Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Cinnamon pancakes

No, really. No, euphemism's, or technical jargon. Just my recipe for the Saturday morning pancake ritual my family has been following for probably around a year now.

Like most freelances, and especially those in the media industry, it can be quite hard to have anything approaching a routine, which can be quite tricky when you have a family that lives in the real world. IE one with regular hours, paid holiday and understands the concept of weekends.

So, whenever we can, we make pancakes on Saturday for breakfast - Cinnamon Pancakes

This recipe gives you slightly thicker pancakes with a bit more body to them, than the conventional Shrove Tuesday pancakes espoused by Deilia. That said, this is something of a combination of her recipe and one from a (very) old Bero pastry book. This recipe gives us 6 -7 pancakes.

50g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
1 egg
Teaspoon of cinnamon
300ml Semi / skimmed milk.

Small Mixing Bowl
10" crepe pan
Hand whisk
Palette Knife
Silicone Pastry Brush


1. Weigh flour out and sieve into bowl, add the cinnamon.
2. Add Egg, mix in slowly with fork
3. Add Milk, slowly, mix in with fork slowly then whisk gently until there is a nice aerated foam on the top.
4. Heat pan to very hot! Should just start to smoke....literally!!
5. Brush onto the pan a small amount of butter using the pastry brush (be quick!) - an even covering.
6. Pour in a ladle's worth of batter - enough to cover the base of the crepe pan.
7. Let one side cook for no more than 30 seconds - and use the palette knife to lift the pancake off of the crepe pan base, before giving it the ceremonial flip to do the other side.
8. Again, no more than 30 seconds for the second side.
9. Keep warm - we keep them in the oven until they are all ready....
10 Repeat steps 5 - 9 until you are out of batter, occasionally whisking the batter to keep it light.

To Serve:

We have a cornucopia of delights: Usually whilst I'm flipping the pancakes, my son is chopping up and washing fresh fruit: Bananas, Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries etc. Our favourite serving is a smudge of Nutella on the pancake, then covered in fruit, and a squeeze of orange juice. Mrs B, just prefers lashings of sugar. Or even Golden syrup....

Ah well, back to the studio...

27th April 2011

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Location Audio Kit Announced at NAB 2011 (a summary)

Firstly let me stress that I'm not at NAB, I'm at home (filling a skip if you must know, but I'm not bitter). So all the information I'm pulling together here, is a summary of the Tweets, RSS feeds, Press Announcements and Viscous Rumours that I've read / heard over the past week or so that relate to location audio equipment being announced during the NAB show; Apologies for those sections that are apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate.

So, in no particular order...and I know I've mentioned Sound Devices and Sennheiser before, but I've included them in here for completeness.

Fostex DC-R302 - Compact 3 input mixer, 2 channel SD recorder designed to fit underneath DSLR's.

Sound Devices Mix Pre D - Compact 2 channel mixer, USB Interface, AES Digital outs, fits under DSLR. Mention has to be made here of the new image recorder released by Sound Devices...

Sanken CS1e - A new revision of the sanken CS1 shotgun mic, improved low end, improved off axis rejection, and a bit lighter - (video clip courtesy of Trew Audio - nothing on the Sanken site yet).

Shure VP89 Modular Shotgun - Now this does look RF condenser from Shure, that looks like it is modular in construction and offering 3 capsule designs and various response patterns, offering increasing directionality.

Zaxcom Nomad -  (Not sure if this was released pre NAB) Zaxcom enter the over the shoulder field recorder  market with an incredibly well specified machine. Various build options from 4 tracks / 6 inputs upwards, offering more tracks via the digital inputs. This includes fully featured timecode, making it look a great machine to have on the trolley, and then pick up and run with. Interesting to see the "power" specifications were that it only quotes 1-3 hours of usage from 6AA - other powering options via the Switchcraft L712 input from a standard NP1 style battery power range (8 to 18 Vdc).  Mixer panel looks a little sparse, assuming all controls like LF cut / Panning etc are menu driven for each channel.

Aeta 4Minx -  A new mixer recorder from the French company Aeta. I reviewed their 3 channel mixer a fair few years ago (the Mixy) and I really got on with it quite well - and it did sound good.   The 4Minx looks a little similar, but now a 4 channel recoder (or is it 4 channels + 2 mix channels, description on the web site seems inconsistent?) with many many connections for interconnectivity. Certainly looks like a flexible beastie and there is the usual 5 pin lemo for timecode connection.

Sennheiser MKH8060 / MKH8070 - New development of the MKH60 / 70, now in the modular 8000 series

Countryman B2D - a very VERY small lavaliere mic from Countryman. Cardioid response pattern, with additional grill that can change it to hypercardioid.

Huge "Hats off" must go to Trew Audio who've covered the event on their site, and using lots of media formats to promote the show and themselves very well. There's bound to be more stuff that I've missed from the press cuttings so...I'll edit this page and add if I'm aware over the next couple of days.

G - 13-April-2011

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

New Location Microphones from Sennheiser

I'm a bit of a fan of Sennheiser location microphones, so it's always good to hear that they have once again advanced and broadened their equipment range. One of the reasons I like them so much is that their condensers work on the RF principle (explained here and here) which makes them inherently more resistant to moisture - which is a prime consideration when working out in the field.

