Monday, February 13, 2012

GooglePlus MailBag - Why Can't We Have it All?

Just got an interesting comment from Google Plus about my Microphone Shootout Rant that I wanted to chat about:
That VO shootout was terribly informative. I've had my moments of wanting to "capture" myself for public consumption, even if I don't have a great voice for it.
Showing all of the factors included in that made me realize it's much more a recording "ecosystem" than just a "microphone". I really liked your demonstration of the pre-amps and how they made things "brighter", "richer" or "with more body". You're right... just like art, it's not just about paintbrushes or the lenses, it's about the subject. And I could see how some people would have preferences about how they make themselves sound.
Now, throwing everything you said out the window *grin* ... I think the level of shootout that I would like would be... a USB mic that sits on your desktop and somewhat containsthat ecosystem as a single unit without really focusing on handling environmental or spatial considerations. It would give you the somewhat professional sound without a load of equipment.
Thanks for the demonstration!
Oh if anyone COULD make a mic like that, they'd own the VO world I'm sure...

See, there are a lot of concerns in direct conflict with each other. First up we want articulate sound, so the mic needs to be detailed and sensitive. We also want to record a somewhat pleasant tone, so the mic needs to respond well within a certain distance envelope (which IMO is usually just a touch farther away than people think it is). And lastly we want to reduce the amount of noise that enters into the recording, to keep the audience from being distracted by it.

Well, to reduce noise, we usually make our mics directional. Whenever a mic is directional, that's when we face the proximity effect, and this can help make our voices sound more pleasant, but I think it often makes people sound muddy. We could back off the proximity effect by recording in omni, but then we'd get a lot more of the environment then we'd really want.

People tend not to want "accurate" when you really pin them on it. There was a great classic mic which was directional, but had very little proximity called the AKG D202 "Rocket", but most people think they sound way too thin on it, and to some degree most would be right.

There are mics which we use for "dirty" environments, like dynamics, which you'll see in a lot of American radio stations, but they wont be properly driven in a USB setup, which means they'll sound dull or will be noise-y.

At some point you're basically just fighting physics...

Even with many of the really decent USB solutions I still recommend moving your recording setup AWAY from your computer. Technical challenges like fan noise are reduced with some distance. Psychologically, being away from a computing device helps most people focus on their performance. Physically you're not hunched over a desk, so you can breathe, and move, and ya know act. Also I run into this newbie recording behavior where people will rush the ends of their takes, where they're in a hurry to jump out of the read so they can hit "Stop" on their recordings. It's shockingly more common than it should be...

The reason pro sounds "pro" is because of that entire ecosystem. It'll be a LONG while yet before we can even begin to replicate it with single piece solutions.

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