor Garrison, was always very enthusiastic about Saberfrog. And today, that enthusiasm extended to letting us use his house as a filming location.

Today was a Saturday, and we filmed a dialogue scene between John S. and Wendy. I also recorded some voice-only lines from John S.

While shooting the scene between John S. and Wendy I discovered, to my disappointment, that the Sony ECM-K57 microphone I'd been using for the past decade or so was failing. It still worked fine in omnidirectional mode, but when the directional setting – which you really want to use when recording dialogue – was in use, I was hearing some kind of hum.

(In fact, this fault must have developed earlier, because I can hear this hum, buried in the background noise, in footage dating as far back as Day 8, though fortunately it doesn't seem to be that noticeable.)

This particular microphone – which is no longer made as far as I can determine – had served me faithfully on several projects. It ran on an ordinary AA battery, had a camcorder-friendly mini headphone plug rather than a XLR connection (removing the need for an adapter or mixer), and its tripod-sized screw hole attached easily onto a monopod to become a lightweight and easily assembled boom mic. It was the perfect tool for a low-budget narrative filmmaker shooting guerrilla-style with prosumer equipmment. And it was cheap – about $60 or thereabouts.

Nowadays, most prosumer mics I've seen in stores have non-standard bases that seem to be designed specifically to fit onto the head of a particular camcorder. To me this somewhat defeats the purpose of buying a microphone for your camera, since most camcorders already have an on-camera mic built in. As a low-budget filmmaker, what you really want is to get the mic away from the camera and closer to the actors.

I was still able to get decent sound out of this mic by switching to omnidirectional mode (meaning that the mic picks up sound equally in all directions, rather than what's directly in front of it). But I knew this would not be ideal for all acoustic situations, and it was both sad and frustrating to have such a useful piece of equipment start to fail on me.

I could have switched to another mic – I'd bought one to use for Liz's stage performance on Day 17 – but I was worried about changing the sound quality mid-shoot, so rightly or wrongly I chose to tough it out with this mic as long as I could, except when the acoustics absolutely required that I switch to a directional mic.

I took this as an omen that I needed to finish filming. Soon.

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