Fitting out a boat for video shooting. Part 3: The Audio

For previous stories (parts 1 and 2) click the below links:

Part 1: New Project: Fitting out a boat for shooting video. Introduction.

Part 2: Fitting out a boat for video shooting: What cameras and where and how to mount.


The “make the boat a recording platform” project has been put on hold for a week or so. Physically that is; I continue to think about the best way to approach all the aspects of the venture.

There is no major drama as such. In simple terms, the mooring we have currently is not suitable for a number of reasons, not the least being the high and low tide points make accessibility an issue due to the style of the boat. This weekend we are moving it to a new mooring that has a floating jetty letting us get on and off the boat via the rear as the marlin board will always be on even level with the jetty.

In the interim, I have pondered the audio question. What sorts of audio are needed? And therefore what mics? Placed where and how?

What Sorts of Audio?

After much thinking, I decided that there would be three types of audio needed:

  1. Ambient from the boat (background chatter, “boatie” noises)
  2. Ambient from the outside environment (waves / wind / birds etc)
  3. Commentary from the skipper and interviews

I decided to attack the latter first. And inside this one situation, there are a few options depending on circumstance.

On the surface there were a couple of ways to approach this. One was a handheld mic doing a piece to camera. This might be used during the pre-cast-off procedures while stuff is being loaded and stowed away, a tour of the boat, ropes are being pulled in and coiled and so on. The subject could be giving an overview of the starting location (with cut-aways), reason for the trip, introducing the other members on board, talking about the weather, mentioning safety gear etc etc.

The second is commentary while actually under way that is not necessarily to camera. Perhaps it is over the top of a map showing a route and destination, a tutorial on tying on lures or similar background information.

The third is on-the-fly commentary that could be simply spontaneous, that is, not planned.

For the first I decided on my Sennheiser MKE600 handheld connected via a long cable to whatever camera I am using at the time – mostly like the Panasonic HC-PV100 which will let me use an XLR cable. As the PV100 is such an easy camera to use, basically anyone could point it at you, press the button and record.

For the third type, I think I would just use whatever audio the GoPros mounted around the boat are picking up. These would not be turned on unless there is any chance of some worthy footage / audio to get. Eg apart from a few moments of shots starting to get under way, maybe leaving an 8 knot zone and cranking up to cruising speed, a few at cruise speed and finally slowing down at the destination, there is little point in having them running. If something dramatic happened worthy of a shot, then the Panasonic VC-PV100 would be close at hand.

If you spotted a school of fish and decided to drop a lure or two, of course that changes the equation, and you would turn on the GoPros.

The second option needed that of running commentary not necessarily tied to any footage was the part that made me think the most. A lapel mic is the obvious choice, getting all aspects of the skipper’s (usually) commentary and other audio.

But normally using a lapel mic means wearing a wireless sender, and a wirelessly connected receiver with a running camera to record to. An alternative is a Tascam or Zoom recorder, but as I posses neither of those nor have no inclination to spend any more money at this stage, these are out of the question.

However I do have a Sennheiser Memory Mic, and this is perfect as it contains on-board memory, and audio files captured can be dumped to a smartphone and then transferred to a PVC for later editing.

As it records up to 4 hours, this is perfect for the job (we reviewed the Sennheiser Memory Mic back in 2018 and you can read that here).

So that was problem solved. Oh not quite, one more thing. The Sennheiser Memory Mic’s clip system to attach to clothing etc is not quite suited for this job in mind and prone to falling off at the most inopportune times. As a consequence, at the very least I’d attach a lanyard so it doesn’t end up in the drink (like I had with a certain drone off Hervey Bay some years back – but that is painful other story). I think I’ll also add a simple safety pin.

Ambient

For the ambient recordings, for the most part I decided the on-board mics on the GoPros would again be suitable for the majority of needs. As the Sennheiser MKE600 would be accessible on the Panasonic PV100, if an interview was needed – say a decent fish was caught or some other dialogue from another member of the party apart from the skipper with the Memory Mic had something to say – this would be pressed into action.

For close up ambient audio, especially in proximity to the water, I planned on using a GoPro mounted on my Cameragrip Jib so that solved that problem.

Of course, an audio mix-down on a finished video from 3, 4 or even 6 disparate sources would be a challenge. For this I would be using Sound Forge Audio Studio 15 in conjunction with a few plugins, notably those from Acon Digital (thanks Dr David Smith who reviewed the brilliant Deverberate here).

I do not doubt for a second that after the first big trip where all the aspects of the audio are tested (and the same of course applies to the cameras), some things will change.

There may be unseen / unexpected practicalities I am not aware of and these can only be brought to light actually in the field.

Time will tell and I’ll report back accordingly!

 

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