Basic sound package for student productions – by Fred Ginsburg

 

Lots of my students ask me to give them some examples of what kind of sound package they would need for their senior films (or for their equipment budgeting exercise). So I have gone ahead and put together what I would consider to be a good, general purpose, starting package.

Of course, your final package will vary, based on the complexity of the shoot along with your access to equipment (and the depth of your budget for sound).

Recorder/mixer

These days, the recorder of choice is the Sound Devices 688 paired with its CL-12 companion fader controller. There are still a lot of mixers who like the older 788, along with its CL-9 board – only because the 788 has 8 inputs for mic/line, compared to the 688 which only offers 6 mic/line along with 6 line only (assuming that your radio mics provide line output).

Make sure that you include all of the necessary input/output cables for your system. USB to connect recorder to fader controller; TA3-XLRf input cables; TA3-XLRm output cables; timecode out cable along with adapter cable to feed a Denecke TC slate.

An AC adapter to power your rig. Also, some sort of battery powering, in case there is no available AC power.

Headphones for the mixer and boom. On fancier shoots, some sort of wireless assistive listening system, such as Comteks, to send headphone feeds to Director, Script, 2nd Boom, and possibly other people on the set. Make sure you have the proper connecting cables!

You will need a computer keyboard for inputting data. Make sure that you have the proper connections and/or adapter units to do this. Some Sound Devices recorders require an accessory module to accommodate keyboards!

Backup Recorder

Things break or get broken. If something were to make your main recording system inoperable, you will need a secondary system to get you through the day. Your backup system does not need to be the same quality as your main system, nor as many tracks. Four or more will suffice. Timecode is great, but to be honest, the post people could sync from clapsticks if they had to.

In addition to your backup recorder, you will need a backup mixing board to go with it. Mackie 1402’s or bigger; or comparable brands. Make sure that you have the necessary output cables to connect your mixer to the recorder, including one or two live mix feeds as well as some ISO feeds.

Soundcart

It needs to be portable and transportable. Good wheels for going over cables or rough terrain. A top shelf or hutch for radio mics. Hooks for cables. Someplace to secure boompoles.

Booms

At least one or two decent boompoles, not less than 12 feet extended and internally wired. You will also need a duplex cable in order to connect your boomperson to your gear. Make sure that you have necessary adapter cables on the soundcart end of the duplex cable in order to send a headphone feed back to the boom operator.

I have my duplex cables built with XLR male and female connectors at the soundcart end. This allows me to just use a couple XLR mic cables if I need to extend the length of the duplex. It also enables me to use an adapter cable if I require 1/8-inch, ¼-inch, or TA3 connections at my end.

Microphones

Have at least three high quality, condenser shotgun mics. A general purpose “short shotgun” such as the Audio Technica 4073 or Sennheiser MKH60; a “wide angle” condenser cardioid to eliminate echo in a tight room, such as an Audio Technica 4051 or a Senn MKH40; and a “long shotgun” encased in a furry zeppelin windscreen for exteriors, such as the Audio Technica 4071 or the Senn MKH70.

There are also other makes and models of mics that are comparable in quality and performance.

Bring some hardwired lavaliers for use either as bodyworn mics or planted mics. I like the Audio Technica AT899 and MT830R, or the Senn MKE-2. The Countryman B3 is nice if you want to isolate an actor from the background.

Your package should include not less than two wireless lavalier kits, but perhaps as many as six. Make sure that you have the necessary adapter cables to feed them into your mixer or recorder. If using the 688, check to see if the wireless can provide line level outputs (if you are going to use them on inputs 7-12).

It is always good to bring along a dynamic handheld mic for clean voice-overs or loud sound effects.

Make sure that you have foam windscreens for all of your boom mics, and suitable shockmounts.

Cables

In addition to the myriad adapter cables unique to your recording systems’ inputs/outputs, you will need a variety of XLRf-XLRm mic cables.

I would suggest not less than four 25 footers; along with four 50 footers.

If you are going to wire audio back to the camera, dedicate at least two 50 footers just for that purpose (and check what type of input connectors are on the camera). Very often, we use a wireless setup to send scratch audio to the (video) camera for on set playbacks.

Throw in a handful of shorties (5 or 10 footers) and jumpers (2 footers). You may need them.

Don’t forget to bring some electrical extension cords (stingers). Since none of your sound stuff draws much current, you can use standard house/garden AC cords (50 or 100 foot).

Timecode Slate

Sometimes this falls under the Camera category, but more times than not it is the responsibility of the Sound Dept to bring it and set it up. Make sure that you have the necessary cabling to jam sync the slate from the recorder; as well as to be able to jam sync the camera from the slate.

Expendables

Media. Have at least three pair of media cards for your recorder. Brand new, same brand and capacity. Check them IN your recorder to insure that they are compatible (some manufacturers list approved cards on their websites, but card specs change all the time, so double check!)  You may need to purchase a card reader for your laptop if it cannot natively read your style cards.

The production company (Post Production) may want dailies on CD/DVD disks or flash drives. Ask.

Most of your toys require batteries. Mics, radio mics, slates, some recorders, Comteks, etc. Stock up.

Rigging accessories for your lavs and radio mics. Moleskin, safety pins, rubber bands, medical tape, alcohol wipes, furry bits, cheesecloth, 4×4 gauze pads, chopped glove fingers, cleaning swabs, colored tapes, colored markers, dry condoms, ACE bandages – just to name some of the junk in my kit.

Sound reports (you can design and print your own) along with a clipboard.

Power strips. First Aid Kit. Mints and mouthwash (for you, as well as for the actors). Flash lights. Simple tools. Toilet paper.

Large plastic trash bags for rain or dust protection.

Spare T-shirts.

Instruction Manuals

Be sure to download and store the PDF instruction manuals for all of your sound gear, as well as for the camera, onto your laptop in case you need to look something up. There may not be internet on the set.

 

By no means is this a full and complete list of gear and accessories. This is the minimum amount of gear that you should have at your disposal. But the final list will be dependent on the specifics of your shoot.

 

 

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