Original post

Updated Thoughts:

Simply put, the tools at our disposal now render this an academic point as long as we understand that time aligning sound in the field sometimes needs to happen. This is done quite easily with the digital mixer recorders we use today.

I will often, for example, time shift an atmospheric mic at a campaign rally to match the event feed so I can tell the story audibly by bringing in crowd reactions and have them be in sync with the speech.

So grab your digital delays and bring it all in to a blissful time harmony!

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time now working with my 411’s in the wonderful fast paced world of ENG / Documentary television. What follows are a look into the road I’ve traveled and the pitfalls encountered along the way.

When I purchased my first two 411’s I was rolling the dice on the future of RF in our industry with an eye towards the pending shift to Hi-Def television. This was not a decision I made lightly or on the spur of the moment. I have never subscribed to the notion of, ‘it’s only tv, most people hear it on a 3" speaker’. That doesn’t wash with me or the idea that the old analog systems help masks the ambient clothing sound when burying lavalieres. Give me the highest quality sound and I’ll worry about the details of making it work.

Originally I was working two 411’s and a 205 out of my bag. Mixing analog and digital systems is very doable with a catch. Nothing will ruin your day faster than hearing a 3-ms delay system and an analog system come face to face with each other. Vigilance is the order of the day and care most be taken to loose one of the wires in those situations. Think of it as the phasing nightmare from hell that can’t be fixed. (it has nothing to do with phase but the operating principles in the field are the same without the ability to flip the phase). This is what prompted me to accelerate my upgrade and add a third 411. Let me add here that this can be fixed in post provided that the analog and digital systems are on different tracks and post has the ability to add the delay to the analog systems. This unfortunately is not the reality in our world at this time. Rarely do we have a post situation to help us out with these details. All to often it is what it is. That is not a complaint, it’s just the world we work in.

At the time of my purchases the UH400 plug on transmitter was not available. Lectrosonics was doing a retool on the unit so I spent several months flying a pole while wiring folks with the 411. This was probably the most frustrating aspect of my change. In very fluid, non-scripted situations with several people wired and covering the rest with a pole the real meaning of 3-ms delay hit me…. Frustrated me…. Forced me to make compromises on sound that I never would normally make. In a ‘day in the life’ , we typically will have two or three people wired and pole the interaction between the folks who come in and out of their daily routine. Rarely is headroom an issue and we are free to aggressively capture the moment with the pole with the notion of mixing the two sources in post. This is where the frustration arises. Face to face communication between these two systems fails without post having the ability to compensate for the technology. If we operate with the idea of minimal post we are forced to either;

- Write off the rf’s in favor of equal coverage of all involved
- Utilize the rf’s to cover all involved
- Pole the scene sacrificing quality by manually compensating for the delay in the field. (giving up two feet of headroom for no reason)
- Hope post can make the adjustments and proceed with business as usual.

ENG and the 3-ms Delay!

www.televisionsound.com / Thom Shafer