The two new microphones are from the recent 8000 series, which are based on a modular design. The new 8060 and 8070 capsules are designed specifically for location audio work, both being based on the successful  MKH 60 and 70; the 60 being the original successor to the "industry standard" MKH 416.
MKH 8060 capsule

The 8060 is the physically shorter of the two new capsules - short shot gun -  and has a wider acceptance angle, a tight hypercardioid if you will. The original improvements of the 60 over 416 changed the frequency response of the off axis sounds, making it a much nicer microphone to use indoor (due to reflections) - and slightly less harsh, as the presence hump had been lessened. As the 8060 is modular, this is just the capsule that would then need attaching to an XLR adapter for a complete conventional microphone; however with the 8000 series design there is the option for an LF Cut / attenuator module, AES 42 digital converter module (making a digital microphone), or remote attachment of just the capsule using a lightweight cable - useful for reducing weight and length - a definite consideration in tight corners when booming or mounting on top of a camera.

MKH 8070 capsule
The MKH 8070 is the long shot gun microphone, with a much tighter pickup pattern, and extreme directionality. Designed for much more remote placement. Again, though as modular, connects to all the other modules I've just mentioned.

Although the 'sound' of the Sennheiser range is sometimes said to be inferior to the Schoeps or DPA - there are very few recordists that I know that don't have a Sennheiser microphone in their kit - purely because of the reliability. When I bought my first "proper" location microphone, I bought the MKH 416, because I asked a number of my far more experienced colleagues:  "If you could only own one microphone, what would it be?" - and the answer was either the MKH60 or MKH 416.

I hope that the 8060 continues this pedegree, with the additional benefits that the modular design of the 8000 series has to offer - I look forward to hearing them.


12 April 2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

We don't have to worry about sound....we have a sound recordist

All weathers ...
Because I work with sound everyday, I still get surprised at some comments I hear regarding audio when on location for film, (and by film I'm using "film" as a very generalised term to mean everything from film, through video tape, to digital; whether the content is drama, documentary, commercial or corporate and whether the final medium be the magic of the silver screen or the only slightly less majestic t'interweb). So, I thought I'd write a little bit that was in response to a comment I had on a corporate shoot a few years ago:

"We don't have to worry about sound, Grant's here"

 I knew where the sentiment came from: those normally self shooting, such that a director/DOP that has to potentially think about the camera, the shot, the style, the content and performance, and the sound; which - although undoubtedly cost effective - means that everything will be somewhat compromised (You only have to have watched Channel 5's Brighton Beach Patrol to hear / see what I mean), so having a sound recordist there, is actually a nice weight off of the shoulders.

But the phrase felt far more like (and somewhat unfortunetly proved) "he is here to solve all of the sound problems we'll have today, including that quiet interview I've arranged on the foot bridge over the M1".

Location, Location, Location

Often the choice of location has a huge effect on the sound of shoot, and there may be very little the recordist can do, other than flag the issue. The worst possible situation is when the source of the audio (a road for example) never appears in shot so there is no context for the invasive / distracting sound. Unfortunately because of the energy and nature of sound waves, there is no simple equivalent to "blacking out the windows" for sound. Don't get me wrong though, with documentary style work, the location is often quintessential to the story; I'm mainly referring to corporate videos and short films with low budgets where any issues with sound at the locations feel like they have sometimes not even been thought of.

Good microphone selection and placement, and / or use of a personal (lavaliere / wireless) microphone can certainly help in these conditions, getting the microphone as close to the voice as the shot allows.

Sennheiser MKH 60 Frequency Response
The problem with noisy backgrounds may not really raise its true head until the edit, when two different shots are cut together with very different background sounds, and that harsh transition pulls the audience out of the film. For example, that transition could be something like the sound of a whining scooter passing in one shot, and then a bus driving past on the second.

If the background sound is somewhat constant then the issue is somewhat lessened - but only slightly so. The reason this does not solve the problem is that microphones have different frequency response patterns, so as the microphone position changes in respect to the background sound (with a change in shot or following dialogue), the recorded tonality of that background sound changes. This is one of the reasons why it's always preferable to have fridges and air conditioning systems (et al) off - even though the background sound signature may appear to be somewhat constant to our ears.

"We'll Fix it in Post."

ARRRRGGGGG! (Sorry) But I do find this phrase one of the most annoying on the planet, especially when it is spoken by someone who has absolutely no idea about the capabilities of audio manipulation in post production - or even if there is any dedicated audio post production on the specific job. Fewer and fewer jobs are going for a dedicated dub now, with the audio work being done in picture editing software. 

Full-on audio post production does have a great many tools to improve sound from location; but let's be frank here, most corporate videos don't really have this as an option. The general option is usually to use noisy shots as a mute shot, and then overlay the image with music or a VO - which is absolutely fine, but don't forget to tell your sound recordist this might be an option... instead of them spending half an hour talking to building control trying to turn off the air conditioning system - ;-)

As the budgets and scale of jobs increase, there can occasionally be a very definite argument for letting sound "be" fixed in post - and that is when getting the performance or the 'moment' is more important. Sometimes the sound just can't be done well enough on set, be it a stunt, two camera's, visual effects (wind machines etc), etc - But even then, the attempt is made to get the very best guide audio (and even wild tracks if possible) so that the job of the editor and audio post production is made as easy as possible.

So that's what I'm there for...

I know I'm over egging the cake somewhat, but I think the presence of a sound recordist does more than ensure the best location sound; it gives the project more gravitas on set and gives a more professional appearance; as well as a welcome additional pair of hands...Watch about 2 minutes in of this BBC video on location sound advice - and of course you don't have to worry about the sound..;-)

8th April 2011